First victory of the season!

29. June 2009 09:17

First victory of the season!

I won a really special editon of the Gunn-Rita-Marathon in Montebelluna, Italy on the 2011 Marathon World Championships course!

I don’t know which “5” feels worse… the 5 in today’s “5 hours long struggle on a 110 km long clay muddy hard marathon course” or, the 5 in “getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning to get ready for a marathon race”? (I hate to get up that early in the morning!)

Today’s start of the Gunn-Rita Marathon – valid as Italian National Marathon Championships race at the same time - was at 8 a.m., which means I had to get up at 5 a.m. to get ready! (Did I mention I hated it to get up that early?) When the starter’s gun went off surprisingly just me and the other 5 non-residents actually started! The Italians let us go and. just. stood. still! We couldn’t really believe what we saw, but when I realized the others were hesitating and almost stopping, I said to Paez: “no, no, we are going to race…!” and off we were. This should have been the Italian riders’ way of showing their disagreeing with the fact that these Italian National Championships were a race open to non-residents. In my eyes this was a strange protest and in the end their protest didn’t take that long and with 2 minutes down they decided it was enough and started their own private race in the race.

I maybe can understand that the huge bunch of Italians feared that we non-residents – to remember there were only 6 of us - could have a decisive influence on the progression of the race, but I also think their decision was neither professional nor fair on the organizer. To be honest, the whole action rather felt like some guy’s personal fight against the Italian federation.

After the race some Italian tried to explain their way of acting; he said that we must understand the national jersey was something really special to an Italian and that this was why they wanted to have a pure, honest Italian race…. What the hell do these Italians actually think? Do they really believe any other rider in any other country would be less proud of becoming the National Champion and would be less proud of wearing the national jersey for his own country?? Dear Italians, I am a really proud 10-times Belgian National Champion and every single year again I’ll go for this jersey as if it would be my first!

Anyway, we non-residents had a regular start and I rode away together with the Colombians Paez and Caro, Montoya, Medvedev and Gutierrez. It was really difficult to ride that muddy course after those two days of rain they had in Montebelluna, but I was so pissed off about the lack of respect of the Italian riders for my World Champion’s rainbow jersey, that the more I was thinking about it during the race, the more and the harder I pushed the pedals… Like this, I lost one fellow rider after the other and was left alone for more than half the race.

The weather was nice and warm and I enjoyed testing my shape in this race for the upcoming National Championships and World Cups. There were just 3 feed zones installed on this 110 km course and they were actually not enough for a long race like this. While the “oh-so-right” and “we-want-a-fair-race” Italians were organized and had their people everywhere along the course – some were even following their riders with scooters on the course!! – feeding them at any time, any where and prepared to offer them technical support, I was carrying all my bottles not only on my back, I even carried a bidon in my shorts on my belly. In fact, in the last kilometres I was almost fading away because I had not been drinking and like this I hadn’t been eating enough and was really happy to cross the finish line soon.

I won the race with a huge gap of 9 minutes ahead of Paez, while Mirko Celestino became the worth Italian National Champion coming in on 3rd position. Unfortunately this test race on the 2011 World Championships course didn’t really work out as desired, I really wanted to find a racing-like situation with direct confrontation with other athletes.  But I’ll try again at the Europeans here next year. Then we will have a regular competition with more than just 6 riders behaving like elite riders followed by a bunch of riders behaving like juniors.

Riding in Italy always gives me a special sensation. There are so many supporters on the course cheering and screaming “vai, vai…!” at me, I sometimes believe I am back home in Belgium! Thanks to all of you for “pushing me up the hills” with your support!

© Foto Newspower/Eos