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03.31.10 - U23 Men’s European Spring Project

Report by Keir Plaice

After a fews days of settling in here at the Canadian team house in Tielt- Winge, our U23 European project kicked off for real with our first race, a kermis in Kruishoutem, Oost-Vlaanderen.

We had done a few light training rides around Tielt-WInge together to get accustomed to our surroundings and experience some of the beautiful riding here. The boys that had just flown in needed a bit of time to get over their jet lag. Now however, everyone was ready for some racing.

We signed in at the quintessential smoky cafe and got ready with a steady stream of Pro Tour team cars and enthusiastic Flandrians making their way to various points of the Ronde van Vlaanderen in front of us.

At the start line were myself, Michael Joanisse, Jamie Riggs, Spencer Smitheman, and Antoine Duchesne. Owen Harrison will make his way to Belgium next week. On the books were 13 laps of a 9.5km circuit. The parcours was very complete, with a good hill, a couple of tough sections with cross winds, small roads and a few fast corners.

WIth an aggressive start, Team Canada did a fantastic job covering the significant moves and counter attacks as everyone got involved in the effort. Finally a group Michael had gone with stuck and he was away in the break for the day. A couple laps later I covered an attack from the peloton into a downhill corner and came out with a healthy gap, a group soon came across and we formed a chase. As the gap to the leaders came down, so to dwindled the number of riders in our break. Entering the final third of the race there were only three of us left with a gap of a minute and a half. Then a Belgian from the PWS Eijssen team came across from the peloton and started going beserk, accelerating full throttle every time he hit the front and making it tough for myself and the other 2 in the move. In truth he was doing more damage to the chasing effort than anything and disrupted the rhythm of our effort. Despite that, we had the gap down to 30 or so seconds coming into the second to last lap. At this point, the leading break split in two and in my group the PWS Eijssen guy drove it up the climb and we dropped the other two riders. Things reshuffled a bit as we picked up some of the riders dropped from the front, Michael gave me everything he had left here but soon the attacks started to go and I found myself with one other rider trying desperately to catch the break. Unfortunately, it didn't happen and we sprinted for ninth with me beating him on the uphill finish. Michael, rolled in for 12th place.

So, a solid start for Team Canada in preparation for the important Nations Cups next week. We got some good fast racing in the legs, worked well as a team and got our heads in the competitive game. We are up for another kermis today, then next week some reconnaissance and preparation for de Ronde.

It was great to return to the comforts of the Canada house and very motivating to see our countrymen on television in the thick of the action in the Tour of Flanders. We aim to do the same next week in the U23 version of the race.

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