Thursday, October 30, 2008

Post-Tabor Newspaper stuff & sweet treats

It was not a surprise to see a full page spread on Neo-pro Niels Albert's impressive win in last Sunday's World Cup in Tabor, but it take me aback when i read the article below the Albert quoting Wellens as saying that
"they say i'm washed up; they're wrong."

After watching him ride last Sunday, he still has just as much fitness and drive as he has in the past. Once the "hard man" races come, the proof will be in the mud - as they don't really say but pudding just didnt seem the appropriate word.

A couple of days ago, my skinsuit finally arrived. It will be replacing the oversized black 2-piece outfit i'd been sporting in the last races. Included in the skinsuit package from Voler were a few tootsie rolls. That has to be the strangest bonus item i've received with an order. Even though i don't eat tootsies (milk in them), I really appreciated the thought! They did find a happy home in my friend Karen's tummy. She is visiting for three days from California.

Again, my race reports of the Tabor events are posted on

This Saturday at 4am i leave for Germany. We first go to Magstadt then to Lorsch. Even though I am still in an overload workout period early in the season, I am slightly more optimistic that this weekend of racing may go better than Tabor. I did some motorpacing today and noticed my sensations coming back. If not, I will get to work on my patience a bit more.

Thanks again for all the positive words - especially when I've had trying periods. It really means a lot.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Where am I?

They say a photo is worth a thousand words, so here are 10,000.

For more photos, check out

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just an average cx training day in Belgium...

This afternoon Jonas and i headed over to the nearby woods for some cyclo-cross training. We expected that we'd have to do a little bit of searching and guessing where the trails are since we're in full fall season with everything completely covered in a thick layer of leaves.

But to our pleasant surprise, we found a fully groomed string of trails - complete with wood barriers for jumping. It was a cyclo-cross rider's fantasy. After doing a few loops, about ten more cyclo-cross riders showed up. They were the belgian beloften (under-23) and junior team. As we continued to finish our workout with them, I pulled up to a forced dismount only to realize the legendary 3-time ('98, '99, 02) World Champ Mario De Clercq was watching me. It's not too often that a cross rider has such a prestigious cheering section during a training ride in the local woods. Naturally i took extra care to execute my dismount perfectly. If it wasnt hard enough to pull this feat off, try doing it while having thoughts of how you learned how to ride a cross bike properly by repeatedly watching videos of him. Many years ago, when Coach Elmo first taught me how to ride a cross bike, he supplied me with a stack of cross videos so i could see what it looks like in a race. De Clercq was the winner in most of them. I will always remember the stoic bordering on sad look on his face as he stood atop the podium.

After our workout was done, we ran into Belgian CX National Coach Rudy De Bie, who was in charge of the workout. We found out how the course became groomed - he came early to the woods before work and before the sun came out and manually swept the whole course! What dedication to the kids. I was thrilled that i could benefit from it as well. I am very thankful that he has given me an open invitation to train with the kids any time. Rudy - see you next week!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kalmthout World Cup Coverage

Each monday following the big races that I attend here in Europe, i will be posting race reports on . The mens and womens race coverage from yesterday's Kalmthout World Cup is already up! Go to the SITE and check it out.

Regarding my own race, it was a happy-sad experience. It was happy for the first few minutes as i quickly and steadily made my way up through the peloton from a last row callup. But just as i was thinking that everything was going as planned and was feeling great about it all, a 16 year old girl from Holland named Tessa Van Nieuwpoort racing for Flexpoint crashed directly into me on a presumably single-file sand pit. She broke my front wheel, front brake, front shifter, and left tire tracks up the full length of my shin. I was also left with two badly bruised knees, sprained arm, and a gash on my other shin.

By the time my bike and i wobbled over to the pit to get a spare bike, I was in last place. I tried to get back up to the race but only managed to pass a few racers since by then the gaps were too big. Eventually i rolled in for 30th place.

After the race, I asked Tessa what posessed her to do something so erratic? Her response was, "but i am only 16" and the mother nodded in agreement.

Well, there is always Tabor. We leave Friday and return monday, which means my race report for Cyclocross Magazine may not be up on their site until Tuesday.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Look for me on PROBAR blog

As of this week, you can read my updates on the website of PROBAR, my energy bar sponsor. They are periodically posting summaries of what I've been up to. Some of the content may be redundant if you read my blog. My favorite PROBAR flavor is now Whole Berry Blast, by the way.

