There were quite a number of LVYCC mums without their sons on Mother’s Day recently. A group of seven LVYCC U16’s set off early in the morning on Mother’s Day – 6am – to make the trip to the Euro Tunnel at Folkstone, and then from Calais to Leper, Ypres in Belgium. The real reason for the trip will become apparent later, but for now the focus will be on the racing.
On arrival at the race HQ, for those that did not go to the same event last year, the spectacle was quite surreal. This was a UCI sanctioned event with a pro’s race, junior race and a race for the nieuwelingen’s (U16’s). So imagine the scene, you roll up in the car/vans and there are lots and lots of team buses, BMC and many others, team cars laden with umpteen spare bikes, outriders, camper vans and so on.
The riders all signed on with their obligatory ‘calendar card’ and received a Belgian racing licence in return. After getting bikes and riders ready we all set off to the start – another spectacle! Leper is home to the MeninGate, a famous war memorial paying tribute to hundreds of missing Commonwealth nation soldiers who died in the First World War.
The main square beyond the Menin Gate was also breath–taking – home to a large WW1 museum, stunning architecture – and now set out for racing.
A field of 126 nieuwelingen’s lined up at the start line, barging as close to the front as possible – no gridding here. Come 2.45pm the lead car set off, followed by a group of several Harley Davidson outriders followed in turn by two or three more cars and then the riders.
The LVYCC riders all got off to a good start, riding through the main square, up through the Menin Gate arch and then off on a 40km road circuit. The peloton was followed by another fleet of vehicles – the riders enjoyed rolling road closures, and closed town centre roads. After the 40km, the riders then came back through the start/finish gate and completed a further 10km circuit around the town before finishing where they started.
After just over an hour a leading bunch of six riders came through, followed a few seconds later by the chasing bunch. Leading this bunch was Georg Mew Jensen, with Matt Shepherd not many riders behind.There was then a gap before the remaining LVYCC riders can through – Ben, Simon, Ryan, Tim and Marco. The race was continuing until the riders appeared for a sprint finish. Georg finished in 8th place, with Matt in the main bunch placed 59th. The remaining LVYCC riders all finished in the top 70 – quite an achievement as racing in Belgium was a first for most of them. Tim was unlucky with a puncture and had to wait before a spare wheel arrived from the entourage, and Marco came off after a stray bottle came into contact with his front wheel.
Georg too suffered some bad luck as he and a Belgian rider managed to break away from the bunch with 6km to go before the Town circuit and, according to the outrider had a 30 second lead. But after a while the commissaries’ car sped up alongside and told the two riders they had been misdirected. They had to turn around, and by the time they got back to the right route the leading bunch of 6 and the chasing peloton were in front of them.
Exhilarated, the riders returned to the vehicles to prepare for the journey home. The questions of ‘can we do this again’ and ‘when is the next one’ made it obvious it had been a worthwhile trip. After packing up the journey home commenced – stopping en route in another small Belgian town for something to eat. Now, the real reason for the trip became apparent. The café we stopped at housed a chocolate shop – a chance for the riders to buy Mum some of that delicious Belgian chocolate to compensate for not being there on Mothers Day!
Arriving home at around 10.30pm it was a long day, but one to be recommended to other LVYCC riders once they reach the U16’s.