is blogging becoming a dead art? i dont think so, but with so many social media outlets its pretty difficult to keep up on all fronts. my motivation to craft a thoughtful and entertaining parcel of words, wrapped up neat and tidy, is waning. so naturally, when something much less time consuming but still visually appealing is brought to my attention, i choose it as the future path. aside from a link to a new platform, expect nothing more from this url.
my favorite photo from racing in europe. in this closeup, tom robertson captures something that results or race recaps just cant. focus, determination, and good ol fashioned racin. im sure plenty of people were wondering what the point was of going to belgium to finish two laps down. it was more about finding something inside myself than trying to win and you can certainly find a lot when your going balls out and still getting lapped...
our final race of the trip was the fidea cyclocross classics tervuren. i did my best attempt at internet recon on youtube. pretty pointless. we arrived to fog, mostly melted snow, and a plethora of soupy mud. after a training lap, i was already confused. the course made great use of the natural terrain. a twisty track that weaved through the trees, up and down the small gully running through the park, all linked together with rutted walking paths. after our viewing of the course we hit the warming van and did our best to recount the parcours in our head. it was difficult. it seems we'd be ending the trip with the toughest race.
standard warmup and to the line. mid pack lineup. of all the races i did, i felt i was racing the most in tervuren. brian and i stayed within 10 seconds of each other for most of the race. the cross camp guys were riding well around us as well. it was an uneventful race placing wise, but it was a hoot to ride. with frozen hands it was back to the van for one last time. discard our soiled clothes for clean ones while nelle poured the apple tea and gregory and chris prepared the bikes for our trip home.
a mostly trouble free trip home, back to work yesterday, and now here i sit, reflecting on nearly 3 weeks of riding and racing in belgium. i can hardly believe that it even happened. soon it will be a distant memory so i better gather my thoughts before theyre gone. so what can i take away from this experience? well, ive already outlined two points, but ill continue on with a couple more thoughts:
1) ride the ruts
2) listen to the mechanic
3) racing in belgium requires you to be aggressive at all times. everyone says "you have to fight tooth-and-nail for every place". i believed it, but its another thing to experience it. if you want a line, you have to take the line. you can't get a half wheel in front and the coast expecting the other rider to just file in behind you. you have to take ownership of every move and follow through. if you don't, 3 guys will have just passed you.
4) uci points pretty much mean squat. if your good, you'll make it to the front. also, a 2nd to 3rd row callup in the us translates to 5-7th row in europe. additionally, there's little regulation by officials to actually stay lined up in an orderly fashion. if im called up 5th row, by the time the light turns green im in the 4.5 to 3.75 row. everyone scoots up wherever they can.
5) the racing is different. i used to try to compare results with guys i'd raced against in the us. there were guys i beat in the us this year that pretty much destroyed me in belgium. whether that due to the courses being tougher or just racing halfway across the world, im not sure but its pretty useless to try to compare.
that's all ive got for now. im sure i'll have more in the future. lastly, i have to give credit to all of the support ive had from various sponsors and blog readers.
Twin Six: Ryan and Brent are two of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. when i approached them about doing a "fundraiser" shirt, it took them all of 30 seconds to commit. in addition to keeping me looking dapper in all their shirts/jerseys/socks, they came up with a substantial amount of funding for my trip. twin six made my dream of racing in belgium a reality.
Specialized: Ian at specialized came through when i was looking for a bike sponsor. two identical S-works Tricross bikes, outfitted with the best specialized components and SRAM red groupos. all the race equipment i needed from shoes to helmets. specialized also came through with some funding to help get me to belgium.
HED: Timmer and the guys at HED committed to being my wheels sponsor before i even had a bike sponsor! most of the season i raced my stinger 4 carbon wheels and loved them. fast and light. but they also set me up with 3 sets of alloy wheels. for me, the alloy wheels were a game changer in belgium. i used them in every race and the stopping power gave me the confidence to hit any tight drop in front of me.
Challenge: Bill set me up with tires for every condition. most of the season i found the fango did the trick on most any course. when i felt i needed something different, the grifo was the way to go. the new limus tread that will be out for next season looks to be as good or better than the rhino.
