After an epic fail on a night out, Llewellyn has more luck in some races and tells us about the Belgium kermesse …
Llewellyn Kinch, rider for Terra Footwear – Bicycle Line in Belgium, writes ... In my last article I mentioned our massive night out in Kortrijk and that we’d be having a proper night out for Doug’s Birthday before this article. The night started well with a few beers and pizza before we walked to the main road to catch a bus into Zottegem. The buses stopped at 5pm.
There was a taxi place nearby so we walked there to ask if they could take us. Apparently all taxis in the area stopped by 9pm. We got home 40 minutes of walking later to get a lift in. Arriving victorious in Zottegem at about 10pm, we headed to find a good bar. They were all shut or empty. However, on the way back to the car, we found a loud and lively bar so bundled in, happy the night had been saved. It was a private party. All in all, an epic fail.
Pre-race chat …
Luckily the two kermesses and interclub I’ve done since the last article have been far more successful than us hitting the town has been. The kermesses were Esplechin and Merelbeke, where I got 5th from 206 starters and 4th from 210 starters. At Esplechin, I started the echelon in a cross wind section to get the race-winning split of about 20 away. I then won two of nine primes and used the second one to split the group again to just six.
Although a tactics fail meant I ended up 5th of 6.
Merelbeke was a very fast course with little chance of a break getting away; so I had a few goes anyway. The most successful was with a group of four, including two teamates. All that achieved was 30 minutes of pain. However, a split did go with about 10km left and seeing we had four riders in fifteen, I shouted for Terra to drive it. Doug Dewey duly did, helping us pull clear of the bunch. With 2 km to go, Bjorn De Bock got clear with one other and we controlled the group for him to take a great win for Terra.
Doug and Josh Hunt then did a great lead out for me to take 4th.
At the inter-club. I again felt strong all race, although I didn’t ride vey sensibly and repeatedly soloed across to groups. In the final 2km, I was nicely positioned in the chasing group but managed to end up riding in the mud at the side of the road and going right to the back before riding back up to 38th.
What is a kermis/kermesse race like?
A kermis is similar in length to a UK road race, at 100-120km, although that is where the similarities end. The UK circuits in the middle of empty countryside are traded for a lap of 5-10km, which finishes in a town or village centre with crowds of beer drinking Belgians. The race HQ is usually a bar next to the finish line, which makes money from all the spectators buying drinks. Another quite novel aspect is the spectators betting on riders, with the odds changing throughout the race. I was actually race favourite in a kermis last year. Well calculated odds seeing as I won.
Races are entered on the line on an individual basis. It costs €10 to enter and you get €5 back when you return your number. As the races are entered individually, there are no team cars allowed and they don’t provide neutral service, although there is a broom wagon, so you don’t have to walk back to the HQ. Another way in which the races differ from the UK are that the roads are closed, so you can corner and attack properly without worrying there’ll be a car coming the other way.
In the next article, I’ll include more on kermis races as well as some tips and advice to get the most out of them. In the meantime follow me on twitter for ‘Bicycles, Banter and Belgian waffles’ (@LlewellynKinch).