The week leading up to the Hoogerheide World Cup was our first full week in Belgium. We had settled into our cottage in Arendonk and got ready to turn the trip into part getting-down-to-business-training and racing and part vacation.
Now it seems that I got a little flak from my last race report because it may have been perceived that we weren’t entirely “soaking up the experience” of coming to Europe to race in World Cups and the World Championships. I hope that this report dispels any ideas that we may not be fully aware of how blessed and lucky we are to have these opportunities and experiences. However, as a competitive athlete able to race at the top level of my sport, this also becomes a job to do. I am always trying to improve my fitness, skills and results with the goal of getting to the next level of the game while maintaining perspective on the world around me.
The weeks leading up to our departure for Belgium we were full of plans for the trip, goals for race results and, aside from enjoying a bit of vacation time, taking this trip pretty seriously because after all, it’s for the World Championships! Cyclocross does not currently qualify as an Olympic sport, so this is the “Olympics” of cyclocross.
And then Haiti was hit with a horrendous earthquake. Around the globe, around the clock coverage was being broadcast about the damage, destruction and loss of life. I am always trying to be mindful of not taking any aspect of my like so seriously that I may lose sight of the world outside. But it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own life especially when things are going well and it’s all too easy to lose perspective when you get down about things not going as well as hoped.
I tend to prefer my unconventional lifestyle as a professional cyclocross racer partly because I’m accustomed to it and partly because it’s the only way I know how to make it all work. By unconventional I mean the working full time bit and the trekking around European cities all week as part of my “peaking” for the World Cups and Championships.
Matt and I take very few vacations that don’t involve a race or training on bikes so we took the opportunity in Belgium to also double as a vacation.
Tuesday we went for ride and found the cycling network in the area and then explored Brussels. Wednesday we trained at the permanent cyclocross course in Lichtaart and spent the afternoon in Turhout. Thursday we trained on the bike network and then joined fellow racing friends Christine and Jonas in Leuven for dinner. Friday we trained again on another section of the bike network and then joined the Van Beylan family for dinner at their home. Saturday we headed up to Hoogerheide to preride the course and get ready to race.
Saturday’s preride was damp but the course was super fast with lots of short hills, swoopy turns, a gut-wrenching drop-off 200 meters after the start and a very steep Astroturf-covered flyover. Late that afternoon there was a light but steady rain that could add a muddy element to the hard packed course.
On Sunday the rain was still falling intermittently and there were several sections on the course that become boggy with mud. Despite my near back row call up, I had a terrific start and quickly moved up into the top 10 by avoiding two crashes within the first five minutes of the race. I was able to hang onto the top 10 for about a lap before slipping back into the top 15 for the next several laps. A few small mistakes allowed some riders to pass me and despite my best efforts to time trial on the long (about 300 plus meters) flat pavement stretch, I felt like a piece of spaghetti next to the powerful legs that took off in front of me. I caught a few riders back in the mud only to be passed back on the pavement and so on until the bell lap where I finished 23rd again. I would have preferred to have place in the top 15 or 20. I wouldn’t be much of a competitor if I were always content with my result but I suppose consistency is not bad either.
Next up: A few more days of easy riding in Belgium before we take off Wednesday to drive to the Czech Republic. I’ve been trying to remember all of my German lessons from high school since but I suspect we’ll drive straight through to Prague.
We spend one night in Prague and then I join the US National Team in Tabor for the final few days before World’s.
Matt has posted some pictures from the Hoogerheide World Cup on Facebook or on Picasa. Also, a big congratulations to the winner of the Cyclocross Master’s 50+ World Championships, Seven Cycles rider Marilyn Ruseckas!.
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