Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More photos from World Championships

Yesterday i took a break from my life to play tour guide. Keri Barnholt, USA Teammate, and her friends visited my quaint town of Leuven for a little sightseeing. It was great for me since i've never really had the time to check out the town myself!

I will post the full story with photos soon!

But in the interim, here are more photos i took at World Champs.

The top photo is of what I'd consider a super-supporter! He is covered in Klaas Vantornout of Fidea trading cards AND handing them out! He was overjoyed to pose for me.

I took the one of the fans in the tree because I really loved how the tree looked with brightly colored spectators attached.

The next photo is of another random fan. He was just so animated, even without his funny costume!

The third is of Hilde Quintens (left) and her partner. Hilde and I have gotten to know each other over road and cyclo-cross seasons. She is one of the more grounded gals out there. But more importantly, we always make each other laugh!

Finally, a photo of the two biggest celebrities on the Belgian TV show, Allez Allez Zimbabwe! He met her while bike racing here in Belgium and they just got engaged on the last episode. Since his race results have been suffering a bit recently, his team manager tried to pin it on his relationship, telling him that it's made him not as competitive. The two of them are just so likeable that you want them to succeed. You cheer for their relationship while you cheer for him to finish higher up in the events. I think they were both surprised when i told them that people in USA know who they are.

More photos and stories on World Champs to come!

Monday, January 29, 2007

You missed a GREAT weekend!

Wow, two more silver medals thanks to katie Compton and Jonathan Page. Incredible rides.
I obviously didn't see Katie's race but i did hear her over the loudspeaker for fourty minutes straight. I was thrilled to know all the props i gave her every time the euros would ask about her were backed up with serious results!

Watching Jonathan school those belgians was a real treat! Midway through the race, he came flying past me and for a moment i was confused. My thoughts immediately were one of distress. Since he was all alone and riding along seemingly without effort, I thought maybe he crashed or had a mechanical. But a few seconds later, when i saw Franzoi i realized JP was riding in FIRST PLACE!!!!! (eerste plaats for all you dutch speakers - hahaha.) Soon enough, Page again came through in the lead but with Vervecken in tow.
After a brief argument with a group of belgians who were standing next to me regarding who should win the race - vervecken or page - i won the argument by telling them that i'll just cheer for some Netherlanders instead. They then admitted that JP is one of their own and if a Vervecken doesn't win, they'd want Page to take the glory.

After the race, I found out why Page looked like he was casually riding along while in first place - he didn't know he was AT THE HEAD of the race! On one of the laps, he came by the pits and asked his super-support guy Frankie what place he was in. I wonder what he was thinking when Frankie shouted the news.

The photos are of JP in the lead (note that in the top photo you can see the crowd yelling for Vervecken just behind Page on the final lap just exiting the long sand pit), JP's family who head the JP Fan Club (check out the US and Belgian Flags!), me having a tough day, and Superstar Marianne Vos and me just after we traded jerseys. This is clearly proof that i am indeed twice her age AND her size! She is surely one of my favorite riders in the womens' peloton.

I wish i also had a photo of Rhonda Mazza, one of our USA gals who rode an incredible race for 11th place. And Keri Bernholt was just behind in 15th. Dierdre put in a great showing as well! No need to put up a photo of Katie after her 2nd place finish since her photo is all over the internet press/media world by now. I'm quite honored to be their teammates!

Thanks for reading,
ps THANKS for all your well wishes. I wish my results would have reflected all the good vibes I've received!
ps more updates from Worlds to come

Saturday, January 27, 2007

checking in from the USA house

Today was a rather subdued one for me. I did more bike work - ugh - then headed out for a training ride to see the course so i could watch the lines the u-23 and jr riders took. I made it as far as the elevator on my floor before turning back to the room. I forgot that i am in belgium - the race will be on TV with NO commercials! I'll be able to see all the lines perfectly, complete with commentary. After watching Danny Summerhill sprint it out for 2nd place in the jr men, I was so completely motivated to go training.
He was in 2nd position for the first lap chasing down an italian rider until they were caught at the end of the lap. Eventually 6 guys got a gap on the field. Once the pace went up, there were 5. On one of the three technical dropoffs, danny crashed. My heart sank! Luckily it was he who was racing and his levelheadedness got him back up to the leaders in no time.
Soon after, one of the guys attacked and then there were 4 - 5th was slightly gapped. Going into the last mud hairpin turn onto the pavement finish, danny was in 4th (btw, he spent most of the race in 5th spot.) But he really turned it on in that finishing straight passing all but one of them! As he crossed the finish line, he threw his fist in the air to signify USA's infiltration in the Euro dominant sport (this is according to what he told me at dinner.)
As i sat next to him at dinner, which is how i found out about the significance of the fist, he also told me something i found rather interesting. Going into the race, he thought a top five would be cool. Then when he was in the group of five, he still thought, "I'd be happy with a top 5." But in only in that last finishing straight did his thought change. His next thought was, "Hey, i could get a medal!" If he only would have thought, "Hey i could win this darn thing" maybe he would have. We will never know. Neither will he - something he admits he will ponder for a bit.
His second place, though, was good enough to score us all free champagne tonight! I only had a spoonful (just in case Coach is reading.)
Dinner was a repeat of yesterday. Except this time i remembered to bring my own spices. My friend ronnie sent me ground habaneros that he grew and dried himself. They are incredibly tasty AND hot! Yum.
Now i must get back to stretching, reading, drinking, visualizing.
THanks for all your emails, thoughts and blog comments wishing me good luck for the race tomorrow. I am finally getting really excited and motivated to FEEL THE PAIN!!

