Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Can you guess the identity of this MANDERKITTEN?

Hint: He unequivocally earned the TEE (NO, not in the way you have in mind...the OTHER way!)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

CX Women's World Champs less than ONE DAY AWAY

In celebration of the Women's Cyclo-Cross World Championships tomorrow in Treviso, Italy, below is the article I recently wrote on Rachel Lloyd for the Marin Independent Journal. She is one of the riders who will be competing in the race. Along with Rachel, the other USA gals who have a chance of a high finish are Katie Compton and Kerry Barnholt.

(Photo by Dave McElwaine)

On a side note, it was amazing to watch Niels Albert just destroy the U23 field. For the first seven minutes, there were a couple of guys who were within ten seconds of Niels. But when you look at the body language of all three guys, it was clear that Niels was running at 95% while the other two were at 150%! By the tenth of fifty minutes of the race, Niels was still running at the same speed but the others started pedaling backwards to pay for their efforts for the first seven minutes. Jamey Driscoll was our top finisher of USA. Not to take away from Driscoll's great performance (he is an incredible athlete), it's great to see that USA CYCLING supports their young men rather than the women or even elite men, who clearly have an actual chance for podium.

Here's the Rachel Lloyd article:

Christine Vardaros: Lloyd is back on the scene and making a big splash

IT HAS BEEN almost four years since I shared a hotel room in Italy with Fairfax's Rachel Lloyd, as part of the U.S. national team in preparation for cyclo-cross world championships. But I will never forget the look on the coach's face when Lloyd showed up to dinner wearing camouflage military combat pants when everyone else was dressed rather conservatively.

Her non-conformist maneuver not only summed up her individuality but her unconventional cycling career.

Her affinity for bikes began in 1994 with a very ambitious cross-country ride from her previous hometown of Bellingham, Wash., to Virginia Beach, Va., to visit a friend. While a trip like that would discourage most people from ever mounting a saddle again, Lloyd was energized by it. Cycling became her newfound passion.

Within a year of the adventure, on her 20th birthday, she tried her luck at competition. Initially participating in road races, Lloyd quickly made the switch to dirt - mountain biking and cyclo-cross, both of which proved a better fit for her relaxed attitude. She flourished instantly and by the next year, she qualified for a professional license.

With an upgrade to the professional ranks, Lloyd raced year-round for the next seven years. Every springand summer was spent on the mountain bike (both cross country and downhill) for big pro teams like Gary Fisher, while fall and winter were reserved for cyclo-cross. She was a threatening force on the pro circuit, making regular podium appearances in all three cycling disciplines.

But in 2004, at the top of her career, Lloyd walked away. While typical post-career protocol includes overindulgence in food, drink and socializing, Lloyd simply carried on as normal - minus the racing. She continued working as a massage therapist, riding her various bikes on local trails and roads, running errands on her BMX bike, rock climbing, trail running and taking her motor-cross bike out for periodic spins.

Even though Lloyd was content with retirement, her friend Nicola Cranmer of Fairfax, manager of a new cycling team called Proman-Paradigm, had other plans. A few months ago, Cranmer put her plan into action by succeeding in luring Lloyd back to racing with a very enticing offer. In exchange for free bikes, Lloyd simply had to compete in a few events. Living on a modest salary, she couldn't pass up the opportunity.

As promised, Lloyd competed in a handful of races. Much to her excitement and surprise, she easily achieved success with a U.S. national super-D championship (a new style of off-road racing that combines cross country with downhill) and a Northern California/Nevada District road criterium championship.

Not wanting Lloyd to end her cycling career there, Cranmer offered more bikes to Lloyd so she could compete in the upcoming cyclo-cross season. Her plan not only succeeded but far surpassed any reasonable expectations. Lloyd contested the full U.S. national series as well as many key international and local events.

"After a bit of gentle urging, I was back into racing before I even knew it," Lloyd said when asked about her return to full-time racing.

Posting multiple wins and podium spots against the best this country has to offer, including a second place at the U.S. national championships last week, Lloyd was named as one of only five women to represent USA at the world championships.

Her hiatus from racing proved to be successful in rejuvenating her love for competition, but there was also an unexpected drawback.

"I've been racing the longest of all my competitors and nobody even knows who I am," she said. "People forget so quickly."

