Don't matter to these fellows, Mol was just another race, so what if they gave away a rainbow jersey. Well, to bad the champ in my bracket did not show today. This was way tougher a race! So many of the same faces that shared of themselves over the last five years were here.
Wilrijk ( say it three times correctly), has become a heck of race. It is hard. Steep little hills and lots of thick Belgium mud, wears ya down quickly. And that it did. Snaking up and down those hills through the trees and then plunging into the fields of mud, left little rest time.
Got away with Mertens right at the start, but countered him on the second lap and was able to pull away. Rode the last four out of six laps off the front building a good cushion and needed it. Things fell apart a bit with two laps to go and that got really scarey. The track became more slippery, and it was obvious my tire pressure was too high, slipping on every tight corner. The idea of going to the pit to grab a bike with brakes that were marginal at best was not an option. Coaching refocused the effort and cruised to victory.
By the end of the race my bike looked like a wheat gin at harvest time. All the kids were laughing. But the gals threw kisses, upon seeing the bouquet of roses, that signaled the winner.
The promoters over here have really stepped it up. I was interviewed after the race, lots of pictures, got to kiss a cute girl, wore a winners green jersey (you can't take it to America, they kept laughing), got a cool trophy, and a cash prize. I told them, if they had Giant Strawberries here, I'd move to Belgium.
It took hours to wash my two bikes myself, but there were hot showers, where they don't care if you make a mess with your mud. So now I'm goin' to pop the balloon and pack my bikes... I am not sure those wheels are worth the extra $120, so the ticket guy may get a big tip, sorry Andy ...and head back to lovely California to my beautiful wife and daugher. But, I swear, on all the unpatched tubes in my garage, that one day, I will return and race a full season ...for the love of cross and God, both are worth praying for!!
All the best and lots of thanks for the help and encouragement, Henri