A big thank you to Martine Verfaillie, who has been a guest mum for the project for over a decade now, Martine is certainly a big part of the success the project has achieved over the 14 years in operation, and all this for the love of the sport, and given the riders, the support needed…merci Martine xxx (all photos Martine)

First of all, I would like to say a big thank you to Dany for giving me the chance to spend time racing abroad. The experience began with a long travel day across France and after 3 hours on a train, I eventually crossed into Belgium. I was kindly greeted by Martine at the station and shortly after was introduced to my new home for the next 3 weeks.

For the duration of the trip, I would race 7 times which included a crash, puncture, and a top 5. After a few days of getting used to the surroundings, I took to the start line for the first time in Dadizele, and for me, this was the hardest race of the campaign. The racing was tough, to begin with, not knowing the riders, and having to quickly adapt to the racing style were the biggest challenges, however, after 2 or 3 races I was able to get the hang of it.

Unfortunately, though, the latter end of my time in Belgium was struck with some bad luck. With only 3 races left I managed to crash in Langemark and punctured in my last race. Thankfully with just a few scratches and most importantly the bike being fine, I was able to get going again but in these races, if you suffer from any issue it’s racing over!

The highlight of my racing came at the GP Lucien Van Impe which took place in his hometown of Erpe-Mere. This race suited me the most as there was some proper elevation gain. I knew that if the pace was high enough, some of the heavier guys wouldn’t be able to follow and sure enough the race was whittled down to 10 or 15 guys with only a few laps to go. After trying to get away on a number of occasions but to no avail and the top 2 placings already out of contention, it came down to a sprint where I managed to cross the line in 5th place which I was quite happy about.

What I learned from my Belgian experience is that nearly every race is won from the breakaway but more importantly it’s impossible to know when the decisive move would go. In some races, you would follow the first attack and that’s it for the day, in others, you’re 2 hours in and still chewing the stem…
Your positioning is crucial as in a split second it is very easy to get caught out and the front of the race is gone for the day. Finally, it also helps if you can get around a corner or two!
All in all, I had a great experience in Belgium. Nice weather, nice scenery, and nice people although on the other hand some of the roads could do with a makeover.

Martine with Harry Tanfield (GB) who stays with her on many occasions…(photo from Martine’s social media page)

Last but not least, huge thanks to Martine for her hospitality and endless support over the few weeks, it made all the difference, yours in sport, Paul-Antoine Hagan (Banbridge CC)