Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Riding, Racing and Really having fun: Belgian update!

If I had it my way, I would keep Tim here for the entire time, but my days are really limited at this point. It has been going way too fast, filling it up with riding and racing and a few errands here and there. I have taken Tim on my two favorite routes in the neighborhood: Land van Asse and Eddie Merckx route. Both through the countryside with some cobbles to keep Tim happy. He loves the cobbles. Even at 32 degrees, he finds himself smiling when riding over them.
Cobbles on Land van Asse
Just follow the signs, Tim. Yep, He missed a few.

But he did find the one that leads to this little path.

And of course you pass by the factory.

We also went to Deigem to watch the elite men. Maybe television would have been a better idea. It was about 20 degrees out and we couldn't even wait until the finish. We did beat the traffic home that way!
I don't think he is really smiling... His face is frozen.

Yesterday I raced Azencross Loenhout. Tim has become quite the support guy. I guess on dry, fast courses, he just cheers from the pit, but I appreciate it. He also has been handing out my trading cards when people approach me. He is such a proud husband. As for my race report from Loenhout, I sent one into Cyclocross Magazine (view here), so I don't want to duplicate my efforts. It was a good race. To sum it up, I made a few mistakes. Took a tricky section too fast and made myself crash and then got caught behind a couple of racers and they both crashed and I got tangled in them. But I relaxed, rode my race and was pretty much by myself the entire time. I chased back for a 15th place finish. It was 'in the money'. Yep, I got the last cash prize.

The pit mechanics ready for action.

Riding alone.
My Canadian pals, Wendy and Natasha.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bliss in Belgium!

Tim and I continue to have a good time as I show him my everyday rides, places I go, etc. It is awesome to have him here and makes the extended time away from home much easier. Especially since I am solo this trip. Our most recent 'tourist' outing was to the tour of Flanders museum. We made a slight detour after his first cross race on Saturday to check it out. You can see the report from his race here. I don't want to duplicate my efforts and am a big fan of Cyclocross Magazine. Tim is now a star, or rather a 'carpetbagger'.

Here are a few pics from the Ronde van Vlaanderen museum:

Tim checks out the cobble simulator. Not a comfy ride.

Tim poses with two of his Belgian heroes.

Proof I was there with him.

Another hero of his: Stijn!

You should visit if you come to Belgium!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas & Zolder World Cup, Part 2: December 24-26, 2008

So my last post essentially summed up my race on the 26th. I broke my chain on the first lap after a great start. I was on my way to a really good race, finding lines around timid racers and getting ahead of the masses. In fact, I could see Hanka just a few people up from me after the first time through the pit. But at some point, the cross gods decided today would not be my day. First, a slip on one of the super steep ascents and my brake folded in. I pulled it out real quick, only losing a bit of time and a few spots, only to jump back on and just shortly after, my pedaling became too easy. Almost like I had no chain. Oh, that's right, I didn't have a chain. I debated what to do, but I don't quit. I forged on, riding the descents, coasting the downhills and running the flats. It was a long run. And through the start/finish on the pavement, I did debate what I should do, but it was a fun course, and damnit, I came to ride. I am not a quitter!!! So, that is the race. Now on to the other fun adventures!

My Christmas present, (Tim's arrival) was delayed a day. He arrived around 8 a.m. on the 26th!
Due to max complications and a huge debacle, Tim managed to miss his plane. It really showed me how much I missed him by how upset I became. But I moved on, celebrated Christmas eve

eating oysters...and fondue...
at Kris Schamp's sisters house. It was a very nice way to drown my sorrows of Tim's delayed departure. And on Christmas day, I had a very nice day with the family and a quick trip to Zolder to pre-ride and pick up numbers. Of course, no Christmas at the Schamps would be complete without the ice cream Santa Claus.

Tim arrived all smiles after his upgraded business class flight. How could you be mad at this guy??? I picked him up, brought him home and a quick turnaround to going to his first world cup! It was a quite a sight. The crowds were as amazing as Hofstade, but the course not quite as scenic. It was at a formula 1 race course, but it made for a super fun 'parcours'.

It was much colder as a spectator than a racer. At least it was sunny!

Tim has his first Belgian waffle.

The crowds were loud in a much different way.

Waiting for the finishing sprint of the mens race.

Tim became a Hanka fan.

Merry Christmas & Zolder World Cup

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this explains my race...

Lap 1

More to come after dinner...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Back in the land of Cyclocross & a quick road trip to France: Nommay World Cup, December 21, 2008

Just a year ago, I made my first trek to Belgium to race 'cross. Now, in 2008, this is my third trip to Belgium this year alone. I almost feel like part of the Schamp family and it is definitely my 'home away from home.' I flew over on Wednesday, the same day I found out the good news that I actually still made the 2009 U.S. CX worlds team! I am psyched to be staying through worlds.
No rest for the weary. Arriving Thursday a.m., struggling to stay up for the day, I put bikes together, did some errands and took a short ride. Friday I was feeling much better, but still a bit sleep deprived. Then Saturday we were off. I tagged along with Katie Compton and Mark for the long drive down to Nommay. They got in a day after me and seemed to be doing much bettter than I. After a short detour in the French countryside, we arrived in Nommay for course inspection and number distribution. The course was muddy and heavy. It was going to be fun. I was actually excited to race and blow the jetlag & car ride out of my legs. It couldn't happen soon enough. Any effort pre-riding, I just felt like poo. But I knew it would come around.

