Monday, February 25, 2008

Guess who won the Tour of California stage today?

Crazy Legs! I found this article in the local Belgian newspaper earlier in the week. These are really the legs of George Hincapie (Team High Road)! For those of you who may not know who he is, he spent the last many years racing as both a one-day race specialist and Lance Armstrong's right hand man. Apparently, he has a circulation problem that leaves him with a funky left leg. They call it Spataders in Dutch. The literal translation is "splattered open veins" which i think means varicose veins.

Based on today's result, it clearly doesn't hold him back from performing at the highest level! Go George Go!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Life in the Off-Season

Last Sunday was my last race of the cyclo-cross season. It's always a relief when the season is over. No more suffering on the bike. No more packing and unpacking every few days. No more sleeping in strange beds in towns I can't pronounce. And no more butterflies in my gut obsessing about that upcoming event.

For the first few days following my last event, I felt free. I could do whatever I want. I could go to a party and stand on my feet, dance until sunrise, eat that extra chocolate chip cookie...or seven. My options were limitless.

(Want to know how a pro cyclist spends her time during the off-season? See photos at right.)

But now that almost a week had passed since my last race, I find myself already champing at the bit. It must be some form of withdrawal. I suppose if enough time passes, the feeling for a "race day fix" will subside.

Next week I am off to NYC, my former hometown, for Vanderkitten Media Tour. It will be my first time traveling without a bike. We'll see if i return to Belgium a cigar-smoking, Guava-Martini-drinking, stiletto-wearing city babe. I've heard it's really easy to slip back into old habits.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Top Ten BABY!

Due to my multiple head injuries sustained back in November that dragged my fitness level below that of a plump, out of shape bon bon eating, whiskey drinking slug, I was forced to rethink my definition of a successful race result. Replacing my original designs of consistently placing top ten in world cups and top five in other UCI events were more modest aspirations of mid-pack finishes and possibly, just maybe a top ten before the season commences.

Last Sunday, I realized my modified dream with a 9th place at Heerlen Cyclo-Cross (UCI event in Holland.) Yippee!

It is not much but after a season filled with frustrations, pain, and double vision - to name a few side effects of stupidly racing with a concussion for most of the season, i'll happily take the 9th place with a huge-ass smile spread across my face.

(top 1st and 3rd photos to right taken by Bart Hazen of
(white jersey with red stripes: Elke Riedl - Austrian Champion)

My coach, Elmo, consistently gives me a hard time when i talk about my "lessons learned" - how i always find some sort of bright side to any otherwise dismal situation. His issue is not with my positive attitude but rather with my continually having to learn lessons. He would rather get me to the point where I no longer learn lessons, indicating that I am no longer making mistakes!

Hopefully he's not reading this blog because I collected another "lesson learned" from this whole head injury debacle. Having spent a chunk of time away from any form of exercise, I learned that I truly love being an athlete. I love to go for training rides through the fields, over the hills, on the tiny cobbled roads. I love to put on my running shoes and head for the woods. I love to prepare for the races, pack my bags, fill the water bottles, make the pasta. I love to stand at the start line, heart racing, sweaty palms, twitchy legs, complete focus on the sound of the gun.

And, even with poor fitness, I absolutely love racing. During the race last Sunday, I once again had a bad start since I'm simply out of practice. But even so, I loved every moment of the race! Every time I rode near someone, I felt like a little kid on a play date.

(to the right: Jonathan Page on Lars Boom's wheel)

At one point in the race, I even busted out laughing! I caught up to a gal just as we reached the bottom of a very steep, barely ridable hill that takes the racers back out of Hellegat (Dutch for Hell's Hole - a deep bowl-shaped valley where the racers enter and exit a couple of times to make the race hard.) We raced up the hill full force moving about 3km/hr (2mi/hr). It must have looked comical to see two pro women seemingly racing in slow motion. Unfortunately i saw the humor in it while I was in the act and started laughing, nearly tipping over! The crowds went wild when they noticed that I, too, found the humor in it!

This Sunday is the last event of the season -Oostmalle in Belgium. The course consists of sand, sand, and more sand. Even the pits are in sand. It will be my last opportunity to play on a cyclo-cross bike. After that, it's back on the road bike until next fall.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wanna Meet the Vanderkittens??

