After a three year hiatus, the Brompton Benelux Championship once again visited Antwerp. This was something I really looked forward to, because it meant I didn’t have to travel abroad to race my little bike.
On Saturday evening, a group ride organized by Fietsen de Geus took us past Antwerp’s main attractions like the cathedral, the central station, the MAS… This was a nice introduction to the city for the 30 Bromptoneers strong peloton of which several international riders who had never visited Antwerp. We also had a sneak preview of the track which at first glans turned out to be quite challenging. An understatement to say the least. It goes without saying that we ended the ride with a couple of Belgian beers. Not too many, ‘cause Sunday was race day! But not for everyone…
We had a sneak preview of the track which at first glans turned out to be quite challenging.
No race day for my better half. Her neck hernia which acts up every now and then unfortunately made her forfeit. This meant Ann got promoted from lady racer to mental coach, team leader and iPhone photographer. Once registered, I gave my Brompton fold a go after having closely watched Ivo – the Master – Petrous fold his racehorse. No surprises here, my attempt failed miserably!
Lucky for me, there was also a side competition where you had to unfold the Brompton, something I actually am pretty good at. Every participant on the square had to lift the folded Brompton in the air, unfold it and lift the bike back in the air Brompton Maffia Style. Then, the fastest three of the pack had to battle it out on stage to see who was the fastest. Despite the fact that I managed to jam the folded Brompton in my face and I hence cut my eyebrow I turned out to be the second fasted unfolder. A little bit dazed I made it to the stage to give my unfolding skills another go and to my own surprise, I actually nailed it. Kudos to Ann for getting this on camera perfectly.
So I aced the unfold twice, if only I could do that once more after the ‘Le Mans Start’… Normally at BWC competitions all the bikes are lined up and the riders run towards their bikes from across the street. Not in Antwerp, where all bikes were scattered around near the finish line, making the ‘mad dash’ to the bikes even more hectic. From the corner of my left eye I saw somebody bite the asphalt in the first few meters but there was no time to look back, I had to make it to my bike. The plan was to grab my bike as fast as I could and run a few meters with it so I could unfold it without bumping into my fellow riders. My strategy – wait for it – unfolded as planned as this picture clearly shows. First rider out? Yours truly!
With only two laps to go on a technical track – think loads of sharp turns, a couple of curbs to be jumped, a bit of single track and one massive U turn – I thought it was best to keep my cool and start of at my own pace which worked out well. After the first couple of turns I got overtaken by two speedsters but it was easy to tag along in their slipstream. Not long after, Czech champion Ivo Petrous came flying by, forcing us to gear up. Still no problem there, but after the single track section in the park I had to give him a couple of meters, 10 at most. When we past the finish line for the first time, I could hear my mom cheer, which gave me an extra boost. Only one more lap to go, and I was virtually riding for a bronze medal. Obviously this got me super excited.
I only had to allow one other rider in my wheel aiming for bronze, but his heavy breathing made me feel secure enough to let him pass. That 3rd place had my name written all over it. I tailed his wheel closely aiming for the last long stretch to pass him, which I did. Once we crossed the finish line, we had to fold our bikes and walk over a second finish line. It was only here that I noticed how close I came to the other two riders thus settled for third place too soon. If only I cycled 5 more meters before folding my bike, who knows what might have happened. It was that close! Nevertheless, I finished third, something I am pretty chuffed with!
There we were on stage, again! The three fasted racers also turned out to be the three fasted ones to unfold the bikes. We all got a nice Brompton bag and the winner and runner up also received a super cool Dashel helmet. The main prize, a ticket to the BWC Final in London plus transportation and hotel went to Ivo Petrous. He deemed it only fair to give it to the first Belgian finisher since he also won the championship in his native country. What a legend!