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The Cure For The Post-Tour Blues: A Kermesse!
There are two ways to do it the day after le Tour; sip over priced coffee at Montmarte and arrive in plenty of time for your flight at Beauvais Airport – or punish the hire car north to West Flanders and find a barrier to hang over.




You guessed it – the GP Raf Jonckheere, Westrozebeke.

We’ve got 15 ronden x 10.5 kilometres and 93 deelnemers.


Number One awaits the World or Belgian Champion.


Hamish Haynes signs on.


Sigma Sport was in attendance.


James Spragg.


Adam Blythe takes cover from the rain.

We have amigos here, Hamish Haynes with his Colba Mercury team; James Spragg, but his Donkers Koffie team will probably be up at the Tour of Wallonia; Adam Blythe (Lotto) – his next Pro Tour outing is the Tour of Poland and the English Sigma Sport outfit is here too.

Potential winners?


Rambo.


Denis.


Hamish.

Hamish has promised us a podium but there are some big kermis names here, Nico Eeckhout (AN Post) ‘Rambo’ – the very last of the Flemish hard men; team mate and Ras winner Gediminas Bagdonas and ex-Saunier Duval sprinter Denis Flahaut (Roubaix Lille Metropole) is a man who excels in these races.


Sep Vanmarcke.


Sam Bewley.


Hayden Roulston smiles.

Apart from them we have Garmin’s Belgian ‘white hope,’ Sep Vanmarcke; New Zealand team pursuit flyers, Marc Ryan and Sam Bewley (Radio Shack); New Zealand elite road champion, Hayden Roulston (HTC); French former world track scratch champion, Morgan Kneisky (Roubaix Lille Metropole) and Belgian six day star, Kenny De Ketele (Topsport).

Not a bad field.

The race was first held in 1955 and there are some big names on the palmares, Belgian former world pursuit champion Dirk Baert; Italian super star, Franco Bitossi; QuickStep manager, Patrick Lefevre; Spanish based Belgian 80’s super sprinter Noel Dejonckhere and last year it was ageing warhorse, former Belgian pro champion and contender for coolest man alive on a bike, Gert Omloop.

Before the race even starts we’ve had our hotdog, rice tart and pils.

The frites shack hasn’t fired up yet and we think that this may be why the race started late, as Hamish said; ‘they need them for the commisar’s car!’





But on the subject of beer, a pils her is Euro 1:30, the same beer in France would be four or five Euros.

To paraphrase someone famous; ‘it’s not just about the bike.’



Lap 3 and Rambo leads his AN Post henchmen up the cobbled high street.

Rambo isn’t a man to hold back and has been known to win from day long breaks.

Meanwhile, Adam calls it a day.



Lap 4 and Hamish, Vanmarcke and Sam Bewley have bridged up – Topsort have read what I said about Nico staying away all day and are massed at the front of the peloton.





The sun is peaking through, the chip shack has opened the shutter and the bookies are doing good business.

What more could you want?





Maybe for the dodgem cars and shooting range not fire up – the noise is horrendous and we have to move base camp.



Despite the efforts of Rambo, Vanmarcke and Bewley, the Topsport boys are hauling them back – but Lille Metropole are massing just behind for the counter attack.



Eight to go and the gap has stretched again – Topsport have got a couple across to the RamboBreak and stopped chasing.

The peloton is beginning to fragment now that Topsport’s organisation has gone.

Meanwhile Marc Almond gives it ‘Something’s gotten hold of my heart’ for the umpteenth time – couldn’t they bring a couple of tapes, at least?

The wind is getting up, the winner will have to overcome a headwind, a drag and cobbles up the home straight, as well as the other renners.



Six to go and Van Keirsbulck has made it up for QuickStep, the gap is stretching and it looks like it’s all over for the peloton.

Five left, and Rambo takes the prime, his carbon rims ‘clack!’ across the cobbles as the 40 year-old ex-Belgian elite champion punishes his Dolan up the drag to the line.



However hard we try to make it fly, we can’t work a schedule to see the finish and get to the airport in time – maybe we’ll fly tomorrow and head for the post Tour criterium at Aalst?

Common sense takes over and when the lap board says four, we know we’ll have to get our final lap reports from Hamish

Unfortunately, our boy has missed the split which happened in the break; but he’ll still be sprinting for cash – prizes usually go down to 30th.



Four to go, Hamish is back up and we have to go, damn!

For the finale, we have to go ‘eye witness’ from Hamish;

‘Hey up Ed was great to see you boys; hope you got your flight ok ?

Yes got back to front, had to force that though, was with some soft tappers and a couple of boys with ‘team mates in front’.



Preben Van Hecke won for Topsort, I ended up 5th.

Happy with overall performance, good progression over the last couple of weeks after a little dip.

Hoping to win a race this week before I go back to UK for my brother’s wedding.’





And there you have it, another kermis in another village in the Heartland – scatter my ashes in one of those high streets, please.



Post Script:
True to his word, Hamish won Sunday’s pro kermis Championship of East Flanders at Buggenhout.



 

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