To those of us who remember her pre-retirement, she simply picked up where she left off - her usual podium placing at national championships followed up with a trip to world championships.

At the end of January, Lloyd will be back in Italy, where the event will again be held, having dinner with the U.S. national team. I wonder if she will bring her legendary pants this time around. I hope so because she remains just as rare as those pants were many years ago.

To follow her travels or to donate funds to help her pay the $1,500 participation fee charged by USA Cycling Federation, visit When making a donation, specify that the funds are for Rachel Lloyd.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Breakfast of VanDerPeanuts

starts off with:


Recipe is my modified version of Jolinda Hackett's posted on - vegetiarian section

3 1/2 cups flour (2 cups white, 1 1/2 cups 9-grain whole wheat)

1/4 cup white flour

1/2 cup sugar (lower to 1/3 or 1/4 cup if using sweet pumpkin)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp powdered ginger

1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (or 1/4 margarine & 1/4 applesauce - but do be forewarned that it will be slightly more spongy. If you cook it about 3-5 minutes longer you can slightly counteract the sponginess.)

2 cups pureed pumpkin (i made my own by slicing a pumpkin in half, gutting it, then laying it flesh-side down on a baking pan, pouring about 1/4 cup of water on bottom of pan. Cook until fork can easily puncture skin. Let cool. Or i suppose canned pumpkin would work too.)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp nutmeg (nootmuskaat)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Splash lemon juice

In a very large bowl, cut margarine with butter knife into all ingredients except walnuts and 1/4 cup white flour. Knead dough briefly using the 1/4 cup white flour, add walnuts, then knead them in briefly. I kneaded the dough the same bowl so i don't have to clean the counter top.

Lay on parchment paper covered baking sheet. Shape into large circle about 1 1/4 inches thick (3cm). I used the palm of my hands to push it into a circle. First cover your palm in a thin layer of flour so it doesn't stick as much to your palm. Cut into 8-12 pieces, slicing with a knife almost all the way through.

Bake in pre-heated oven at 425 deg. F (215 C) for 15 minutes. Cool briefly on wire rack.

Serve with maple syrup, jam, and various fruit slices. Oh, and don't forget a fresh cup of coffee (french press) or ginger tea.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I'm having trouble editing the Poll

I just tried to edit the poll and add Rachel Lloyd at the request of some of you voters but i found out that I cannot make any changes once someone voted. oops. Now i know.

Who Will Win CX World Championships?

Choose your rider NOW by clicking your favorite rider (or rather one of my few top picks) to the left in my first-ever blog poll.

If enough of you inform me that i failed to list certain favorites, then I'm happy to add them.

By the way, I just picked up a very old road bike today that i'll be converting to a fixed gear. It's funny how it's so incredibly easy to find old bikes perfect for converting to fixed gears since almost every single household in Belgium has at least one very old bike that they want to get rid of. Photos to come...I must first wash the bike since pros are never caught in possession of a dirty bike.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Humbling day at work

Today was Hoogerheide World Cup - the last of the series - and i bombed it. The good news is that my concussion symptoms were almost nonexistent. Bad news was that i was completely out of racing shape. And on a heavy course like Hoogerheide where most of the lap was covered with thick heavy leg-zapping mud or thick heavy unrideable mud, it was hard to hide it.

But my riding was really exciting to hear so many american voices out there cheering for me! I so appreciated it. It did catch me by surprise, though to hear "go vanderkitten" with a non-belgian accent! (When pronounced by the flemish, it sounds more like "Von der KIT tin" - with a slightly rolled r in the 'der'.) I think a lot of the Americans were there because they just raced in Masters World Championships the day previous in Mol, Belgium.

(To the right are photos of two of my favorite riders, Susanne Juranek and Gabby Day.)

One American who had a great ride - in fact just in time for World Championships next weekend - is Jonathan Page. He was in the lead group for most of the race, finishing in 8th! Katie Compton apparently was unable to race due to a muscular problem. I really hope she is better by next weekend to take the Gold. If she doesn't, I put my money on Hanka Kupfernagel.

For the men, I suppose Holland's Lars Boom - today's winner. It would be cool to see Bart Wellens win though. He placed 2nd behind Boom today. If Boom falters next week, my cool pick may just come true.

