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.