Mad Alchemy: i figured it was a shot in the dark when i contacted pete about sponsorship. much to my surprise he said "our sponsorship is pretty full, but i can get you some embro to sample". unbelieveable. the standard days with a little chill, i went for the mellow. but not in belgium. every day in belgium i busted out the russion warming tea embro. sure, its a medium heat, but trust me, medium is enough.
ive listed out everyone thus far, but maybe itd be good to see a comprehensive list.
Planet Bike/Bob Downs: Bob came through in the deciding moment with a substantial donation, Mike and Patti Rutz (my mom and dad-in-law), sean burns, tony zanca of the hawley company, uncle mike lalonde, my parents, stevil kinevil of allhailtheblackmarket, jon and nora beck, djonnymac, chris follmer, ken higham, corey stelljes, glenn jones, amy dykema, the right gear, trev hulton, ryan shiroma, james lalonde, Ernest Hilbert, Russell Jobs, bruce leblanc, Lyle Hanson, john ericsson, dan and diana ellerkamp, Billy Knudson, Kristin Wentworth & Dave Staab, Bubba Wolfe, Paul Collett, David Pilotto & team flatlandia, Renee Callaway, Tim Willcox, Steve Smith, John Miller, Gordy & Diane Paulson, Dave Simmermon, Jason Lummis & Fam. and i cant forget ross cerniglia from the mywifeinc crew who let me use his double bike box to get my bikes there!
Wow, that list is massive! thats the thing about the cycling community. everyone wants to help everyone else succeed. when someone needs help, the response is overwhelming.
another big maybe in this trip planning was work. the crew at planet bike deserves a lot of credit for covering for me while i was away. how many employers would allow this? im not sure, but i know it isnt many.
brian matter did much of the trip planning and it was smooth as can be. it was definitely easier to stay 3 weeks with brian keeping me company. his wife andrea and her sister elicia cooked us meals and hung out for the first week, which was much appreciated. our mechanic gregory has us dialed in as pro as we could be. traveling to races and keeping everything in tip top shape. chris was the other mechanic and made the two rider equation doable. and lets not forget about nelle who was always waiting at the start to grab our jackets and was then at the van to let us get our cloths and pour some hot tea.
so folks, thats it. season over and time to relax. let the achilles heal and live like a normal person. my last thanks goes to my family for all their support. saying my wife is amazing is an understatement. and now i actually get to hang out and get into trouble with her. tata for now.
happy new year one and all. i learned last night that belgians take their new year's fireworks pretty seriously! i heard a solid 10 minute stream of blast going off after midnight.
new years day is also the traditional day for the grote prijs sven nys. a race in sven nys home town on his home training course. we were greeted by thick fog, 3 degrees C, and a bit of drizzle. 2 laps of training on the course and i was covered in mud. gregory and chris would have their work cut out for them today.
being part of the gva series, all the top guys were present but the amount of riders was a bit lower around 48. road start straight into a steep muddy gutter, barriers, a flyover, uphill slog w/ steps. a series of descents and uphills before another uphill slog to a set of 20 stairs...then a sketchy steep drop to sharp up, followed by another crazy descent. can you follow that? yeah, me neither. my race was so so. it was more of a good hard ride, but i never really had the snap i needed. brian and i pretty much rode the whole race together. he'd drop me on the climbs and i'd catch back up on the downhills. the highlight was going past lars boom near the end of lap one. i guess this is why. i've gotta say, my alloy hed tubulars are killin it for me over here! the stopping power with them is amazing.
tomorrow is the last day of the trip and were finishing it off with the fidea classic at tervuren. one last chance to pop a good one for everyone back home! photo cred tom robertson.
yesterday was the smallest race of the trip for us. bredene is right on the coast of the north sea. a quick 60 minute drive and on to inscription. after some back and forth with the gate keeper, he finally let us in after we showed our licenses. i don't think he believed that this guy with a huge beard was a pro cyclist! we tracked down the registration in the dank corner of a cafe/bar. pretty straight forward. we managed about 4 training laps on the course. flat, bumpy, some twisty sections and more road sections than i care for. actually, pretty similar to a lot of courses in the us.
