Sunday, July 29, 2007

As i watch the riders head to Paris...

I'm filled with conflicting emotions. But for the next few hours, I will put all negative thoughts aside so I can be excited for the riders as they celebrate the brief solitary moment they have to enjoy the race. While watching them smile and laugh while engaging in idle chit-chat while riding at a cyclotourist pace, I can only imagine how they must be feeling. Their Tour is coming to a close. They must be relieved and excited among about a billion other emotions.

One emotion you don't get to see on TV is post-tour depression that may set in for some of the guys as soon as the morning following the Tour. I could imagine that it would be weird to wake up without a purpose for getting out of bed. Maybe this is part of the reason there exists a series of post-Tour crits. OK, those are strictly run for the money! Apparently they pay the racers WELL just for showing up!

There is a post-Tour crit in Aalst tomorrow that I may watch if it doesn't rain. Tommeke is the main attraction at this one. If you have never attended one of these events, it may behoove you to make the trip. They are more of a spectacle that the Tour itself!

Usually, the events start in the afternoon with the womens race, some junior and cadette events, then the main attraction - the traveling circus. Sometimes the circus includes pros riding around at about 5kph stopping to sign autographs or pose for photos. Other times they ride around with their kids. Often some of these loops include a convertible with highlighted pros sitting in the backseat flanked by blonde babes of course. The riders really play it up for the crowds! The final series of 'races' start at about 10pm while the festivities run through to 4am!

Since the course normally passes multiple cafes, the drinking starts with the first events at about 2pm. By 10pm the crowd is outright hammered which surely adds to the spectacle of the event! Since I am a good girl, I will promptly leave at 9pm to be in bed by 10 - joined by Tommeke. I will fold him in half, take him off the stage in my living room and tuck him in under the covers. Never cold feet on this guy!!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cycling Team Doctors UNITE !

YES, perfect timing for an organization like this. Anything that works towards giving pro cyclists a better name is a good thing.

American Association for Cycling Team Doctors
July 23, 2007

Invitation for Membership to AACTD

The Organizing Committee for the American Association of Cycling Team Doctors (AACTD) would like to announce the launch of this new organization whose mission is to serve as an interdisciplinary collaboration of science and health care professionals inspiring excellence in the care of cyclists. The invitation for membership is going out to doctors who have already expressed an interest in this undertaking. It describes AACTD's goals and planned activities. Press inquiries should be directed by email to

# # #

Dear Doctor,

The Organizing Committee of the American Association of Cycling Team Doctors (AACTD) would like to invite you to consider applying for membership in this new organization. Our mission is to create an interdisciplinary collaboration of science and health care professionals that inspires excellence in the care of cyclists. We feel that the time is right (and the need perhaps urgent) for American sports scientists and health care professionals to organize and to be a proactive force for good in our sport. Our plan is to be as multi-disciplinary and inclusive as possible; towards that end, we're inviting doctors of all types (MD, DO, DC, PhD, OD, EdD, DPM, PharmD, etc.) to consider membership in AACTD. Please forward this to anyone else you think may be interested in joining us as we work to get this new organization off the ground. We're considering several activities that you may find interesting and useful in your care of cyclists and the development of your practice:
* Annual Assembly (likely to be held in conjunction with the Tour of California or Tour of Georgia)
* Educational programs, seminars, CME activities
* Mentoring program
* Team placement assistance
* Development of "primer" for cycling team coverage
* Online Journal Club
* Anti-doping efforts
* Support of Cycling Medicine research
* Training camp for members and possibly non-members which might include physiologic, stress, and pulmonary
function testing accompanied by related Sports Medicine / Cycling Medicine educational activities
* On-call collaboration for team coverage

Obviously this is an ambitious undertaking but one we feel will be well worth the effort. We will need the energy of all new members to make this happen. Again, please forward this to anyone who you think may be interested in this exciting undertaking. Note that we intend to include membership categories for students, doctors-in-training, and affiliated professionals.

