Last Saturday, I took advantage of my parent’s golden wedding anniversary to form an alliance with my brother and enter the much-anticipated fourth edition of the Duo Damme Classic Time Trial Race.
While a near full-member PEE team - joined by PE Japan Chapter David L. - was attacking monster hills including the Passo Tonale and Gaupenjoch on its second-last Transalp stage, I was time-trialing with my brother – ten years my junior – across the pancake-flat but splendid polder landscape of Damme nearby my parent’s home.
On Friday, the day following my arrival in Belgium, I went to fine-tune my brother’s Bianchi alu training bike and – not used to his high-tech torque gauge Allen wrench – managed to wreck both his stem and seat clamp bolts! Without getting too panicky, Hans and I rushed to the LBS and got a new stem; the seat clamp bolt however had lost its grip and turned out to be irremovable. Luckily, I could compensate by moving the saddle all the way forward and angling the saddle’s tip downward. A few moments later, we were making reconnaissance laps of the 11.79km long “parcours” which contained two short cobblestoned sections and a few sharp turns around the “maïs” corn fields and cow farm lands. It took a while for me to get used to the clip-on aerobars and find good form and balance and only during the third lap I started to feel a bit comfortable.
Our official starting time on Saturday was 14:58. Many amateur cyclists had come from far by car and were accompanied by family members. I was surprised by the number of female entrants – not seen in Japan. I was also very much impressed by the high level of organization, very efficient and effective – certainly not to be outclassed by the cycling events I have attended in Japan! Sponsors, spacy tents complete with beer bars, a huge police motorcade presence, road marshals at every turn and corner, Tacx Satori trainers freely available for warming-up and all kinds of attractions for kids, live broadcast of the Tour de France, Waxx Underwear Summer Party with DJ “Jerre”, BBQ and…cow dung mine fields!
My personal photographer showed up with her BF just in time before the start to help eternalize the rare brother act. As expected, Hans went for it right from the start and around the first corner, I was already trailing 10 meters behind! A gap of about 10 meters between me and my brother would open up many times until the finish line, meaning there was virtually no drafting advantage for me at all! Several times, Hans looked behind him and pointed to his back wheel angrily shouting “get right in over here!”… but my legs refused every time and my lungs felt as if they were about to burst. A week earlier, Hans had won a silver medal at a major solo time trial event and he certainly deserved a faster partner than the weakling I turned out to be. Nevertheless, we savored every single second of the race…crossing the finish line I felt like spitting blood – legs completely kaput.
The live race result display screen inside the tent showed Hans and I were in fourth place with an average speed a little above 41km/h. The final standings are still not known to me right now as we had to leave the venue to join other festivities taking place at my parent’s place. Next year, I would love to stay a bit longer so that I can attend the Waxx Underwear Summer Party!
|the obligatory pre-race interview|
|posing with my personal photographer|
|about to be escorted by a dedicated police motorcycle|
|trying to relax|
|Brother turning bemused eyes on my “Japanese stretching routine”|
|Checking the standings|
|pain, pain, pain|
|Hans ten meters ahead approaching the finish|