Friday, January 26, 2007

The course is an oversized mudpie...

and i took a big bite! On the first lap of pre-riding the course, I hit the ground hard on one of the treacherous mud drop-offs. My knee and my shifter took the blow. The shifter is broken but the knee is not- just a little swollen and a bit of skin missing. Many of us actually bit it on one of the three worst drop-offs - even hanka took a dive.
At least i still have one good bike and one good knee. With these fully functioning parts, I will perform miracles (i tell myself over and over again!!!)
The course also had a long thick sand stretch, and a little pavement. Otherwise it was just deep mud trenches where you have to stick your tire in one of them, making sure not to change lines mid-section. Even the flat sections were challenging to ride - just keeping the bike upright was a project indeed.
After we pre-rode the course we all piled back into the van, washed up and had group dinner. I ate yummy veggies, grilled tomatoes, a huge salad and bowtie pasta with olive oil. They also served some sort of meat. One of the juniors asked me to identify it - poor guy - out of all the folks there he asked the one who could help him least. haha.
For dinner, there were pannekoeken (belgian pancakes -similar to crepes.)
After we ate, some of the racers talked while others watched some old cowboy movie - or at least that is what it looked like to me on the tiny laptop screen. (Upon further prodding this morning, it turns out it was a horror flick!)
I worked more on my bikes and got a massage. The guy who gave me the massage is named herrmon who lives in Izegem - 3km from where we are staying. He is an older guy who speaks little english. I expected a towel or a blanket to cover my exposed body but it was one of those - just lay your naked ass down on the table and let's get the job done - style.
Keri just turned out the lights so i will go to bed too.
Thanks for reading.
ps during dinner, one of the americans said that there were more spectators today to watch us pre-ride the course than have shown up to watch us race in USA. He's right!

Musseeuw and I busted in the same week...

There was no denying that i was guilty. I was caught red-handed - with the oversized fire hose in hand while washing my bikes downstairs at the entrance of the converted monastery.
I plead ignorance and pulled the I'm just a girl, please help me attitude and it worked (contrary to Parbo's opinion that i am too old to use that card! Neener, neener!)
It turned out well. The building manager was very helpful and showed me a spicket where i can attach a hose. Now i have to buy a hose but at least i will soon wash the bikes without sending them across the parking lot from the powerful flow of the firehose.

I'm now off to meet up with the rest of the US National Team so I can join them in tension building activities like team meetings, group meals. Any time you put a bunch of highly competitive athletes in the same room, all thoughts seem to be on the big event whether or not it is actually talked about aloud. I would bet it helps our preparation somehow.
Today we are taking team photos at 1, leaving to pre-ride the course at 1:30, riding the course 2-4, cleaning up and eating at some point after that. I heard that nobody will be allowed to ride the course prior to competition to preserve the ground. If this is the case, i'm looking forward to seeing the mud trenches paralleling the whole course. The poor spectators will have a fun time trying to walk along the course day of race. Bring your tallest wellys!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

And this is what i did last weekend...

Here's a link to a video from the Hoogerheide World Cup. I found it on
Can you spot me in the video?

As I'm sitting at the cafe in Leuven...

with Gary and Betty of Sacramento who just arrived this morning, we open the Het Laatste Nieuws to the World Championships coverage and who do we see staring back at us? ME! Yippee!

A few days ago, Het Laatste Nieuws set up an interview and photo shoot with me. When i called the interviewer yesterday to see when it would hit the papers, he was in Niels Alberts' home interviewing him! I'm just so honored that the same guy who interviews stars like Niels would take the time to visit with me for a story!

Gary and Betty are cross racers whom i've known for years. Betty races for Velo Bella and wins just about every race she enters while Gary holds his own in the peloton! The photo is taken in front of Leuven's Tourist Center across from the famous Cathedral in Grote Maarkt. These two buildings were almost the only two left standing after the whole town was leveled during WWI. Many view it as a miracle. Ik ook.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Want to see what i'll be doing sunday?

Here's a link to the Hooglede-Gits race last year when it was a World Cup. The mud was so deep that even the spectators were in ankle-deep mud at minimum wherever they walked!

Move over Musseeuw!

Adeline and I traveled to most road races last year! My most memorable trip with her must have been when she slyly played the Black Eyed Peas "Pump it" tune for two hours straight on a drive home. She pretended that the CD was skipping even though i saw her CD controls were on the steering wheel. I didn't mind since i like the song - or should i say liked. Now it's a little hard to listen to it.
The other photo is of me in Nommay - i think. Adeline just emailed it to me.
Yesterday i worked on one bike. It should shift now. Today i am working on the other. Fun, fun, fun! My apartment looks like a bike shop. All tools are neatly displayed in front of Tom on the stage in the living room, while my wheels, bikes and parts are covering the floor.
Four days until World Championships!! Yippee!! I heard A LOT of USA'ers will show. It's always fun to hear cheers in an American accent. At hoogerheide, there was a group of NorCal folks who cheered very loudly for me - THANKS!
I also heard a few of them got on the podium at Masters World CHampionships held last weekend in Belgium.
NorCal's super stud Henry Kramer was one of those folks! I ran into him at the Post-Nat'ls party, which is the only place i ever talk to him. It is now two years in a row that we talked and both times it's after he's had a few beers. So of course i'm thinking, wow he drinks a lot! I'm sure he's thinking the same about me - i guess this applies to almost all the folks at the post-nat'ls party! hahaha.
USA had a woman on the podium at Masters Worlds as well - Katrina Baumsteiger. Some other Americans who rode superbly are Lillian Pfluke (4th), Kevin Hines (6th) and Will Black (9th.) Well done!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Three of the fastest women in US Cycling

