MWCC member Dan Scheiner is currently living the dream over in Belgium racing his bike. In his first post for the club, he writes to us about finishing his first Belgium Kermis, giving us a great insight to the close quarter combat that he goes into every time he lines up at a race.

It’s a good 2hr’s till the flag drops and I’ve just eaten my last meal: two Avocado crackers and three Crackers on Peanut butter! I’m now saddling up and making the final adjustments. Throwing a leg over my carbon missis, the journey begins!

The three musketeers are rolling a steady pace as it dawns on us that we only know two things about this race: it starts at 3:15pm, in a place called Heule . . .  For all we know it could be up-loops around Alpe D’Huez (my fantasy)! This yields an essence of excitement, the kind you can only get from entering the unknown.  We start joking about the worst course possible: “A flat hot-dog loop?” “Cross-winds?” “Cobbles?”

As we roll past a sign indicating our arrival these thoughts no longer matter. “Have we come to the right Heule?” I ask.
“I think so, there’s a couple of riders up the road”, offers my house mate in a strong British accent.
“Can you see ‘em up the road”, I reply jokingly in my best British accent.
‘Up the road’ is lined with barricades and we spot a few marshals directing traffic, but a bend in the road blocks our view of any ‘action.’ Approaching the bend an optimistic sound begins to fill the air and taking the bend we enter an arena of great magnitude! The left hand side of the road is littered with bars, pubs, street vendors, bookmakers and the like. Out and inside people sit: smoking, drinking, eating and talking racing. Wedged between them is a stage, which houses a DJ, speakers and florescent lights – the commentator is grappling with music as he rumbles: “Boonen, Boonen, Dunc hu, Yarr yarr”, or at least that’s my take. Further down the road kids are scrambling around on BMX bikes and riding them Dodge ‘em’ Cars! It takes longer than normal to find inscription, as my housemates and I are a dazed by the scene. Finally, with little time to spare we sign in and (using 8 pins!) pin numbers to our backs, and the missis’ rear!

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A good 15min before start and the usual suspects are massing at the line. But so am I, in fact I’m right on the line – not that this means much to other (much bigger) riders, who are beginning to pile in front. And so, first on the grid, but 4th in line, the fun begins . . .

The first 20kms are done at a rate of knots – full speed! It’s taken this length to learn the intricacies of the course, but I like it: 5 speed bumps, 1 roundabout, 7 right angled corners, and 1 climb (if you can call it that); and now just 13 – 6km laps to go! There are three critical points on each lap: firstly the hairpin that leads into the one and only climb; then the roundabout and rough section that follows; and finally a sharp, narrow right-hander that leads from farm-road to farm-road into cross-wind. The latter being the most decisive, despite the relatively low winds, mainly due to the slow speed at which riders take the corner.

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As the kms tick by the initial excitement of throwing yourself into and around the unknown gives way to a new, more rarified, excitement. It’s brewing from a feeling of strength and ease. A sense that I’ve got this baby fully sussed and under my thumb! Gone are the feelings of fear from my initiation three weeks ago; gone are those feelings of struggle and lack of power. Now I move with confidence, I accelerate with vigor, and I’m not giving an inch.

Read the rest of the report here: http://www.theendlesssummer-of-cycling.com/#!Race%20Report%3A%20The%20Uphill%20road%20to%20finishing%20my%20First%20Belgium%20Kermis%20/cmbz/64C96391-4801-4C09-B3FB-FE0ADDD263A4