Team Baum Babici have been at it again - after a successful 5th place in Zandvoort the team continued their approach of only racing events beginning with a Z and competed in the 24hrs of Zolder this past weekend. After a few roster changes that also saw the team expand to 6 riders we spoke to manager for the weekend Arjan Fidder who gave us his view of the race.
We didn’t know what to expect from a race with 196 teams on a track where Mario Cippolini became world champion in 2002. After preparing the team area and doing a final shake down of the track we were ready.
The event began with a super pole lap to decide which of the 60 teams would be at the front for the Le Mans style start. New rider Ismael Kip finished the 4km lap to put us in a fantastic 4th place. This allowed us to speak to some of the Belgian teams and get some support during the race - Riding on your own on a circuit is killing!
Dirk Bellemakers started the race for us and along with some old pro teammates, such as Bert de Waele, began to control the race. After a few laps Dirk started a breakaway together with Ludo Dierckxsens and they quickly had a gap of one minute on the peloton. A lap record quickly followed for Dirk of 5 minutes 10 - an average speed of 46.5 Km/h.
After one and a half hours we changed riders with Gerald Keijzer taking over. The pit zone was very chaotic as changes had to be made quickly and if 60 teams all try and change at the same time… we were always in the front so managed to avoid difficulties.
After his super pole lap Ismael was the third rider on the track and really pushed the peloton to the limit putting in a new lap record in the process. No other rider managed to beat this record and Dirk’s earlier time was good enough for 2nd.
Due to such a fast track the back door of the peloton was always open and the first peloton became smaller and smaller as the hours went on. Wout Lammertink did a very good stint and after 6 hours we were at the front with 23 other teams. Tino Hazelhoff was our fifth rider and keeping alert in the peloton allowed us to save energy for the remaining 18 hours of the race.
During the night many teams tried to grab a lap but none were successful. However in the early morning it was different and three teams began to take it on. Many teams in the breakaway had sister teams just waiting for them to pick up a lap - yes 24h racing is full of tactics.
With Dirk’s stint approaching we made a deal with some of his former teammates and started to push. We closed a 3.5 minute gap to 1.2 minutes but with a lack of support we couldn’t close this any further.
With many teams unhappy with the situation, we, along with seven other team managers decided to see what we could do for the last hour of the race. Along with us, teams who had no chance of winning also decided to push. Tino Hazelhoff was our choice to finish the race and with only 45 minutes remaining on the clock we were able to pull the three breakaway teams back.
The race was now very open and, along with 6 other teams, we were heading towards the finish line, aiming for victory. After 24 hours the race was decided by a sprint with Tino securing a fantastic 2nd place. Starting with just pure ambition it was a real dream come true to finish on the podium of the 24hr of Zolder.