I just came across this photo at the richard Sachs photo site. From left: Mo Bruno, Amy Wallace and Mandy Lozano.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

My bikes and I did not play well together

I was on my way to a respectable result that the Hoogerheide World Cup today when my chain decided it couldn't take the pressure and hid out between my chainring and frame. I pulled, tugged, coerced, begged, prodded, poked and kicked until it finally came back out to join in the fun. As i approached the pit, I traded in the bike for the other. Unfortunately it too was suffering from stage fright as it wouldn't shift. We both rolled in at 33rd. I think the debacle was my bikes' way of helping me to save energy for the World Championships next week. I really put Serge (tired guy on left of photo) to work today as i handed him a broken bike every lap.

Luckily other USA gals did well to offset my day. Katie Compton posted a 10th place in her first CX world cup, while Rhonda Mazza and Dierdre Winfield rode strong to finish 19th and 29th respectively.

Towards the end of our race, it started to hail - miniature snowballs pummeled us. Shortly thereafter, the sky fell down (photo below taken from INSIDE car on way home.) The guys' event must have been so miserable.
Jonathan Page kicked butt while Ryan Trebon finished up there too - both top TEN! Erik Tonkin (photo left) and Tristan Schouten put in fabulous results as well.

I hate to admit it but today i had more fun POST-race. While i waited for Serge to return from washing the bikes, I stood by the car with my two supporters (see photo on left). As we watched the people walk back to their cars, the guy was pointing out all the famous faces in the crowd - so-and-so was the famous Tour de France winner from Netherlands, so-and-so was that famous racer back in the 50's. But as soon as he said, "And that's Johan Museeuw" I ordered him to grab him for a photo. As soon as we were face to face, I turned into a little kid standing in front of her ultimate hero. "When i was learning to race a bike, I watched all your videos. You're the best. I loved how you won the world championships in Lugano by riding in front on the climb. You are the smartest rider that ever lived! You're the best" Of course i said all this while jumping up and down like a kid having to pee. I'm surprised the photo (see left) looks subdued because it was really an action shot as i bounced around in excitement. Sorry Anton and Tom, but you have been replaced.

Thanks for reading! AND thanks for all your comments, thoughts, good vibes and number combinations to make the degree icon. I have tried every one of them but to no avail. God Verdomme!

Friday, January 19, 2007

New Wardrobe

Today I have learned the hard way the drawbacks of washing clothes in the sink with laundry soap in POWDER FORM. After many minutes of scrubbing, soaking, swooshing and swirling, I rinsed the clothes off and neatly laid them atop the heat radiators to give them that ribbed look for style points.
Once the clothes were dry, I noticed they were all covered with white dots. I guess soap spots aren't that bad. Heck, it almost blends right in with my team kit - the multitude of black prunes are now cow-patterned! I suppose this is OK with my plant-based ideals, but I guess it could be compared to faux fur or mock meat. Some say these are almost as bad as the real thing because it perpetuates actions that are deemed morally amiss.

Lessons learned when washing clothes in a sink:

Always use liquid detergent.
If only powder detergent is available, be sure to wash clothes inside out; try to dissolve soap in water basin before adding clothes.

Did i miss any secrets to successful basin bathing?


Thursday, January 18, 2007

More details in indoor CX race

It felt good to race with short fingered cycling gloves for a change! Usually for races here i have been using the windproof, water-resistant, insulated Specialized gloves that are also reflective so all the other racers can see me. But it was awfully weird to sweat during a warmup. It was about 65 degrees (still haven't found the degree symbol on my keyboard) inside, so just easy pedaling on the trainer was enough to drench my bra, undershirt, shorts and even my hat.

The races started out LE MANS style (thanks!!) - running for about 30 meters to the bikes. After riding a short wood panel platform covered in sawdust, we entered the first 360 degree turn of many. It was completely covered in mud - thick mud grooves and all. Then you hit a super short steep bump. The mud was so grooved and thick that it took a lot of upper body strength to shove the bike up the hill while remaining upright. We continued on the mud through the next 360 degree turn covered in thick grooved mud, down the semi-fast straightaway past the pit (or as they say here Material Post), into another 360 degree turn, over yet another short steep bump. The second we clear the bump, we had to collect enough speed to hit the flyover ramp. BUT leading up to the ramp was more thick grooved mud so you have to hit it just right or else you're walking. Down the ramp, back into the mud but in the next 360 degree turn was turf - or rather plastic grass with loose dirt on top. Fun. Back around to another 360 and immediately into yet another u-turn but a banked one - all covered in dirt/mud. Once clearing the banked turn, we had to sprint again to hit the rollers - think bmx course. After making a large u-turn, we headed down a mini wood panel/sawdust straightaway and into the long narrow but deep sand pit. (I only got about 3/4 through it before having to get off - ugh. All the guys rode it.) The pit spits you out onto a circular u-turn covered with that plastic grass that stops at the start/finish wood panel straightaway. There you have it - all 1km of it.

Considering what they had to work with, they really made it challenging yet fun. It felt like a real cross race, but a little shorter and with a few more hairpin turns, though. The cleanup must be a bitch, though.


Sven Nys is amazing...

They split the guys up into two heats. The top guys from each heat are then joined for the finals.

