Punctures, Crashes & Cross Winds: Part 2 of Matthew De Vroet’s Blog from Belgium


Luck: ?Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one?s own action.?

It has been a difficult few weeks here in Belgium since I last wrote a blog, as I continue my first European season. Shortly after my last post I was struck down with an illness that many of my housemates previously had and therefore was off the bike and in bed for almost a whole week. This threw my whole training program off and my form suffered as a result.

Even when I?m in full training mode, days often pass by slowly in Belgium, mainly due to boredom. (Coincidently a good friend of mine Matt Chambers says the same thing in his most recent blog about living and racing in Italy?that can be read?HERE

Whilst I?m sure many readers will question how I can get bored living in a foreign country where there is so much to explore, it happens often owing to a number of reasons. To explain, a quick overview of my day: a wonderful sleep in until 9 (no ridiculously early group rides in Belgium! Australia take note?), then training from 10 until whenever. Once I get back from training I am usually much too tired to do anything else, bar exploring the depths of Netflix (I swear I have almost watched everything on that site). There is the occasional game of table tennis between housemates but thanks to our tiredness and the generally terrible weather, the effort to leave the house to go into Ghent and Bruges seems to be too much for the moment.

Exploring Belgium By Bike

Hopefully our efforts will improve with the weather, with us already seeming to show more willingness to explore as we reach new maximums of 17 degrees Celsius. We see so much of Belgium on our bikes but it would be silly not to make the most of our time here, as we are so lucky to explore this beautiful country.

As you can imagine however, being sick and unable to ride made the days pass extra slowly and made me miss home that little bit more than usual.

Once the sickness was out of the way it was right back into racing. I was frustrated that I had to skip a big interclub race that I had been selected for, Mol-Suis.

The form simply wasn?t there yet as I hadn?t had time to recover and it would have been unfair to prevent a fully fit member of the team from racing. This has meant a month and a bit of Kermesse racing.

Australia is yet to experience proper Kermesse racing. We have criteriums (which we love), but Kermesse racing is at a completely different level.

Anyone who has ever raced a criterium will know how hard they are due to their short distance, as well as the fact that usually the bunch is going full gas the whole time. Whilst they tend not to last more than an hour in Australia that pace is usually bearable, just.

Kermesse racing is like a criterium, however instead of 60 minutes it goes for 120kms, containing some of the best Belgian riders around. These guys love to see fellow riders suffer in the cross winds.

Weekly Kermesse Action!

There are countless Kermesses around Belgium every week and they will almost always get fields of 150 plus riders. This makes the tight small roads and the howling cross winds even more difficult. Add in crashes in almost every race, as well as my own bad luck of getting three punctures in three races, and you can see why Belgium is the hardest place in the world to race your bike.

I have had mixed results this season, littered with DNFs and bad luck. I have felt improvement in every race however, and am getting more comfortable in the huge bunches and tight roads. I am still loving every minute of my Belgian adventure so far and being here during the classics season in April has shown me how cycling is almost a religion in Belgium.

No more is this shown than the reaction of the public to the recent devastating Brussels attacks of March 22nd. Whilst the country was left in shock and the terror alert raised to the highest level 4, Belgians united under bike racing with Tour of Flanders and then later Paris Roubaix, amongst other races.

Many of the locals here shared the idea that there are actually five terror alert levels in Belgium. They say the fourth one is the most serious but there?s actually a fifth one people don?t know about, and only then do they cancel bike races.

The reaction of the public has been incredible here and I?ve been amazed at how strongly the Belgians have stood together, unified. I suppose this is to be expected given how they race their bikes.

Next on the agenda for me is finding my top form in the coming weeks and then hopefully a few interclub races next month, as my team attempts to add to their tally of 5 wins this year already.

I will be regularly updating my website that can be seen?HERE?so be sure to check that out to see how I progress throughout the season.