I have a feeling there are going to be a few sore bodies tomorrow. Today in Belgium we hit the lanes. It was funny to see the competitive side come out of cross racers, but in a different sport. Yannick the Jr from Germany was the big winner, followed by Wells and Steve Fisher. Zach McDonald won the Green Jersey for fastest ball at 39.09 kmh. Joshua 'Homeschool' Lehman won the Polka Dot Jersey for most gutter balls, and I won the most aggresive rider jersey with a 10th frame through the legs strike! A couple guys blew out their backs, some hurt their thumbs, and definitely an injured wrist or two.
Another tough one today. I finished 43rd, but was pretty disappointed. I was way too tentative on the start. I really didn't want to go down. When we hit the dirt I couldn't go and instantly recognized the feeling from New Jersey....too much tire pressure. So I swapped bikes and ask the mechanics to let a little air out. B bike was the same as the A so I had to get another pit bike before I could start going any good. 2.5 laps later I was racing, but down the start stretch starting the 3rd lap nobody was in sight. I put my head down and started going and was closing gaps pretty good. With 5 laps to go I thought I would be lapped on the 4th to go....but then I started going even better. Passed 15 - 20 guys, but then the roar of the crowd started getting louder.
I think the legs and the fitness are good. I'm looking forward to Baal. I think it's going to be muddy and technical. Loenhout was just a muddy straight tractor pull. The drive home was long with construction, traffic and more Belgie Radio. We spent the evening with the power washer in hand and feeding euros into the laundry mat. Tomorrow is a rest day and the Thurs will be a good prep day for Fridays race in Baal and the final race in Sint Niklaas. Thanks for reading.
We have reached the half way point of ECCX VII! 4 races down and 3 to go. This year has been significanly different than last year in that the equipment has been taking a beating! So today is a day to be grateful for my excellent sponsors and the Belgie mechanics. The Blue bikes have been outstanding. They are taking a beating and still performing top notch. The Easton Wheels are rocking and it is so important over here to have your stuff in top notch condition and interchangeable. I am so lucky to be able to have 2 identical bikes, and 4 identical wheelsets. I'm also lucky to have Mark and his crew of mechanics cleaning, prepping, loading, and lubing the bikes everyday. I can't imagine having to take care of 18 riders with 2 bikes and multiple wheelsets.
Another huge thanks goes out to the guys at Crank Brothers. The Egg Beaters are by far the lightest and best mud shedding pedals on the cx scene. Also Oakley for setting me up with multiple sets of shades and lens for all the different course conditions.
Of course Gear Grinder and Hyundai for the financial support and the use of the team car. Without them all the training hours and racing would not be possible. The Matter Supporter T-Shirts will be available on the website soon.
Finally to my family. 24 hours support 365 days a year. What more could you ask for? I miss them a lot. It is not only the racing over here that is brutally hard. Leaving your family over the holidays is pretty darn tough too. So a huge thanks to Andrea and Rosco, my Mom and Dad, and My In-Laws Mike and Chris.
Next up is the Azencross in Loenhout. The race is part of the GVA series(Antwerp Newspaper) last year was blazing fast and this year sounds like deep deep mud. You can watch the race on sport.be I think we race at 3:00pm which is 8:00am central time and 9:00am eastern time.
Thanks again to everyone who is reading and leaving comments. All the support helps. Plus whatever super fan was yelling for me in Diegem......"way to represent Wisco" Time to go be pro
ps check out that Ham & Cheese count...race days really help when you can get 2 or 3 down the hatch! I didn't count the Ham & Pasta we had for dinner!
We arrived with plenty of time even though the UCI officials were giving us some looks. Pretty soon the head honcho started telling me we need to arrive 1 hour before the race. I said to him, "I know we are stupid Americans, but we are strong and Matt Kelly was our first World Champion, and we have 2 hours before the race." He looked at his watch and realized we really had 2 hours which was plenty of time and then apologized.
Then we went back to the warming van...I'll hold of on the warming van bit until thursday with the cyclingnews diary....
The course was brutal...it was pouring rain the entire warm up laps and my B bike front brake cable pulled through and back to the bars. I went for the A bike, but a valve stem had been ripped out of the rear wheel and the front shifter was blown....its tough communicating with the mechanics..... I opted for the B bike after a quick adjustment of the front brake. I was a little cautious on the start circuit, but as I hit the lap I started feeling the good sensations. I was able to step on it and go. I was riding the mud sections good. I was riding the climbs fast and the bike was working good. I was suffering the good way and was pretty happy. Guys were dropping left and right and I was slugging it out. I had one bad lap with 5 to go and lost a group I had been riding with, but then got it back together and finished strong.