I only got to watch the finals. What a spectacle. I watched Sven just toy with the other pros - wow, what physical prowess. He got a tiny gap a couple of times but sat up and waited for the others to come back. Then, with about two micro laps to go (1km/lap), he took off with Niels Albert. On the last lap, Sven smoked cigarettes until just before the man-made mini dirt rollers where he attacked and immediately got a gap on Niels. Then he finished the job in the long sand pit. He rode it as if it were pavement. Truly amazing to see. A few seconds later, down the finishing straight he went for the win.

Jonathan Page was also present. It looked like he was just there for the fun of it and wasn't busting a gut. But even so, he still placed 5th in the super fast finals. What an amazing recovery. I bet he'll score another top 10 at Worlds.

My guess is that there were about 2,500 spectators present for the FIRST EVER Indoor Cyclocross Race. They were treated to everything that the outdoor courses offer - and more! There was a beer garden, waffle and frites stands, and promo giveaways. Oh, and there were spotlights and discolights adding to the party atmosphere. Races started at about 7pm and the place was still crowded at midnight when we left. My race was at 9:45 and the mens finals was at 10:30pm. This was a first indoor race AND bedtime race for me, if you don't count the races i've done shortly after flying multiple time zones.
Speaking of....I'm now off to bed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Indoor Cyclocross Race Today!

or rather tonight at 9:10pm and lasts only 20 minutes. Tonight i plan to work on being calm before the race, while turning into an animal once the gun sounds.

It's a bit weird to plan my food for a race at bedtime. I assume my usual Chamomile Tea is not quite appropriate. And i'll probably skip my oodles of spices that i normally have every evening with my huge-ass bowls of pasta. I heard that they don't taste the same on their way back up. I will definitely fuel up with some Pruneaux D'Agen prunes I just got yesterday - and a ProBar always works for me for races late in the day.

The sun did its usual thing today. It popped up for about thirty minutes this morning before tucking away behind the clouds. I think we are still having 50ish F degree weather which is unusual for this time of year.

I have now been in Leuven long enough for the local store employees to recognize me. They all help me work on my Flemish while they get to work on their english - we conduct about half the conversations in English and the rest in Flemish.

Yes, even the local chocolate/candy store knows me by name. She has the best chocolate! And every time i visit, she sends me away with a free bag of caramel candies - vegan, of course! AND of course the second i get to my apartment building, i set up a tea date with one of the neighbors so i can pass off some of them so i don't eat them all and get so big i can't fit into my skinsuit. Although, my new jersey is super large so i guess a few extra candies can't hurt (Dear Coach Elmo: if you are reading this, I am just kidding.)

With all the moisture in the air, the cobbled roads (casein in flemish) gets super slippery. It's definitely good bike handling practice. It is easy to see why the masses of bike riders run their commuter bike tires at around 30psi - no joke! The tires are round enough to usually prevent flatting.

Yesterday I rode over to UPC to pay my internet bill. The way i get there is straight through the middle of Leuven, passing grote markt where the infamous church and city hall live. These buildings are super ornate, truly a sight to be seen before you die. What's even more special about these buildings is that they were pretty much the only two remaining buildings after all the bombing in WWI. All the buildings right next to them were bombed to hell - leveled!

Anyway, once i passed Leuven center, i continued on the long stretch of road leading straight to the train station. In january and july, the two months that Belgium stores are allowed blowout sales, this road is riddled with shoppers. It also increases the bike traffic. As i was riding in the middle of a single file row of cyclists, I was reminded that bikes in belgium are not quiet! They all clatter, chatter, squeak, and squeal. In comparison, i was stealth - aside from my bike's bright pinks and blues amidst the dark grey, black hues of the average commuter bike.

Gotta race now! Wish me luck!
Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Turns out cycling IS a contact sport

Last Saturday, Serge and I drove five hours to Nommay, France for a World Cup.
It may as well have been a hockey event based on the level of senseless violence !

I got a slow start in the race. Within twenty seconds, I smacked into the back of a stopped rider whose handlebars got caught in the mesh fence lining the super steep runup. As we stood there, we were mowed down by the pack of gals. (OK, not exactly violence but the day gets worse!) By the time I made it to the top of the runup, I was in third to last place.

I was now on a quest to get back into the race. After a considerable amount of mud collected on the bike, I pulled into the pit for a clean change. What I also got was a bike thrown in front of me by the Spanish rider. As her pit guy grabbed the bike, he swung it up in the air and it came about one centimeter from beheading me. If i hadn't screamed, I would have been knocked out! Serge was so unnerved that they got into a yelling bout. Luckily no fight came of it.

Not even a minute later, as i was approaching the same spanish rider and a german rider, I watched the spanish rider yell wildly at the german rider while simultaneously removing her hand from the handlebar to physically shove the german, sending her flying. I think this was one of the most disgusting events i've ever seen at a bike race. I was completely shocked that a cyclist could have such little respect for her fellow competitor to lay a hand on her. What makes it even more odd is that the section of course we were riding was VERY WIDE so the german was clearly not in the Spanish rider's way.

My final placing was a mere 20th. I wish the race were just one lap longer! (But as you can see above, I finished in front of Marianne Vos, albeit post-race!)

Once the race was over, I figured the violence was too. But no. At the finish line, we waited for security to open the gate to let us out of the course so we could get some warm clothes on. After our support crew waited over five minutes on the other side of the metal gate with warm clothes in hand, some of them got impatient and tried to rush the gate. The security guards obviously fought back. Not a pretty sight.

