1st Week of Rain
Oh my. Just in case no one told you yet - it rains a lot here in Belgium. So far I have had 7 days on the bike, and of those we have had 3 days of steady rain. OK, so maybe that is not so bad, but the mornings that it has not been raining, there has been black ice on the road everywhere. So much that I fell off twice on the way to the store on Saturday morning before my first race. 2 days here and I rip my shorts, scuff my jacket and sprain my thumb. Cool.
So Saturday we did a B category cross race, which would equate to a provincial level event, except that the guys at that level are faster than any cross racers in North America. I only found that out after getting lapped halfway through the race. I was OK with that though, cause the mud was soooo bad and I was not able to take my spare bike with me. Bad mud in Canada is considered to be not a problem here. Bad mud here is like 80 percent of the course covered in 8 inch deep peanut butter. Actually, that might not really be that bad here, but it is the worst I have seen.
So that was a B race. Sunday we went to Overijse, near Brussels, to do an A1 category race. Just to give you an idea, if you were to look at the UCI rankings of the top thirty cross racers in the world then look at the start sheet for an A1, there would be no difference. yeah, it´s like that. So at least I have 2 bikes today, which is nice, and Luc from Asfra/Flanders Bikes to do pit work for us. It´s cold, like 0 degrees, and the course starts off with a real Flanders muur to start off, then there´s just a lot of mud, wet grass, running, cravy descents, pavé, drunk guys in their underwear, you know the usual. It´s totally weird to be on a start line with Groenendaal, Wellens (world chanp), Vanthourenhoet, etc etc etc. I mean, I´ve been in World Cup mountain bike races before, but this is different because there are only 35 guys on the line and they are the best of the best in the world. We shouldn´t really even be there, but man this is learning the had way. So now I´m thinking how fast are these guys for real, then bam, the gun goes and they twist the throttle wide open and it is faster than fast, man. Halfway down the start straight the sidewalk and curb pokes into the road, so there´s guys hopping up onto it and swerving around it, total madness but no one crashes which is cool. Then they hit the opening climb and it´s big chainwheel all the way, super steep but I manage to hang on to the back. But the crazy thing is that when they hit the mud they don´t slow down and they can corner in that crap like they´re on dry pavement. So I´m not in the lead, not even the front group, but at least I´m not the last guy on the course, which is nice, although you wouldn´t know it by the way the fans are laughing at me. OK, not all of them and not on the first lap, but all the same. I think I made two and a half laps, then I rolled the tubular off my rear rim, reseated it, swapped a bike and kept going. I swapped back a lap later hoping the problem had been fixed, but I rolled it again half a lap later, and by the time I got it back on, Sven Nijs was coming by on cruise control and that was the end of my day. 4 laps and half an hour ouch. Sven won in 10 laps and one hour flat. Ouch.
Anyway, now it´s Wednesday evening, I´ve licked my wounds, fixed my bikes and ready to go again. I am struggling to get over a cold right now, which isn´t fun when I have no choice but to train in cold damp weather but that is racing I guess. Today I did another ride in the rain, and did a climb up the Molenberg, one of the famous pavé climbs of the Tour of Flanders. I also determined from paint on the pavement that the Ronde van Vlaanderen passes on the street that I live on, so tomorrow we will go and train on the parcours of the Ronde. How cool is that?
Thanks for reading,