After the race the people were crazy. The disco was still rocking, the drunks were holding the drunks up, some crazy Belgian actually jumped into the front window of our van as we were driving(slowly), and on the other side of the van another drunk Belgie decided he would direct traffic for us be reaching in the window and wailing on the horn and waving people out of the way....it actually worked too. The drive home was comical with the FOX behind the wheel. Then the real pain set in, I think I spent more time cleaning my stuff than I did on the race course. The power washer was a rocking spraying off the 2 pairs of shoes, 2 pairs of riding clothes, etc, etc. Now I'm having a hot chocolate and waiting for the washing machine. Troy and I have not only been racing on the course but also racing to get the blogs updated. Check his out...its pretty funny.
I was battling with Pauwels the last lap...unfortunately it was not for the win if you know what I mean. 56th. Not quite as good as last year, but I rode as fast as possible. After the race in Kalmthout I was really focused on having a good start and I killed it.....through the pits on the first lap I was 3 spots behind Page. I was pretty happy with this....then when it was time to put out the power I was lacking. Maybe I was too focused on a good start and after I accomplished my goal I didn't know what to do next??? Sometimes you can focus on one aspect way too much....or maybe I overcooked it and then suffered for the next 2 laps until I could recover. Not sure, but I think I'm still improving. Had I felt this way last year I think I would have been lapped. So I think in general I am stronger and my off days are better than in the past. I just hope I have a really good day in the next 4 races. At least I got some good TV time here in Belgium as I was holding off Pauwels at the line(stupid american)!
Tomorrow is the Superprestige in Diegem. The race is super cool and is held in an urban setting. You can watch the race LIVE here. Thanks for reading.
Just before bed in Belgium....having a glass of tea thinking back on all the X'MAS mornings as a kid. My memories wouldn't be complete with some thoughts of my Aunt Marge who passed away this summer. I'll be thinking of her when I'm racing tomorrow.
Here is a pick from my 23rd place finish last Wed in Middlekerke. Again Merry Christmas to all back home. I hear the weather is pretty nasty. I love it that Sheboygan weather is constantly more brutal than Belgian weather. It makes it just a little easier over here knowing the weather is slightly nicer. Today is the day before a World Cup. Today is also Christmas. So the house is pretty quiet. Geoff Proctor spent the day in Zolder inspecting the course and picking up race numbers.
The rest of the staff was either busy preparing for the race or spending time with their families. Most of the riders went for an early morning trainer ride and only a handful of us braved the morning wet. The snow and ice is almost gone after the rain last night. I heard the course was very icy, but after a few complaints from the big dogs they managed to get 3 salt trucks on to the F1 circuit to help melt the remaining ice. Here is a quick video highlight from last years race.
Most of the day after the ride was spent relaxing and reading. Just finished up The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom and started A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. In the afternoon we took a little cruiser ride in search of some fresh air and a good cappucino. My cruiser was in surprisingly good shape. Nothing was open though and it was a little chilly so it was a short lived ride. Now its time for a little snack and then an early night to bed. We will leave the house at 10am tomorrow and then race at 3:00. After the World Cup most of the races will be live online at sport.be Stay tuned for tomorrows race report.
It's Christmas Eve in Belgium and the 24th is when they celebrate here. We had a team meeting earlier and then Powers and Driscoll came over for some Q & A's and some free advice. Els has been busy in the kitchen all day cooking up some mean turkeys.
The champagne was flowing for the ECC toast and the JR's are drinking their Pepsi. Dinner consisted of turkey, belgian stuffing, peas, rice, cranberry sauce, and pears. Mario is dressed as Santa and everyone is in a good festive mood.
We even got a killer dessert!
Merry Christmas to everyone back home. I wonder what Andrea & Rosco are doing?
Race 2 is under the belts! I felt much better today than I did in the World Cup in Kalmthout. I finished 23rd and was on the lead lap. It was snowy, windy, muddy, but not too muddy. I crashed once, not paying attention as I was passing someone. After the crash I got a new bike and something clicked with the handling skills. All the sudden I could ride around corners 2x as fast. The gaps were big but I was able to ride from the mid 30's to the low 20's. Check out www.cycling-pics.be for some photos. This is one of the races that I considered not doing and I was glad I made the decision to race. I am pretty confident each race will be better and better.