After the race today, Wellens said, " I came here after a heavy training week and my victory in Zonnebeke (yesterday) not with fresh legs. I knew in the first half hour I would have to fight myself. On a course like this and with this wind, it's important to ride one tempo pace and that's what i did well the whole race."

Wellens doesn't write off Nys though even though he placed 12th today - "Not after two poor races. But i'm focusing on myself." Regarding Wellens' World Championship preparation, Wellens added, " It is going better than planned."

After watching Nys' performance today and last week at Lievin World Cup, it breaks my heart to say that his chances to top the World Chamionship podium is looking slim. "I gave what i had but it didn't go. It doesn't look good. I constantly ride just below cramping level in my legs. There is no power in my legs. It's going very bad. I don't have an explanation for it. I don't feel ill. But maybe i have to go and see the doctor," stated Nys after today's race. He added, "Seven days before the world championships this isn't good. It's even a catastophe. I don't feel like I have a chance. I can't fight for victory and I'm counting down the laps."

Erwin Vervecken was quite pleased with his 3rd place performance today. He's been slowly improving over the last couple of months in order to have a chance at defending his title at Worlds next week. But he's not sure if seven days is enough time to bring his form to a boil. " Vervecken said, "Today i met myself in the last two rounds."

Vervecken is in agreement with Wellens that Lars Boom is the favorite for the World Championship title. "On the pavement, he(Boom) rode me off his wheel. And he had a lot of reserve energy; he is sitting on his bike with his hands on the handlebar and constantly looking back," Vervecken added.

Nys coach, Paul Van Den Bosch, had a few words to add about Nys' performance today - "He's not really surprised. I feared this already in October. For a long time, Nys is sitting at top form. Then of course there is chance of a dip. This was the worst of what i saw of Nys in four years time but he is no super human. He started mid-May on the road and on the mountain bike. Then it's not abnormal that, for once, the candle burns out. But we don't throw in the towel. He must now rest, rest and rest. He won already 21 races and is qualified for Peking [mtb Olympics]. Don't count him off for the World Championships."

But as we all know, almost anything is possible a week from now.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cold and Rainy in Belgium...

but having a lot of fun nonetheless!! Today Jonas and I went for a training ride through the Tervuren forest to test out the noggin. Five minutes after we rolled out the door it started to rain. Perfect timing. If it's going to rain, it's always best for it to start after I'm already on the bike. It makes is much easier to step outside.

Just as the rain was seeping through my heavy duty waterproof neoprene booties and turning my quads to ice, I started my tempo efforts to see how the head would respond. If, after a few efforts, my head felt like it was about to explode like a rotten apple and my ears felt like they were spewing blood, then absolutely NO Hoogerheide Cyclo-Cross World Cup (Holland) this weekend. But if it went well, then race ON! (The doc gave me permission to ride as long as it doesn't increase the head pain. )

Shortly after the first effort, Jonas slowed down, making his way to the side of the rode. As he was pulling over, he was looking towards the rear of his bike. When i asked him what's wrong, he said "When i hit the bump in the road, my ass fell off the bike." When i heard that, my whole entire body almost fell off the bike! In that one moment, I forgot about the rain, my cold quads and thankfully my possible exploding head. And just when i thought i couldn't laugh any harder, Jonas gives me his explanation as to why he couldn't possibly have said what i heard. "Baby, I'm smarter than that. If my ass fell off, it would have been caught by my tights." Thankfully, I peed just before the ride. But then again, on a rainy day, it doesn't really matter.

Long story short, my head didn't explode and my ears remained blood-free. Tomorrow I plan to check out the course. Again, i'll see how my head feels. If i do decide to start the race on Sunday, I will go into it with very modest - or rather realistic - expectations. Safety before all else since I won't be bike racing forever.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mmmm, Mmmm, Good...

I'm still on a soup kick. It helps to keep the weight off while i'm not putting in the usual amount of time on the bike.

Last night it was Mushroom Leek Soup time. Here is my winged recipe. If you make it, be sure to adjust the amounts/ingredients to suit your personal taste.

Let me know how it turns out. Or if you have any other soup ideas or how i can improve this one, let me know!