You will have your chance during their training camp this week (DO tell me how it was so that I may live vicariously through you):



Vanderkitten Racing, the Berkeley, CA-based professional cycling team kicks off the 2008 season its team training camp February 11th through 18th. The team will wrap up its camp by participating in the Santa Rosa Women’s Grand Prix on February 18th, the pre-curser to the Amgen Tour of California.

Vanderkitten’s training camp will include scenic rides through California’s Wine Country in Napa Valley, providing intense yet inspiring workouts to prepare the team for the upcoming NRC season. In addition to focused training sessions, the team will be dialing in their new BH Connect road bikes, participating in photo shoots for VK Racing and sponsor websites, and conducting interviews with Bicycling Radio and Road Magazine.

“We’re psyched to kick off this year’s camp. We’ve got some fun activities planned along with some incredible training rides,” said Scott Gross, Director Sportif of VK Racing. “This will be a great opportunity for our team to bond and really get to know one another on and off the bike, in addition to getting their bodies and minds ready for the season ahead. Being able to hold our training camp in Vanderkitten’s backyard is great, and we’re extremely grateful to our sponsors for helping to make this happen.”

Vanderkitten Racing is composed of a powerhouse roster for 2008:

Jane Despas (AUS), Leah Guloien (CAN), Liz Hatch (USA), Moriah MacGregor (CAN), Melissa Sanborn (USA), Jenny Trew (CAN), Leigh Ann Valletti (USA), Flavia Oliveira (USA) and Heather Sborz (USA).


Vanderkitten Racing is comprised of a team of elite athletes and a squad of developmental riders who serve as ambassadors for women’s cycling. Vanderkitten Racing is committed to furthering the development of young women in the sport of cycling, and in 2007 created the Vanderkitten Foundation, a non-profit (501c3) charitable foundation, with the goal of getting young athletes involved in the sport. We’re proud to be representing our sponsors, including BH Bikes USA, Verge Clothing, Driven, Spinergy Wheels, Tifosi Optics, Specialized Designs for Women, Kenda Tires and Tubes, Zero Gravity Brakes, Aerus Composites, Akona Biospeed, SportsBalm USA, and Accelerade Advanced Sports Drink. For more information please visit

Since I am unable to keep you updated on the camp (still in Belgium racing cyclo-cross) you can check for updates on the camp on the following sites:
Vanderkitten blog
Teammate Liz Hatch
Teammate Leigh Valletti

Friday, February 8, 2008

Can it really be Spring in Belgium?

We haven't seen much snow over the winter- in fact we barely even got a flurry - but it's been hovering just above freezing for quite some time which is almost as bad for riding.

But for the past two days, the sun's been so strong that I have even tempted to remove the glove liners and fold my earwarmers up to expose my ears to the rays. Considering it's been only 8 degrees C (46 deg F) I didn't go crazy and kept the clothes on. But i did sit outside for a coffee yesterday in Tervuren.

Our cafe was right across the street from a Chinese restaurant named Grote Muur (big wall). When i saw the name of the restaurant I laughed so hard i could barely hold the camera still to take a photo! After finally taking the shot, we received the bill from our cafe...named 'Wine Not'. What's the expression..."People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones"?

Next we headed back through the Tervuren forest for a stroll around the pond. The paths were riddled with kids due to holiday week in Belgium, so we kept the forest stroll brief for fear of being taken out by a flyaway skateboard, frisbee, loose dog or twirling two-year-olds.

Today we rode along the canal that starts at Leuven, right at the Stella Artois Beer factory and runs up through Mechelen and beyond. There are two paths on either side of the canal - both great for motorpacing (so i've heard because that would be illegal.) It was the first time in a while that I was able to look up at the views instead of focusing on avoiding all the puddles, wet branches and mudpies.

On every single ride so far in Belgium, I pass cows, sheep, ducks, geese, chickens, goats, ten types of birds, cats, dogs, horses, donkeys, miniature horses. But today we passed a llama. That was almost as strange as the first time I saw three deer in a neighbor's backyard. Up until then, I had no idea that people keep them as companions.