As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Two Minutes of MTB Fun at Scott Bike Tour

Last Sunday, I took my Ahrens Whole Shot cyclo-cross bike out for a leasurely spin around the neighborhood. What's great about Belgium is that there are always new bike route signs to follow so you never get bored with repeatedly taking the same routes. This time I followed the Scott MTB Tour signs which weaved in, out, and around the Kortenberg Woods. It took me through lots of thick wooded trails, much of it bermed singletrack. Just as I thought I would come out of the trails nice and tidy, I reached the last 100 meters of trail that doubled as a mud swamp.

As I approached it, there were three cyclist exiting - coated in brown butter. Naturally my priority was the bike, so I tip-toed through it. Looking back, I saw a few more on their tippies following suit. Hey, you can effortly wash the clothes but bike parts take longer to wash are expensive to replace if the mud ruins them.

Soon after, I was at the end of the tour - behind the Scott Bicycle Showroom in Kortenberg. The first thing i saw was a line of cyclists waiting for the water sprayer. I bet i know what they are thinking...if it wasn't for that last 100 meters of mud, I'd be drinking my beer by now. And i bet you know what I was thinking...tip-toeing rules! Sip, sip.

In addition to the beer cafe, they had lots of vendors showing off their latest gadgets, pills, parts, publications and rags.

Aside from the little kid that spent a full ten minutes staring me down, what impressed me most was the Scott Cross bike in the showroom. It was super mega light, completely tricked out and 5,100€ retail. Wanna know what i want for Christmas? (This does not, in any way, minimize my love for my Ahrens Whole Shot. Lust and love are completely different.)

With my pockets swollen with pre-landfill items, I headed home - on pavement.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cyclocross Magazine's Fantasy Cyclo-Cross League

I am so excited to have registered for Cyclocross Magazine's Fantasy CX Game. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, CX Mag has you choose from a bunch of cyclocross racers to compose your ideal team. The teams are then pitted against each other. The highest cumulative earner of UCI points by the end of the season wins. What makes this fantasy game exta special is that they included women. Thanks guys!

You can sign up HERE and take a shot at winning prizes and earning bragging rights.

I picked mostly euro riders so I'm not doing too well at the moment since most of the early season uci races have taken place in USA. But i chose my team wisely - I think - so Team Peanut should start making its way up the rankings. Jonas and I wanted to choose exactly the same riders, but since there is no fun in a tie, we decided to make two of the names different. We pulled straws - or rather scallions since we dont have straws - to see who got to keep the original selection. I won.

Naturally I chose myself for the team for the extra motivation to do well! HAHA OK, i chose myself party because I'd feel stupid if i didn't and partly because I expect my season will be better than last year since my head injury is long gone. Fingers crossed...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Could I Have Seen This Cyclo-Cross Ad in USA?

I bet we may start seeing them soon based on the rapid growth of cyclo-cross throughout America. As I sit here waiting for the bulk of my season to start, I pass time by reading up on USA happenings.

When I first started to race cyclo-cross back in 1999 with Lyle Fulkerson's infamous Super Cup Series, there were about 30-40 female racers per event (if i recall correctly). The biggest event of his I ever attended must have been National Championships in San Francisco, which contained more women than i was used to. Maybe there were 50 women. (Here is the LINK for Outside Mag coverage of the event.) It is now close to 100 for Nationals - in Kansas Friggin' City nonetheless! Impressive.

What makes the number of participants even more spectacular is that due to the new USA Cycling and UCI rules, the fields should have shrunk after mountain bikes were made illegal and every racer was now required to have a UCI international license (at $150 per year) and be a card-carrying elite-category rider.

The quality of the field today, while equally impressive at the top end, has twice the depth of amazing riders. Just as before, some found their way to cyclo-cross through off-training for road or mtb, but now it seems there are women who are beginning their career as cyclo-cross rider swhile using the other cycling disciplines strictly for training. Just like in Europe. I expect we will see more days like 2007 World Championships when we won three silvers. Although I did not medal, I was proud to be a part of the team. There was a very special feeling at our team house - almost magical.

Now all we need is more financial support from USA Cycling. If they could somehow create a little more budget for cross racers who have designs and talent for competing at the top level - NO MATTER their age or gender - it will easily have a direct effect on the success of Americans in the international level. In turn, the raised competition level of these folks will trickle down at the USA races to the rest of the field, raising the level throughout the country.

