Letters From Abroad – Zellik-Galmaarden

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.

18 April 2011 – Oostkamp, Belgium

Zellik-Galmaarden is one of the nicest and hardest races my team will do all season. It starts near Brussels (Zellik) and finishes just outside Geraardsbergen (Galmaarden). In 174 kilometers we did the Muur of Geraardsbergen twice, the Congoberg five times and the Bosberg six times. And for a non-cobbled climb, the roads are some of the roughest you’ll find in Belgium: two-lane concrete roads with potholes everywhere and a big gap in the middle. Needless to say, it’s a race in which you have to be on the pedals for every meter.

At the end of the day, we came away with three in the top 30. Paavo Paajanen was 9th, I was 25th and Thomas Vanhaecke was 30th. Everyone finished except for a Swedish teammate Kalle Sandell, who after crashing, getting a new bike and then puncturing, wasn’t able to get back into the race.

It was also a race until the very finish. While some races here are decided within 20km, yesterdays race was open until we crossed the line. After the first time over the Muur there was a lead group of 20 riders. It’s easy to say now, but trust me – I would have been in this group had an idiot not crashed me at the top of the Muur. I came over the top in 5th position when the rider just ahead of me got bumped either by a fan or by another rider, and then next thing I knew I was sitting on the ground and my bike was in the grass. After getting my chain back on and giving everything a quick check, I was back in the peloton, but in about 100th position – and angry, but even more motivated for the rest of the race.

My teammates were still in good places and we took our chances over the next few hills. We were in every split, but everything behind the lead group stayed together for the next 70 kilometers. With 60 kilometers to go, Paavo escaped with six other riders. 10 kilometers later – after the 4th time up the Bosberg – Lucas, Thomas and I were in a split of 30 riders just behind Paavo’s group. At this point the race really was open. Paavo was 30 seconds behind the leaders and were about 30 seconds behind Paavo’s group. We kept working but this is a difficult sort of group: it’s small enough to rotate, but big enough to allow most of the guys to hide at the back. We worked to keep it going but spent no more time at the front than we had to.

With two local laps to go – 40 kilometers – I followed an attack and when I looked back 500 meters later, my group of 5 had a lead of 200 meters. We were away and kept rotating, hoping to make our way up to the lead. Without radios, it’s impossible to tell exactly what’s going on in a race like this. The motorcycles show us boards with time gaps, but in a race with six different groups, what do those time gaps mean? As a result, we just keep riding and hope to catch the groups ahead.

Four others caught us when we went over the Bosberg for the last time. At this point I was cramping and nearly blowing up every time I had to dig deep over the hills. We kept working, I kept drinking as much as I could – a little bit of water, but more Coke at this point in the race – and then came to the Congoberg.

The first half of the Congoberg is cobbled and the second half is paved. It’s not such a hard hill – but when it comes after 170 kilometers on this course, it’s plenty hard and can make all the difference for the finish. I cramped and came off the back of the group, but after drilling it on the descent, I caught back onto my group with 3 kilometers to go. There were some attacks but my group went to the finish together, for a sprint. My sprint went about as well as I could hope for considering the legs I had at that point, and I finished just in the money – 25th place.

My team rode well and we were 4th in the teams classification. Overall it was a good day but it still leaves me with a burning feeling – without that crash on the Muur, I would have been in the lead group and racing for the win at the end of the day. But not much to do – let it go and prepare for the next race.

This week I’m preparing for upcoming stage races by putting in some hours and getting some rest. Today, the day after Zellik-Galmaarden, I did 4 hours endurance training. Tomorrow I’ll do 5 hours in the hills, and then take it easy for the rest of the week. Normally a block like this – endurance hours after a hard race day – puts me in great form. So I’m looking forward to next week’s race in Roeselare and then our stage races in May.

And the Song of the Week: “Rag Mama Rag” by The Band. It’s one of the songs I can listen to over and over again and never get tired of. Now a decaf coffee, stretching and to bed.

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3 Responses to Letters From Abroad – Zellik-Galmaarden

  1. ManForAllSeason says:

    really enjoying these reports from Peter. Keep 'em coming.

  2. Julius says:

    Damn: "Muur of Geraardsbergen twice, the Congoberg five times and the Bosberg six times" !!!!
    That must be one hell of a race!

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