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Racing in Belgium
By James Wilkinson May 21, 2017 9:04:03 PM Comments

James Wilkinson is an U23 rider who races in Belgium with the help of The Dave Rayner Fund. He will be writing a regular column for Arrivée and we hope you enjoy his posts:

Racing & Life in Belgium as a U23 Cyclist

For 2017 I decided to come and live in Belgium again, this time with a different team and for a full season. This season is with Vetrapo cycling team, a team based in the East Flanders (Oost-vlannderen). They are a team that focuses on the Beker Van Belgie Interclubs (Belgium cup) for amateur riders. This year their team is made up of more older riders than young; this is great as they can help teach me the ropes of racing over here. To help give more of an insight to the team, the same people have run it for a while now but it has a really nice vibe to it, with everyone wanting to help each other out.

I’m living in a house with Thomas Brayan-Lund - a 20 year old (Danish) and his Girlfriend Alexandra, with a Dog called Luna. We're all of a similar age and are all at similar points in life so know that we all have our own ambitions to speak about and relate to. I live in a house in Laarne with them - a nice place that’s not too big, but has the essentials to get by and isn’t too far from the main places near by like the city of Ghent. Plus it’s always good to take Luna out for a walk round the fields close by.

Settling in has been good - I moved out here more towards the end of March, so I’ve had some time to find the local roads and gather my bearings now. So far I’ve raced around the East Flanders, Brabant and in the Ardennes. Polleur was the furthest race from where I’m living, but in my opinion the nicest race so far, with plenty of undulation in the terrain and a quality field of riders. I've learnt a lot so far in the races I’ve done so improving is inevitable in the races I have ahead. Hopefully luck is on my side in the next races -the past few races I’ve crashed and punctured in! I've learnt a fair bit already which is good as the same mistakes won't be made again in the future. The weather plays a big part in racing here as it's pretty unpredictable, in that one week it was 20+ degrees and the next it’s 9-10 degrees celsius and hail stoning. 

It’s easy to bump into someone who’s been and done big things in the cycling world here. Thomas’ uncle is Ettiene De Wilde, won stages of the Tour De France, Paris-Nice and been World Madison Champion. It’s cool to get talking with people like this that have success, as you can learn so much from them in a quick conversation.

I’m not far from the city of Gent, it's a cool city with lots of culture! Lots of interesting places and plenty of things to be seen. Thomas showed me a gem of a bike shop he’s previously worked in called PLUM - it’s like Aladdin’s cave inside! The cycling history is everywhere, old stock from 30 odd years ago and they even have a small museum with bikes, a place worth visiting if you ever visit Gent.

Training here is pretty good with lots of bike paths, roads to explore and canals to go down. It’s pretty flat for the most part but you can ride out to the famous bergs and various other places in the country that you see in the Tour of Flanders etc. on TV. You can smash a long effort down the Schelde bike path (which runs next to a river) and end up in Oudenaarde towards the more undulating terrain. Everywhere is pretty close so you can ride almost anywhere you like. Oh and if you bonk (cycling lingo for hitting the wall) on a long training ride then there’s vending machines almost everywhere. This has come in handy a few times!

Everyday it’s nice to wake up and realise you’re here to race and ride your bike. It’s something not everyone gets to do and I feel privileged to do so and be backed by such great people whilst I’m out here such as the Dave Rayner Fund, who give young riders with ambitions to become professional a chance to race abroad.

To keep updated you can follow me on Twitter @jameswilki97 or @DaveRaynerFund

Picture credit of James goes to: Pol Demeyere Pomer

Thank you James for your entry and we look forward to seeing how you progress in the coming weeks and months ahead, 

If you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions on this entry, then please comment in the box below.

Until next time,

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