I also heard that Jonathan Page's pregnant wife, Cori, and child were pushed hard just before the start of the mens race during the entrance gate debacle - right in front of Jonathan! It happened while she was on her way to the start line with Jonathan's spare wheels. Cori was left with nasty head bruises and swollen knee while their little one is OK. What a way to start a race.

The highlight of the day was watching the guys event while simultaneously making good on the date that Franz, Suzie Godart's son, set up for me out of revenge. Franz was so thoroughly embarrassed when i arranged a date for him with Marianne Vos through her brother, Anton, that he set me up on a date with Anton to get me back. Well, we had a good time (see right). Neener, neener Franz!!! Your turn!!!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I have a new live-in boyfriend - he's perfect!

He has dirty blond hair and hazel/light brown eyes, is normally taller than I, give me freedom to focus on my bike racing, great listener, doesn't need to ever talk about "the relationship", is perpetually ecstatic, always cheering for me, never makes any unreasonable demands, doesn't take up much room in the bed, looks great in his faded blue jeans and is a champion - albeit former world champ! His name is Tom Boonen. I got him from a newsstand.

They were going to throw him out after the Het Laatste Nieuws free t-shirt promotion ended. So I did what any gal living on her own with no time to socialize would do, I folded him up and took him home. He is wearing a blue pinstripe button-down business shirt and a thick blue and white tie, both covered up with a bright blue Tom Boonen t-shirt (a double white line circle with a white cyclist image in the middle. On the outside of the circle is his name.) And, yes, he is wearing faded jeans. The best part of the cardboard boonen is his pose. His hands are over his head in an excited cheering pose, bent at the knees, jaw wide open, while holding a sign in one hand that reads, "Gratis T-shirt Tom Boonen vanaf 13 Maart Het Laatste Nieuws." I will try to take a picture of him sitting on my sofa. He sits well since his body folds is at his waist.

My former teammmate at lotto-belisol dated Tom for five years. She would laugh if she knew i had my very own Tom. Maybe i will invite her over and have tom sitting at the table. hahaha. or hihihi as they write in Belgium (flemish part anyway.)

Oh and regarding the real reason i live so far from home in sunny California, I did one race yesterday - Scheldecross UCI in Antwerpen, Belgium. I was sure I'd be on the podium before the start even though it was a star-studded field. I promised myself a 3rd place spot.

Within a minute of the start, I was in third chasing Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn and Marianne Vos. We had a small gap on the chasers. But as i was smelling the flowers, I smacked one of those immovable poles at full tilt and tore off my front brake - the metal OF THE BRAKE ARM literally tore in half! The EASTON FORK WAS FINE!!! What a TOUGH FORK to sustain that kind of abuse and come out in one piece!! I didn't notice straight away that i had no brake at all. I thought it was just a little tweaked. So i brought it into the pit and grabbed my other bike which was equipped with a front training wheel pumped at about 60psi (4 bar) since most of my tubular wheels are flat and currently being re-glued AND I got yet another flat ON THE WAY to the start line. The tire pressure turned the already slippery wet, muddy grassy technical course into an ice skating rink!

Anyway, on this funky wheeled bike, i re-passed veerle ingels who passed me on the crash. BUT thinking my other bike was ready, i flew into the pit only to have to take a bike with no front brake. Veerle re-passed me while i was babying all the turns and fretting over my handicap-in-my-mind! Insult to injury, i was passed again five seconds from the finish line, only finishing in 5th. The smell of flowers faded. BUT the good news is i'm feeling physically good and motivated for the Nommay World Cup this weekend in France. I collect all my tubulars saturday. yipee!!!

THanks for reading.
Christine (aka pindanooten, maar soms pindakaas)

Monday, January 8, 2007

Men's Belgian National Championships - the REAL DEAL

Yesterday, courtesy of my neighbors Els and Anna, i watched the men's race on television. When i compared the worlds course to belgian nat'ls, I was a liar - although i didn't know it until i saw it on tv. holy _ _ _ _!!! I have never seen anything that bad in my whole cycling career. There was one NCS MTB race in Minnesota many years ago that came close.

The mud was so thick and sticky that these guys were running at least half of the race. Some of the sections went on for at least 1 1/2 minutes! And as soon as they were barely able to pedal a few strokes, they were back off running again. The painfully slow pace made the race seem comical - guys racing full tilt yet moving 2kph. If i were in that race, i'd be glad that i upgraded my Specialized shoes to the ones that have buckles. I'm sure a lot of shoes were literally lost in that race.

Right away, Sven got a few second gap on the chasers - wellens and vervecken. Then trailed the rest of the field. A couple of laps later, Bart joined sven. They rode together for a while until that one moment of time that determined the race.

On a long semi-rideable muddy section, while sven was riding a behind and to the left of bart along the course fence, sven FELL, or rather tipped over at that speed. Once he got up, he also had to unravel his handlebars from the course barrier. He quickly blamed it on the lapped rider that was directly in front of him. It looked like sven tried to change direction to get around the lapped rider, but in that barely rideable mud, changing direction is nearly impossible as sven found out.

The race announcers said that the lapped rider had every right to be there and that sven should have gone around him. It was not the lapped rider's fault. But from that one incident, Bart intantly gained about eight seconds on sven. Sven tried in vain to bridge to Bart. You could see him get motivated and make up time on the technical sections on Bart, but then loose his motivation and lose more time with it. After about ten minutes of this, it seemed like he gave up. Sven turned his ride into a sunday afternoon spin, mind you a spin at a pace that none of us except for Klaas Vantornout, Bart's teammate, who passed Sven near the finish, could even dream of following!