Have a great weekend! I will be spending it pre-riding on Saturday in preparation for Sunday's race in Heerlen, Holland. It's another big UCI international event so i expect the crowds to be enormous and the competition fierce. I have packed my whoop-ass so I'm ready to go! I still have yet to figure out what whoop-ass means but i love how it sounds - intimidating as all hell!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Dit Poezeke speelt weer mee!

Yep, this Vanderkitten headed out to play again last Saturday in Lille, Belgium at the UCI race Krawatencross. Good news is that my head was fine. Seems the concussions got bored from all the recent physical inactivity in my body and disappeared. Bad news is that with only one week to really train, it's nearly impossible to put in a good effort at top level international races that's heavily attended by many former World Champions, World Cup winners, etc. But even so, I had a BLAST! I was beaming ear to ear even before the race started.

I pre-rode the course with a few other Belgian gals, Sharon and Veronique, and had so much fun. The course had everything a cross racer would want - metal bridge overpasses, beachfront trails where you get to play in both sand and water simultaneously, berms, multiple loop-de-loops (small power bumps), loads of mud and 25,000 fans!

The race start was super fast straight up to the tight U-turn onto the dirt. I was near the back of the field due to my rusty start, but i didn't fret. I figured i'd just calmly pass the riders one by one until the race is over. What i didn't take into consideration was the sand section that almost immediately follows the dirt U-turn. The extended sand pit had only one sliver of rideable trail, so by the time the gals excited this section the gaps between us were exponential. My hard effort for the remainder of the race got me past a few women but still left me in 19th overall. But it was a thrill even so! Every time i passed a gal, it was a battle to hold it. There's nothing like the thrill of play on a battlefield of bikes!

With only two big UCI races left of the season, I don't have enough time to make a comeback to my normal form but it does give me two more opportunities to enjoy what i love doing most - racing my bike! And it's also good for the sponsors. I may not have won the race last weekend, but i bet I easily had one of the largest cheering sections again. The "Kom op Poezeke", "Allez Christineke", "Vanderkatje" cheers are always a very welcome sound. There were two sections of the course, in particular, where my cheering section was SO LOUD, I couldn't help but smile. And once they saw my delight, they yelled even more loudly!

Watching the mens race was almost as exciting as doing it myself. By the time we got to the course, the men were already on their third lap of maybe ten laps. Niels albert was ahead with Sven Nys on his wheel. As usual, Bart Wellens was quite a few spots behind. Shortly after that, Albert took off and left Nys all alone to be engulfed by the chasers. Eventually Wellens caught up to Nys and the two of them came to the finish line with Wellens taking the sprint from a dejected Nys who didn't bother to give it a go.

To the right are photos of Nys just before and after he crashed - a rare occurrence for him.

I assume Jonathan Page opted not to start after the debacle that occured at this race last year where his manager, Franky, was brutally beaten to the ground by the race security who thought he was trying to gain free entry to the race site. And guess what? This year, entry is free for the racers AND three supporters!

Lars Boom, our new Cyclo-Cross World Champion, was even farther behind - the last of the fast guys! With about twenty minutes left of the race, Boom pulled to the side of the course and slipped under course rope. Game over. According to the other racers and spectators, he was still partying from winning Worlds. The funniest comment of the day easily came from Jonas. He said, " Boom is just a little bush today." Boom in Dutch means tree, which instantly gives Jonas' comment a double meaning. When he first said it, I thought he meant that Boom was a little tired (bushed) but then the second meaning hit me. Belgians are known for their creative play on words, so i should have caught the second meaning right away!

Before the Superprestige race the following day, the other racers were asked for their impression of Lars Boom's decision not to start the event that day. Wellens was quoted as saying that it's fine for him - one less guy to fight with for the win. The others, Nys, Albert, etc, all agreed that you have to be almost dead before opting not to start at these highly attended post-Worlds events, especially when wearing the World Champion jersey. The spectators all come to catch a glimpse of the coveted jersey. The other racers went on to say that showing up at the races is their job - he needs to do his job for his employer.

Thanks again for reading!