sylvestercross was a c2 race, but it still drew in the top guys: stybar, albert, nys, etc. i managed a 2nd row callup, right behind brian. he crushed the start and that allowed me to be top 20 into the first corner. pretty uneventful race, at one point i may have been top 20, but faded towards the end to finish 27th, 4 minutes down from stybar. at least i didn't get lapped this time.
easy rest day ride with brian and pete webber today. pete guided us along some of the famous cobbled climbs of the ronde van vlaanderen. achilles was pretty solid today...good thing as weve got two big ones left with the gp sven nys tomorrow and gva tervuren on sunday.
the last couple of days have been interesting for me. after diegem, my achilles really started bugging me. bad enough i couldn't even ride yesterday. remember what i said about listening to the mechanic? i come back early and gregory says "ok, we go to the doctor". a phone call and 30 minutes later i was in the exam room for one of saxo bank's doctors. crazy. so there's not much to do about the leg except try to dull the pain. christmas cross week is no time for rest! he gave me some anti inflamatories and some high strength tylenol. good news is it didnt hurt during the race, but i still raced like an amateur. i think maybe it had something to do with the panadol retard! no pain but no brain. still no good legs. frustrating to feel like i haven't had a race i can be proud of since i've been over here. well, 3 more chances before i head home.
racing in belgium you learn a lot. thus far, the two biggest things ive taken are:
1) ride the ruts. if a rut looks like its going to swallow your front wheel up to the hub, its only because that is the best line. be light on the bars and let the rut take you through. not always the easiest as you have to anticipate where to throw your body weight.
2) listen to the mechanic. the courses here are quite different, especially riding in the ice and snow. gregory and chris have the bikes dialed for us each time we go out. gregory is always giving us the hot tip on tires and pressue. ive quickly learned if gregory says 22 psi then that's the way to go. i was hesitant for the first race or two, but hes gained my trust quickly.
the night race at diegem was practice for both of these two. after the chaos of the first lap i was able to start riding. a pretty decent start but i just couldn't hold a wheel. midway through the race i started to get my legs back until i dumped it before the barriers. at least i was racing. ive picked up some achilles tendonitis somewhere along the way. i think from hitting my leg w/ my pedal. hopefully some athletic tape and ibuprofen will get me through the last four races.
today was the start of our final week in belgium. 6 races. nothing like starting it off with a world cup! brian and i along with the crew of gregory, nelle, and chris made it to the zolder track without much of an issue. the temparature seemed fine and not a ton of snow..until a few kilometers from the course. the road turned to ice and seemed like a decent amount of snow. from the first look at the course i knew it was going to be an interesting one. the only thing i can compare it to was nationals in kc w/ all the frozen ruts. the ruts were ice and snow rather than mud though. each lap it seemed the ruts were in different places! There were two or three sketchy descents with a steep run up. the photo of zach on the run up gives you a pretty good idea of the steepness.
3 laps on the course and we were off for some chill out time in the van before warmup. onto the race...another 6/7 row callup. lars boom was within reach of me on the line, he won. the start was chaos once again. pavement to frozen, rutted turns. off the bike and running again. i passed a decent amount of people and tried to get in the groove. the course was very skill oriented. i'd be rocking some sections, then all of a sudden skidding sideways trying not to blast into spectators. to give you an idea of how chaotic the start is, after one lap i was sitting around 45th place and already 2:45 down on the leaders! its a little degrading to say the least. in the end i was 48th, good enough for a solid chunk of points (even some world cup points) and maybe some money?
tomorrow is a night race around the streets of deigem. should be another interesting one.
another thank you for donations from sean burns, tony zanca, uncle mike lalonde and my parents! huge thanks to all my sponsors. absolutely zero issues with any of my equipment thus far. and an big huge thank you to my wife for her continued support!
with our midweek race cancelled, the only choice was to get in some hard efforts. with snow, then melting, then freezing, then snow, its been 3 days on the trainers. today was an easy day with the prior two being some hard efforts. yesterday was a sufferfest in the cold garage. there's not much to do now, but we'll have our hands full starting sunday. it'll be race two days, one day off, race two days, one day off, race two days,fly home!
last night we met up with the webber's for some home cookin. pete is over for a month, finishing off with masters worlds. heres the desert!