Matt Brammeier writes - full gas on Belgium's Pro Kermesse circuit

Timothy John Timothy John

It’s been a while since I last caught up with you guys. I’ve been training pretty hard, racing now and then and moving house, so time hasn’t really been on my side.

Cyclists race in Belgium

After the disappointment of not going to the Giro, I was left a little bit in limbo. I thought I’d timed my training perfectly and was feeling the best I’d felt all year. In my eyes I was ready to race and raring to go. Unfortunately, my team management saw me suffering in Romandie and it was too much of a gamble to put me into the race hoping I would come good in time for the start in Denmark.

Anyway, it’s all water under the bridge now and yet another learning curve for me in what is only my second year as professional. Next time, I will be sure I’m going well enough a little bit earlier and give myself a chance to show my form and condition.

So as I was saying, I was in pretty good shape but there were no big races on my program. The only thing I could do was keep training hard, try to keep my condition and look out for some individual races I could do to keep me hungry and ticking over.

Luckily enough there were a couple of Pro Kermesse races I could ride to keep me busy. For those of you that don’t know, these races are pretty tough – usually 180 to 200kms of full on racing from the start until the end!

A good few years ago some of Belgium’s “training” rides had gotten a little too competitive and before they knew it they were riding with numbers on. Soon after, the Kermesse was born. The tradition of riding full gas from the start, full gas after every corner, full gas in the breakaway and full gas at the finish has kind of kept going and there never seems to be any sign of a ‘Piaano’ or ‘Tranquillo’ moment in these races. I had three races to ride over the course of ten days.

Cyclists racing in Belgium

Race number one in Puivelde ended well but could have been so much better. My legs were in good shape and I rode a smart race. After an aggressive final few laps, I was heading to the finale in the front group of eight. I hit out with 800 metres to go, trying to get a jump on the sprinters. My plan didn’t work and they closed me down just before the finish. I had good enough legs to hold on for third which wasn’t too shabby.

Next up was as close to my home race I would get in Heist Op Den Berg. I had the biggest amount of fans that day I’d ever experienced so I was really motivated to do well; to win in fact. I wanted that win. After a tough race I was again heading to the finish in a small group racing for the win. With only four riders this time, I tried to attack once again over a small ‘berg’ with 2kms to go. Again my attack was neutralised and the sprint was on. I timed my sprint a little too late and just ran out of road, an ended second. If only we’d had a few more metres…

My last race was in Borsbeek. To cut a long story short, I was in the breakaway from the start and worked full gas to make sure we stayed away. The group was perfect, no sprinters and I was feeling strong. With two laps to go, I punctured. After a big chase I finally crossed the gap of 45 seconds and made it back into the group. The attacks started almost immediately and I just couldn’t respond. I felt totally empty. I ended up abandoning the race and heading home pretty gutted. After a quick chat with my trainer he quickly let me know that my average watts for the day were 330 watts for just over three hours and I spent 20 minutes at 390 watts chasing back after the flat tyre. No wonder I was dead!

So three races, two podiums, but no win! I wasn’t happy. Next up is a big block of training. My next block of racing is a pretty important part of the year for me. It’s normally when I’m at my best so my training leading up to them is pretty crucial. I have basically been living like a monk for the last two weeks, training, eating, sleeping. My life has been a constant training camp.

The legs are good, the numbers are better than last year and I’m more motivated than ever.

My next races are ZLM Toer, the Irish national time trial and road race, and the Tour Of Austria. If I come out of this block without at least two wins it will be a failure in my eyes. I’m not one for putting pressure on myself but there you go, I just did!

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