Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Our first World Cup: HOFSTADE: Hofstade, Belgium, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007

Racing in our first world cup was quite an experience. We had actually gone to pre-ride on Christmas day in the late afternoon, so we knew what we had in store. Sand. Lot's of sand. And when you think you are done with sand, there is more. Alone it is rideable, but with people crashing all over, not so much.
Blurry picture, but this is the finish! Pretty cool to be standing here after racing!

Our start time was 1:30, and we arrived in plenty of time, because the day before we got lost forever on the way there and on the way home. Our quick 20 minute drive turned into hours on the road. I didn't want to risk any driving mishaps. Our only flaw was that somehow we got directed to the wrong parking lot with our parking pass. Either I didn't understand where to go or they just figured we were silly English speaking Americans and instead of the team parking, we were in VIP parking, changing our clothes in front of the masses of people passing by to get into the event. Apparently there were 20,000 people there and mind you, it cost 14 euro to get in. That is almost 20 dollars. Crazy.

Check out the people lined up & the big TV screen! had better pics of the amazing crowds.

The course opened for practice at 12:15, so we warmed up on course and then met our pit guys at the pit. Jan, Kris' brother, and his brother in law had the best seats in the house and were gracious enough to pit for us.
Our wonderful pit guys post race! I didn't even use them, b/c I was too focused.

We went to line up and found that our UCI points don't get us very far here. They seem to rotate countries in order of their athletes by UCI points. Not sure, but we were last. Not quite very last, but we were in the very back of the pack. I would like to say it was an organized grid, but it was a pack of pushy women trying to get closer to the front. Wendy and I just shrugged our shoulders and figured we at least wouldn't get crashed out, because there was no one around us. It was a crazy start and the first right turn led us through a muddy section with a steep uphill. It was chaos. I tried to be aggressive, but safe. There was definitely a lot of back up and there was no way getting around. I gradually worked my way through people, but it was rough. The sand was hard and wasn't easier with people crashing in front of you. I almost crashed into the fence, hitting spectators, trying to avoid the girl going over the handlebars in front of me. I have to say that I rode the sand quite well and although it was taxing as hell, I powered through it. There was some good mud on the course too and one section I found myself able to make some aggressive passing. As frustrating as it was to have to pick my way through the field, I did the best I could do and worked my way up to 17th. I was only 2 minutes back from the winning time, so not too bad. Just 20 seconds from a top 10 finish. I will keep working on it! Wendy finished 24th and we were the first and second American crossing the line. It was a pretty amazing experience! I am already looking forward to the next one.

BIG smiles after our first WORLD CUP! Are we really here doing this???

12/29/07 As an addition to my post, I would like to put in what Erik Tonkin said on Brooke Hoyers blog, which Tim sent to me. He wrote,

"For Sue Butler and Wendy Simms (Canada) to place in the top-20 at Hofstade only two minutes and five down is exceptional. That was a real WC. I’d say it’s the best result either have ever had on a ‘cross bike. For Sue, whether she knows it or not, it was her best race on any kind of bike, ever. The course, its setting, the time of year, the crowd, and the competition make it–seriously–bigger than any ‘cross other than a World Championship held in Belgium, like last year at Hooglede-Gits. (That was something–it was kinda freaky.) Worlds in Italy this year will pale in comparison. In fact, Friday’s GVA series ‘cross at Loenhout–”Azencross”–will exceed this year’s worlds in nearly every way."

Thanks Erik! I feel even better about the race after that! It was still just a really fun race!

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Yeah, your wishing now you would have took me up on Sellwood sand practice huh???

Watched the race this morning, unfortunately no Womens feed. The course actually reminded me of Sellwood.

See you in Treviso