In my opinion, Bart earned the win fair and quare (what a corny phrase but does apply here!) You could tell by looking at him that he was clearly the most motivated for the win!
He was also the best on the day. Go Bart (maybe i will now forgive you for remembering me as the girl who missed the start at Treviso!)

On the womens side, Loes Sels - a ROAD RACING specialist won! Very impressive considering the terrain. They raced in the same slop as the guys. Katrien Aerts was second and Hilde Quintens third - both very talented crossers. The gal marked to win, Veerle Engels, crashed while in the lead and simply stepped off the course immediately after that. I hope she is OK. That must be a lot of pressure for a whole country to pre-name you as the victor. I hope to know what that feels like soon.


Sunday, January 7, 2007

Pre-Rode Worlds Course in Hooglede-Gits

Tim Van Nuffel (Stevens) did a reconnaissance ride on the (Belgian National Championship) course and was quoted on Sporza, "back home they wouldn’t even put pigs in such a drenched meadow!" National coach Rudy De Bie was more diplomatic, saying, "it’s very heavy, but not impossible."

That quote could double for the Worlds Course i just pre-rode yesterday. Heavy. I actually DID plan to take photos. Took the camera out of its' waterproof plastic bag and hit the "on" button only to realize the battery was dead - gosh darn it! I was trying to take a photo of the antiquated but fully functional windmill that stands at the head of the Hooglede-Gits course. It marks the start of the course.

Serge armed my bike with the standard 12psi while i wrapped myself in 12 layers of body armor in an attempt to ward off heavy rain, mudslides, peanutslides down the mud, and grass skid marks.

After a few laps i finally figured out the layout. It is almost completely marked but just with poles that are drilled into the ground - immovable posts, so i hear...not that i slid into any.

It starts off on a long paved section, left turn up the pavement for a second then onto the grass field into the first mini dropoff. Then around the pits and up into the backside of the course where all the chaos begins - dropoffs, runups galore. Oh, and did i mention mud? The winner of the race will be the gal with the biggest quads (or maybe big stealth quads like mine! They are there, but you (or I, for that matter) just can't see them.)

My favorite section of the course is the collection of death drops that are only going to get sketchier as the rain continues here. Last year, these sections were a crowd pleaser. I cleared them every time with my tried and true method of holding my breath while simultaneously closing my eyes until the scary part is over. I learned that when i was young. My sister was addicted to those exorcist-type movies such as - yes, the exorcist - Amityville Horror House, and that "heeeeere's Johhhhhnnnny" flick. I was not.

After the pre-ride, Serge packed my bike while i peeled off my multiple layers of brown wear. Even my undergarments (sheila moon white tank and white tights) were mud brown. Oh, and my socks were even nailed while buried under Pro thick waterproof neoprene winter booties. The only part of me that was not muddy was my hands, protected by those Specialized gloves that can survive a nuclear war - or similarly winter Belgium weather. But once the gloves were off to disrobe, clean nails no more.

On a side note, perpetually dirty nails must be one of the top drawbacks to being a cyclist! I feel like a cat, constantly cleaning them only to find two seconds later the grime magically reappears. It reminds me of a book i'm reading called Transgressions 2 - short story trio edited by Ed McBaine. The first story written by Stephen King was about a guy who narrowly escaped 9/11 death. But a year later, random items from his former dead co-workers mysteriously appeared in his apartment. He tossed them into a garbage can down the block only for them to reappear with no logical explanation. WTF.

After the ride, we went back to Serge's house since he lives about ten minutes away. Once properly washed up, we headed to the mall to rendezvous (trying to work on my French) with Serge's twin brother Christophe and girlfriend Renatta. Large shopping areas are overwhelming to me - i get claustrophobic. Especially when it is Solden time (every january and july the whole country of belgium goes on sale(solden).) While we stood for a moment in front of a cell phone store, I squinted my eyes. And in that moment the whole place turned into a caged ant farm for kids - the swarms of people were the ants moving about their business while the huge neon SOLDEN signs and random kiosks adorned with colorful useless trinkets served as decoration.

Back at Serge's, we sat down for a very tasty pasta dinner. Monique, his mom, made mine vegan with lots of veggies! Monique's favorite vacation destination is Italy, so she speaks Italian and has mastered their cooking! Most flemish belgians speak flemish, french, english and some german, while the french belgians only speak french. Her italian is an anomaly. The sauce was so good that i will have it for lunch - just grab a spoon and go!

Now that i have my own place, every time Serge sees me or i visit his house, I get lots of house gifts - Christmas comes often for me! Yesterday i got curtains, a little TV table which can double as a dinner table for one, candles, and a clock. Oh, and Serge gave me two additional gifts - cool blue earrings (mine were destroyed in one of the recent races. but since i have no mirrors in the apartment, i haven't looked at myself in weeks to notice earlier), and a decorative mirror with my trading card photo screened onto it! WOW! Now when i have a bad hair day which is every day if you count helmet head, i can just ignore my live image and look at the trading card photo that perpetually stares back at me.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, January 5, 2007

OK, now what about USA riders who ALSO pay their own way to Worlds!!!

Many people are not aware of the little known fact that USA riders must pay their own expenses once they are named to the Worlds' team. We are charged $1500 to participate in the race. This covers housing, food, team clothes, and mechanical support. I am sure that USA Cycling wishes they had the $$ to cover us. Those with whom i interact at USA Cycling are great folks but, regardless, the funds are just not there. Pity.