I may sound critical of USA Cycling but I am actually rather hopeful. Over the years, they have increased their support for racers - at least with World Championship competition. My first time at World Championships, I think I had to pay $2500 for a week of support (ticket to Europe not included.) Next time I had to pay only $1500 upfront (ticket to europe not included) but got a refund for portions unused (I was already in europe and didnt need certain services.) The third time I had to pay $500 up front (again, flight not included) but since i already lived in Belgium, i showed up a couple of days before Worlds to get a refund of 100 bucks or so.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

How Much is Sven Nys Really Worth

According to Hans van Kasteren, organizer of today's race Zonhoven Cross, Sven Nys is NOT worth his asking price of 8000€ start money. Considering he easily attracts a significantly higher amount of fans than any other cyclo-cross rider, you'd think he would be worth his asking price. But by van Kasteren turning down his asking price, it makes me wonder two things - does he truly think Nys will not make good on the start money investment, OR is he using it as a convenient excuse to keep Nys away from the race since van Kasteren ALSO manages Team Fidea.

Title of newspaper to the left says "It's double wellens' value"

When asked how he can request such a high start money, Nys confirms what anyone who has seen him live knows as truth - he brings in the spectators by the bus-load. Considering a race entry fee usually varies from 8€ to 15€, and that he attracts more than 1000 Sven-Nys-specific
fans, it seems like a fair price.

This season, Nys plans to do about ten fewer races which means ten fewer times to see him so theoretically his fans will make every effort to attend ALL his events. That alone should increase his per-event spectatorship. And when you combine that with Nys' stated intention to give his best at every race he attends, you can be assured that additional folks will pay the price to see it.

Title of newspaper reads, "Is Sven Nys too expensive?"

Zonhoven Start Money Requested
Sven Nys - 8000€
Lars Boom - 6000€
Bart Wellens - 4250€
Niels Albert - 3500€
Erwin Vervecken - 3250€
Zdenek Stybar - 3000€
Klaas Vantournout - 2000€
Richard Groenendaal - 1800€
Sven Vanthourenhout - 1500€
Kevin Pauwels - 900€
Ben Berden - 400€
Jan Verstraeten - 300€

After this info was made public, Lars Boom understandably increased his start money asking price to match Sven Nys. Heck, he IS wearing the World Champion Jersey. But does he bring in the crowds like Nys...should that be the question?

This topic has been hot since the beginning of the cross season with Ben Berden one of the first to speak up about the high start monies asked by the top guys. With the start money increasing every year disproportionately faster than the increasing number of spectators, the money has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is the proverbial pocket of the lesser known cyclists like Berden and the many others who rely on start money to cover costs for their season.

Is it not fair to pay the top guys what they are worth? Should we put a cap on their start money? How do you fairly judge what a person is worth?

What may just happen is you'll have maybe 12-18 top racers per race - a very small field. Or maybe the organizers will open up the events to anyone so that it is a full field at the start line while the rest of the race may play out like a circus as most of the field will be lapped five times per race. If there is no longer money to spare for the decent racers outside of the top 15, it may just kill the sport.

Good thing women race for the pleasure, not for the money - as if there were an option.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

With Nine Mississippis to spare...

This was how long it took for the hail storm that chased me and my bike the whole way home to smack against the ground after I stepped inside the house. Running from dark clouds is an even more unneverving experience when having to be done at a piano (recovery) pace. OK, let's see just how fast i can ride the bike while keeping the heartrate under 90bpm? This time i won the game. Tomorrow may play out differently. It is supposed to rain straight through to sunday. Monday's promised 20 deg C sunny day cant come soon enough.

(Here is a photo of the sky just after the hail storm passed.)

Guess who is considering to ride the 2012 mountain bike Olympics in London? Bart friggin Wellens! He and Fidea teammate Stybar want to qualify for it if it works in with their cyclo-cross plans. Since Sven Nys has already declared his intentions in competing, that leaves theoretically one spot available for Wellens given that Philippe Meirhaeghe has announced his retirement.

Last year, Nys competed in a bunch of mtb events to get extra points for Belgium so they may send three guys (instead of 2. the third spot was taken from USA when nobody from USA showed up to the last qualifying event to ensure their extra spot.) This means that Raul Paulissen, Nys and Wellens all have to chase UCI MTB points leading up to the Olympics to earn Belgium three spots again. AND what this means to cross fans is that we now get to see our favorite rockstars playing in the dirt during the summer as well!

Speaking of Sven Nys, my interview of him is set to be published shortly in Cyclocross Magazine (as well as my regular column that includes a few surprises.) Click HERE to subscribe.

They are also putting a lot of content regularly on their site. They update it more often than i do my site - which at times is not too hard to do. It seems everyone is finally linking up to them so they are getting cyclo-cross feeds from everywhere. It is about time cross fans have a site to call their own. Anyway, check it out HERE.

And don't forget to add them as your facebook friend to gain access to yet another source of cyclo-cross happenings.

Yeah, I have an ulterior motive for increasing traffic and subscriptions for Cyclocross Magazine. If they grow quickly enough, they can pay me a trillion dollars to write for them so i can sponsor myself for cross season.