A big thank you to everyone that supported the Quiz Night on Saturday that raised funds for the Junior Team. The racing action was to start within 9 hours of the quiz finishing so all the riders present made a swift exit in preparation for an early start the next day.
Sunday morning, 26 February 2017, an early start to make the 9.20am train through the tunnel to Calais. Six riders from the Junior Team were making their first major venture of the season to a race in the town of Vlamertinge, not far from Ypres. A relatively short drive from Calais to cover the 60km to Vlamertinge saw the team arrive with plenty of time to spare before signing on.
Now, if you have not raced in Belgium before, there are some things that are quite different. One example is he location for sign on. We arrived in a small bar near the start – a few locals but no sign of what was to come. After a while a loan Race Jury member arrived, made his way to some tables set out for sign on, set up a laptop, printer and other materials during which riders appeared out of nowhere. It was not long before a queue formed through the bar and out onto the street.
The Junior Team for this race – Ben, Gabriel, Matt, Sam, Simon and Tom – signed in and made their way back to the vehicles for a warm up led by Joe. Then it was a short ride up to the start – 75 riders were entered from Belgium, France and the UK. The course was approximately an 8km circuit, with ten laps to be completed. The start line was half way along the main street with a sharp left turn after about 500m. A challenging turn at best, but made much harder as the surface was cobbles that were wet with rain starting to fall 15 minutes before the start.
All of the team remained in the bunch for the first couple of laps, Matt made an early foray to the front, and a couple of laps later Gabriel was in a break of three riders only for the break to be back with the main bunch at the same point of the next lap. All LVYCC riders remained in the bunch until 8 laps were completed. On the 9th lap Simon suffered a set back with his chain coming off twice, leaving him away from the bunch. Going into the last lap there was a break from three riders, with the peloton not far behind. Quite a number of riders had been pulled out of the race by this stage having been dropped.
The final straight saw the same three riders finish ahead of Gabriel who finished 4th followed not far behind by Matt who finished 5th. A few individual riders passed over the line before the main bunch with Ben and Sam sprinting for the finish were rewarded with a joint 16th place just 28seconds behind the winner. Tom who had been very strong throughout the race remaining for most of the time in the top third suffered a crash not to far from the finish. After a couple of minutes he crossed the line holding his arm up against his chest. Straight from the finish line to the medics, It was recommended Tom got checked out at hospital for a possible broken arm. Thankfully back in the UK later that evening a trip to A&E confirmed it was just bad bruising along with a nasty burn mark.
After a quick turnaround it was back in the vehicles to board the Eurotunnel train for the trip back home.