Going on the affirmation that I will be keeping my blog updated regularly this year, (a pretence I can almost guarantee will not be seen through to execution), I have decided to keep y’all posted with what is by most accounts a fairly ‘usual’ return to Belgium.
I left The Sunshine Coast a week ago tomorrow, departing for Calais at 11:30 on my ferry, where I wrote a blog for ‘Cyclosport’ recounting my winter’s activities that can be seen here.
En route to my home away from home, Eastern Flanders, I took the scenic route through the middle of Belgium to re-acquaint myself with my former hometowns of Kortrijk and Waregem, and the general beauty, wonder, and breathtaking landscapes of West Flanders. I jest. What did make this a necessary diversion though was the Decathlon in Kortrijk, to feed my bizarre need to browse these type of establishments primarily, but also to get some socks, and a little backpack they do which has ‘Kermesse Bag’ written all over it.
Anyhow, I arrived at the new digs around 5 in the afternoon, and began the task of unloading. I’ve spent the last two years living in Zottegem, in a house with between 4 and 7 guys (English, Irish, Aussie, Kiwi), depending on what time of year it happened to be, but have ended and era and moved to a bit of a different set up this year. Our Landlord at the old place also happens to be my coach, and all-round cyclist helper Kristof De Kegel, who owns a cycle-coaching and fitness business just outside of Zottegem. House mate and giant eating machine Conor Dunne. has now become my sole housemate for the year, as we share an apartment above Kristof’s gym in Hillegem.
A large contingent of my team this year, Terra Footwear Bicycle Line, is English speaking, hailing from the usual cycling ex pat nations of UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and will be living in a team house about 5km South of Conor and myself. I chose not to join them as I have a pretty good set up here. It’s one I know will work for me in terms of life as a racing cyclist, but also what will be an appreciated quieter environment for when I start my part time studies with The OU in March.
The evening of arrival was spent frantically driving around Zottegem collecting mattresses, washing machines and other bits and bobs that had been put into storage during the off season. Day 2 followed a similar pattern, but with a training ride included too. All these ‘normal activities’ combined with training was a bit of a shock to the system, and had us both absolutely knackered. My former self would be disgusted. My current self is also disgusted, but more understanding of such weaknesses in the circumstances.
It was then time to put the feet up and recuperate for what was supposed to be my first race of the season, at the amateur classic Brussel-Opwijk. This was not to be however, due to snow, minus temperatures and it’s subsequent cancellation. It doesn’t happen often, as it is a great shame for the organisers and race sponsors having to call off an event they have invested so much in, but in the end I was selfishly glad. You can’t race in this…it can only end in one of two ways, either crashing or getting sick. My housemate Conor (un)luckily raced the day before at Beverbeek Classic, where conditions were just decent enough to race. This picture says it all…
This leaves me with an extra week to get settled into life in Belgium before I stick a race number on, as this Sunday will now be the opener. Another potential benefit of this situation is that the race is ‘just’ a Kermesse. Although a stiff outing it undoubtedly will be, it will perhaps also be a little more forgiving than what Brussel-Opwijk may have been, so with more chances to voluntarily test the legs at the business end of things, rather than force them into submission in the gutter. We will be heading to the Kermesse in Vollezele with the team – not somewhere I’ve raced before, but in a nice location so hopefully it will be a good one.
In the mean time, this week has so far been spent getting stuck into training – both watching films on the turbo for hours on end, but also managing getting out for 4 hours in yesterday’s rather tropical 8 degrees. Off the bike I’ve spent getting the cupboards stocked up with food, waiting for a rest day so we can go to Ikea (today’s the day!), but largely trying to stay out of the cold by sprawling on the sofa reading, making the most of idle behaviour before a more productive lifestyle will hopefully be fulfilled when my OU course starts on 1st March.