Friday, November 13, 2015

TAIWAN KOM Challenge - crazier than all rumors combined...

I found out the hard way! Wow, what an experience. And that climb was unreal! For all those who
top of KOM Challenge by Bauyung Gao
like to challenge themselves on the bike, this hillclimb race should be on the top of your "to-ride" list! It is 105km total, with the first 17km flat neutral along the Pacific Coast before turning inland and upwards, a 87km climb that drops you off above the clouds at 3275m altitude, with the last 10km crazy hard, repeatedly reaching gradients in upwards of 30%!  Just reaching the finish is more than a feat in itself. This year, with ideal weather conditions, only 75% of the riders made it to the top. is their website if you want to read more about it.

There is also an organization that does training camps - road, mtb, and cyclocross - as well as bike tours there in Taiwan. Website is

Since my experience there in Taiwan was soooo overwhelming, here are a couple of links where you can read all about it.  Here is a version in Dutch:

And in English, with lots of photos, here:

Going into the Taiwan race, i first competed in a few cyclocross it is cross season! :-)
Kermiscross Ardooie (Belgium) was the first on my list.  I had a very slow start since i was completely not used to going that deep so many times in a 45 minute period. But my last two laps were great which gave me hope.

Next up was Valkenburg World Cup in Holland.  I remained optimistic up until two minutes into the
Valkenburg World Cup,
foto: Luc Wilms
race where my saddle pointed skyward when i remounted.  My own fault.  I tried to lower the nose of the saddle a few days previous to save my bitties from the constant saddle-smacking but clearly I didnt tighten it enough.  My husband Jonas was pretty pissed off, to say the least. The one time i touch my bike i manage to screw it up big time.  When i passed him in the pits, in completely last place since i took much time trying to make the saddle rideable, i could tell he wanted to wring my neck but he held it in like the pro he is.  By the end i only managed to pass a few riders since i was sitting so far behind.

Next up was a back-to-back weekend of  Kruibeke CX (Belgium) and Grand-Prix de la Commune de Contern (Luxembourg.)  In Kruibeke, I was unsure that my back would hold out since it has been very bad lately but it turned out that this was a non-factor.  Instead what took me out was chain-suck - THREE TIMES in fact! The third time when it happened I was simply too far from the pits to run my bike, so I stopped.  The crank had to be removed to get the chain free - something I couldn't do on the fly unfortunately, as much as I tried.

In Contern, I found a course that was totally my thing. And in following with my season luck so far,
Kruibeke CX, foto: Jo Groenevinger
my back completely crippled me where I was riding slower than a grandma with a filled picnic basket attached to her handlebars. Somehow I managed to finish top 10 but I couldn't have been more disappointed. 

If I didn't have to fly out to Taiwan very early the next morning, I would have tried some intervention for my back to get me through the Taiwan race.  Unfortunately I traveled to Taiwan on a bunch of pain pills and a prayer - that I would make it to the finish. 

Since returning to Belgium from Taiwan I have been to the hospital to have a facet-denervation done
Valkenburg World Cup,
foto: Bianca van Nyen
on my lower back, where they literally burn the nerves.  It takes up to 6 weeks to see if it works.  Fingers crossed.  And in the meantime, I am back to training - to try and bring my fitness level back up. Not sure if it will come good in time for Koksijde World Cup on 22 November but I'm doing everything I can to make it happen.

Thanks for reading! xxx

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What have I been up to in the last year??

Wow, i cannot believe i didnt update this blog in a year! So....Here's my quick ditch effort to get you up updated.

My 2016 offseason started off very well with a 3rd place at Paris-Ancaster Race in Hamilton, Read all about it here - as well as our colorful travels to NYC after.
Paris-Ancaster, foto: Jeremy Allen
Canada. I headed over there again with Ellen van Loy. I really had decent legs but made a critical tactical error that cost me 2nd place. Was happy to hold onto 3rd thanks to Edgar Aspe when i blew high from going too deep. I'm pretty sure that even if i would have rode a perfect race, Ellen would have taken me at the end for 1st. She is sooo strong, and too nice to hate. :-)

I am especially proud of my 3rd place since i endured much pain trying to train in spain for 3 weeks leading up to the race, having to often stop a few times up each climb to stretch a bit in an effort
Visited my "2nd parents" ruth/bill in NYC
to alleviate some of the pain to make it to the top.

After that i basically suffered the rest of the summer with crazy back area pain which meant almost
no riding. Even sleeping at night was not so easy due to the nonstop pain. Instead, i tried my best to relax over the summer. Got some hiking in and some very very easy riding whenever possible with my pain.

Jonas and I hiking in hard rainy Ardennes
BUT 4 weeks ago i finally found a surgeon who could identify the cause of the main pain i had. And 3 weeks ago i was back at the hospital to have an infiltration done (with crazy large needles into my back). Well a week later (2 weeks ago) i could train again! I immediately joined my friends at Bertem for their last hard ride of the season and it went way better than i thought. I was teary-eyed at the end of the ride!

A week later i tested myself again at the Zolder track with the Bertem boys and at first it was above my limit but eventually i came good. Still LOTS of work to do before i reach a decent fitness level but i walked away feeling quite optimistic.

Last Thursday was my final test. It was again at the Zolder track. I immediately found a nice group to ride with and when it was my turn to ride at the front we eventually hit the one steep short uphill so i kept the pace high to the top and only one guy could follow. I was soooo afraid that since i am only a girl riding against guys that i would go too slow in the climb. Well, on the way down the hill a guy passed me and told me that it wasnt a race. pfff.

I waited until the last of the group passed to jump back in...without realizing that I had blown the group soooo wide that the last riders of the group were actually dropped. i jumped from guy to guy to try to reconnect with the front but to no avail.  Instead i passed the time waiting for another fast group by riding with a crazy strong guy. Eventually 4 other racer kids joined us, making the pace very hard.

On one of my turns at the top i really gunned it hard, burying myself in the process. When i finally elbowed for the next guy to come around and looked behind, i was shocked to find 30 guys single-file, strung out on my wheel. 

Thankfully I had something left to jump on to the group as they passed. Soon enough i recovered and was able to ride in the front again.  When i pulled off, i saw only FIVE guys left in the group!

While it gave me a confidence boost for sure, I am very much aware that there is still WAAAAY more work to do before i am competitive at the international level with the  gals. I did my best with what i had to be ready to race. All i can do now it race my heart out and keep the faith that it should get better as the season progresses.

I did do 2 UCI international races in China end August/beginning September which were a disaster
China - Ricoh Riot Photography
due to that relentless back pain. BUT since they were a nightmare, i am choosing to forget them (while holding onto the wonderful memories of course) and award myself a do-over for the season.

Before i get started with racing i first traveled to London to speak at VegFest UK festival yesterday. It was an amazing experience - wonderful audience and a great event! My next talk is VegFest Glasgow 5 December, followed by a talk the next week in Belgium at a Medical Professional's Conference. It will be my first talk in FLEMISH!  I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!

With that said, my first races are Ardooie Thursday 15 October, Valkenburg World Cup Sunday, 18 October, Kruibeke (Belgium) 24 October, Grand-Prixde la Commune de Contern (LUX) 25 October, and Taiwan KOM Challenge 30 October.  The rest of my season is still yet to be determined. x