Friday, January 30, 2009

The BIG day is almost here!!! Hoogerheide, Netherlands

Yes, the countdown to World Championships is getting close! It is the culmination of a lot of hard work, a lot of fun and a lot of time away from home. I departed my 'home' in Meise on Thursday to meet up with the team and get to the hotel. I rode the course on Thursday and checked out the changes made since the world cup here last year. Not too many, but a bit. One big change, the ground. It is not a boggy, heavy track. It is definitely a bit fast and bumpy. A lot different than I anticipated. But it is fun and forecast is for cold! Perhaps frozen. I have had a lot of practice layering for that weather.
Today I didn't venture to the course. I took a nice pleasant ride after team pictures by the canal. It never ceases to amaze me how flat this country is! Tomorrow is the Junior and U23 race and we can get on the course between both races. Excited to start feeling the energy at the course and maybe catch a glimpse of the Portland Crew!
I have also added a link on my blog for the worlds fund. I figure if everyone gave $1, I could pay off the USAC fee for worlds. This racing sure is fun, but it aint' cheap! Thanks for reading and your support and I will give you a play by play after the race. However it turns out, it is sure to be a good time!

The internet connection is not working so well at the hotel, so I can't get pictures to upload.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I love Italy! Milan World Cup, January 25, 2009


Maybe it isn't Italy I love. Maybe it is Italian food, red wine, & the cute accent. But then again, why wouldn't you love Italy? Rachel Lloyd and I made the trip down to Milan for the last world cup. Although I am not going to say I am satisfied with my performance (are you ever?), it was a step in the right direction. There is a post about it on cyclocross magazine. The race was good, with surprisingly warmer and semi-sunny weather. It was MUCH better than the forecast. In fact, I didn't have gloves light enough for the race, and that is definitely a change. The one race I didn't bring them and it was the only one thus far I could have worn them. Go figure.
I think Rachel and I were the only athletes at the entire race that flew down there with our 2 bikes. We got many looks of pity from the other racers that were on our flight, including Sven Nys. Yep, we chatted with him at baggage claim. Rachel was bold enough to go initiate the conversation, so I just tagged along. But we are pretty used to the routine of bike packing and unpacking, being that we do it every weekend in the states. A bit out of practice over here, but we managed.
The park where the venue was at was quite nice. They made one heck of a hard course out of nothing. No real terrain features, but there was plenty to keep you on your toes for the race. And absolutely NO place to rest. And then the race was a long one. Whew! It made for a couple of hungry bike races, so before we left Italy, we had to eat something other than hotel food. This experience is posted on monavie-cannondale.com.

Uh, does this really need explanation? Sprechen Sie Deutsch???


Joe Sales modeling the lastest fashion in Italy.

And Melissa & Kendra cheering from home.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Rainy Roubaix World Cup, January 18, 2009

Where was the sun at 1:30???

The race itself was definitely not the highlight of my trip to Roubaix. Not that it wasn't fun to race in the mud and all, and start, finish and ride in the velodrome, but the post race, shower in the Roubaix showers was almost better than racing. Check it out at www.monavie-cannondale.com
Roubaix's version of Portland's drum corp. Note the dog at their feet.

Another highlight, host housing. Well, it wasn't exactly some strange family in France, but rather my friend Pams twin sisters family. They lived 6 km from the course. Who would've thunk? It was great to have the French hospitality and get to speak English. And have an extra 5 people on course cheering me on, despite my less than desired performance. You can read all about it at Cyclocross Magazine.

Muddy buddies: Tristan, Laura and Sasha.

And the King & Queen of the palace: Andrea & Cyril

I stayed an extra night to spend some more time with the family, and because Andrea is a great cook. Dinner was great and then the 'between' course (between dinner and dessert), was of course, cheese. Hmmm? Must be in France. We had Roquefort cheese, handmade and purchased directly in Rouquefort. Yummy stuff. Best blue cheese I have had to date. Dad, are you jealous???

And that was my rainy weekend in Roubaix! Here's a short video of the muddy fun! Enjoy!
video

Friday, January 16, 2009

The BIG BALLS of Brussels.


This has nothing to do with cyclocross. No minds in the gutter. A trip to Belgium wouldn't be a trip without a spin to the big balls. They are known as the Atomium and it is from the world fair in 1958. Since I had an 'easy spin' on the agenda today, I needed a destination and I hadn't been there yet this trip. I had only driven by at night and they were all lit up. A shame the weather was so gray, but I still think they are pretty neat. Strange, sure, but imagine this being erected 50 years ago? I still have yet to go in and explore or eat at the restaurant at the top ball. Maybe another trip.