Read the story below:

Canadian cyclo-cross team to Cycling Center

The twelve members of the Canadian cyclo-cross team, who last week posted a public plea for financial assistance, have found support thanks to the Cycling Center in Belgium. The Canadian Cycling Association does not currently support the 'cross team, and riders were faced with paying for their own travel and accomodations.

The Cycling Center in Hertsberge will host the team for the weeks preceding the world cyclo cross championships in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium, which take place on 27th and 28th January.

Along with housing, the Cycling Center will provide logistical support as well as team cars, vans and support crew. The Center in Herstberge is in the heart of the Belgian cycling mecca of Flanders. Their Belgian 'home away from home' will give the team a calm and comfortable setting in which to prepare for the championships.

Best prunes come from Agen! - see, it's in black and white!

Here's a link to the team site. It is not yet updated for 2007.

Also, here's an excerpt i found on the internet describing the Prunes:
After the plum harvest come the prunes especially, as far as we are concerned, those made in the juicy style of South West France. There the plums are gently dried until they are done enough to keep but still juicy and tender enough to eat without soaking. This technique is associated with the region around Agen, hence the name Pruneaux d'Agen. You can usually find them in delicatessens; supermarkets are more likely to have the Californian equivalent which is called a ready-to-eat prune. The really wrinkly (and to us older) kind of prune is cheaper and keeps for ages in a storage jar but cannot compare for richness of flavour.,200,IN.html
You can tell I'm really getting into racing for Prunes!! I hope we get an unlimited supply of them!!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Running errands - oh joy!

I have been spending the past couple of days de-stressing from racing five days in a nine day period. The odd part about it is that for the past couple of days my sensations on and off the bike have been great! I'm full of energy and feel light on the bike.

I wonder if I am in impeccable form that will be wasted on my few days of rest OR if I am full of energy because i know there are no immediate races to fret about OR if I really do use a lot of energy in periods of heavy racing. I'm no genius but i would gather it's the last guess.

I am finally taking a rest before going back to the last chore of the day - gluing two Challenge Grifo Tubs onto my Easton wheels. It's always such a stressful process to get the tire onto the rim and straightened in two seconds before the glue sets! I will never forget when i had Don my California roommate put a tire on for me. He was so calm but i was so frantic because i needed it to be perfect (the cyclist in me) that i turned into psycho-bitch from hell! After that day, i promised myself i would relax about it next time i had to glue a tubular on. Well, that day came right before Nationals. This time i had Geoff ( put it on for me. I was so proud of myself for being calm - unfortunately I soon realized where my nervous energy went - geoff was sweating bullets! Although i appreciated that he was so nervous about doing it perfectly for me, it was so funny to see him worked up about it! I'm sure we all have our tubular stories to tell! In fact, if anyone has any, please do share!

I am taking my rest for the moment on the comfy couch (courtesy of Serge) set up on the stage in my living room. AND since my last chore was to get internet in my apartment, I am actually writing this from INSIDE my apartment! Yipee!!! No more poaching wireless internet down the hallway on the cold floor.

Although it has threatened to rain the past couple of days, the most we had was a light rain coupled with 40-degree F weather. But even so, i was prepared. I have been wearing two thick tights, rain pants, two long sleeve jerseys, under shirt (the thick sheila moon one), wind vest, wind jacket, thick winter jacket, rain jacket, waterproof gloves, waterproof thick booties, ear warmers, thick fleece cap. By the time i have it all on, i look like an oompa loompa. Although i am tickled pink to be here in belgium, it is just WRONG to take TWENTY MINUTES to kit up for a bike ride. And God forbid i have to pee when wearing bib tights! (guys wouldn't understand this one.)

While running errands today, I ran into one of the managers from my former team. It felt great knowing that i was on a fabulous team that is a much better fit for me! I didn't bother telling him about my team since it seems news travels fast around these parts. At the last race in luxembourg, I tried to tell a few people about my new team but they already knew! And I just came across this page as well announcing the info:
seems the source was my blog! hahaha.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

HOT NEWS!!! - I switched teams!!

As of 1st January, I am officially a member of UCI Trade Team Pruneaux D'Agen. They are located in the Agen (SW) region of France and are sponsored by a Prune growing company - perfect for a staunch VEGAN!!! Yipee!!! Wait till you see the clothes - prunes everywhere!! They will sponsor me for both road and cyclo-cross seasons.

My last cyclo-cross race is 18 February (if i skip the team presentation the same day) and directly from the race, I will take the train ten hours to Agen for team training camp 19-25 February. I think ten hours is enough of a coach-enforced "break after cyclo-cross season." oops. Maybe next year I will take that coveted break.
Again, yipee!!

The big city of Ausfahrt

Last Thursday, Serge and I headed out for the 4-hour drive to Herford, Germany (direction Dortmund.) The trip there was rather uneventful – we listened to pop tunes most of the way down with a little Flemish folk and classical thrown in. Oh, and we practiced our five german words – danke, bitte, goeden dag, ja, ne.

That night, we walked through downtown Herford only to see we got there a day too late for the Christmas festivities. There were a bunch of stripped trailer booths with only one remaining – the alcohol stand adorned in tiki d├ęcor. We bypassed the booth, stepped around the wobbly drunk guy and settled into an Italian restaurant. Upon leaving the restaurant, a table full of patrons chanted, “Auf Wiedersehen” (yes, I’m sure the spelling is ridiculously off.) I almost laughed aloud because it reminded me of that TV show America’s top designer – or something like that – where heidi klum kicks the contestants off the show with an “Auf Wiedersehen” and a kiss. Now we know six words!

