(top photo taken by Krist Vanmelle, photo below taken by Hugo De Spiegelaere)
It started off with a race in Lille, Belgium on saturday. The course was a lot of fun - a heavy one with lots of sand, mud, undulating twisty singletrack, flyovers and thousands of fans lining the trail. Before the race started, newly crowned world champion Marianne Vos and i rode up and down the straightaway together to keep our legs moving. And just as we approached the far end of the course, a group of fans started going crazy with their enthusiastic cheers. But when they continued their cheers after Marianne had already made a u-turn back to the start line, I instantly realized they were for ME! I was so overwhelmed with excitement and humility - what a warm welcome. They were the same guys who cheered for me at a few other races this year - my very own small but extremely vocal fan club! Next year i have to make hats or something so i can get them to these guys!! That would be so cool.
The race unfortunately did not go as well as my warmup though. Within the first ten seconds of the race, I was almost last. Shoot. By the time i clawed my way back through the tail end of the race the front end was long gone. And if it couldnt get any worse, every sand section turned into a time loss for me. In my haste to get to the front, I tried riding every sand section even when (in hindsight i now see) it was faster to run. But even so, i still managed a 12th place which makes me pleased. (for my full report, go to THIS LINK on CX Magazine)
After we got back home, I unpacked, showered and did the laundry while Jonas kept busy washing my bikes. At the moment when we were done with our chores, it was time to walk over to the Team Goeman Presentation in town. We sat with the parents of team owner Jan Goeman and my friend Ronny. It was four solid hours of speaking 90% dutch since his parents dont speak a word of english. Luckily they served wine to help me through the evening. Even though I only had two modestly-sized glasses, it was enough for me to pretend to be fluent - or at least enough to be in denial of my lack of fluency. Surely the latter but it was fun anyway.
The most challenging was actually trying to understand them since they are from Ninove, an area west of Aalst - direction "unintelligable" where the dialect is so strong that even native Flemish speakers have to really pay attention to understand most of what they say. I did understand, however, their compliments on my language improvement! Or at least i think that is what they said.
Afterwards, jonas and i headed to his favorite place to visit when buzzed - the local youth club. There he had a couple more pintjes to top off his multiple Duvel beers while i had a water to recover from my wine hangover. While we sat there, I quietly gave thanks to Jonas' parents for speaking such clear Flemish. You never realize how much effort goes into living in a place where English is not the primary language until you're doing it. I cant even watch a Simpsons episode without it turning into homework where i study the subtitles to make sense of where the verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc go in a sentence - not to mention learning new words. I have learned a lot from sitcoms here which makes me better at reading and writing but saying the words out loud still earns me much laughter. Work in progress...
It may have been a later evening than planned, but the 7am wakeup call the next morning remained unchanged. We needed to get up early to ride a 65km mountain bike tour along with a couple thousand other folks and return home in time for Jonas to go to work.
The first 20km were lightning fast, we were both feeling good. I was on adrenalin from racing the day previous while I swear Jonas was still drunk in the morning and fueled by his buzz. By KM 30 we were crawling. Jonas apoligized a few times for riding slowly. What he doesnt know is that i was dying too. And to rub it in, some guy passed me at KM 45 and said, "Is that the best you can do?" Two KM later another older guy rode up to me and said that this was a heavy course and that his legs were tired. Two seconds later he rode away. The race from the day previous took more out of me than i realized.
At KM 64 we passed the camera woman taking shots for the website. I tried to smile but i have a feeling i was only smiling in my mind since my mouth was frozen, thus requiring too much energy to move the lips.
We got home just in time to watch Hoogstraten Cyclo-Cross race on TV. With our legs elevated, we sat down to a feast of pasta and garlic bread. Unfortunately fifteen minutes into the race, Jonas had to go to work until 1am. And about five minutes after he left, i passed out on the couch with the race playing in my dreams. Nys won - yippee!