Sunday, January 11, 2009

What do bike racers do when they aren't racing?

A weekend without a race? And a day off from training? What the heck do you do? This bike racer went and picked up another bike racer and played tourist for a day. A day trip to Antwerp.

Dude, could you take our picture? Uh, nice try. Thanks anyways.
Some festival in the main square. Couldn't figure out exactly what was going on. A lot of drinking, for sure.

Wendy taking pictures of the Cathedral.

It was another magnificent church in Europe.

A Rubens museum, almost. Lots to see.

Then it was time to get serious and get some grub and watch the Belgian Cyclocross National Championships.
Once a bike racer, always a bike racer. Priorities, eh?
Then it was time to get even more serious. Wendy takes her pralines VERY serious.
And all the shops seemed to be closed. Looking does NOT fulfill the need!

Is it REALLY closed on Sunday???

Whew! Not one, but three smaller chocolate shops were open.
We bought pralines from every one. Wendy calls this a 'taste test'. I can learn things from this seasoned chocoholic.

Festival is over. Time for self timer photo fun.

A ferris wheel. At sunset. How romantic. Well, maybe not, but we still couldn't resist.

Great views.


And more self timer photo fun. The end.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sunny does not always mean warm...

I wasn't going to post today, but I couldn't resist. What a change from yesterday. The sun was out and you could finally see that mother nature had transformed the countryside into winter wonderland. My little pocket camera really captured the beauty of my ride today. It was hard to not enjoy, even if it was -8 (17.6ºF).



barbed wire fence




Thursday, January 8, 2009

Embrocation is not just for racing!!!

In fact, it is now BODY RUB in my book. Apparently the hearty Minnesotan in me has come out from hiding. Training rides in well below freezing temperatures for 3+ hours are a walk in the park. How can I complain? I worked all season to have the opportunity to train for an additional 6 weeks. I remind myself of this while I am riding. The question I have heard most lately is "how do you dress for that?" Well, I pretty much have it figured out, as I have not been cold these past 2 days. In fact, I have almost been too warm. Can you believe that? Here is the mandatory gear:

1. My Assos jacket. A newly acquired item from River City before I left. Love it!
2. Gore bright orange windbreaker. Today it was foggy. Visibility was a must!
3. Pearl Amfib tights. I really swear by these. They have been amazing and the only tights I have with me. They are w/o chamois, so shorts underneath.
4. Pearl gloves. Not sure which ones they are, but they are thick! Like ski gloves, but better. I have not had cold hands!
5. Smartwool hat and balaclava. Double layer on the head.
6. Gore lined shoe covers. They are amazing! Not cheap, but worth it. If you live in Portland and ride all year, you NEED these.
7. Foot warmer. Yep, not the most eco friendly thing, but really, I could not stay out there for 3 hours without them. Toe warmers are nice too.
8. I-pod. I am not that good of company.
9. GPS. I have gotten creative with my routes & it hasn't always worked. Just in case. Better than a phone, b/c who would I call???
10. (not pictured) Wool base layers. One long sleeve and one sleeveless or shortsleeve. I am a big fan of the wool. Ibex & smartwool make some good ones that are affordable. I also wore smartwool socks.
and of course... embrocation! Legs, lower back, butt, toes. Like I said, body rub!

All of this gear can be yours. Just walk down to River City Bicycles and tell Wendy I sent you. I am sure she will be thrilled.
So, yes, training in Belgium is hard core. No wonder so many great cyclists come out of this country. There will be additional pictures of my ride from today at www.monavie-cannondale.com. Check out my teams new website. It is under construction, but coming along.
Well, that is all of my rambling thoughts today. Just staying warm, training hard and getting ready for Hoogerheide!

Cobbles with snow. Oh so fun!!!

