by Alicia Hopkins
Kyle Wamsley from the Navigators Insurance Cycling Team completes the last of
the Belgian Classics with Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen.
Wamsley at Bike Jam 2006
Now that you have completed Scheldeprijs, what were your impressions
of the race?
Scheldeprijs was very different from the other races I've done here. It was
a very flat course. Usually, I think the race would be very difficult with
the crosswinds, but today was not windy, very warm, and dry. The weather
made the race very easy and kept the bunch together without many splits
until the end when the distance and the speed started to wear down the
riders. I think of all the races that I have competed in here, this one so
far provides me with the best chance of a win in the future.
There were many abandonments during the race, what is the overall
consensus in the peloton as far as morale and more importantly has the
fatigue factor made many weary?
I saw a lot of good riders abandon the race at the feed, meaning many
riders where using this race as training or preparation for another event.
You can always tell these riders as they have their legs covered and sitting
2/3rds of the way down the field compared to normally at the front third of
the bunch. I think some of the workers where a bit tired for most teams due
to the number of races over the past week, for which reason we saw many of
the smaller teams chasing the breakaways on the front. It was also very
quite on the starting line, not a whole lot of joking around, always a good
sign that the peloton is tired and a good day to attack.
Now that you have several Classics under your belt, what would you
say was the best and the worst for you? Some riders love riding in Belgium
and others hate it, where would you place yourself in relation to what you
have experienced thus far.
For me, the hardest, worst, or most difficult races where the E3 Prijs style
races. These are the races that do say 100 kilometers to the feed, then
start 50 kilometers in the bergs, cobbled or not, and may finish on some
flat to rolling finishing circuits. I have not discovered how to make it
over the climbs in the front, which is art in and if itself, but a definite
key to victory. It is a two part struggle, one to get to the bottom of the
climb and another to get over it.
The better races for me are the 150 km or so loops that are flat to rolling,
but finish with 30-60 km of hard finishing circuits. I usually find good
legs by the circuits and enjoy the criterium style circuits with the big
crowds like Scheldeprijs and Drenthe.
My overall opinion of the Classics here in Europe is a very good one. I was
blessed with fantastic weather for my stay, very unusual actually. I have
raced many big races in the states, Philly week, Tour of California, Tour de
Georgia, all the big criteriums, and nothing is the same as racing the
Classics. Only here do you fight for 5 plus hours a day for space to ride
in. Once you get the space you have fought for, you hope it is close enough
to the front that when, and it is a matter of "when" and not "if" , the race
splits you are far enough forward to make the front half of the bunch. Only
here will you ride on a four lane road with 200 riders, curb to curb and
some on the bike path, at 30mph and no way to move up. Sometimes three rows
back is 150th place. And all the riders, including myself, will come back
for more because there is only one winner each day, almost never a surprise
winner, and they are immortalized forever with the names of the greats who
have one before them.
For me, Belgium is the rubix cube of cycling. You can get very close to
solving it, but there is always that one block that is on the wrong side,
the one section of stones or climb that will cost you the race. But you
just can't put down a rubix cube, so I'll be back to try again