At every UCI race I've been to, people have come up asking for supporter cards for me to sign. I thought I should get some made, partially to take the piss, but it is a good way of showing who my sponsors are, and who I am, etc etc. Rose is very handy with this kind of stuff, and came up with these rippers in half a day or so.
|This is the legit one.|
|Not so legit|
|For the ladies|
The weekend past was World Cup #7 in Liévin, France. We drove the 1.45hrs from home on the saturday, and cut a few practice laps that afternoon. This course was probably the most enjoyable so far. Short punchy climbs and descents, relatively untechnical and quite dry, meant it was certain to be fast come Sunday. I was very thankful for a respite from the thick deep mud that I've battled through in the past few races. If a course could suit me over here, it would be this one.
Steve Chainel (top 10 in the world or so) passed me and Yannick out on the course, as I crested a climb, and just continued accelerating at a ridiculous speed the entire way to the next descent. Its much easier to explain when you can actually see it, but this just reiterated how insanely fit the top guys are. And Stybar, Nys etc are a level above him! It was a humbling moment.
After crashing in a Hotel F1 the night before, I got up early and had a hearty and nutritious breakfast of a foot long Chocolate Viennoiserie from the local bakery. Yum. (Dont tell coach Jono)
We headed out to the course the next day to find frost covering the entire track. Shit. Frost would undoubtably mean that after the juniors, u23 men and women race, the course would be very slick. I went round for a practice lap between races, and completely binned it riding round a fairly easy corner. No damage, just a bruised ego. Anyway, after handing out supporters cards, signing autographs, and warming up with the Japanese crew again (now made up of 3 riders), I was lining up to race my second world cup.
As has become a habit for me, I hung back at the start to make the most of the crash, which came as expected, and I moved up a few spots. I managed to ride the first lap with everyone still in sight, sitting about 63rd or so and from then on I rode my own race. My position kept improving however, despite managing to slide down one of the descents on my back. (I have no idea how it happened). The two crashes in one day rocked my confidence a bit, and I rode pretty cautiously the rest of the race. The french fans weren't quite as rowdy as the Belgians, and it took a bit to rev them all up, but by the 4th lap they were all yelling for "Australie!"
Dirk Van Hove is a Belgian who works with the Drapac team when they are in Europe. A very nice guy, who took some sweet pics too!
My last few laps I just enjoyed as best I could, and Dimitri Bruynsteen caught a snap of me popping over one the many little drops.
I was about to complete my 6th lap as I was pulled from the course, and I ended up in 53rd, not quite the last finisher either. The prize money is pretty good at world cup level, had I been able to sneak in to the top 50, I would have scored 300 euros! (It's 5000 euros for the win, maybe next year?) There's always Hoogeheide next weekend I suppose....
Despite making the trip into another country just to help me, I didnt end up changing bikes whilst out on the course. But I am still exceptionally grateful for Tom and Jeroen's help in the pits. Rose and Roeland again were outstanding and have given me the full professional experience whilst over here.