Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quick trip over the pond: World Cup #1: Kalmthout, Belgium

A quick departure after Ohio out of Louisville led me to the holy land of 'cross. It was strange, yet oh so familiar, to arrive in Belgium again this year, packed with my cyclocross bikes. Now a 'seasoned' world cup racer (& I say that in jest), I at least had an idea of what I was getting myself into. I did not know, however, how horrible I would feel for most of the week after 3 days of racing in Ohio and the long flight across the pond the day after.
I can not tell you the feeling I had when I got on the course on Saturday for 'course inspection.' There was a certain sense of giddiness, a perma-grin on my face, a lift in my spirits. The familiar signs that lined the course, the banner that hung over the start finish and then a really fun 'parcours' to boot. Heck, even if my legs didn't feel good, my head was in the game and I was excited to race on Sunday. Luckily my legs felt pretty good and Kendra's advise to go easy on Friday instead of actual 'training' had paid off.
Chills through my body when I went through for the first time. I just love it!First set of stairs of 4. Yes, 4.

Second sandpit. They both rode like a super highway.

You have to love the decor.

Sunday I arrived to the mass chaos. The detour they had you take off the freeway made you really wonder if you were going the right way, but that many cars can not be wrong. And I was getting there early. Before 11 for a race at 1:30. Katie & Mark's host family was gracious enough to adopt me for the race as well, setting me up with a sweet spot to make base camp, cleaning and working on my bikes and being my mechanic for the race. I have been so lucky with the great people I have met in this sport. It is really what makes cyclocross so much fun.
I warmed up on the course, then headed out to the main road for some 'openers', feeling the nervousness one feels before the first world cup of the season. This year was different than last year at Christmas. Now I had goals, I knew what to expect and I was not just over here for the experience. I had the experience. I was here to race my guts out and hopefully meet my goal of a top 10 finish. Well, that didn't happen, but here is what did:
The starts here are CRAZY! There is no regard for anyone's personal safety, their line, their space, nothing. It is like 35+ rabid females all trying to get to the same place first. How can it be that different than any other race? I ask myself what it is, but it is simply frenetic. And some really bad bike handling and people who aren't fast wanting to be fast for a half a lap. At any rate, my line up was not the last row this year, but the third. Somehow there were not that many people behind me, but I am not sure the third row is that much different from the back. I took what I thought would be a good lane, but I was wrong. I was aggressive, but not aggressive enough. And when the gun didn't really go off, I waited for a bang, the rest went on the click without hesitation. She who hesitates loses. I caught on that we were starting, but it was too late. It was game on, and I was behind the game. After the first hard left onto the grass, I found myself on the 'wrong' side and had a hard time getting to the outside before someone was crashing or eating shit on the next little turn with some loose dirt. You would be amazed. And then there was a little downhill with an up following it. You would think that some of these people hadn't pre-ridden the course. WHAT IS SO HARD, PEOPLE??? I guess it is everyone trying to do it at the same time. I managed to stay on my bike and go around a few that were off running, but by then, the front row is gone and then some. I got 'stuck' a few more times, but tried to relax and just work on moving up. There was nothing I could do at this point. And the group was shattered. There was no one behind my group, but no one ahead either. I found myself with a couple of gals, but they were not moving fast enough. I worked hard to bridge to the next group of 5. I found that they were just 'sitting in' and finally I worked my way around them and pulled them around for 2 laps, only to be pipped at the line by one of the gals. Not too bad, but 14th and a long way down from 10th. Not exactly what I hoped for, but gee whiz, it is only my 4th world cup cyclocross race ever. And my time down from the leaders was less than before, so I won't beat myself up too badly. I enjoyed this suffering so much, and was so pumped up after the race, despite not accomplishing my goal. Partly, because I know I can do better and know that I will. I got pulled for anti-doping for the first time, although once in the 'secret room', I drew the 'reserve' tag out of the hat and was released without peeing, although after the 5+ waters I drank in preparation, I certainly had to pee. An additional surprise was that I was ranked high enough to received 150 Euro start money in addition to my huge 60 euro winnings for 14th place. Watch out, I am in the money now. Or should I say I am not as much in the hole!
I have one more day here before I head back to Louisville. Thought I would eat a little dark chocolate and drink some dark, Belgian beer before I leave. It really would be a sin to not drink a beer while I am here. See you again soon...
A disappointed, but still smiling Katie while watching the mens race.

The familiar sight (and smell) of a Belgian cx race.
45 minutes of going this fast to get to the freeway...
CX racing is bad for my driving. Once on the freeway, get out of my way.

My home for the week! 3rd floor suite. Thank you Katrien & Tom for hosting me!


kendrakw said...

What's really scary is that you were able to drive 160 km an hour and take a photo at the same time...

Melissa Sanborn said...

Were you really taking pics and driving at once?!

Sweet post. You are so awesome, Snappy. We love you and know you ROCK!


JS said...

Way to go!!!! We are all rooting for you. Nice job today.