Greetings from Beloeil!
Since our last UCI race, the “Grand Prix de la ville de Perenchies”, things have been hectic! While the major focus for the team headed South into France for the Tour de Alsace, us “flat-landers” have been left to hold the fort! Hiring cars, racing a Pro Kermesse and Chinese visa applications have, unfortunately, delayed this race report. With some luck, a clean sweep in the Alsace prologue will dwarf this report into insignificance!
The GP Perenchies everything but guaranteed a brutal, selective, and cobbled race! The final 6 laps of the circuit race featured a brutal cobbled section used many times in the final stages of the famous monument, the Paris-Roubaix! A quick look at the results from the past 4 years built it up even more- BRUTAL! The larger riders of the 5 man squad, Sean Lake and myself, were licking our lips at the prospect of the “big-man” favourable parcours. The remaining three riders, Pat Lane, Liam Aitcheson and Matt Zenovich, were either too small or experienced with cobbles to share the same level of excitement! Team Performance Director Mark Fenner, however, trumped the excitement levels and was “absolutely FROTHING” (said in a thick, Cockney accent).
The story of the day, unfortunately did not follow script! Zeno went off the front with another two riders with around 50km remaining and one of the Continental European teams mounted a chase… Ok, so anyone who knows Zeno would know that, so far, everything has gone EXACTLY to script, if you pretend the other two riders in the break weren’t there!
Back in the peloton, each lap the tensions rose in the run-in to the cobbled sector. Riders battled for position using the power of teamwork. Leadout trains were off the rails and all over the road! Liam and Pat selflessly worked for Sean and I to great effect. Strangely however, the cobbles didn’t seem to split the field as predicted, like we’d seen in the Paris-Roubaix! Sean and I remained patient in the peloton, and hoped that perhaps Zeno could steal the show in an unlikely victory from the breakaway. But, in the final 10km, Zeno was caught, and a sprint was the obvious, and slightly disappointing finale! I switched modes and lined up for the sprint behind the Pro Conti team TopSport Vlaanderen and a few other riders. At around 500m to go there was a surge from behind on both sides and I was “pinched” off the wheel, resulting in a squeeze of the brakes and a loss of momentum- all over. The art of sprinting is far more than just… well, sprinting!
A disappointing finish to what was a bit of an anticlimactic race- we wanted cobbled CHAOS! It’s only a matter of time! A big thanks to the team, staff and sponsors for making this amazing adventure possible!
Stay tuned, the Alsace action is unfolding RIGHT NOW!