Cross season is here….full on. I am embedded in the heart of it all here on the Shriver Farms in Merendree, Belgium. I arrived Tuesday and jumped in my first race yesterday just 24 hours after arrival. First off I better tell you about Trek CXC, the Belgians definitely already know about it(Belgian Moment #2)….
Trek CXC 2014 was a rough one….I was in the middle of losing Oscor and the morning of the first race I actually had to go pick him up from the animal hospital after his first surgery. 1 year later Oscor was on my mind and I wanted to have a little redemption and do him proud. The race is held at Trek Headquarters, they are one of my biggest sponsors, and its only 2 hours from home. Plenty of motivation.
A nice walk on the beach with Elmer and an AM spin to the Farmers Markey had Day 1 off to a great start. Racing at home is the best. With a front row call up and a good jump off the line I settled in on lap 1 to the lead group of 8. Kerry W was the first to crash and then it was 7. I moved up after the crash realizing the back was not ideal. Next Krughoff crashed and the slinky started….we regrouped and then Hyde crashed….then the elastic snapped. Hyde recovered but the following effort had Driscoll chasing in 3rd, Timmerman in 4th and me in 5th, with Troy and Krughoff chasing. It was a 30 min windy solo CX effort. I felt good, my Boone was dialed for the highspeed yet just slippery enough course, and I was able to hold off a charging Krughoff for 5th. Not bad for my first C1 of the year. After a nice Boom Boom Mushroom Burger from a local Waterloo restaurant it was back home so we could do it all over Sunday.
Day 2 was another front row call up, but in the back of my head I knew I was traveling to Belgium Tuesday and didn’t want to go too deep. The race played out in a fashion that saved me time and time again. I didn’t have as good of a start, but after two laps the lead group came together and I latched onto the back. It seemed like I would get dropped every other lap, but then a crash would occur that would allow me to chase on, or have a rider who had just gone down bridge me up to the leaders once they picked themselves up off the ground. I wasn’t feeling quite as good as Day 1, maybe it was my mental state of wanting to conserve, or maybe the legs were a little fatigued, but I finished up 4th after a good last 2 laps of battling with Timmerman. Only a 30 seconds away from the top step of the podium! Again, good confidence for Belgium!
Monday morning and it was game on. Cleaning bikes, doing laundry, and prepping for the long flight. Everything went about as smooth as possible and I even had time to chill with Elmer and watch an awesome Monday Night Football Steelers victory! Tuesday morning I took Elmer on one last beach walk…the weather was amazing, but I knew that wasn’t going to last….
The flight was about as smooth as possible. I was on the same flight as Mark Legg from O’Hare to Brussels. Elicia picked us up from the airport and took us to the service course. I got the full tour, built up my bikes and then made the final part of the journey to the Shriver Farms. Although I was running on no sleep I was able to get out for a classic Belgian ride. Cold, Windy, Rainy, Narrow Streets, Cobbles, Canals and cow manure. What more could I ask for!
I figured the best way to get into the swing of things was by racing! Its a lot easier to motivate for a race than to go out for a training ride in bad weather and fear getting lost. So it was off to Ardooie 24 hours after getting off the plane. Luckily I got in a good 12 hour slumber after fighting the fatigue and staying awake all the way to 8:30pm Euro Standard time. Ardooie was a C2 race on a course that was not much different than Trek Cup. High speeds, bumpy, and good competition. The weather was classic….about 38 degrees with threating skies. Parking was smooth. Incschrijving was also as smooth as can be. Team Shriver was dialed and on top form. The pre-ride went good and I even saw Els Delaere who runs www.cyclinghousebelgium.com Its the best place to stay after Shriver Farms if you ever want to come to Belgium!
Belgian Moment # 2 Came when Els’ friend seemed to know all about my results from Trek CXC. Its almost mind blowing how the Belgians follow cycling so closely. She then asked if I was going to make it back for Pan Am Games and was hopeful it wasn’t just Americans and Canadians participating…. Belgian moment #3 When a classic photographer guy came up to ask me ‘how long I’m here’ I said 2 weeks, but he meant how long since I had been here last and then reminded me my beard was longer last time! What??? This dude remembers my beard length from 2010! Like I said the fans here love them some CX!
The race started with a classic long narrow Belgian Rd. thru downtown Ardooie. A hard left on cobbles and then a hard right thru an alley out into the field. I was called up 3rd row and actually had a great start…up to 6th or 7th wheel around the first left and then got a major elbow and was pushed offline in the alley. Immediately I lost 5 or 6 spots but headed thru the first pit in the top 15.
The race course progressively deteriorated as the rains became heavier. What was a high speed course turned into a greasy slippery mess with grass completely clogging the bikes. I pitted once about half was thru the race. Changing from Medium tires to Mud’s…again Team Shriver was on form, doing bike handups and eating frites in the pits. In the end I found myself in a group of 5 or 6 battling for a top 20 spot. I finished 23rd 4:00 down on Tom Meeusen and Sven. A good one to shake off the cobwebs and remember to not only commit to the ruts, but attack the ruts. After the race we only had to circle the venue 3 times before finding our way out(Belgian Moment #4) not bad! Time for some rest and recovery…oh yeah and an Antwerpen FM Radio Interview(Belgian Moment #5)!