Time trail, 10 kilometres. Time trail, one stage-type particularly liked by Bart Voskamp. He won already two important ones this season; the one in the Tour of Belgium securing him of winning this stage-race and the one in the Tour de Luxembourg securing him of place two in the overall classification in this stage race. As leader in the overall in this Ster Elektro Toer he
has to start last, while a not totally fit Jan van Velzen has to start early. One good opportunity for the team, for Capiot, for the others to find out what the course is like. Van Velzen listens to Johan Capiot, already knowing exactly what to do, race as good and as focussed as can do. Johan Capiot divides himself in three persons behind the stearingwheel of the teamcar, blabbering with the ones sitting there with him, focusing on how Jan van Velzen does, cheering him on, steering the car through the narrow roads, climbs and sudden turns and in between answering a phonecall. On the backbench in the car, mecanic Maarten notes down the times rolling out of his stopwatch at every chosen marked point. Van Velzen continues carefully in his ten k., at the finishline (while having to stay behind because Jan overtook the rider who started one minute ahead of him). Maarten clocks “I think its 14.14 or so”, which turns out to be almost exactly the time Jan van Velzen really did set on the scoringboard.
The teambus, grey, Bankgirobird on the sides, is parked a few yards from the startingpodium. Birdracers come and go, warm up, blabber along, do their race, exchange experiences, exchange all sort of things, take notice of those walking enjoying their chocolate. All in yellow (shirt and trousers) Bart Voskamp appears. The team symbol and the colours he is wearing make him feel more birdylike than ever, now sounds of a feather accompany the sight. He concentrates on this job and takes off as the last in line. The crowd moves towards the finishline, a finishline where talented Bram Schmitz nerviously rides and rides and rides. His time beats Michael Boogerds one by a bit, with only his teammate Voskamp to cross the finishline. Voskamp gives his best and slows down after crossing, awaiting his result. He hears Boogerds time is the second best so far, his is the third one. When this enters his ears
the question pops out of his mouth, who then has the best time. “Bram does”, he is told. One big questionmark appears on his face. “Bram?” “Yes, Bram”, the answer is. Once again “Bram?”, before it sinks in his teammate did one hell of a great job in winning the timetrial.
Both bird Bart and bird Bram count themselves lucky to be called to the podium. Yet more flowers to receive, yet more happy smiling faces, yet more wine and alcohol to drink. Bram Schmitz has refound his wittiness and answers the questions the speaker throws his way as if he has never done anything else in his life. A joyful flock of lucky birds takes off to their hotel for a good night sleep and an even greater celebration of a very successfull stagerace so far.
Keeping the jersey
Saturday's stage, Verviers / Belgian Ardennes stage. A stage similar to the roads where Liege-Bastogne-Liege is battled out, a stage much to the likes of Michael Boogerd, third in overall, just a few seconds behind Bart and Bram. Many battles were fought in the Ardennes, this one is won by the joint strength of the Bankgiroloterij-guys. The joint forces of the men in blue-red-black defeated the constant attacks of Michael Boogerd and amongst others his young teammate Ronald Mutsaars. The riders in orange, white and blue came close, but Boogerd and his teammates were not able to take of the most important jersey in this race from Voskamp. Schmitz managed to stay in green, Löwik looked familiar in white. They fought hard, they fought the whole stage, they did not give in when it counted, the joint together in being happy near the teambus a little behind the finishline. All riders, tired to the bone, sore hips and knees, just recovering from major injuries, reached the line, reached the washingcloth with eau-de-cologne. All riders won, all riders joined joy, a few later the birds sit happily together in the BirdsBus and cruise the highway on their way back to their hotel near the departure-city from the day before.
The flight home
A relaxed Sundaymorning in Nuth. The still sleeping town is crowded by riders preparing to race the last ride home, the last leg of this eventful five days. In a corner of the square the Bankgiroloterij riders still picture as one. They receive frequent visits from befriended riders from other teams, laughter fills they air. The atmosphere breaths silently along, the yellow jersey has found his home. Such as too did the green one. The battle for the white one is still open, with Ronald Mutsaars just a few behind Gerben Löwik. Riding home like Mutsaars does, gives him wings to join an escapeegroup. Bankgirloterij in all their colours control the group, letting the ones in the breakaway win the bonusseconds, leaving none for opponent for the yellow jersey Michael Boogerd. The men in the lead reach a greater gap of near to ten minutes, are being sent the wrong way, the bunch experience the same, the bunch has to wait about four minutes before being allowed on the last five laps. The jury decides to take them out of the stage after two laps because of the possibilty they mix in with the breakaway. The five in the front battle for the stage win, in the chaotic end Bart Voskamp secures himself of the overall win. Bram Schmitz gets to keep the green jersey and Ronald Mutsaars of the Rabobankteam collects enough to get the white off of the shoulders of Gerben Löwik.
All but one bird sit in the bunch and join soigneur Willy for a wash-up with cologne. All but one, since the tallest bird of all in this Ster Elektro Toer is protecting all jerseys in the breakaway. With some laps to go he takes off on his own, later he gets accompanied by Richard Slabbekoorn. The birdmates blabber their way through, are being interviewed, in the meantime watching how their teammate is doing. And Brutus does well, he secures the fourth stage win for his team. The same amount of wins like last year, except now its accompanied by winning the overall classification with Bart Voskamp, the green jersey with Bram Schmitz and the best team together.