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First Race of the Season
4 Feb, 2004

My first race has now been and gone, and I was extremely happy with how I was going and the feelings I had during the race. I stayed in Spain only for a few days after our team training camp, then I packed up and headed back to my European home in Belgium.  I was planning on staying in Spain right up until my first race but I just cracked on living out of suitcase and just wanted to base myself somewhere and set up shop.  I was thinking about shifting down to Spain, but for now it is just too difficult and I really need to be only training, eating, sleeping and racing.  So I've decided to stay in Belgium for the mean time, then see what happens at the end of the year.

When I arrived in Belgium it was raining,  then it snowed, then it rained some more, then it blew like never before! I really started to wonder what I loved about this place!  I finished the training camp in Spain really well, felt so strong.  My first ride out here I wondered what had gone wrong.  I had nothing, was creeping!  So out came that god damn erg, and the efforts started.  I got a week of intensity in ( which seriously just about killed me), but not really many miles so I was a little worried as to how my form would be for the first race.

It turned out that the race was a perfect race to start.  150km, fairly simple terrain barring the 6km climb and the 3km climb with 30k to go.  I actually found the race quite cruisy.  There was alot of easy spots, but when the
hammer was down, it was down. Nothing much happened till the climb, groups coming and going.  One young guy was let go and he went out to 8mins.  The split came up the first climb. I was right at the front, and felt good. 
then a Euskatel rider laid it down with a huge attack.  I went with him, but then his teammate went.  2 Cofidis riders joined him, one being roommate Stuey O'grady and also Peter Farazijn. 3 others later joined.  They stayed away over the top of both climbs.  At the top of the 2nd they had about 30s, then there was a nasty 15km descent. At the bottom they had 20s, and with 5km to go it was going to be close.  The main group had regrouped after a big split on the descent.  I was just sitting there prepping myself for an attack if possible.

It turned out the group got caught with less than a km to go and that poor buggar who had 8mins got caught with 100m to go!!!  Lucky for him his teammate Baden Cooke won.  With about 1km to go I was not far from Cooke and thought there's no way he is going to win, he was too far back.  Just shows how good he is!  I came bolting around the outside rolling the hugest gear in the slight uphill sprint, round a left hand bend and just had nowhere to go but to brake and try to start again ( in the 12, yeah right!)....... never mind, the power was there, thats what I was more happy with. I think I finished top 20, which for me in my first race in Europe is a very good sign.  With a little luck today I could have been a lot higher.  So now for me I have a week riding that erg, then I go to the Tour of the Med.  Now this may be different as its a very tough prestigious race, with some hill top finishes.  Who knows, i'll give it a good nudge anyway.

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