Most roads were ridable. And the sun did try to shine briefly.
This stuff is REALLY slippery. But fun.
And this is where my 'shortcuts' usually end up. A km or so of this wasn't bad. I think I mistook the xc ski tracks for bike tracks. It made it for a more interesting ride.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The last of the Christmas racing: Tervuren, Belgium, January 4, 2008

Although it was the same number of races last year during Christmas, this year it felt like a lot less racing. Why is that? Perhaps different races, one extra world cup, not having 2 races the first weekend here, not being lost all the time, having Tim here and going to races for him. Who knows??? But yesterday was my 5th race since arriving and the last one for a while. And a really good day to have a rest, because I woke up to this:
Since I already wrote a race report for Tervuren for Cyclocross magazine, you can go and read it here. I also have a post at Monavie-Cannondale.com. It was fast and furious and way too cold. In fact, the body of water next to the course had ice skaters, walkers and even a few bikes on it. It must have been frozen pretty deep. I guess that is why it is snowing today!!! At least it waited for today, although it may have been fun to race in the snow! The BEST part of the race was Family Thijs. This is Katie Compton's host family, but they have adopted me since she is back in Colorado. Their daughter was racing too, so I was lucky enough to have the best support out there. THANK YOU FAMILY THIJS!


My euro cx campaign has been pretty average thus far. The biggest difference I feel this year is that I actually care how I do. Last year it was just an adventure. There was no pressure. I started every race in the back (for the most part) and I just did what I could. Granted, I always want to do well, and I had a pretty good go. This year, I came with a different objective and actual goals. So far, I have not achieved them. But, I have learned a lot, pushed hard and hopefully this will set me up for a great race in Hoogerheide. New experiences I have had so far: breaking a chain. That is no fun! But I still finished the world cup in 35th and squeaked out an additional 25 uci points. Lesson learned. NEVER quit. (Don't think I didn't think about it as I was running forever.) I have made some stupid mistakes, but they are in the past. That is all part of racing. The courses have been frozen and fast this year with a lack of any mud (except for Luxemburg), so a much different kind of racing. But, through it all, I still had fun. I really enjoy riding and racing my bike! Meeting new people, signing autographs and giving away trading cards, and when it all said and done, as long as you are having fun, it is all worth it! Thanks for reading! I will keep you updated on the fun times here in Belgium!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year!

I have gotten behind on my updates! I guess time flies when you are having fun! Tim & I ended our 2008 with a nice casual ride led by Jan. Tim had wanted to climb the Muur and the Bosberg, the two last climbs of the Tour of Flanders. He is a fanatic about the one day classics, so for him, there was no better way to end a great year. I'm not sure it was the best 'recovery ride' for me, but heck, you only live once.
Jan & Tim on the path by the river.

The Muur is hard not to find.

We definitely didn't race up, but Tim went down and rode it again, just for fun.

The chapel at the top of the Kapelmuur.

More fun.

Watching what we had ridden earlier in the day. Pajama-thirty!

Although our new years eve was not that exciting (Tim passed out shortly after 10), we got up early and headed to Luxemburg for the 62nd edition of the Hotel 3 Land race in Pentange. Although last year I found myself on the podium with the former world champion, increased numbers and not so good climbing legs landed me in a 6th place position this year. It was a lot less muddy this year, but equally as slippy from frozen corners and with brakes & gears getting just muddy enough to not work too well! Lot's of fun singletrack. Georgia killed it, putting the hurt on the rest of the field. I never saw her, just heard her name over the loudspeaker as I was descending.
So, right after arriving home, we hadn't partied for new years, so we were invited to the 'hang over party' down the street, hosted by friends of Jan and Patricia. We found ourselves in good english speaking company, because the more they drink, the better the english becomes! It was fun, but Tim was racing the next day, so 11 p.m. was our curfew.
Yesterday was busy. Up early, off to Sint-Niklaas for Tim's last race. Aside from me breaking a seat clamp, it was quite unstressful and Tim had fun. Unfortunately, he was put in the very back of the whole masters field and with a singletrack course, it was hard to pass. I think he worked his way up to the top 15, but with lapped riders and 3 different categories in the mix, it was hard to count. At any rate, he had a blast and I worked hard in the pit, cheering him on.
In the back of 45-50 riders. Plus the younger masters ahead of him. Can you say traffic jam???

Lot's of side camber sections by the lake.

We rushed home to change clothes, get back on our bikes and head to a birthday ride for Jan. It was cold, but this is Belgium. We are tough. A nice leisurely 2 hour ride and then on to the real work: drinking amazing beer & eating. It was a nice way to send off Tim and celebrate Jan's birthday.

We were home way past our bedtime and then up early today to see Tim off! Yes, today is a sad day, because Tim is on his way home. But it was a great trip and only a month until I will be on my way home! It's really not so bad.

This is not a happy photo!

Happy 2009 everyone!!! Thanks for reading and coming along on my adventures!