The morning started as most mornings start here at Eurocross Camp. The JR's being really loud as they prepare to leave, then a little break in the action for a few hours before the Elites and U23's take off. During the 2 hour break I checked my e-mail 15 - 25 times, made some Ham &
Cheese samies, packed the race bag, and did a little reading. Josef was the driver once again. He is still, in my book, the unsung hero of the camp even though someone managed to lose the keys to one of the vans we were supposed to be driving. We were running a little late and in his broken english he said he generally knew where we were going. I think some of the guys were a little nervous, but we made it with plenty of time and only one wrong turn. Most of the races are held in towns that are half the size of Oostburg, WI and you can easily find the church in the middle of town and then find your way to the race.
After the race its pretty crazy in the house. Els is making dinner, guys are rushing for the hot water in the showers, mechanics are riders battle for the power washer to clean bikes and shoes, and the laundromat is filled with 'stupid Americans. With 18 riders and 10+ rotating staff its tough to keep the house clean. So there is a chore list and tonight I was on Pots and Pans duty which is the most despised. So pretty much what I'm saying is a race day in Belgium is a full day even though the race is 45 minutes from the house and only and hour long. Can't wait for tomorrows recovery day.
Broke in the new Gear Grinder skinsuit today it has much more white on it......good to get it a little dirty. Everyday there is a special message and a word of the day....Troy came up with this one!
This is the 3rd day in a row that I have been awake at 8:30am....this is good. I think I'm finally adjusted. I was on the bike at 10:30 and got in a good cross practice in a nearby park. I was able to play with tires and pressure and get a good feel for the snow and the ice. This is what the streets looked like on the way to the park! Gotta love Izegem!
After the ride Proctor and I enjoyed some good ol' Ham & Cheese. Then we took a quick trip over to a bike shop. Now I can call it a business trip! The place was called Sportiva and it was pretty much everything you could ask for. Top of the line stuff everywhere you looked. The shop must be killing it because they have about 10x more dollars in inventory than SBC. I'm assuming its the off-season here for the majority of cyclists.
After the trip to the bike shop I had a cup of coffee with the Fox and then took a solo stroll into town in search for a power adapter. It was actually pretty nice out...I even saw one of the JR's dressed as Santa trying to climb back into their room. Tomorrow is the Noordzecross in Middlekerke...
First race in Belgium is now under the belt. Luckily my bikes arrived and I was able to race the Blues. Todays unsung hero is definitely Josef. I think he has already made 15 trips to the airport. And each trip he is battling baggage claims and waiting for hours for someone or somthing who might not even be showing up. Today he was the man and left for the airport at 4:30am and delivered my bikes to Kalmthout by 12:00. We arrived about the same time.
It was a crazy snowstorm. You know you are in Belgium when you get rocked out of your sleep by someone pounding on the door and yelling something that ends with "we leave in 30 minutes." The rush was on because of the 4" of fresh powder. The news was in the my bikes had arrived, but I wasn't so sure they weren't someone elses.
So we arrived to the craziness of a Belgium cross race. Troy and I went on a mission to find the WC
and Inschription. We suited up and went out for a lap on the snowy icy circuit. It was like doing a lap on a frozen tundra. Driscoll went down on the pre-ride. I didn't but it was sketchy. They had a salt truck on the start stretch and they were brooming the slush of the pavement sections.
After a lap it was back to the warming van for a change of clothes and a little time on the trainer. I was called to the grid in the 6th row. I think 85 guys started. The start was a little crazy with a left on icy pavement and then a U on icy pavement and then to the course. Pretty much the whole course was single file. It was crazy with 85 guys fighting for one line. Snow was flying and all sorts of guys were sideways. I had a bad start. After that there is not much you can do....ride single file and wait....or try to pass in the deep snow and risk crashing and losing 5 - 10 spots. By the middle of the race I was moving up as guy were getting cold and dropping out. Page was 17th Driscoll was 38th, Wells was 50th and I was 63rd. A little dissapointing.
Now that my stuff is in order I can focus a little more...less time in Skype with United, more time thinking about racing. Plus a race in the legs after close to a month of no racing and a little jet lag. Should only feel better and better as time goes on....thanks for reading....
No bikes yet....latest news is they are in London? I hope they show for tomorrow. I'm registered for the WC in Kalmthout. Call up in row 6. It looks like a good course....mtb style with some long wooded sections. It would be really nice if I don't have to ride J. Pow's 5 year old Salsa that now is basically a permanent training bike at the house. I heard Tyler Farrar was the last guy beating up on it.....they tell me it will be fast if it comes to a sprint. I didn't get to ride it today though. Instead I was riding a national team road bike on the ice with a really tight headset.....no crashes luckily.
