Feature: Racing in Belgium by Peter Merritt

Another Question & Answer with Peter Merritt, this time about racing in Belgium #xmasfeatures

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Feature: Racing in Belgium by Peter Merritt

1. What made you want to race in Belgium?
Peter: I always wanted to race on the continent as it seemed so professional. Ever since getting my opportunity to race out there as a junior with John Barclay, I’ve been hooked. In addition to that, Belgium is at the epicentre of cycling culture and there are more races of a higher standard than in the UK.

2. How did you choose which team to race for or did they choose you?
Peter: I had a links to a Belgian team thanks to the team I was with in 2015; TBW Bottecchia Wigmore RT. They gave me the opportunity to live out in Belgium as a junior for a couple of months. I achieved a couple of decent results and signed with GOMA Dakwerken VDB – Steenhouwerij CT before I went back home.

3. Do you ride on your British racing licence and does that means getting permission from BC?
Peter: Yes, I received a letter from BC permitting me to race internationally.

4. What part of Belgium have you decided to base yourself?
Peter: I live in Zottegem, East Flanders.

5. How big in rider numbers are Belgian races in general?
Peter: At the start of the year, they would easily breach 200 riders, hence why in 2016 they had to introduce a 200 rider limit by implementing pre-entry for all March kermesses. As the season goes on, the numbers die down a bit but even towards the end of the season it’s no surprise to get fields of over 100 riders.

6. Do you see a lot of pros racing in your events?
Peter: There are a lot of riders from UCI Continental and World Tour development. It’s great to race alongside such a high standard of competition.

7. Are they like British races in being uncontrolled and very agressive?
Peter: I think Belgian racing is far more aggressive than British racing. I’ve never competed in a Premier Calendar so I can’t talk for that level of racing, but in comparison with National Bs, Belgian races are most of the time far more demanding.

8. Who chooses which races you do – you or your team and do you get to say which ones you prefer?
Peter: The interclubs, stage races and Beker Van Belgie (Belgian Cup) races are based on rider-selection by the team manager. However, we can pick and choose whatever kermesses we want to do. We’re normally encouraged to do as many as possible.
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9. What is the best thing about a Belgian race compared to national B ones here?
Peter: Closed roads, more prize money, huge crowds, bigger fields etc.

10. Are all races on closed roads or are some not closed like British races?
Peter: All Belgian races are on closed roads. Belgian riders think we’re crazy in the UK for racing on open roads.

11. Is the majority of the racing Kermesses or are there lots of other types of races?
Peter: The majority are kermesses, but Belgium also has a lot of crit races on offer, as well as all the big interclubs and other national road races that riders in Belgian teams can compete in.

12. How does a Belgian kermesse differ to British crits?
Peter: Very different. A kermesse is the distance of a normal road race, normally between 60 and 80 miles, but in addition to this kermesses are very crit-like in terms of how technical they can be.

13. How often do you race mid season?
Peter: Provided everything goes to plan, I should be doing 60-70 races a season. However, due to reoccurring knee injuries last season I only did about 50 races.

14. Do you get to see the pro races as well or just concentrate on your own racing?
Peter: Of course. Races like the Tour of Flanders, Tour of Belgium, Eneco Tour, E3 Harelbeke etc are right on our doorstep.

15. Finally, what is the most important thing any British rider needs to do to race in Belgium?
Peter: It’s a very simple process. Inform BC that you’d like to race in Belgium and you’ll receive a confirmation letter permitting you to race abroad. If you’re a junior, you’ll need a calendar card as well, but again it’s just a quick call to BC and they’ll get it sorted. Once you have all that, then you’re all set to go to Belgium and race!



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