I am part way into my cyclo-cross season and i've already had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster ride. And I'm not talking about the mini bumps of
After a short rest from a full European road racing season, I started cyclo-cross off at the end of September with a handful of events on the East Coast for the sole purpose of accumulating valuable International UCI points to improve my starting grid position for the big races in
Right after the last of the east coast races, I flew into
Luckily I had two telephone numbers with me – one was for a woman named Brandy whom I’d met briefly at a bike shop and the other was for a “roommate wanted” ad I found on the internet – to be used “just in case.” I called Brandy who met me at the airport straight away. After squeezing me and my oversized Tri All 3 bike boxes into her tiny euro car, we headed to the address on the wanted ad.
Again, luck was on my side. The roommates were home and took me in on the spot!
I now live on the fifth floor of a huge converted monestary in
The tale of being stranded at the airport spread through my building so fast that offers of support were pouring in almost immediately! Neighbors offered me everything from a car to borrow and support at the races to motorpacing and bike mechanic help.
My first few races went smoothly – 14th at Kalmthout World Cup, 8th at another international event in
The next race on the schedule was the Treviso World Cup in
After another nineteen hours in the car, we arrived (fairly late but early enough to make the start) at the Vlaamse Witloof race site in
The highlight of that crazy weekend was spending quality girl time with Marianne Vos (World Champion) and my teammate, An Van Rie. Immediately following the
I spent the next few days both recovering from the 45 hour odyssey and getting ready for the next World Cup in
In preparation for the race, I borrowed a car from my neighbors Joris and Sharon and immediately drove it to the gas station. After filling it to the rim 60 euros worth - with regular gas, I read the words “DIESEL” on the gas flap while screwing the gas cap into place. Great.
My roommate Piet met me at the gas station to get me out of this mess. Using a 10-foot rope, he attached my oversized Renault to his tiny two-seater and pulled me to a garage. I’ve seen other people do this and it looks rather easy but I can tell you I must have lost at least a pound of water weight as I sweated bullets trying to keep the car within rope distance. If I hit the brakes too hard, his car leaped backwards and if I didn’t break enough, I’d rear end him.
Our only real disaster was when we attempted a tight corner. With no power steering, I didn’t quite make it into the correct lane. Dozens of cars were backed up in both directions. Most of the drivers got out of their cars to help me – the damsel in distress!
When we got to the garage, I found out that removing the gas from a Renault is tricky business due to its snazzy anti-theft gas tanks. After yet another five hours in a garage and many more euros later, I was on my way. I should have gone straight home since I was in a frazzled state, but instead I pressed my luck to fetch some bottled water. As I was pulling out of the supermarket parking lot, I rubbed the car up against a wall, leaving a trail of green paint on the car to remind me of the crappy day I had!
The next day I drove to Pijnacker to pre-ride the race course. Mapquest pinned the drive time at two hours, my time was four. I got to the general vicinity within two but circled around for two trying to find the tiny town where the race was taking place! I rode two laps of the course in the semi dark, washed the bike in a nearby stream (my lube is bio-friendly, btw) and headed to the hotel 5km away which only took one hour to locate.
I woke up the next day to frigid, stormy weather complete with rain pellets. I arrived early so my warm-up went well. I was even ok with my fourth row starting position (as opposed to the front row call-ups I had been accustomed to prior to the
The start of the race was quite nervous. As soon as the gun went off, a gal tried to hip-check me out of the way. When I didn’t budge, she bounced into the wall and crashed. Within a minute, I was back in top ten feeling okay…until I was mowed down by an Italian gal who slid back down one of the wooden “flyover” overpasses. She trapped my bike under hers. It took some time to unravel my bike from both her bike and her flailing body parts. Once free, I began the too familiar game of catch-up when you try to pass those who got by you during your dilemma.
I spent the next minutes frantically trying to get around numerous racers whose seemingly self-appointed callings in life were to not let me pass. By the time I cleared the masses, I was wiped. (note to self – must not be frantic when trying to pass people. Only leads to frustration and wasted energy. ) I then passed a few more people and settled into 18th place. Thankfully I had an amazing pit crew, twin brothers serge and christophe, who handed me a fresh clean bike every lap. This was priceless on a ridiculously muddy course where the bike almost doubles in weight if you ride it too long! I am also glad to note that my running has improved thanks to the fifth floor walkup!
I have two more big events here in Europe before heading home to
Thanks for all the support and thanks for reading this super-mega-ridiculously long email!! That in itself shows a lot of support!!!
PS. I am currently ranked 19th in the World.
PPS There’s been a ton of coverage on me, but since I’m short on time, here are a few links to amuse you. I also attached another photo from the race in
http://www.lottoladiescycling.be/forum/viewforum.php?f=3&sid=c8e941189fb3292fd0dc3e7fb01214cb – you can find photos of me from most of the Euro races
http://www.cyclingnews.com/cross.php?id=photos/2006/nov06/koppenberg06/kop_bd_20061101_152346 - photo from the infamous koppenbergcross in
http://race.cx/2006/11/02/cpq-4-christine-vardaros/ - interview I just did for a cyclo-cross website in
http://www.chrismilliman.com/hillshots/?m=200511 – just found this photo – scroll to the bottom of the page to see a photo of me, or rather seven photos morphed into one.
http://www.yogajournal.com/health/2285_1.cfm - link to another interview I did for Yoga Journal Mag. Unfortunately it doesn’t show the photo of me that appeared in the Mag.