Sunday morning, dodging over-filled puddles, we found parking and set up the tent. Basecamp was good. The scene in France is a bit smaller. It didn't have the excitement surrounding a race in Belgium. But it was a good course and what some referred to as 'old school'. Not sure what that means, being a 'new school' rider and all. But it was fun and had a little something for everyone, and A LOT of mud for all! The gun went off and I had lined up next to Georgia in the third row, so I thought I would do my best to work through the mass and be aggressive. Not a bad start until the mass chaos of the stairs where bikes are flying everywhere and you had to be smart not to get your pedal stuck in a wheel. I managed to get in the top 1/3 of the race by the first corner after the descent. I figured I would work my way up. It didn't quite go that way. I started to go a bit backwards, legs not having enough to muscle through the thick mud. And tire pressure... well, I ran the LOWEST I have ever run, and it was too high. I will listen to Katie from now on. I think she knows a little something about this cx racing and tire pressure. But it wasn't bad and I seemed to be riding fine. The recruited non-english speaking french man that pitted for me did a fantastic job, with my bikes being traded out every lap, being returned a bit lighter and less muddy! But after it was all said and done, I pretty much sucked. OK, I shouldn't be so hard on myself, but it was my worst WC finish yet, with a 22nd place finish. I know I can do better.
The run up at the beginning of the race after the pavement sprint and sharp 180 degree turn

Despite my performance, the USA had a super strong showing! It was amazing. 3 riders in the top 10 with 2 on the podium. Katie conqured the course, jet lagged and all (my hero) and Georgia in her first world cup landed the bronze. It was great to yell and hollar at the podium presentation, with everyone just staring at you. But it was awesome!
Katie, all smiles, post doping control with the goods!

We stuck around for the mens race, although Katie was in doping control for most of it. I had the honor of yelling for Ryan and Jamie. Powers was not there. Ryan cracked a smile a few times. At least that would mean he sort of was having fun.

The leaders. It came down to an exciting sprint. Lars led it and won!

Ryan trying to power through the thick french mud! It is way harder than it looks!

The fun began after the race when most were scrambling to get out of there and on the road for a long drive back, we went back to our hotel, drank some of Katie's winnings (it's France. They gave her wine) and had a nice dinner. That is certainly good living.
And it was a nice trip back! I promise to start taking more pictures once I kick this jet lag. Looking forward to the next race on the 26th ad Tim's arrival on the 25th. Happy Holidays to everyone!
The bike path for my monday morning spin. France is not so bad!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hard luck in the heartland: USAC Cyclocross Nationals, 12/12 - 12/14, 2008

Disappointment is the one word I can use to describe how I felt after my race. I knew I was capable of a podium finish and this was a day I wanted everything to come together, and it did in a sense. I felt great, but it came too close together and I was caught in a crash within the first minute of the start, after my too timid of a start, getting boxed out and not being aggressive enough. I was pushed into a stake and the tape and down hard, not really knowing how it happened, only to lose 30+ places. Hard luck, but I crawled back, willing my body to push back up to the group that still had podium spots left, but the dropping temperatures made it difficult and on the last lap, when I thought I could at least do some damage control and claim 7th, I lost my chain. With my cold hands, I did not set my bike down very nice, apparently, and I was not too speedy getting it back on. I lost another 30 seconds instantly. It was quite a let down. I felt that I had disappointed not only myself, but also everyone else that believed in me. And I know I could have been there. It was just a little case of tough luck and being at the wrong place at the wrong time. But that is only one story of the weekend. The rest of the weekend was not so bad!
We were staying with Chris & Sonja, Tim's brother and his wife, and our three darling niece and nephews! We definitely had the cutest cheering squad out there. And Tim's mom and dad braved the temperatures and also cheered me on. Friday the weather was quite enjoyable, as was it Saturday. Sunday it was looking to be a pleasant day, but on our drive to the venue, we saw the temperature gauge drop from 61 degrees to in the 30's. When we left after packing bikes, it was 21 degrees. This does not take into account the wind. And it is windy in Kansas.
Friday, I was the pit crew for Wendy and Emily, as Wendy claimed the national championship in the 40-44 race and Emily finished 2nd in the 30-34. It is fun to pit for fast girls!
Wendy with her 2nd national championship jersey.

Emily on the podium at her first natty's.

Good times.

And then Saturday I cheered for Tim. I started in the pits but was too nervous. watching and cheering, knowing he was not where he wanted to be. Davey took over and I went to cheer him on. He had a disappointing race, finishing in 15th, but again, he had the cutest cheering squad, with his nephew Grant cheering for him louder than anyone!!! And really, he has one of the fastest master categories. I guess when you know you could have done better, nothing is good enough.
Tim.Grant ringing the cowbell.

