I'm finally caught on sleep and have, I think, acclimated to the massive time zone shift. I took it easy today. Rode out from my Aunt's house in Oostende to Brugge and back. The idea was to follow a canal and not get lost. This mostly worked, until I tried to leave Brugge. The street I thought I came in on took me in the exact opposite direction I wanted to go. Here are the visual Highlights:
Markings like those green arrows are all over the country roads here. They're put down by cycling tour companies for cycling tour groups, and in theory they'll take you to interesting places, provided of course that you're willing to head in a completely unknown direction.
Tomorrow I race. 112 Kilometers on an 8 k circuit. Intelligence I've gathered from the locals I've been riding with has yielded some helpful and troubling information. First the good news. As I've mentioned in previous posts the wind here is the ultimate obstacle. On a circuit course or Kermesse as they're called here, positioning is critical - especially when approaching a corner where the wind will change to a cross wind. On narrow roads the diagonal echelon formation can only protect so many riders from the blasting wind. If you're too far back and pushed against the side of the road and cannot get into the protective slipstream of the rider in front of you - you're fucked. You'll be behind the leaders and expending as much if not more energy just to stay in contact. Fortunately I had the chance to practice these techniques last weekend. Tomorrow's trial will determine if I've mastered the technique well enough. Here's some more crosswind riding information.
Here's the troubling news. From multiple sources I've been told that the non contract racing here in Belgium is filled with dope. Blood transfusions, chemicals and just about any means of going faster as all common here. The first hint came from a friend of my cousin's who owns a few pharmacies here in West Flanders. Upon discovering that I raced bikes, he joking said that "I've met the right guy." Maybe not so jokingly! The next day on the Oostende local group ride, Carl who was featured in an earlier ride highlight video, told me the the non contract racing divisions are doped to the gills. He told me that he knew of guys who spend up to a $1000.00 a month on doping. WTF? This is utterly unheard of where I race in Southern California. Being the national sport, the amateur ranks here are filled with young and stupid kids who are in desperate need of race results. If they show well they'll get picked up by and sponsored team and perhaps transcend their socioeconomic class. At what cost? As it applies to me, it seems that tomorrow will give me the first hand opportunity to see how fast the EPO tailwind really is.
A Brief Wednesday Dispatch
7 hours ago