|You get your average middle aged men, a bit more filled bodies at some area’s to smoothly fill out and in the merchandised team jerseys. You have them a lot in above all places Belgium. The five minutes of everybodies fame glimmer off to those who make and earn their bread on the bike. And in those category you have two more or less dived parts. While at the time one half is preparing themselves on the slopes of the Swiss mountains or keeping their legs busy in the Dauphine Libere, the other half is not that fortunate to work their way to the national championships. In the ‘upper-half’ there is only so much space, leaving the other to be a bit more inventive.
Luckyly for them there are Belgian critts. It is not your all full speed lap critt thing.....no it is 16 laps of a bit over ten k. a lap hard working in the midst of a 130 men bunch. The famous GP St. Eloois in Ruddervoorde for instance. Being held for yhe 47th time this year, nicely placed on the UCI-calendar on the Tuesday before the nationals. At the startinggrid some 128 riders. Amongst them Frank Vandenbroucke, Wesley van Speybrouck, Bert DeWaele and Kurt Vanlandeghem (Landbouwkrediet), reigning Belgian Champion Tom Steels (Landbouwkrediet), Max van Heeswijk, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne winner Roy Sentjens (Rabobank) and the totally present Bankgiroloterijteam. In this last squadra only the injured Vincent van der Kooij is missing. Solemly on his own he is training on his adjusted bike to get ready for the nationals coming Sunday. The others in the team have their eyes focussed on the red white and blue they wanna take home this time. In the last tow attempts they failed both times, stranding on third base with Rudi Kemna as a runner up.
The atmosphere breaths relaxing, the sun warms up the blue skies. Being a professional does not mean stay focussed to the bad moods and tunnelview march in. It means working with legs and mind to a good result. As a second divisionist Bankgiroloterij so far impressed themselves and the others with good results with less riders. Teamdirector Johan Capiot allready mentioned it early May: “The team gets tired. Being with just thirteen riders you immediatelly face difficulties when one get injured or ill.” They got their share of bad luck with an unwilling achile of Van der Ven, a close encounter with a truck by Van der Kooij and a old come back injury which bottered Vries’ knee for six weeks. For the first time in six weeks Pieter Vries does race a real race. Afterwards he is content with the outcoming. “The knee does not hurt more than he did before. I now am looking forward to Sunday. Guess it is a nice lap for ones especially not the ones in big form. This one suits me, at present shape) better than the one in Nijmegen. Sunday I am going to work my butt off for the team. “
The pace starts up real high. In early laps some riders try to get away on their own, but none get away properly. With a little over 140 kilometres to go a group of ten riders take of. Amongst them eager men like DeWaele, two Aussie-riders from team Down Under, Marlux’s Matozza and Collstrop-Palmans sprinter Omloop. Hidden in between there also is Jeroen Blijlevens (Bankgiroloterij). After wandering of to Italian Polti he found himself lost in search for victories so far. The group works together at their finest and manage to keep the gap near and around two minutes. The bunch behind them efforts themself to get closer and close the gap, but failing in this attempt. The leaders stay ahead, diminish to a six-some in the remaining two laps. Blijlevens in history could outclass his companions with two fingers in the nose, in between drinking cappucino, but his nowadays form manage to set some doubts in minds, above all his own mind. Omloop showed his massive sprint powers one time more this season and one Aussie could help the other to the win. The winner was one unpredictable, but after the chalckline turned out to be very happy one.
“I did not get this win for free”, explained number one Jeroen Blijlevens, when his face was cleanedwashed up by teamsoigneur Luc. “I really, we all had to work hard to stay away. And we all worked great together. Sure this gives a good morale for Sunday, maybe this one win is just what I lacked off in trying to come back.” He stops talking for a minute, recieving his teammates congratulations and teasing gracefully. Once more the focuss is on winning that one most wanted jersey in Rotterdam, the red-white and blue jersey one gets to wear all season and has a lot of bonusses for rider and team. Remco van der Ven adds, just before hopping in the teambuss to bring him back to the hotel: “Yeah, I think we really do have a real good chance Sunday. Especially on this kind of course (flatter than flat with two major obstacles (bigger bridges), red.) we are as a team I think one of the best. More than other teams we are one, we can make it work. And we have more good riders who can finish top.”
Whilst most of the Bankgiroloterij transport themselves back on their bike to the hotel few k. down the road, the average one on the bike rides his teamquipement home too. Also looking ahead to the upcoming nationals, also wondering who is going to do best.
Results Ruddervoorde 2003:
1. Jeroen Blijlevens (Bankgiroloterij)
2. Geert Omloop (Collstrop-Palmans)
3. Sebastien Matozza (Marlux)
Next day, next race, same country, different setting, different results but....same team that takes the flowers home in Brussel-Ingooigem
1. Jans Koerts (Ned-Bct), 4.12,66
2. Jan Kuyckx (Bel-Vla), s.t
3. Ruud Aerts (Ned-Vhg), s.t.
4. Geert Omloop (Bel-Pal), s.t.
5. Björn Leukemans (Bel-Pal), 0,40”
6. Edwin Dunning (Ned-Vhg), s.t.
7. Paul van Schalen (Ned-Axa), s.t.
8. Ludovic Capelle (Bel-Lan), 1,08”
9. Andy De Smet (Bel-Pal), 1,20
10. Rudi Kemna (Ned-Bct)”, s.t.