Letters from Abroad – Peter Horn

Editor’s Note: Peter Horn is an American racing with the Geox-Fuji Test Team, the amateur development team of Geox-TMC. As Geox-Fuji Test Team’s captain, he’s looking to lead the team to victories in Belgium and around Europe, and help break the team’s riders into the Professional ranks.

28 February 2011

Oostkamp, Belgium

It’s a rainy Monday morning in Oostkamp, and after the first weekend of racing, today is a rest day for most guys on the team. We had a relaxed breakfast and lots of conversation around the table. When Bernard has the time, like he did this morning, he joins us until he leaves to pick up a new arrival at the train station. Nat Thompson is an American who was in the team last year and who will be here around noon. He’s a great guy, a good rider and was my roommate for much of last season. In fact as soon as I finish writing I need to tidy up my room a little bit because he’ll be moving in when he gets here. But maybe I should short-sheet his bed, to give him a nice Welcome-to-Belgium greeting when he gets into his bed all jetlagged and sleepy tonight.

This weekend the team made a good start for the 2011 season. On Saturday we had Beverbeek Classic (1.2), a flat-to-rolling race in Limburg. Before the race, our objectives were to race together and near each other, to be in the breakaways and since it was our first race together, to get into the final and see what we could do. In the dressing room, I simply told the guys that we needed to go out and race together. The first race of the Belgian season is always fast and nervous; we go race and race for results, but first we make sure we’re relaxed and ready to just go work together and see what’s possible.

The race normally comes to a bunch sprint but because of the wind and hard rain during the last half of the race, the race split to pieces and at the finish there were two leaders and a peloton of 70 riders. We didn’t have an outstanding result – four guys were in the peloton and our highest finisher was Thomas Vanhaecke at 22nd – but we raced a good race, we were represented in all the major breakaways and we worked well together in the peloton. Overall it was a good day for the team (8th in team classification) and we will have a very strong group this season.

We had two races on Sunday. The interclub was the U-25 Brussel-Opwijk (1.12), and the other race was classified as a kermis (1.12A) but is a Flemish classic: Gent-Staden. Bernard sent a younger group to Brussel-Opwijk and again, they rode strong and rode well together. At the end of the day, Tony Louis (France) finished 9th from a small chase group, and Paavo Paajanen was in the next group and finished 20th. The rest of guys finished in the peloton, which had thinned out considerably after 150 kilometers and several sections of cobbles.

We sent the Swedish House Mafia to Gent-Staden. Well that’s just what we call them sometimes – Lucas Persson and Kalle Sandell, two strong Swedish guys who moved into the house last week. (Great teammates and even better to be around off the bike. I’ll compile a few stories about them for my entry next week.) I took a rest day yesterday, and went as a director and soigneur for Lucas and Kalle.

Gent-Staden is more or less a point-to-point race with local laps around Staden, a small town in West Flanders. The winds and cobbles play a big role on the way to Staden, but the real racing happens in the last 50 km, in the local laps. That’s when the breakaways split, then grew, then split again – and Lucas was in the right group every time. He spent nearly the whole race in the front – first with a group of 8, which after some cobbles became 4, then became 9, then 15, then on the last local lap, became just 3. Lucas attacked with one kilometer to go. The other two caught him after a few hundred meters, and he couldn’t make them come around.

Considering that it was my first day as a director and soigneur, I’d say I’m a natural, given that Lucas finished 3rd, and Kalle finished near the front of the peloton at 28th. Lucas’s place gave us our first spot on the podium this season. It’s a good result but as anyone who has been in a position to win will understand, nothing other than 1st place gives you any real satisfaction. We’re not racing for the podium – we’re racing to win.

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