Belgium Update: Matt de Vroet
The land of beer, waffles and more beer has shown us exactly how they produce the best bike riders in the world after only two weeks of our trip. Tom and I have been racing the amateur kermesses here in Belgium with the aim of gaining as much experience and have a bit of fun whilst also trying to sneak a few results in.
After probably the longest 30 hour transfer ever from Australia to our accommodation in the small town of Izegem we decided it would be a good idea to race less than a day after arriving to blow the cobwebs out of the system.
Being his first time racing in Europe, Tom decided to get stuck in and proceeded to spend the next 2 hours being shouted at by angry local riders as they constantly reminded him which country he was racing in. To his credit, he more than held his own and returned fire in what was an extremely negative race with the breakaway riding away with the win in the first couple of laps.
It’s my second consecutive year racing in Belgium and while that makes some aspects easier, picking the right moves to follow is still anyone’s guess.
Most Belgian races will feature laps of a 5-10km circuit with a major crosswind section and then a couple of ridiculous turns onto farm roads which would probably be deemed not safe to ride a bike on back home in Australia.
The first hour of all the races we have done has been full gas with fresh legs vying to make the breakaway stick. Random individuals will often chase you down before eventually everyone tires to the point where only the strong guys have anything left to form the breakaway. This is why it sticks most of the time.
Coming to Belgium is refreshing with the cultural change towards cycling from Australia. Firstly, even just training, cyclists have a lot more respect on the roads and the cars pass us a lot better. We haven’t experienced one bit of road rage towards us in our whole trip and that speaks volumes in the differences between the attitudes of the general population.
Races are also extremely well run here. All kermesses have a rolling road closure and the police do an incredible job keeping cars off the course. We had a race in Wakken a few days ago and 5 minutes before the start there was literally a traffic jam around the course yet somehow, and we still don’t know how, the police managed to clear the course in time for a punctual start.
All in all the first part of our trip has been eye opening and at the end of the day, a lot of fun. We can’t wait to see what we can achieve over the next month of racing and hope to keep you all updated!
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