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Victory In Poland
18 Sep, 2003

Well this is the report I have dreamed about writing ever since I signed my pro contract back in July last year.  I will briefly describe my efforts in the Tour of Poland culminating in my stage 7 victory.

I was strong on day 1 running 9th.  With 1km to go I was solo off the front of a strung out peleton.  600m to go 1 guy joined me/jumped me (ha) and he was 10m in front of me.  150m to go I blew to bits and got passed like I was standing still by my teammate who just failed to catch the guy ahead.  Still I was happy with the stage.

Day 2,3,4 I was not really good at all.  Felt ok up until we reached the circuits but on it I had nothing.  They were really tough with millions of corners and I aint really into that, along with a big bunch rolling along at 60km/hr after 200km of racing.

Day 5 started in sunshine…turned into rain for the finale…. which turned into a crash fest to say the least.  I counted about 10 crashes all up today.  I crashed also but luckily there were only 3 of us that came down.  The other crashes took out 20-30 every crash!  They were huge.  The finishing circuit was once again crazy.  I wasn’t prepared to take risks as all I wanted was to finish the next 2 tough stages which would then set me up for September. A lot of abandons today…suits me!

Day 6.  Well what a day.  2 laps of a 12km circuit. Then we had 5 laps of a 22km circuit. Both had a 6km climb in them, followed by a super dangerous descent in which I lost mega time every lap due to the poor conditions and my pathetic rasin nuts descending.  It rained the whole day.  I had great legs on the climb, but would lose 1min, even more after every descent.  The repetitive chasing got to me with 40km to go, and then I was all on my lonesome.  This hurt.  But I still had good legs and that’s why I wanted to finish as I knew something good was not really far away.  Only 69 finished today out of the 130 that took the start.  That is how hard it was.

Day 7. A very short stage, but a  hard circuit.  We rode 3 laps of the 22km circuit in the rain AGAIN!  I was bad in the first 15km, but then started to come right.  Got dropped on the first descent but got back on all right.  The second time down they hit it, I shit myself and lost more time, but this time Bruylandts punctured and his team stopped, and I jumped on them and they took me back up ( ha thanks boys!) By this stage I knew that if I could get down the last descent not far off the peleton, then I could have a crack at them up the climb.  I took some risks this time, and made it down safely not far off the back of them.  Man I was fizzing after that, it was like I had already won!  5km before the climb I thought about attacking, as I knew that if I stayed with the front group till the climb I couldn’t go with all there attacks up it.  So I asked my gc rider…he said go for it, so BANG 53x12 right hand side of the road and gone!

I got a gap quickly and then 3 others followed.  But I wasn’t waiting.  They had me at 10 sec at bottom of climb and that was it.  once I got to the climb I was fine.  Set my own tempo, and felt super strong.  I had 30secs on the peleton all the way up the climb until the last km.  This is where it got hard.  With 500m to go there was a 16% corner, which hurt the big man every lap and I knew that if I could get up that then I'd be sweet.  Just before it I had about 20secs, coming out of it under 10secs.  With 200m I had 5secs and they were closing fast.  The next 50m I took it rather easy knowing that as soon as I got to 150m to go then I was gonna sprint till my heart stopped.  Got there, they were not far off my wheel and then bang.  Flat knackers ( at a fast 14km/hr! ha) crossed the line with 2sec to spare.

Couldn’t believe it.  Crossed the line in disbelief.  Everything came to a stop pretty quickly when I was taken to the podium area.  Walked in there to see 1 other guy sitting there, who looked like he’d been there for a good couple of minutes.  @#$! I thought he had won.  No no, It was me, I just forgot that It took the big man a few mins or so to catch my breath straight after the line before I headed for the podium!

Well there you have it, my first victory with the pros.  It is huge for a neo pro to win in his first year, and now my first season is complete.  I have all I aimed for.  It was always in my head, a win.  I had talked about it with Michelle, and my parents.  Now its happened I still can't believe it. After returning from Poland I came down with a bad head cold.  My nose is so blocked, throat so sore, and I had to pull out of the GP Wallonie on Wednesday as I just couldn’t get going.  Pretty gutted as I think I am going to have to miss a race that I was going to target on Sunday.  But better to get over it I guess.  Next race is Franco Belge, so until then.

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