Best wishes,

The Organizing Committee
American Association of Cycling Team Doctors (AACTD):

Helen Iams, MD
Cheyenne, WY

Kevin Reichlin, DC
Boulder, CO

Michael Ross, MD
Philadelphia, PA

Prentice Steffen, MD
San Francisco, CA

Friday, July 27, 2007

Just canceled my cardboard Vino...

maybe i will order a Cadel Evans instead. Apparently he is rumored over here in Belgium to be the only clean yellow jersey contender at the moment. I'd also like to think that Levi Leipheimer is clean considering there is talk that he is Vegetarian - when he's not vegan at home!

I plan to keep my Tommeke, though. I'd imagine that anyone as outspoken as he's been lately would most likely be drug-free during the Tour. And it helps Boonen's cardboard case that he is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay easy on the eyes! Yeah, total hottie (if you overlook the mini-mullet action.) On another note, did you know that New York uses the word "shlong" in lieu of "mullet"? It stands for short-long. I found out, though, that this word is not widely used - or rather has another meaning, when I got some bizarre stares after using it in California.

Of course I am not surprised by Vino's positive test and Chicken's departure, but it hurt nonetheless.

I didn't know Vino personally, but I still felt personally betrayed by him. OK, maybe betrayed is a little overdramatic. How about if I call it "disappointed".

To many - including me, Vino was a courageous hero. His aggressive racing style that livened up otherwise dull races (think back to last year's ride into Paris, for instance) was an inspiration. Every time he would attack the charging peloton for the win, it was proof that dreams can come true if you take a chance.

Vino prooved that wheel followers are just that. By following wheels, you will make it to 3rd place on the podium at the TdF - assuming it is a drug-busting year. But if you want that coveted top spot, it takes determination and a truckload of GUTS!

When the news went public that Vino tested positive, I was teary-eyed. Again, I wasn't surprised after watching him pull a Landis (or a Hamilton) two times in the tour to snag those two victories, but I was disappointed. It was as if my belief in him was just a fantasy; maybe it is not possible for dreams to come true when fueled solely with hard work, guts and determination.

Any bets on who will win the tour? Do keep in mind Cadel's sentiment that there is no prize for the highest placed clean rider.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Reporting back from Belgian MTB Championships

Yesterday, I went to the Belgian Mountain Bike Championships officially to support J-rocket but unofficially to catch a glimpse of my superhero working his magic on a mountain bike - both were accomplished! Between textbook bottle hand-offs to J-rocket, I watched Sven Nys glide through the twisty, technical course and land on top of the podium. Exquisite riding indeed. Just beautiful. If I could only get my hands on a cardboard Nys...sorry Tom.

As J-Rocket and I pulled into the parking lot two hours before the start of his race, we were greeted with dry ground and looming rain clouds. With thirty minutes to go before the race, the heavy clouds emptied on us. Jan returned from his warmup just in time to jump in the car.

From our dry vantage point, we watched a parking lot full of spectators and racers scramble for cover - except for one sole rider who was determined to get a warmup in. During the heaviest, chilliest period of the rainfall, he set his bike up on the stationary trainer, placed his water bottle and other various unctions on the roof of the car, and started to pedal. He lasted about 45 seconds before having to get off to collect his unctions which were dispersed all over the parking lot by gusts of wind. He got back on the trainer for no more than two minutes before packing it all back up in the car and piling in himself to escape the elements. That must have been the shortest warmup I've ever seen (not counting the non-existent warmups that even I have been periodically guilty of.)

I waited as long as i could before heading up the mountain (ok, well it was actually a small hill but it felt like a mountain when taking into consideration the inclement weather and steep, wet singletrack I had to climb - 10 minutes worth, mind you!!) to the start line. Two minutes after the gun sounded, the rain was replaced with sun which put us all in better spirits.

***Note the two slowest guys off the line are the eventual 1st and 2nd place finishers

Twenty minutes later, Sven Nys completed the first of seven laps with a thirty second advantage over pre-race favorite, Filip Meirhaeghe. My friend Sam "Pannekoek" Malfliet rode in 15th position while J-rocket arrived shortly behind him.

By the end of the second lap, Nys' lead jumped up to a minute. But more impressive was Pannekoek's ride. He moved up to FIFTH!!!!!!! (He is in the photo to the right, just behind the eventual 3rd place finisher.) When he passed me, he looked stong, fresh and in good spirits (based on the beaming smile he flashed at me.) J-Rocket was working his way up too, looking better than he did on the drive over when he was bitching about how much manual labor he had to do the previous day on his dad's orchard when a water pipe broke.

By the third of seven laps, Nys continued to build on his lead. Unfortunately Pannekoek's glorious performance was over. He came by me in 20th position after losing valuable time due to a broken pedal. What a bummer. Since he is beloften (under-23 category), he had a chance for the title of Belgian Champion. I yelled at him to be strong and keep fighting but it's so hard to do that when you've been knocked down like that. I wish i could say i don't know how crappy that feels. Fight is what he did and he finished the race somewhere in top 20 - a fine result considering most of the field was lapped.

Another fighter was J-Rocket. He kept the battle up until the treacherous descent kicked his front tire's ass, causing all the air to come out. His goal was to finish the race without getting lapped. Well, goal complete. He pulled out before getting lapped - i suppose it is probably not what he had in mind. At least he lasted five of the seven laps to get a good workout in. The guy in the photo to the right didn't have that opportunity. His chain broke during a crash immediately after the start.

After the race, I chatted with Adeline who was courageous enough to give the course a go - as a devout road racer AND on a borrowed bike! That was a brave move considering the highly technical terrain. She says she placed last but Jan - owner of Fietsen Goeman - pegged her as finishing somewhere top ten. I think she was being modest.

The photo of J-rocket and Adeline is courtesy of Big Bad Wolf. His other photos from the event can be found HERE. THANKS Adri!!

AND if you want to watch a video of Sven Nys crossing the line, courtesy of Adeline, click HERE.

Friday, July 20, 2007

"Who is going to be Belgian National MTB Champion?"

"Not ME" were the first two words when i clicked on the subject header of the email from Jan - aka J-Rocket! Two weeks ago, Jan raced in the Elite category at a Flanders Cup mountain bike event that took place a few towns from where I live. (Note the difference in his appearance from the beginning of the race to the end! haha!) Against a strong field of Elite riders, he placed somewhere around 20th, which i found impressive - especially considering he has a real job that requires he spends most his time on his feet.

Most of his competitors are "professionals", meaning that they do not have to hold a traditional job to pay the rent; maybe they are lucky enough to get paid for it, live at home with mommy and daddy, have a gainfully employed girlfriend/wife (think Cat. 2 male road racers in USA), or are a trustefarian (forgive my misspelling, clearly i am not one of those!)

The email Jan sent to me with the "mtb champion" title was regarding this Sunday's Belgian National Championships. The way the categories here in Belgium are broken down, you either race Elite, cyclotourist or Masters. Along with most racers, Jan has no real category to call his own. If he races the Elites, guys like Philip MEirhaeghe will lap the merde out of him, and if he races with cyclotourists, it discredits all the hard work and dedication he puts into training; his exquisitely low body fat will be wasted. AND if he loses against guys with picnic baskets and camelbacks, his ego could be crushed - he IS only a guy, you know!

In USA, mountain bike racers have multiple categories to choose from: beginner, sport, expert, semi-pro, and pro. AND each of these categories (excluding semi-pro and pro) is further broken down by age. If Jan raced in USA, he would most likely be categorized as an Expert 25-29.

Well...he chose to line up with Meirhaeghe - a brave guy indeed, especially considering he prerode the course yesterday and reported back that it is very heavy (challenging terrain)!

Veel Succes Jan en pas op!

Monday, July 16, 2007

My tranquil spot in Belgium...

My first trip to belgium was about five years ago. I came here to race two World Cups (Wetzikon, SUI and Heerlen, NED) and be ready for the World Championships just in case the US National Team needed me (I was 1st alternate - that year they only filled 4 of the 5 spots allocated to USA for Worlds.)

That trip was the farthest I'd ever been from home - in fact, it was the first time I had ever been to Europe! I read the brochures and travel books but I really had no idea what to expect.

The moment I arrived, i put my bike together and headed out for my first Belgian ride. The first street I hit was called N253 - it connects Leuven (where i stayed) to Tervuren. Even though this simple, winding, undulating road was filled with bad pavement, no real room for cyclists and lots of blind turns which made it a bit of a safety hazard, I was overjoyed to come across it!!! It reminded me of home - of Paradise Drive in Tiburon, CA to be precise.

At least once or twice a week, when training in California, I'd ride along Paradise Drive - a small undulating road that overlooks the San Francisco Bay . I'd use it mainly for tranquil recovery rides . As goofy as it seems, finding that stretch of road in Belgium was a sign to me that everything was going to be okay. And it was! I didn't get to race the World Champs that year, but I did place top 10 in the two World Cups!

The photo is of N253. I have since ridden it about 100 times. And just like Paradise Drive in California, every time i ride it I discover something new. On this ride, I discovered a beautiful little pond.

Coincidentally I now LIVE on the road, but on the other side of the highway from where I took this photo.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I earned an F for spectating

Recently I watched my friend, Hilde Boon, compete in her first road race in 14 years! She is a mountain bike marathon specialist so I had to check out her re-debut in the skinny wheeled short course - a kermis (longer than a crit but shorter than a road race) in Steenokkerzeel, Belgium - close to my home. She did not disappoint!

When she rode up to greet me, the first thing i spotted was not her huge smile or even her fancy new road bike but her white lace bra in clear view under her white-topped skinsuit - sexy! Now THAT'S the way to race bikes while holding onto your femininity! What made it even better was that she knew it showed but didn't care.

Since I spent all last year racing for Belgian Pro Team Lotto-Belisol, many of the faces at the event were very familiar. I felt like I was returning to the office of my previous employment - a mixture of happy/sad emotions. Having never actually returned to a previous job for a visit, I would guess this is what it would feel like.

Although I really enjoyed running into my favorite people from last year such as Guy - the owner of Belisol, Adeline - my cycling buddy, and Liesbet DeVocht and An Van Rie from my previous team, it felt weird to just spectate. I wasn't at all comfortable with simply sitting on the sidelines watching.

Last year, I raced this event and came in 2nd - lost to my breakaway partner in a sprint finish. After crossing the finish line, metaphorically pounding my fist on the handlebars I swore I would take revenge the following year. But there I was, on the sidelines, yelling, "Allez, Hilde, Kom on! A bloc Adeline!" Oh crap. Well, the other option would have been to race it, not win and be spent afterwards, delaying my return to fitness once again. With that firmly back in the forefront of my mind, I happily cheered every lap for my friends.

While two of my former teammates, Ludivine Henrion and Grace Verbeke finished in a two-up sprint thirty seconds ahead of the field, Hilde jumped the field in an attempt to snag the last spot on the podium. But her timing was a little off and she was swallowed up within fifty meters of the line. I give her a lot of credit for giving it a go, though! It takes courage to take a chance at success knowing that if you fail, it is almost certain that you will fail big!

After the race, we all went for a drink to hear Hilde's detailed account from the trenches. The story I loved most was Hilde's encounter with one of the Debout sisters - the grote (large) one of the three who race. It was the same gal who tortured me when i first started riding in belgium (until I got her back at her same 'power position' game and put her in the gutter - hehehe. After that, she never bothered me again and now even goes out of her way to say hello!) This same gal was teasing Hilde about her lace bra while simultaneously trying to bully Hilde out of the way to take her spot in the strung out peloton when the pace was high. Well, soon enough the gal learned not to mess with Hilde as well. I wish i could have seen that.

Somewhere between our second and third round of drinks (coffee and coca cola of course), Hilde's boyfriend Mark and An Van Rie's boyfriend realized they were related; it turns out they are second cousins. They spent the next couple of drinks exchanging stories they've heard about each other!! Strange.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I barely missed California until...

I rode in the Ardennes last Saturday! Starting with the 47th pedalstroke, I had a perma-smile for almost five hours straight! (the ride probably would have taken only four hours at a normal pace but I am still building fitness so the speed was piano at best.)
I expected that it would feel good to climb for more than three minutes at a time but i was not prepared for the level of excitement I experienced. Not only was the actual climbing a blast but the scenery blew me away - it reminded me so much of California's North Bay terrain that it was almost eery. If I were dropped from a helicopter anywhere in the middle of the ride, I would have been hard pressed to believe I were somewhere else other than Mt. Tam or West Marin area. Even the weather and scents were a perfect match! We rode through a few microclimates to include a mixture of clouds, warm sun and chilled fog while breathing in varying smells of flowers and manure.

Aside from my stopping periodically to pee or take a photo, the whole ride was spent either climbing or descending. I was in Heaven! After holding in my excitement for almost four hours, i finally screamed out loud and nearly blew Jonas off his bike! It was an adventure I will never forget! The good news is that I may have the opportunity to ride there again for my birthday next week (19 July) - depending on the weather! I will steadily pray to the sun gods from now until then in hopes they grant me my birthday wish.
The horse are is a play on words of the old term for a bike here in the Flemish region of Belgium. The bike used to be called an ijzeren paard, which translates to iron horse.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It's All in the Header

For a few years now, I have been a columnist for the Marin Independent Journal, a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper. I have gotten them finally trained NEVER to edit my columns but what I failed to do is get them to use my column titles. For two years straight, i repeatedly tried to convince them that my proposed titles were more catchy than the ones they'd use. Anyway...when i come across an ingenious title, I get really excited! Hence, the Tour article!

"Steegmans doet Boonen groen lachen" means "Steegmans made Boonen laugh green" - TOTAL play on words!! Great stuff!!! Laugh green is an expression which means you are laughing when you really feel like crying. And green is also a reference to the Green Jersey that Steegmans helped Boonen to earn.

By the way, the general concensus here in Belgium is that Steegmans' stage win was NOT a gift; Boonen just didn't have the ability to come around Steegmans who was simply ON FIRE! When Steegmans was interviewed on TV, the interviewer asked why he didn't race for another team where he could be team leader (kopman). His response was that he would not be comfortable with the continuous high pressure that a team leader has to deal with. Fair enough.

As I am typing this, Zabel is being interviewed on TV regarding yesterday's pile-up. Zabel just copped to swerving when he prematurely released from his pedal but made it clear that it was not his fault that the pile-up occured. Hmmm...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Who wants to be a Flandrien?

I do, I do! Today i went on KBC Bank-sponsored cyclotourist ride called Word Flandrien, which means 'Become Flandrien.' A Flandrien in cycling terms is a bad-ass road racer who excels on the typical heavy terrain found in the Flanders region of Belgium - steep cobbled climbs, treacherously technical descents, all contested in cold, wet weather; think Tour of Flanders!!

Cyclotourists were given the option to ride 30, 80 or 110km tours. We opted for the 80km since yesterday was spent tooling around the Ardennes - photos to come! Also the idea of doing 110km was a bit too much to handle considering riding the Women's Tour de France when i was not physically prepared to do it set my recovery and fitness buildup back once again!

Aside from the plethora of interesting people on the ride, I really enjoyed the feed zone at the midway point! It was held outside the Tour of Flanders Museum and they served my favorite foods - chocolate soymilk made with real belgian chocolate AND peperkoek (spice bread.)

Photos are from the midway point - and more photos to come once i download the rest.

Best regards,


Friday, July 6, 2007

Aside from training and resting...

I have been periodically checking out random events around town. Hey, it's not like I have forever to get around to enjoying the Belgian culture! Who knows when ( or if - i suppose) the fun will end and i must go back to Bushville.

Recently, I visited Jan - owner of fietsen goeman (bike shop in Everberg, 10km away from me) during his town's yearly rommelmarkt (their version of flea market) where the crappiest of crap is nicely laid out on those flimsy white metal tables or on pseudo-carpets in hopes that somone will come along who regards their stuff as treasures. Of course I arrived fully prepared with euros in hand!

Jan's booth items were, by far, the highest quality. He sold only top brand bike stuff - most new.

Even though i went home with the same amount of euros, I did leave with lots of great memories, a nice buzz from a glass of sangria, and a Hoegarden Bier backpack which was given to me by Jan's dad who won it in a raffle.

Of all the spectacles, the most entertaining had to be the pole dancer that performed in front of the local bar in the middle of the event! I especially enjoyed watching this pole dancer try to teach the locals how to make some moves on the pole! A few people tried to get me up there...

On another note, I sincerely apologize for not having any updates in quite some time!! I should be back to a normal schedule of blogging now!! Thanks for your continued reading and support!! I really appreciated all the emails and posts of concern!!!