Mushroom Leek Soup

1 kg mushrooms - sliced
5 leeks - sliced 0.5 cm thick
1 tbs olive oil
5 potatoes - cut into small cubes
2 vegetable bouillon cubes - i used ones made with olive oil and basil
12 cups water
fresh ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of red pepper powder (optional)
green scallion - sliced 0.5 cm thick - optional or garnish
soya light cream - optional for garnish

Saute the leeks in olive oil until soft. Add mushrooms and potatoes. Cook on low-med heat until liquid from mushrooms evaporate.
Add bouillon cubes and 1 cup water. Stir until bouillon cube dissolves. Then add the rest of the water.
Bring to boil, then lower heat to low/med and cook for another 10-12 minutes.
Add pepper and nutmeg and red pepper powder (optional.)
Puree just until chunky.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a spoonful of soya cream, swirl into the soup using a knife. Top with scallions.
Serve with thick toasted slices of bread.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lievin World Cup & VegNews Magazine Coverage

I'd write all about the race but i wasn't actually there. It was almost better that i wasn't there because i got more media coverage that way! I was mentioned, along with only five other women, in the coverage. Even though the mention was for not starting, it did make me feel good that i wasn't forgotten so quickly!

And on a more exciting topic, if you go to your nearest bookstore and pick up a VegNews magazine you can read about me! Yippidy-friggin-doo-dah - what an honor!!!

The story I'm in is called:

"Extreme Vegan Athletes

Vegan athletes are taking on the competition and kicking butt with plant-based power!"

And if you do find a vegnews mag, can you tell me what it looks like? it's not sold here in Belgium.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cyclo-Cross Surpasses Soccer in Flanders Spectatorship

I just read an article on the increased spectatorship of cyclo-cross in the Flanders region of Belgium. It's so high that it even surpassed that soccer (voetbal.) That's a huge feat!
It also appears that spectatorship for cyclo-cross in USA has taken a huge leap as well!
AND the numbers don't even take into consideration internet, newspaper or magazine coverage.

Here is the cyclingnews link to the story.
And here are the numbers from the cyclingnews story:

World championship Hooglede-Gits 2007: 60,000 on site, 1.25 million viewers (Sporza)
World championship Zeddam 2006: 28,000 / 798,000 (Sporza)
World Cup Hofstade: 20,000 / 505,971 (Sporza)
GvA Koppenbergcross Oudenaarde: 17,500 / 491,000 (Sporza)
SuperPrestige Diegem: 15,000 / 546,457 (VT4)
GvA Loenhout: 13,000 / 442,000 (Sporza)
GvA Baal: 9000 – 760380 (Sporza)
Singlespeed Oregon & Cross Vegas (USA): 5,000
SP Eerde-Veghel (Netherlands): 5,000 / 433,894 (VT4)
Sint-Michielsgestel (Netherlands): 2,500

Future Vanderkitten Racer

I recently got an email with a big surprise - a photo of the cutest girl named Lise sporting a Vanderkitten tattoo that was given to her from a spectator who picked it up for her from the traveling Vanderkitten mobilehome.

Today i went for another ride outdoors. I surely picked a good day for it - cold, rainy AND windy! But at least it was dry when i stepped outside to start the ride.

After i took a nice long hot shower and changed into my fuzziest pajamas, I made some pumpkin carrot soup.
My recipe:
3 red onions - chopped
6 huge garlic cloves - chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium pumpkin - chopped
8 carrots - chopped
5 potatoes - chopped
1-2 tbs curry powder (to taste)
1-2 tbs cumin (to taste)
6 cups vegetable broth (or water and buillon)
fresh ground pepper

Saute onions, garlic and olive oil until soft
Add potatoes, carrots and pumpkin and saute for 12-15 min
Add vegetable broth and spices, bring to a boil then simmer for 25 min.
Blend until almost smooth (slightly chunky)

The ratios above could be slightly off so don't blame me if it's not thick enough! You can always boil some potatoes quickly then blend it in to make it thicker. Oh, and if it feels it still needs a kick, add a dash of nutmeg.

Tomorrow is mushroom leek soup day.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Belgian Championships

I just watched the elite men - and a bit of the women, the tiny bit they showed - and, instead of watching Sven Nys ride away with the Championship, it was a nail-biter to the end. There is something about championship races that make them like no other races. When there is a title on the line, the races tend to be overly nervous which can lead to some interesting racing.

