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: