Wednesday, December 20, 2006

US Nationals Tales from Belgium

I am back in Belgium again! It is such a treat to return this time to MY OWN PLACE! I never realized how luxurious it is to live on my own – something I haven’t experienced much over the past years.

Anyway, back to racing. The nationals course was dry and fast with three runups, two of which were pretty long with steps and barriers. The third also had steps but wasn’t as long.

Before the race, I asked a few of my friends to yell encouraging words to me, namely sentiments like, “feel the pain” and “it’s only pain!” I have never really experienced true racing pain in my whole career due to a pact I made with myself at the beginning of my racing career. I told myself that I’d like to see just how far I can go in this sport without feeling an excess amount of pain. Well, last week I decided to ditch that idea to see what happens. Nationals was to be my first attempt at feeling the pain.

I was lucky to have a front row callup based on UCI points, but the start of the event was violent nonetheless. From the gun, the pace was screaming fast. I stayed calm and came around the first turn onto the dirt somewhere in top 10. I spent the next few minutes focusing on moving up...rather successfully I might add. Eventually, my plans were foiled by the run-ups! I worked as hard as I could on the sections I knew I could gain time in hopes that I wouldn’t lose too much on the runups. I finished in 7th.

Finishing in front of me were Katie Compton in 1st, Georgia Gould 2nd, Dierdre Winfield and Kerri Bernhart (worked together) in 3rd/4th, Ann Knapp and Rhonda Mazza (worked together) in 5th/6th. My friend Mandy Lozano of Cheerwine had a spectacular race to finish in top 10, beating out some really big names. She was in 6th place for a good portion of the race before fading towards the end.

By the way, all the “feel the pain” screams helped a lot! I told so many people (or maybe they told others) that it seemed as though all I heard throughout the course was “pain” “pain” “pain”! I even had my host housing family members Erin and 6-yr old daughter Kailey yelling it! hahaha. Yes, I felt the pain. I didn’t back off of the effort as much as I usually do thanks to chants!

Obviously I would have loved to finish better, but I’m not too surprised by my result. I started cyclo-cross training late in the year due to a full European road season, which would bring my fitness to a peak for the final world cups and world champs. The only drawback to this plan is that a lot of weight is given to the US National Championship race. I will find out tonight if I made the US National Team. Please cross your fingers!

After the race, I went to the post-event party with Sami Fournier, her husband John, a U-23 rider named Scott and their host housing family, mel and Nate. There was an oval bar on one side of the room and three pool tables on the other. Some partygoers whom I recognized were Ryan Trebon, Mandy Lozano, Georgia Gould, Sarah Kerlin, Erin Kassoy, Henry Kramer, Ben and Andy Jacques-maynes, Jordy (forgot his last name), Josie Beggs, and a bunch of other folks. In general, the party was rather subdued. After a bunch of people watching and idle conversation, we left. Oh, I also talked to Jay, the author of the cyclo-cross blog, His site is a lot of fun for cyclo-cross fans!

After a good night’s sleep of three hours since I had to pack the bikes all night, I almost welcomed the 6-hour layover I had at Washington DC airport. The flight to Belgium was great. I got to sit next to a really personable guy who had lots of interesting things to say, wasn’t noisome AND was super skinny so he didn’t spill onto my seat. We got along fabulously since we had so much in common. His name was Barry Wicks of Kona Bikes. Bike racers Jeremy Powers and Molly Cameron were also on the flight.

For all you Barry Wicks fans, I did find out a little info about how his race went. He spent the whole race blocking for teammate ryan trebon who was off the front of his group of five. He worked so hard, in fact, that he was having leg cramps towards the end of the race. He continued to mark every move BUT instead of responding by standing up and sprinting he had to SIT THE WHOLE TIME and motor! He said it probably looked pretty funny to the crowd. Towards the end of the last lap, he slipped out on a turn and semi-sprained his thumb and finished 6th. His thumb is still swollen but i'm sure it'll be better by his first race saturday.

Today was my first real training ride. (yesterday, I just tootled about and went thrift store shopping to buy trinkets for my new place – like dishes, can opener, tea kettle, etc.) Five minutes into my ride, I stood at the Leuven Ring waiting for the light to change. As I glanced across the road, I noticed my reflection landed smack between two guys in dark suits sitting at their desks. For a brief moment, I thought how I’d love to actually be there since it was about 1 degree Celsius outside. But then I thought how miserable I’d be if I had to resign myself to a desk job. Once the light changed, I followed my cold breath across the road and carried on with the job at hand – intervals along the canal.

Before I started my intervals, I was passed by Kathleen Stercx, a fellow pro cyclist. She currently races for Merida but will switch to AA Drink, a Holland team, in 2007. She commutes 50 minutes each way to work every day. She is the second female bike racer I’ve ever seen on a training ride here in Belgium. Maybe I’ll join her on one of her commutes so I could have a training partner.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading and thanks for all your emails and postings of support! It means a lot.




Echelon said...

great to meet you. i'm glad you had a good time and that you raced so well. keep everyone informed if you make the national team. interesting to hear about barry. i wondered about that.

Little_Jewford said...

Hells ya...just read you were named to the worlds team! Much deserved.



Little_Jewford said...

Hells ya...just read you were named to the worlds team! Much deserved.



Little_Jewford said...

ooops...I have no idea how that happened...

Unknown said...

change this blog to:

Mandy said...

thanks for the props in your blog, hot stuff! you rocked the hizzy at natz, though you may not claim so. i am so stoked for your worlds spot. saaahhwwweeeet. maybe someday i'll join you on the start line at the biggiebiggietodooo.