Monday, 24 August 2015

Oudenberg criterium - Frites and Cornering

14th June - Oudenburg Criterium

I lined up for my first criterium in Belgium at Oudenberg. Typically, criteriums in Belgium start at 7:00PM (Yes, you read that right). The field is restricted to 50 riders and the race distance is 70-80kms. Each lap in this course was 1.9kms in length.

In criteriums, it is essential to know the course, I began warming up 30mins before the start and memorized the entire course well (too well actually) -

  • Start off into a headwind....left hand corner after 100m...
  • 200m later, another sharp left hand corner at the town out on the outside of the curve...
  • 450m long stretch with road traffic on either side of the road..150metres apart...
  • 90degree left corner followed swiftly by a 90degree right corner...
  • 200m later, wide left corner...speedbraker in 50m..
  • Another left corner..I can see the finish line in the distance..crosswinds from 2 o' clock..
  • 200metresfrom the finish, a small roundabout..hit the finish line..

I got in a good warm up and lined up at the start line with 3mins from flag off and I quickly downed a gel (gels are so easy to find in Belgium!!)


As we sprinted off the start line, learning from the previous races, I grabbed onto a wheel heading out of a corner and sprinted....aaaaaaaannnnndd...managed to hang on!!! Yessssss, short term  improvements feel so soooo gooooood!

Approach next corner. Repeat again.

I was in the top 30 position and up front I could see the entire bunch move to the left. That could only mean one thing - Road Furniture!!!

I swerved to the left, 25secs later, to the right.

Pesky little things them Road Furniture!!

In the next corner, the road was pretty wide allowing the riders to take it a high speed, but it requires a level of bike handling skill to do so. Which was made evident when I got overtaken by a Belgian dude who seemed to make it look as easy as eating frites!

Approach next corner. Repeat again.

Damn, I lost 2 positions in 100meters to guys who were not even pedaling when they passed me!

 I held onto my position and as we approached the start/finish line, I could see the peloton stretched out in a single line. Pesky little things them headwinds!

Lap 2:

Pretty much the same dealio, but in the 2 quick 90degree turns, I mimicked the movement of the rider ahead of me to get more speed in the corners. It was not as flawless as his but was an improvement compared to the first lap.

Lap 3:

With primes on the offer every lap, it was tough for a breakaway to form. This was evident as there were constant attacks going off the front.

After the final corner before the start/finish line, I was in about 10th wheel. I was sensing that a breakaway would go sooner or later and when we approached the roundabout, I saw (Super) Mario sprinting on the right hand side of the roundabout. I threw caution to the wind and sprinted towards the left hand side of the roundabout, hoping to catch his slipstream.
Alas, I did not have the required acceleration and was quickly caught by the bunch and immediately spewed to the rear.

Lap 4:

Not having recovered from my dig, I was chewing my front Tyre to stay in the bunch. As soon as we hit the two 90degree turns, I could not hold onto the accelerating wheel ahead of me and let go.

(Heidi Lannoo Photography)

First criterium was done and (left me) dusted. Several important lessons learnt. As me teammate Naveen says, "Onto the next!"

P.S. Naveen went on to finish the crit and also take a prime while breaking away from the bunch for 2.5laps!

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