It started off with a false start when a few took off before the gun. It looked to be led by Klaas Vantornout (super-mega-skinny guy from Fidea) and Erwin Vervecken. It was strange to watch them all swarm around Nys who looked to be still waiting for the official start. Almost immediately Nys was back up to 16th place within the first turn on the course. After a bit, he was finally back up with Bart Aernouts, Vantornout , Niels Albert and Vervecken. (On a side note, while watching the coverage of a recent race that Klaas Vantornout won, it was funny to hear the commentator mention that he heard Klaas eats five meals a day. When you see how unnaturally skinny the guy is, it's really hard to believe it's true. I guess he's just lucky.)

Just when it looked to be like the shape of the race had been set with Nys, Vervecken, Bart Wellens, and Niels Albert (beloften -U23 guy who apparently has a huge attitude but the legs to back it) well off the front, Albert got a front flat. He couldn't have been farther from the pit though. Along with probably all the Belgian fans watching the race, I wrote him off for a podium spot. But somehow the kid found the strength to claw his way back up to the front. Of all the chasers behind the lead group, only Bart Aernauts was able to catch a ride on Albert's wheel back up to the front of the race. But within two seconds of making contact, Aernauts was ditched, leaving the original foursome off the front to fight it out for the win.

And fight they did, all the way up to the last two minutes of the race. It was attack after attack for the last lap. It was interesting to see the gaps instantly form between the guys with each attack. It was also fun, from a psychological perspective, to see more mistakes made by them on the last lap than they made the whole race. For instance, watching Wellens inadvertantly gap himself when he slipped on a power climb forcing him to put a foot down.

Finally Nys made the key move by getting to the front before the last sand running section. (If he would have let Wellens get to the run first, he may have been able to gap Nys on the sand and hold it to the end.) Once off the sand, Nys motored away on the multiple manmade bridged dips and turfy terrain, hitting the pavement with a five second gap over Wellens, the only guy who was able to semi-mark Nys' move. Albert rounded out the podium by beating Vervecken to the line by a couple of seconds.

I'm sure the websites have a better rendition of the race, but i figured I'd let you know what it looked like from an American's perspective.

Happy Drie Koningen Dag! I think it was yesterday, but i got a group of singers at my door today. To celebrate the three kings who visited Jesus when he was born, groups of kids go door-to-door to sing. Luckily I knew of this tradition so i had my handful of coins ready to throw in the jar.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Soccer reinvented

Earlier this evening I ventured outside for a short walk to the market. It was my first outing since the race a few days ago which unfortunately took my head back a step in recovery. I got to the market by cutting through some farms and a few empty soccer fields. It was pitch black the whole way there. But on the way back, I was greeted with a very entertaining surprise - a soccer game under bright flood lights. The game was in full swing as I walked by.

Since my bag was weighed down with all ingredients for a homemade loaf of walnut raisin bread (including the super-sized bag of 9-grain flour), I didn't stop to watch but i did walk by slow enough to catch a bit of the game. As I listened to the typical yelling that goes on between the guys, a funny thought occurred to me. If an English speaker were to be a guest player on the field, there would be a lot of funny errors made due to the language miscommunication.

For instance, I heard one guy yell "Kijk" which means "look" but to an english speaker it surely sounds like "Kick". Next I heard another guy yell "Pas op" which means "look out". But again an english speaker would possibly mean the guy was trying to tell him to pass the ball up. Since apparently they were all flemish speakers, the game was not nearly as interesting as it could have been.

Bread is just cooling down so I now must go so I can prepare a huge slice with jam made with port soaked figs.

Tomorrow is Belgian National Championships. My guess is sanne Cant for the gals and obviously sven nys for the men. It would be fun for us spectators, though, if there is actually a fight for gold rather than just watching the winners ride away on the first lap.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Time for a Vanderkitten Poll

What New Product would you like to see from Vanderkitten?

Click HERE to vote

It only takes a second to vote but i will appreciate your second for at least two.

Thanks for helping out!!!

FYI, for those of you who remember that I was headed to Luxembourg to race yet another UCI event, I did indeed go and placed top 10 - yep, 10th place. haha. Photos to come.

Thanks for voting and reading!