I think an event needs to happen at least twice before it becomes a tradition, but if there was any doubt that yesterday's gravel road race deserved to be called a "Classic", they can now be laid to rest. Not only was it a challenging (even grueling) race, but the location and the community put it over the top, in my opinion. A post race meal in the community hall, Belgian folk dancers (KK has video), and the blessing of the parish priest (no injuries, as far as I know) all contributed to making the opening race of the season a tough act to follow, and a memorable event.
As for the race itself: As you turn off highway 2 at Holland, you're immediately struck by - of course - all the hills, which came to define the race. Predictions that this would be a war of attrition were borne out, as most riders crossed the line one at a time after being strung out over the course by the hills and the gravel. My version of the Cat 4 event went like this: For the first half of Lap 1, Johnny G, KK and I had managed to stay near the front with a few other riders. Then the big hills came. Then my front tire went flat. Then everybody passed me, while I changed tubes and futzed around with my mini-pump. But in truth, I didn't mind the rest. By the time I got back on the bike, I had recovered enough to push on, and crept up the field a bit to finish 7th. There were a few other flats as well - Olli and Steve both flatted in the Cat 3 event, and there were probably more. For me, it was just like Menno Cross last year - a flat at a critical point in the race totally changes everything, and yet I'm having so much fun that it doesn't matter. Post-race good times only improved the mood.
The real story was Johnny, or rather The Johnnys. S took the citizen race by storm, and brought home a jar of gravel for his efforts. And it turns out G is the FGBC's in-house climber. He goes uphill like a goat. With the hills of Bruxelles behind him, he'll make short work of those little "Rockies" in July.
The Cricket also deserves mention for driving 4 hours to lend support, moral and otherwise. He remains on the injured list for now. He should also have a bunch of pictures to post, no?
Lastly, a big thanks to the organizers and volunteers, especially Hal and Ian for putting on an awesome and unique event and setting a new standard in road racing!