Tim got some good hugs and kisses from his smallest, yet biggest fan!

Payton was excited to be there too!

We arrived back home to snow and ice and now the anticipation starts. Will my 9th place finish kill my chance to go to worlds after by best season yet? I am still leaving on Wednesday to go race some world cups and hopefully stay through worlds, but alternative plans will go into effect if that does not happen. Tim will join me on Christmas day and we will get him a taste of racing in Euroland too! It should be a great Christmas. Keep your fingers crossed that USAC will see beyond my crashed out performance in Kansas! Next blog from Belgium...

Ran into the Monavie crew at the airport. Bart Gillespie & Matt Ohran!

Monday, December 8, 2008

There's NO place like home: Portland USGP #5 & #6, December 6-7, 2008

Dave Luoma! The super fan!

THANK YOU PORTLAND! There is no place I would have rather been from this past weekend. Racing 2 national races on home turf, especially in Portland, was like a dream come true. Granted, I did it last year, but was plagued with mechanicals and it wasn't like this year. This year I felt the love all the way around the course! In fact, in the lead pack, it seemed like no one else was racing, because all you heard was 'go Sue' or 'C'mon Butler'. It was simply amazing. In fact, this may top winning Star Crossed. Even my sprint for 4th on Saturday, looking down the finishing stretch with hundreds of people leaned in over the fence, cheering as I held on... words can not describe. And then on Sunday, I couldn't help but to raise my arms in victory, because FINALLY a podium finish at a USGP and at home to boot. My ears are still tingling from the marvelous fans in Portland, so thank you friends and strangers alike who were the BEST fans ever! It was simply amazing!!! This is how I think it went down, although a lot of it is a total blur, lost in post race elation.

USGP#5: Saturday
An unseasonably warm day, but even on a warm puddle, the Cross Crusade crew can find mud. They made the best of it, sending us through the deepest and coldest puddle they could find. Off the gun, I got boxed in, but I found my way to the front before the dirt. It was not long before the initial selection was down to 5, and I had made the cut. Georgia, Katerina, Rachel, Wendy Simms and I were away and the games began, or should I say the pain? There were your traditional attacks and sitting 5th wheel is not the best place to be when they are gassing it off the front. I was like a yo-yo off the back, but I held on and then once Simms and I were popped, I did the same thing off her wheel. We cat and moused for a while, and then I found myself exactly where I did not want to be. Leading her out on the pavement. Apparently (as I have been told), I was in a monster gear coming off the grass (too big perhaps), but once I got it turning, I held Wendy off for 4th. It was a great show!
It was close, but I got it. And not in great form.

USGP #6: Sunday
The rain gods decided to help us mud lovin' crossers out. We were not let down. It was pouring during my warm up, which I did out on the road with standing water. I must say, I love my GORE! My pants, jacket, gloves and booties made it almost seem like a dry day! Except that I was drowning and getting a dirty facial. But you did warm up, despite the cold rain. It wasn't too cold, but I consulted my layering expert (Wendy Williams). I wore my waterproof gore socks for the race with toe warmers and a long sleeve base. As the rain tapered off as we were on the line, I thought I may have made a mistake, but that extra warmth powered me through the mud! I was fast off the line, getting the hole shot and then letting Wendy Simms take the lead. A mistake in retrospect, because the spray off the rear wheel was killing me. It wasn't long before the Luna girls were on the front, but a much different race today. Katerina just went and was never seen again. Georgia powered away soon after that, and I found myself in familiar territory, riding with Wendy Simms, but with one missing component. No Rachel. Simms went down at some point early on, and I took the opportunity to ride away, thinking it was temporary, but I rode the race by myself in 3rd. And I stayed in third, powered on by the crazy cheering fans! It was really an experience of a lifetime.
A strong start!

It was a muddy day!

Apparently this is how you clean up for the podium!

But I made it where I wanted to be!

The weekend was not only packed with fun racing, but also a house full of friends and Tim's Christmas party on Saturday night and then the Cross Crusade party on Sunday, where Tim claimed his prize for being the series winner for the Masters A, 35+. Not only did he win the series, but he also found himself on the podium this weekend. Unfortunatly on Saturday, he had a bit of a shoe debacle, with his cleat coming off, but Sunday he was where he needed to be, on the podium in 3rd. It was a 3rd kind of weekend for the Butlers!!!

Maia helping me get my number on Friday night @ the number presentation!

We clean up pretty o.k. Tim's Christmas party Saturday night.

Much more comfortable in Gore-tex.
Tim's amazing sprint for 3rd, getting his podium finish!

Tim's podium performance!

The amazing Chris Moor & his latest 'toy'.

Wendy believes! It was a pretty funny surprise on Sunday at the party!

Tim in his borrowed digs for his podium appearance!
Winner of the Cross Crusade Series A Men 35+. Way to go!!!