I had my first bar of chocolate from the wall. Monday looks like the day to head to Brugge for the Leffe and the waffles. Stay tuned for tomorrows race report.
The journey started early Thurs morning with a drive to Milwaukee where I picked up a bus to O'Hare Intl.
I was pretty pumped that I only had to shuffle a few items from duffel bag to bike box to make the weight restrictions and carry on limits. Only $200 for bikes on plane. Luckily they didn't weigh the bike box. So I thought it was smooth sailing from then on. A direct flight from Chicago to Brussels with a small stop in Washington DC...same plane though. Well a little hitch with the plane in DC and 2 hours later we were airborne for Europe. Powers, Wells, and I were all rollin' big in the Business Class section! White table clothes on my folding tray table was a first for me!
The plane landed in a snow covered freezing Belge after a good nights sleep(3 hours).
Baggage took 1:45 to come out of the carousel??? Belgium is on of those places that can't handle snow very well. Kind of like snow in Virginia. They just don't have the goods to de-ice or remove. So I waited with Powers and Wells. It was pretty comical until my name was called over the loud speaker. No Bikes :( Now how can United manage to lose the bikes when it was more or less a direct flight? Anyway they did....
So I lugged my wheels and bags out through customs to meet Josef. Our favorite driver! We only got lost once on the way home, but that was because we were searching for the wrong house number to pick up a BMC mechanic? Always something crazy going on here in Belgium. Troy and I were cracking up though as we were lost again in Belgium.
We finally made it to Izegem after about 24 hours of travel. I made my first Ham & Cheese, built up Troys bike and went for a spin on ice covered treacherous roads. No crashes. Then took a freezing cold shower, and made my bed with tiny sheets and tiny pillow. Radio Donna is blasting and Scheldecross was broadcasted live on TV. All is normal....
Not sure if I race tomorrow. Depends if bikes show?
It's been a little hectic finalizing all the details and making sure I am well prepared for the trip. I think I nailed it though...now I just have to see if I can fit it all in my bike case/wheel box/duffel bags! I hate traveling with bikes these days. Overweight and Oversize fees are most of the time more expensive than the plane tickets themselves.
As far as training it's been good. 2 solid rides over the weekend on the beach with quite a few 15 minute efforts and a good run the day before. Today was a brutal day. 14 degrees with 15mph winds...it hurt, but the good news is I don't think it will hurt that bad over in Belgium! I managed to get the old ticker up to 182 at 14 degrees putting to sleep the notion that you can't get the HR up in the cold!
I'm flying out of Chicago Ohare Thursday afternoon and arrive in Brussels Friday morning. Saturday is a local race to shake out the legs and then I'll jump right into the World Cup in Kalmthout(only a few km's from Hoogerheide!). Here is the full schedule!
19 Lichetrvelde, National B race 20 Kalmthout, World Cup CDM (Elites; possibly JR and U-23 races) 23 Noordzeecross, Middelkerke, C2 26 Zolder, World Cup CDM 27 Diegem, Super Prestige C1 29 Azencross, Loenhout, GVA C1 30 Tourhout, C2 1 Grote Prijs Sven Nys, Baal GVA C1 2 Grote Prijs der Ster, St Niklaas, C2 3 GP Groenendaal, St Michielgestel Holland C2
I'll do my best to find some links so you can watch the races live!
A huge thanks goes out to Bruce LeBlanc, my MOM, Chris Newlin, Dano, Adam Biwan, David Compton, and John Hughes for EuroCrossCamp donations! Another thanks all my sponsors for getting me hooked up with all the small odds and ends to make to trip complete!
and of course to my wife Andrea for putting up with me leaving 2 x-mas' in a row...
The last 3 days has been pretty rough weather wise in Sheboygan with wind chills close to -20. So it has been intervals on the trainer and a few short runs outside. It's warmer this weekend so I'm heading outside for a couple solid training rides! Gear Grinder T-Shirts are just a couple days away. Stay Tuned.
It's been a busy week trying to clean up the muddy mess from Jingle Cross, get plane tickets, and get out on the bike. I'm looking forward to my first weekend off from racing in over a month. I also finally got a slew of things listed on ebay. So bid high. All $$$ will go direclty towards Euro Cross Camp. If you want something but don't want to go through ebay just let me know... firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a picture of some secret training routes in Sheboygan.....kinda like Belgy land eh!