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A day at the races: Antwerpen - Tielen with ABC-Aitos team
By Celine Tytgadt
Date: 8/25/2002
A day at the races: Antwerpen - Tielen with ABC-Aitos team

The temperature: 90 degrees F (30 degrees C), the place: a small café tucked away in Antwerp, the distance: 100 miles (159 km), the race: Antwerpen-Tielen for elite without contract.

That's where my day started following the ABC-Aitos team, the guys from the Cycling Center based in Oostende (click here for the Cycling Center hub at the Daily Peloton).

As I arrived at the café where the race was to start I found the team tucked away under the bridge looking for some shade. Bernard Moerman (director Sportif) and Corey Hart (coach) were preparing the bikes while the riders were eating something and got changed. The atmosphere was very relaxed as the music shouted out from the radio "Born in the USA" from Bruce Springsteen and Nick explains "It's hard to be an Australian in those situations". Nick White is the only Australian in a team full of Americans but he seemed to manage pretty well. The other members of the team there that day: Jacob Fetty (click here for his diary on the race), Austin King, Brian Adams, Gregg Germer and Michael Scherer.

Photo: Corey and Bernard preparing the bikes

Photo: Jacob pulling funny faces

It was still 2 hours to go before the race started so it was first time to attend the pre-race meeting. Although I wasn't allowed inside, Ann (Bernard's wife and the mum of the house) was explaining me what was going on in there. Of all the teams present they would do a draw to determine the order of the team cars. ABC-Aitos got unlucky and was car 18, so very far off the back. Other information like the explanation of the route was given which Bernard would then pass on to the riders.

Photo: Bernard giving explanations

The route would be as follows: a first part from Antwerp to Tielen over 69 km, a big local lap around Tielen and then 3 smaller local laps of each 9.7km. Two cobble sections would have to be passed, one after 42.2 km and the other after 90 km. The riders would pass the feeding zone 4 times (once during the big local lap then 3 times during the smaller laps).

The riders listened carefully to Bernard's explanation and then to Pete's inside information on the first cobble section as he raced it in the Tour of Antwerp (click here for part one and two of his diary) so he was able to tell the others about the 90 degree turn before arriving on the cobbles. Today, they were lucky in the way that it hadn't rained so the cobble sections weren't too slippery. Corey then got passed the word as he started explaining the team tactics. By then, it was almost time to go and after looking for some last minute changes, preparing the radios, etc. the riders left one by one as the start was a bit further down the road.

Photo: Pinning on their numbers (Nick, Mike, Austin, Brian)

Photo: Nick before the start

So the race was off and I joined Ann at the feeding zone. We were regularly in contact with Bernard and Corey in the car through the mobile phones. We got some important information like that there were Austin and Jacob in the front group, Gregg, Brian and Mike in the peloton and that Nick had abandoned. He had some problems on the first cobbles sections and couldn't get back to the main pack. He found us quite quickly and went for a ride on his own in the mean time. It was time for the first visit to the feeding zone for the ones still in the race.

For someone who has never seen a bunch of riders battling it out in the feeding zone it is quite an impressive happening. Ann was ready to give the riders their bottles of water (really important in that weather!!) while there were some other teams joking around that Ann wouldn't be able to give them all their bottles. She proved them wrong as all riders managed to get their hands on their drinks.

Photo: Ann at the feed zone

The first passing at the feeding zone was over quite quickly and we had to wait another hour before seeing them again. In the mean time, I talked with Ann about the Cycling Center, the riders, the progress they made, the problems they have had... We talked about everything and I might have heard before that she was supposed to be the mum of the house, well, I found out for myself that day. The riders can be very lucky that she is there.

In the mean time, the situation in the race hadn't changed very much. 15 riders were up front with Jacob and Austin from the ABC-Aitos team. Austin had been dropped from the leaders group after a flat. But while he managed to stay in the race, Mike had given up. He had suffered from a puncture on the cobble section (which was reached 10 minutes ahead of schedule) together with about 15 other guys. It was time for him to head the showers.

So down to four for ABC-Aitos.

Now the riders would pass the feeding zone very fast. Every 13 minutes. As the race was very nervous, the passing at the feed zone would be our only hints of what the situation of the race was.

2nd feeding: Jacob still up front looking good with a gap of 1m30s. Brian, Austin and Gregg in the peloton.

Photo: Jacob pulling up front in the break

3rd feeding: Same situation only the gap had grown to 2 minutes.

4th feeding: The leading group fell apart as we saw two riders attack just in front of us. They formed a group of 7...without Jacob. The race was more or less over for ABC-Aitos as it appeared that the 7 leaders would stay away. Jacob had given it his best but it didn't work out. But good job!!!

It was the last lap now and after the peloton had caught the chasers, it broke up completely. It was now time to head for the finish to take care of the riders there. Walking towards the finish we passed Brian and Austin who had given up by then as they were in the group that was just too far behind. They looked dead beat and Ann was very supportive (like a real mum as I said before) and just giving them a wet towel to wash off and extra drinks. Not much words were needed, just her presence was enough. While the two went back to the team van, we were waiting for the last two to finish the race: Gregg Germer and Jacob Fetty. The speakers were telling us that number 41 had won the race, but no name given. We didn't need to know...Ann just counted the number of riders coming in while waiting for our guys. Over 20 so no prizes today, but a huge effort by Jacob and the others!

Again Ann was just there with water (not too cold of course!) and the wet towel.

Back at the van it was time for the riders to get changed. It was quiet in the team camp. Bernard arrived and gave a pat on the back to the riders, again, no words necessary.

Soon everyone was ready to go again: riders changed, bikes on the car, punctured tires had been picked up from the neutral car. As no one finished in the first 20-25 places, we didn't need to wait for any prize money. Not this time. On the ride back (2 hours) the riders were very much to themselves. Just reading or listening to some music.

Back in Oostende it was all quite hectic as there was the unloading of the van and car from the race in Antwerp and the loading of the car for the next race: UCI 1.5 in Austria, a stage race (rider's diaries online later!) and very important for them. They would need to leave at 5am and drive for 14 hours, arriving just in time for the guys to go for a ride to loosen up the muscles in the evening. So unfortunately, not that much time to talk, but Bernard promised us more news very soon!

As the race was over the day came to an end as well but not before going out for dinner with Nick in Oostende. We planned this a while ago, but due to lack of time (I had to take the train back home) we only managed to have an ice cream (for me - Nick just had a drink) and a walk to the train station, but even though our time was very short, I really appreciated it. For the ones curious, he is just as nice as he seems from his diaries! Nick is back in his homeland Australia now, but he plans to be back in February, so be sure to keep checking our websites for his diaries and of course the diaries of all other riders who will still be racing very hard the next few weeks!

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