The next morning we awoke to rain, rain and more rain. Cold day. We parked in the Herford race site’s designated parking area - which also doubled as an actual Trailer Park where people lived - next to Suzie Godart of Luxembourg and her family so we had double the support for us gals! Luckily, there was an abandoned tiny decrepit shed next to us that Serge emptied to make room for my trailer.

As I made my way over to the start line, I heard the announcers on the loudspeaker – oh my God, it’s Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live! The accent was over the top! At that point, I realized I had never really spent any time in Germany before this trip to hear an animated German voice.

The start of the race was fast – we were unleashed onto the descending pavement that connected to an even steeper fireroad descent. Then the fun started – technical mountain bike singletrack – lots of it! I was in 5th going into this section. I passed one gal in the woods and then a miracle occurred. I bridged to the gals in 2nd and 3rd on a long muddy runup and passed them both easily on a long deep mud section – two types of riding I thought I was inept at. Maybe it was always in my mind – quite possible. Anyway, one gal eventually caught me and I traded spots with her until just before we hit the muddy runup that leads into the long stretch of mud. I figured I’d try my luck to see if I truly got better at this stuff. Wow, I held her off to finish 2nd behind Reza Hormes-Ravenstein.

After making it through the whole race relatively without incident, I smacked my knee on a “bush” made of thick immovable branches. The spot immediately swelled up to the size of a walnut! Otherwise, it felt really good to be on a podium again – especially a euro one!

As we were leaving Germany, Serge told me his Ausfahrt story. When he was in Austria a couple of years ago, they kept passing exit signs on the freeway that read “Ausfahrt”. Finally one of the guys muttered, “Ausfahrt is one big city!” They soon figured out that Ausfahrt just means “exit” and had a good laugh! We, too, had a good laugh at every exit we passed after he shared that story with me!

After the race, we drove directly to Suzie and Marc’s house in Luxembourg so we could save driving time for the race two days later in Luxembourg. The next day, Suzie and I pre-rode the race course then headed over to see her kids race in a local cyclo-cross event. I screamed so loudly for the kids (Franz – 15 yrs – kicked butt and Trixi – 17 ½ yrs (we know how important that ½ is when you get to be that age!) – won! )

I was flattered and embarrassed when the race organizers announced that I was in the crowd – like I’m some sort of celebrity! Haha. The real celebrity of the event was Suzie – their sole top World ranked rider!

Happy new year.

I planned to wake up for the race at 8am so I could do all my rituals and set up all my unctions like Beljum Budder, sunscreen, etc. Someone once told me – I think it was Geoff Williams from Providence – that plans are just that. When I awakened at 10am, I was sure he was right. After a quick and SMALL bowl of oatmeal (the course is a climb-fest) I was kitted up and on the trainer in the garage awaiting the caravan’s departure.

Again, rain, rain and more rain but it was a little warmer than yesterday. The hail pellets begged to differ. We warmed up in the garage of the last – and possibly only – Luxembourg wearer of the infamous Tour de France yellow jersey. His garage was truly a cyclist aficionado’s dream! He had newspaper and magazine clippings, cycling caps, bicycles, trophys, race numbers, etc. His collection must have been all inclusive of the whole 1900’s! As we rode the trainer, famous faces from years past were riding with us as they were taped onto the garage door.

After I completed my pre-race rituals, I put the skinsuit on. It was all white but with black side panels on the shorts. It had some german words in red across the boobs which we duct taped over so it was just a simple white skinsuit. I did plan to wear the Organic Athlete skinsuit for this race but unexpectedly went direct to Luxembourg from germany without passing Belgium. It would have only mattered for the first two minutes anyway before us gals had uniform brown jerseys.

Oh, by the way – great news! This was my first official day racing for my new UCI Trade Team – Pruneaux D’Agen. They are based in the SW region of France. BUT like many other teams, the clothes haven’t arrived yet. I should have the kit for the next race, though. More about the team later…

The course was set up like a typical Norba National Course – straight up, then straight down. The uphill was a combination of pavement and dirt while the downhill was completely mountain bike singletrack – roots, rocks, mud, trees, and more mud. Many people bit it hard on the descent. I walked away with two front tire flats. Note to self: 14psi is not enough when tackling roots and stumps at high speeds.

I hit the first mud patch in about 6th or 7th, got passed by a couple of folks, passed some back and finally settled into 7th only to pass one more girl for a final placing of 6th. Maryline Salvetat won while Marianne Vos won the sprint with Daphny Van den Brand for 2nd. Reza finished 4th while Birgit Hollman was 5th. It’s a good feeling when you recognize all the girls in front of you – and even better when you recognize some behind you too!

I am still working on “feeling the pain” when I race, but these two races felt as though I am once again heading in the right direction.

As I showered, picking pockets of mud out of my orifices, Serge pitted for Jonathan Page who had only his pregnant wife, Cory, to help him! If I were rich, I’d give him (and me) the support he deserves for paving the way for American Cyco-Cross racers to race in Europe!

While watching the tail end of the mens race with Marianne Vos’ brother Anton, I told him that Franz wants to have a date with his sister. Franz came over to us just as Anton confirmed that he will set it up! I have never seen Franz so candy red as he was when he figured out what transpired. Hahahahahaha! Later that day, he got me back. Anton walked up to me and shook my hand as he said it’s a done deal. According to Franz, I now have a date with Anton! Hahahaha! I told Franz we will double-date.

That’s all for now. I have a lot of gluing of Easton wheels and a bunch of bike work and errands that I have put off for the last few weeks to focus on racing.

Thanks for reading.