I raced on Monday at GP Mouscron, a UCI 1.1 race which is part of the Lotto Cycling Cup. It was only my second road race of the season but I was really happy with my feeling and how I felt like I was more a part of the race than I did in my first outing, Omloop van de Westhoek, a few weeks ago. It’s quite hard for club teams like mine (Keukens Redant) to come into these big UCI races where most other teams have done a full classics campaign and have a lot of racing in their legs, while we can only race every so often, when the races aren't full with World Tour and UCI teams.
I felt good throughout the race and felt like I was becoming more comfortable in the peloton as the race progressed. I was noting the places where I had to work hard to be in a good position and making an effort to do so. I was happy to still be in the peloton in closing stages of the 125km race. It had been a very tough race to get there - lots of wind, snow at times, and a lot of big efforts to stay with the leading group of pros. The race started with 175 riders and the peloton was down to 80 in the last lap, which I think says a lot about the pace and the power required to be there. Here is a clip from about 16km to go in the race - as you can see, I was comfortably sitting in this group.
I was feeling good coming in to the last 6km. The pace had died down a little once we got into the last lap, because teams were beginning to get organised for the final time up the short climb to the finish line. I’m not a sprinter, and I knew that it would end in a powerful sprint, but I thought I would be able to pick off a few riders on the uphill finishing section and finish in the middle of the bunch. Unfortunately there was a crash ahead of me with 6km to go on a short drag section. The pace wasn't very high, so I'm unsure what exactly happened, but the rider in front of me stopped dead right in front of me. I pulled my brakes but it was too late and I hit her straight on. I came off my bike and hit the ground hard with my ribs and back. The pain was very intense to begin with - I thought I had broken a rib as I was struggling to take a breath. I usually find that these slower crashes are the ones that can do the most damage - like broken bones and bad bruising. The pain in my bike from hitting the ground at a weird angle was very sharp.
The medics came over to help me, but I got up after 30seconds or so and got back onto my bike. I knew there was no way I would catch back the group in front of me, so I just had to spin to the finish on my own. Not the way I would have liked to end GP Mouscron but happy with the feeling even with so little racing in my legs!
I was only slightly bruised and very stiff after the crash. I was lucky as I know it could have been a lot worse. Unfortunately, I now have to wait another few weeks before I can race again. The couple of chances I had with a UCI team fell through last year, so I will wait patiently for Keukens Redant to get the go-ahead to line up again! Thanks for reading and for all of the well wishes I got over the last few days.