Alright! Today was the day: Loop van Vlaanderen. After unexpectedly entering the top 20 last year in 4h12, public ambitions for this year were to do better. Secretly however, I put the bar higher and even though preparations hadn’t been perfect, I still wanted to go under that 4h barrier.
Weather is perfect, maybe a bit hot, and at 10 o’clock sharp we’re off. I start around 30th position but with a short sprint settled around 15th position. Top 10 within reach, focus on the time now. Things are going well and instead of doing 12.5, I’m doing 14k/h. Oh well, might as well be a bit ahead on schedule for when things get harder. But they don’t for a while, so I keep going hard.
It seems like all my decisions were the right ones: the trails are all dried up, so the Kinvara’s are holding up just perfect. Light clothing was a given. The only issue I’m having is refilling my water bottle at the supply posts, but I end up asking for big bottles of water instead of the cups and after 15km I have finally developed a good routine: open the bottle and yell for a bottle on arrival, refill my bottle and throw the rest on my head and legs to stay cool.
We’re 27k in the race and I’m still doing 13.8k/h on average, but I’m starting to feel it. I slow down a bit, but still catching up with others. I’m estimating I’m somewhere in the top 10 now – which is great – but definitely still in the running for a sub 4h time! Push hard!
30k… 35k… Three of us are close together: Gert Mertens, quite a name in the Belgian ultra world, Pieter Bracke and me. Behind us, the gap. I’d have to collapse badly before anyone manages to bridge that gap. So I’m definitely hopeful to be able to keep my top 10 place now. And then at the 35k supply post, someone tells me I’m 5th. Wait… 5th? Now I’m definitely not letting go of my position. I push on and have to let the others go. Gert would still catch up with the number 2 in the race and take silver! Me, stay 5th. After losing sight of Pieter on the last Koppenberg passing, I still get really close to the 4th position towards the end, but not close enough. Still, super happy with my race!
No in-race pictures this time. Not just because I didn’t have the time for it, but also because I had no pockets to fit my phone :-). So these two will have to do: