Monday, December 28, 2009

Scheldecross, Kalmthout World Cup, and Zolder World Cup report

Sorry it's been a while since i have updated my blog. It does not mean, however that i have been lax in life! You can always catch up on my racing adventures on CYCLOCROSS Magazine.  They just published my last report today. Yippee!

The last few weeks i have been busy training, racing, recovering from training and racing, and recovering from a few health incidents like a really bad saddle sore and an eye infection in both eyes that I apparently had for a few months!  Here's a photo of what I look like with eye infections. Not pretty.                                    Two of the last three races have been unusual by Belgian standards.  We've had a lot of snow lately, something that doesnt happen much here. It completely shut the whole country down with 300 mile traffic jams extending well outside the country limits.  But the races continued as planned. Maybe not completely as planned as the first race in Scheldecross (18 Dec.) had a bomb scare.  They found a granade just before the mens start, causing the guys to stand - or rather run back and forth - at the start line for a full 45 minutes before getting on with the show.  As for my race, it was over within the first lap due to a crash that claimed my bike and some body parts.                                                                                                   I had modest designs going into it. Finishing it was the goal since i hadn't trained the last two of the three weeks due to the saddle sore gone awry.  But on the first snowy sloppy descent, i couldnt clip into my pedals that turned to ice balls, flew down with both legs sticking out on both sides and took myself out at the bottom. Shockingly enough, i would have made the descent if it werent for a gal running it in front of me. it was either take myself out or smack into the back of her. I'm too nice sometimes. Then again it wasnt her fault my pedals were frozen.                                                                                              The next race, Kalmthout World Cup (20 Dec.), was even more unusual regarding nature's elements. We raced on a full track covered with ice, blanked by a thick layer of snow - in the middle of a blizzard.  On a course that had only one good line throughout almost the whole course, wherever you started in the race is where you mainly ended up.  The only way that most riders passed each other were when crashes happened. Even so, it was incredibly fun to race in that stuff!   What really made it the best race ever, though, was the wonderful cheering i got throughout the course, especially from my loving supporters club.  Ever lap, they did a "mexican wave" and popped a confetti bottle just before i arrived so i'd ride through a colorful shiny party in the air! THANKS GUYS!!    

Since i am throwing out the gratitude, i want to extend a big thank you to all the wonderful photographers who were kind enough to catch me on film!  On this post, i included photos from Cindy Nagels (#'s 3,4,7), Mario Toussaint (#6), Marc Van Est (#2)   

My latest race, Zolder World Cup (26 Dec.) was missing the pizazz of white glistening snow but made up for it with muddy, slippery sections including one death drop where i managed to avert death, but only just barely. On one of the laps, i hit a rut at the wrong angle causing my front wheel to turn and flip me on my face - and hip, shins, quads, shoulder and back. After i straightened the helmet and glasses, got over to the pits to get a non-broken bike, i got on with the job.

Tomorrow is yet another race - GVA Trofee's Azencross.  The race is famous for its washboard section where the riders bob up and down - great for photos!  Fingers crossed for great sensations - makes the racing a lot more fun!

Thanks for reading and have a super merry holiday season!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Koksijde World Cup last Saturday

Going into the race, I knew I was finally coming onto some real fitness based on my last two races.  Unfortunately, the concept that evil always balances out good applied in this case and my race was a bust.
It was a real bummer - no pun intended. To fully understand the pun,  CLICK HERE for the details of my trip posted on CYCLOCROSS Magazine.

And while you are on the site, DO check out CYCLOCROSS Magazine's Fantasy Cyclocross.  You'll see that I'm presently on top of the leaderboard - not a small feat considering there are 340 teams!  I even chose myself for the team!! It may be silly to be excited about it but I AM!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ereprijs 'Albert Van Damme' Cross

Last Saturday I had one last chance to test my legs before Koksijde World Cup this weekend.  The race was held an hour from home in a tiny town called Laarne in East Flanders.  I went there in support of Dan Seaton who is a fellow racer and CX Magazine journalist and in support of my teammate Veerle Ingels who was there to win the East Flanders Provincial Champion's jersey. 

As it was a small race, they ran the women in conjunction with the junior guys.  The start was super fast, especially considering the course weaves in and out of a farm that just harvested their corn, leaving little 10 centimeter stalks protruding from the ground.  Veerle and I got away from the rest of the gals from the start and rode at our own pace till the end.  Veerle finishing a bit ahead of me to win the jersey! 

What i took away from the race was confirmation that my body is continuing to get stronger over the season.  On a power course like that, it is easy to judge your fitness. I was also thrilled to hear again so many cheers for me - even at a local race! What a difference that kind of support can make.

But the highlight of the day was the excitement on Veerle's face when she won the race.  When you compete in a country like Belgium where most of the big guns come to race, victories are hard to come by - unless you are marianne vos, daphny van den Brand or of course Katie Compton.  So when it happens, you're sure to treasure the moment.  I may not have won the race myself, but i was filled with joy nonetheless just by getting to witness Veerle's moment.

As for this week's training, it's been raining nonstop with heavy winds attached. It's so bad out there that I almost got blown off the soccer field during my run. It took ten seconds to clear the field in one direction and three minutes in the other.

Friday we leave for the Belgian coast for Koksijde world cup. Saturday is the race. Jonas and I have a little post-race routine every time we go to this race that includes taking a long walk on the beach while holding hands just like in the romance movies. Jonas' mom reminds me that it's just a phase - haha.

As always, thanks for reading!

Photo on top is from Vlaamse Cyclocross Cup
All the rest courtesy of Cindy Nagels

Monday, November 16, 2009

Superprestige Gavere Race Report

My race report was just posted in CYCLOCROSS Magazine's site including photos.  You can read all about it HERE. 

Be forewarned that the article is VERY dirty. teehee.
And on a side note, my teammate Veerle Ingels looked the strongest i have seen her all season! She finished in 11th!! Seems like she is working her way up to top form in time for the big racing blocks to come.

(photo courtesy of Mario Yskout)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Nommay World Cup and Fidea Jaarmaarktcross Niel Races

After a crappy time in Nommay where my legs just didnt work, i went back to basics in my mind and focused only on positive race experiences i've had in the past. I kept these thoughts up for the next three days until the next race at Jaarmaarktcross in Belgium.

I guess there is a lot of truth to the power of positive thinking.  From the first pedalstroke, i was feeling great!  Unfortunately i was so taken by surprise by my responsive legs that i got nervous and didnt fight as hard as i could have for top position going into the dirt where we rode single file for quite some time. Oops.  I eventually passed a few riders to finish in 14th just behind my teammate Veerle Ingels.   The result may not have been spectatular but it did give me a good feeling that if my legs can be great from the start in this race, then why not in the next!  I'll only have to wait a couple of days more since this Sunday is Superprestige Asper-Gavere in Belgium. Here I go...

For a detailed race report, check out CYCLOCROSS Magazine.  My race report is up now.

Thanks for reading!
(above photo taken by Bart Hazen and below is taken by Francois Buyssens)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kortenbergcross Report

Not to be confused with Koppenbergcross.  Last sunday i skipped the eight-hour drive to Germany to race with Hanka Kupfernagel and instead went local, really local as in my neighborhood woods.  The last time I raced in these woods was a month ago for the 6-hours of Kortenberg relay MTB race.  But this time around, it was a skinny-tire'd event. 

As there was no women's category since it was held on the same day as European Championships, the three of us who showed were put in the men's 50+ year category.  With no series points i had a last row callup, in fact i had no callup at all. I just had to file in behind the guys - and two girls.  While i stood at the start, Jonas told me, "Don't let anyone beat you in your own woods." As funny as that was, I did feel a certain hometown pride about racing on my training trails.  I even had my own cheering section in the form of Jonas' mom Godelieve, his sister Eva and her kids Lukas and Karel. And Jonas' friend Jo  was there to yell.  He raced the 40- category later in the day - his first cyclocross race ever!

The race start was on a skinny strip of grass, followed by a tight left hander into a singletrack trail.  I was towards the back of the field going into the singletrack but worked on my patience. Periodically I'd pass a guy here and there and was surprised to find that some of them were clearly unhappy about it, whining as i passed.  It started to make me think that the race was rigged and nobody told me. 

During the second lap of seven, i was passed by one of the gals.  I didnt whine although of course i hoped it didnt happen. The one other race we've been in together this year, she beat me by a couple of minutes so I wasnt terribly surprised. We rode together for two laps until i attacked her on a descent while thinking, "not on my turf".  I may not be able to beat the men, or even the gal but i sure as hell was going to try since this is MY backyard.  For the next four laps I defended my turf, finishing as first place woman and 9th "50+ guy".

The best part of the day was an unexpected compliment I got from a 60+ year old guy as I was about to mount my bike to ride home.  He said, "Beautiful. Just beautiful."  I dont know if he was compimenting my bike, my clothes, my riding, or my smile.  But either way, I took the kind words in as I saw fit, translating them in my head as, "beautiful ass" of course.

I may have showed decently in my local woods, but Nommay World Cup next weekend will be a whole different situation.  All the big guns like Hanka Kupfernagel, Marianne Vos, Daphny Van den Brand, Helen Wyman, and Katie Compton will be there. And even the little guns will be there too.  But you never know, even BB guns like me can do serious damage when aimed correctly.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Koppenbergcross - Behind the Scenes

Just in case you didnt read my article that was recently posted on CYCLOCROSS Magazine, CLICK HERE to read.
It contains a lot of history, funny stories and interesting info. 

As for my whereabouts, i have been lying low for the last week. Training hard, resting hard, eating well.  In fact, i have been eating very well!  I made vegetarian lasagna,  lebanese wraps, thai-inspired stew of sweet potatoes, chick peas, tomatoes and peanut butter, and lastly banana-banana bread.

I was supposed to go to Germany for a race this Sunday but it looked as though Jonas was about to get really sick so we canceled.  Eight hours of driving in one day is a bit much when you're possibly fighting a bug.  I think he may be in the clear - lucked out with only one couch day, but the prude decision to race locally seems best.  Instead i am racing in my local woods of Kortenberg - ten minutes away by bike. It will be with the boys - or rather men since they are either over 40 or over 50, depending on what category they place me in.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Koppenbergcross Report

My Koppenberg Race Report is published on CYCLOCROSS MAG ! CLICK HERE TO SEE IT WITH PHOTOS.  You can also CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE to the magazine. 
Or you can read just the text for the article below.

Koppenbergcross - Racing Is Only Half the Fun! - A Column by Christine Vardaros

October 28th, 2009 Filed Under rider diary

by Christine Vardaros

If I were allowed to put only one race on my “to-do list”, Koppenbergcross would be the one! It has all the elements of my theoretically perfect cross event. The course contains a climb on the world’s most famous cobbles, plows down a technical switchback descent, and comes lined with 20,000 screaming, cowbell-ringing, horn-blowing fans to take the enthusiasm way past any imaginable level. It also has a long, colorful history (see my profile of Koppenbergcross and its promoters).

But now that the race is over, I can’t stop running the day’s events through my head to make sense of my botched start to the race. For the first two laps, I pedaled solidly backwards at mach speed, straight into 25th place. I know it wasn’t my tire pressure since that was approved by none other than Richard Groenendaal just before the race!

But then something clicked and I started to ride - in the forward direction! For the last four laps, I got faster and faster, gradually passing gals, one by one. As I crossed the finish line with two laps to go, I heard the announcer talking about me. He said that my motto was “Ik kan het doen” which means “I can do it”. “Yeah, why not,” I thought to myself.

By the end, I crossed the finish line in 16th. Not a stellar result, but I must admit that the sensations I had on the last lap - it felt like I had wings - made it all worthwhile. People are always surprised when I tell them that, aside from alcohol, I’ve never taken any recreational drugs. Frankly I can’t imagine any drug could compare to the feeling of dancing on the pedals.

Racing at Koppenbergcross is only half the excitement. The other half is watching the men race and, of course, socializing. Before my race, two Americans living in Paris came by for a visit. It’s always fun to meet Americans across the world. Even when there is nothing else in common, just speaking American can be enough of a treat for me. And directly after the race I was given an extra serving of America-speak when Dan Seaton and his wife Mindi Wisman swung by our van while I was cooling down on the trainer.

After my little spin and a rinse-off, Jonas and I headed over to watch the men’s event. Luckily we arrived when Sven Nys was in the front group, since the lap previous he was a few seconds behind the leaders. It would have broken my heart to see that. Like most of the spectators, I was there to cheer Sven on for his seventh Koppenbergcross victory. Every lap, I yelled for my favorites including Sven, Zdenek Stybar, Erwin Vervecken, Jonathan Page, Eddy van Ijzendoorn, Bart Aernauts, Christian Heule, Tom van den Bosch, and Rob Peeters. There were others I didn’t get to cheer for as much as I’d like since they all came by me so fast, I could only get one or two names out per group of riders before they were out of earshot.

Of all my loud American-accented cheers, the one that got the most attention from the other spectators was my custom one “Allez Chickendis” for Holland’s Eddy van Ijzendoorn who races for AA Drink. I started calling him that after reading all his Chickendis Restaurant posts on facebook.

Chickendis is his favorite food joint in Spain. And every time he’s in the country, he reports back to his Facebook friends on every one of his three square meals a day - with photos. A bunch of us who are Facebook friends with him got such a kick out of his updates that we started looking forward to them, like a cult following. They really showed a “fun personality” side of him that fans never see. Once I explain this story to the various groups of inquiring spectators, they always laugh and instantly adore him, becoming fans themselves.
After witnessing Sven pull into the finishing strip for his sixth straight victory in a row, we were swept up by the thick wave of fans and deposited at Jonathan Page’s post-race party. There we ran into Dan and Mandi again for more Amerikaanse -speak. It was the first time I saw JP’s wife Cori in about a year. Seeing her again reminded me of the first time I met her. Many years ago, I showed up at a restaurant to meet Jonathan, Cori and VeloNews’ Charles Pelkey the night before a World Cup. Only I was three hours late, showing up looking like a wet rat - red eyes, tear-drenched face and hair. It was my first time in Europe AND my first time trying to drive a stick shift so it took me three hours to drive what should have been ten minutes away - on the same road as my hotel actually.

That night Cori and Jonathan drove me and my car back down the block. The next morning Cori jogged to my hotel to take me and my car to the race. To top it off, Jonathan lent me a spare bike for the pits. Somehow I managed to come in 10th that day. It never would have been possible without them. (On a side note, did you know that Cori won Koppenbergcross many years ago?)

While I was telling this story to a collection of folks at JP’s party, a man walked up to me, gave me a kiss and walked away. I love Belgium. I suppose if we were in France that would have turned into as much as three kisses as France’s kissing etiquette varies from one to three kisses per greeting!

Our little gathering was next to Jonathan’s bikes which were decked out with the latest and coolest stuff, like the Edge handlebars that come with their own built-in bar end plugs and the non-slip handlebar tape, to name a few. I did find out that his bar tape comes from Belgium’s VDB Parts - the makers of my Zannata bikes. Maybe within the next few races I’ll be using it too. Feeling his tires, it seems he ran about the same pressure as I did, about 1.6 bar. He ran full mud tires for the race, front and rear, but towards the end of the race, when the course was drying up a bit, he switched bikes in the pit so he’d have a front mud and rear Challenge Grifo 32.

To finish up the evening, we first sat in the usual race traffic for thirty minutes to travel two kilometers to the roundabout in Oudenaarde, then drove to Jonas’ parents house on the way home for homemade ballekes (soy meatballs) in tomato sauce, fries, broccoli soup, salad and soy ice cream with caramel sauce.

The next big race is Nommay World Cup in France on November 8th and I am already jonesing for another fix of dancing on the pedals! Thanks for reading.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Nacht Van Woerden - night cx race in Holland

My race report on Nacht Van Woerden was just published in CYCLOCROSS Magazine.
CLICK HERE to check it out.

It is also below - minus a few photos and crucial links.

Night Racing in Holland - a Report by Christine Vardaros

October 22nd, 2009 Filed Under rider diary
Christine Vardaros at Nacht van Woerden. © Bart Hazen

If I could describe racing at night in one word, it would be WOOO-HOOO! OK, well maybe that is technically two words but it just can’t be summed up in one. I suppose unreal or surreal can cover it too.

According to the TomTom GPS, which almost every single Belgian uses to navigate through the small roads in Europe, Nacht van Woerden (Night of Woerden - which is a little town in Holland) was two hours away. But to get there, we had to cross the Antwerpen ring. The traffic is so bad there that they are proposing to build a bridge or tunnel through the whole city to alleviate delays of up to two hours during rush hour. With that said, we left at 2:30pm for a race that starts way past dinner time at 8:45pm. The men raced at 9:45 which is bedtime for most of these athletes. We arrived at almost 5pm, jumped immediately onto the course and did a few rounds before the start of the first race - amateurs and masters at 6:20pm.

While pre-riding, I worked on memorizing every bump, root, the best lines for the off-camber sections - basically anything that can slow me down or possibly knock me off my bike. But once the lights go out, I quickly found that all those memorized little things no longer mattered. Your only focus is to stay between the course linings. I bet if this race were run in the daytime the speeds would be lower. The most dangerous part of the whole event was actually riding to the course and back, weaving through invisible cyclists and spectators. I think I had about four near misses. Jonas walked around with a mini handlebar blinker attached to the zipper of his jacket. Smart guy! Maybe that’s why I married him.

As for the gist of the course, it was a twisty, turny maze. Every few seconds you were slowing down for a tight u-turn in dusty corners and powering out of them. It reminded me a lot of San Francisco Bay Area courses. I had so much fun riding it that I had a tough time wiping the stupid grin off my face. I managed a few times to mask my excitement as I passed the swarms of camera flashes. You can always figure out the location of other riders based on the bursts of light along the course.

This was World Champion Marianne Vos’ first cross race of the season and she rocked it! The only two riders who could stay anywhere in her vicinity were Holland’s Sanne Van Paassen and England’s Helen Wyman who races for Kona. They finished respectively twelve and thirty seconds behind the young sweetheart of cross!

Another amazing performance was put on by Holland’s Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn who, in her first race back after two broken ribs, placed seventh - just ahead of Belgian Champion Joyce Vanderbeken. My result well into the teens was not satisfactory but I felt better than I did even a week ago which gives me a positive feeling. On the upside, I did win 6€ which felt like a lot after Helen told me she won a whopping 25€ for third place. Maybe we both should have gone to Ohio’s UCI3 Festival?

After the race, Helen’s third backup bike was left at our van for safekeeping so naturally I lifted it. What a light bike, especially considering its’ size since Helen is one of the few women who are taller than I. Once she picked up her bike, Jonas and I headed out to watch the men. When we arrived, unsurprisingly we saw Sven Nys in the lead. But what did shock us a little was to see Gerben de Knegt on his wheel. They had a nice gap over a group of six chasers including Holland’s Thijs Al - winner of ‘08 Zolder World Cup, Holland’s up-and-comer Eddy Van Ijzendoorn, Poland’s Mariusz Gil, Jonathan Page, Erwin Vervecken, and Belgian National Champion (elite w/o contract) Ben Berden. Crossing the line, Sven came first with five seconds over de Knegt. He dropped him through a technical section on the last lap. In post-race interviews, Nys said that he immediately realized he was the strongest on the day but kept de Knegt with him because it wasn’t a good idea to ride alone on a course like that. Thirty seconds later came the chase group, finishing in a sprint in the order above. (Check for full reports and photos.)

The next race on my schedule is the infamous Koppenbergcross, held in Oudenaarde where, as of this year, the women get to ride the legendary cobbles of the Koppenberg. For those of you who have never set tire on this climb, it is a bitch to ascend. Even when dry, which almost never happens for race day. But the crowds are not hanging around the cobbles. Instead they are lining the treacherous descent which turns into a greasy slip-and-slide when wet. Last year, I think almost every male fell somewhere in the race. The most famous of the crashes happened on the last lap (check CX Mag link above to view a video) where Nys was being tailed by Boom. Both fell but neither one was privy to the other guy’s misfortune since there was a bend in the trail separating the two. They only found out after the race while watching the TV in the podium changing room. (check CX Mag link above to view last year’s report and video.)

Keep tuned to Cyclocross Magazine’s website over the next days. I am about to submit an in-depth behind-the-scenes story on the Koppenbergcross race. What a story it is!

As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wanna know the secret to my fair skin?

Doc Martin's of Maui Sunblock. The stuff smells like you are literally on a beach in Maui!
You can read the press release HERE on CYCLOCROSS Mag.

As for the racing, it looks like we are going to have some real cyclocross racing here in belgium for a while since the weather turned for the worse - hard rain and heavy winds. (BTW, i use Doc Martin's for windblock too!)

Two Races Down, Five Months To Go...update on CYCLOCROSS Mag

My race update was just published on CYCLOCROSS Magazine. CLICK HERE to check it out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good News For Women in Cyclocross

Golazo Sports Elevates Women’s Cyclocross in Belgium

October 14th, 2009 Filed Under cyclocross news in

This ‘cross season, Golazo Sports, organizer of the GVA Trofee, Fidea Jaarmaarktcross of Niel, and International Cyclocross Tervuren again elevated women’s competition opportunities in Belgium, the heart of cyclocross. As of this week, they added another one of their events to the UCI Women’s calendar. It is the race in Niel to be held November 11. This makes two new events this year for women (the other was Namur), organized by Golazo, totaling seven of their ten top competition events. As a major race series in European ‘cross, they are setting the tone for other organizers to step it up for women’s racing.

“Women should be treated equal to men in all sports. In tennis, athletics, gymnastics, etc., women’s competition should be on the same level in terms of media and spectator interest,” said Christophe Impens, Managing Director of Golazo. Adding, “It is my hope that one day women cyclocross racers will become as popular as their male collegues.”

When asked how he plans to equalize the sexes in ‘cross, Impens explained, “By giving women more competition opportunities, we think that the spectators will have more appreciation for women’s cyclocross. Top races like Niel and Tervuren will also increase the media interest. And once media interest increases, the financial rewards for female riders will increase.”

Next summer, Golazo sports is taking their women’s advancement protocol to the mountain bike scene by organizing five UCI mountain bike events in Belgium - all with women’s races.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Citadel Namen - GVA Trofee's First Round

What a gas!  I have never done a cross race quite like that! It was so incredibly heavy but a whole lot of fun! I pre-rode the course the day before the race and it was fast but not too tricky, rather straightforward in fact. But after an evening of rain, the course turned to greasy mud. 

Mud tires would have been key, would have loved to mount the Challenge Fango's on a wheelset but no such luck. Four wheelsets of mine are hanging out in Belgian Customs.  And it appears they are on their way back to USA this monday.  Bummer.  With this said, what i had to use for the race were old carbon wheels that dont have any breaking surface when wet. On the first lap, just after i cleared the steepest descent, i couldnt slow down and hit the next descent super hot, rode slightly off the well traveled course and slid on a wet root. BAM, catapulted to the ground. Luckily I wasnt seriously injured, although some girls came close to running over my head.

After my encounter with the muddy ground, I slowly made some ground to finish in 17th place, slowly being the key word. I crawled down the descents and gave it everything on the uphill and pavement.  After the race, I immediately felt like a rockstar when i saw there was a mini collection of folks waiting for me.  Nancy Farzan from California, her friend Yves, and Julie were among them.  It was fun to speak english although i dont think i was too fluent.  After being in Belgium for so long, I've gotten into the habit of speaking slowly and clearly, choosing words that can be easily understood by anyone who speaks english as a second or third language. I bet Nancy must have thought i hit my head during the race.  Thankfully my head was indeed spared this time around!

After slipping out of my muddy one-piece, drinking my recovery shake and riding the trainer a bit, we checked out the men's event.  It was amazing to see how fast these guys take the tricky descents. 

For those of you who are JP fans, he kicked ass! He rode top ten for most of the race before slipping back into 13th.   I was especially excited to see Sven Nys get his legs back so soon after dropping out of the Treviso World Cup the week previous.  And today, in Ruddervorde Superprestige, he WON!!!  He started near the back of the field due to low UCI points, climbed back up to the front, bridged to World Champ Niels Albert, then rode away from him. The fans went crazy! I must admit I screamed at the TV screen a few times.

Friday, October 9, 2009

GVA Trofee's Citadelle de Namur Creates a Stir

I just wrote an article on the GVA Trofee's season opener event to be held this Saturday in Namen, the French-speaking part of Belgium. 
CLICK HERE for the story published on CYCLOCROSS Magazine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wanna Know What Erwin Vervecken is Thinking?

I interviewed him before the start of the season to find out his thoughts on his last season of cyclocross racing. The intro for my interview was written by John Parbst where he talks about his own personal connection with Vervecken.     CLICK HERE to read it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What are American Cyclocross Racers Worth?

Belgium has it all figured out - based on their criteria of course!  The Belgians run a very popular Fantasy Cyclocross game called Gouden Cross (Golden Cross) where you choose your fantasy team, then watch how they do throughout the season. 

When putting your Fantasy Team together, you choose nine riders while staying below the team budget of 200 million euros.  The charts provided show the value, in millions, of each rider. 

But before you choose a full American squad, be forewarned.  There is a caveat;  the only races that count for the game are European events like World Cups, GVA Trofee, Superprestige and a few others like Overijse, Scheldecross, Niel Jaarmarktcross and Sint-Michelsgestel.

Jonas and i are submitting our teams this week.  One team costs 7€, btw.  If you want to try your luck, go to .

AND if you want to PLAY FOR FREE, go to CYCLOCROSS Magazine's Fantasy Cyclocross.
If you play CYCLOCROSS mag's version, you may just win a super cool belgian prize that was just donated by one of the TOP racers. Keep your eyes on CYCLOCROSS Mag's site for the announcement.

I also registered my team on CX Mag.  Of course i chose myself as one of the racers!  You gotta believe in yourself!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sneak Preview of the Team Blog

It isnt nearly done yet, but feel free to check it out. All comments are both welcome and appreciated!
CLICK HERE to reach

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Team Zannata-Champion System gets first BIG-TIME Press

Daily Peloton was the first to publish our Team's Inaugural Press Release.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First Training Cyclo-Cross Race Complete

It was with a handful of girls and a swarm of u-19 junior boys. You know you're in Belgium when even the ten year olds are decked out in full team kits down to the matching bikes, clipless pedals, and race faces. It is really something special to see.

The race served many purposes for me. I got to remember (offscreen) what it is like to race cross. What i now remember most is that it really beats you up! You dont even have to fall of your bike and you return with bruises and pains that you have no idea how they were aquired. Bugger!

Among a few other things, I also remember now that my shifters only allow for three upshifts at a time. I was coming off my road bike where i can shift straight from the smallest sprocket to the biggest in one move, so imagine my dismay when i figured out i can only change three gears at a time - in the middle of a super steep climb. After a few mid-hill runs, i finally adjusted.

But overall it was a success. It was the first time offroad with my new bike so I was able to see how it handled under pressure - my guess is that it handled it a bit better than I. haha. I was pretty nervous before the start, wondering what it was going to be like. And now i know.

It was also the first time wearing the new team kit with new bike in public. I forgot how much fun it is to be fancy and new! I got a bunch of looks, questions and some even stopped to take photos of me and the bike. As goofy as it sounds, it made me feel special. I am so incredibly thankful for that.

Here are some photos from the race so you can check it out for yourself. Photos were taken by Francois Buyssens.

My next race is yet another training one with the boys this saturday. Then the following friday i am off for Treviso, Italy. The first round of the World Cup Series. After the race, Jonas and i plan to spend an extra two days in Venice to unwind. I dont know if i look more forward to the race or to our post-race activities!

As always, thanks for reading!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009


With cyclocross just around the corner, it is time to pick your fantasy team. CYCLOCROSS Magazine has an online game where you choose your ideal team from a list of riders. If you choose well, you can win BIG PRIZES - in addition to bragging rights of course! There are some Belgians registered as well. Think you know the riders better than they do? PROVE IT!!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First ride on the Zannata Z45 Cross Bikes

After staring at that one photo i had of the new cross bike, I finally got to ride the real thing today. Talk about getting you in the mood for cross season! The bike feels solid, responsive and most importantly it looks good on me.

Tomorrow the Champion team clothes come...again. Hopefully they will be the ones intended for me this time. A few days ago i got teammate Veerle Ingels clothes by accident. I figured it out when i opened the box and pulled out what looked like barbie doll clothing. They were so tiny i couldnt even try them on to see if there was any way i could swing it. Oh, to be as small as i could wear the clothes right away!

After Jonas and I get the clothes, we are heading over to the mobile home store to order an awning for the travel van - one of my priorities. Being able to stay dry at the races is such a luxury! Two weeks ago we got one of Jonas' priorities - cruise control.

Last Sunday our 6 hr MTB relay race went really well! We were 2nd place mixed team and i personally won a year's supply of Persil brand clothing detergent for being the fastest girl - or was it the girl who traveled the farthest to be there, all the way from America! We weren't paying attention to what they were saying until we heard something about an american woman. oops. Either way, that was super cool! Our team sported the stylish Vanderkitten jerseys as i didnt have my new team clothing yet.

The next two weekends are local races then it is off to Treviso, Italy for the first round of the World Cup. Afterwards we are going to Venice for a couple of days to be tourists - on bikes so we can still get in the training rides since the following weekend is GVA's Citadel van Namen. I am writing an article on the event for CYCLOCROSS Magazine at some point soon so keep an eye on it!

On a side note, I want to wish Bart Wellens a speedy recovery. I just heard on the radio that he has a chronic fatigue type of virus. That sucks. He said that means no races, no training, no nothing for him. And he just told the press recently that this is the best preparation he's ever done for cross season.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My second to last road race completed

Yesterday i did a criterium in West Flanders called Avond van Zonnebeke. I normally wouldnt travel a whopping 1 1/2 hours in a car just for a local road race (yes, we are spoiled in belgium), but it was a crit - my favorite of all road races. It was 40 rounds of 1.75km. And bonus was the slight rise every lap.

The first 30 or so rounds went well. I felt fresh and even briefly showed my face in the wind a couple of times. But then I hit a wall. I dont know if it was the heat or maybe i went too deep in my cyclocross workouts lately but it surely didnt feel good. Thanks to the mini climb i was able to relax a little every lap and stay on with the peloton for the sprint, although my sprint was more like slow motion. I got out of the saddle and went through the physical motions of a sprint but my actual speed was more that of a cyclotourist.
It was the tiniest field of the years with only 25ish starters. I finished 18th - yes, only 18 finished the race. I won a total of €22.50; €12.10 start money and €10 prize money. Did you hear that two days ago Contador won a criterium here in Belgium? He was paid €50,000 start money. I doubt even Marianne Vos gets close to a fraction of that from any race organizer. And she has a much better finishing salute - possibly the best of all bike racers. It is so animated it can bring tears of emotion to the unsuspecting.

The real superstar of the day was a british gal who basically motorpaced us the whole time mainly well over 40kph, except for the climb where she lowered the pace to the mid 30's. Then she whipped us all in the sprint. I heard she is World Champion on the track. If you see her, she even LOOKS fast - long and thin like a greyhound. Unreal.

After the race, Jonas and I met up with Krist for a drink. I had my usual Ice Tea. Then i tried a Bellevue Kriek beer - it is a girly cherry beer that is usually more sweet than alcoholic. Bellevue was just the opposite so after two sips - one to try and one to confirm - it was over.

Next race is this Sunday. It is a 6-hour MTB relay race with jonas, ronny, kris (jonas' sister's husband) and me. I will be the one with the cross bike. Theoretically my cross bikes and clothing arrive this week so i may get to test them out in the race.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What Does Gordel Mean?

Usually it means belt. But one day a year here in belgium, it means chaos on wheels. Today is the day. Bikes everywhere, many thousands of them. In fact, the whole of Brussels is closed down and closed off to cars on this one day. It is the day where "real" cyclists, alter their normal training routes to avoid the Gordel Tours.

Today i did my training ride with Jonas and Ronny. Since i got to pick the first part of our ride so i could tailor it for my specific workout, I choose a Gordel route (but in the opposite direction - i'm not THAT massochistic!) We dont have Gordel rides in America of this magnitude so it's a spectacle to me, something not to be missed. It was great! The riders served as a sort of moving film. Some riders had oversized balloons tailgating their bikes. Others brought their whole family - I am still amazed how one woman put all four kids on her bike. And the power she must need to propel that bike forward! I think my favorite was the old woman with her dog in the handlebar basket. She must have been about 85 years old but in true belgian fashion she was hauling ass on her 40kg town bike with barely 30psi (little over 2 bar) in the tires.

After my efforts were over, i handed over the route-choosing to Jonas, who immediately took us off the Gordel route. Party over. But thanks to Jonas' inattention, Ronny shortly took command and we were BACK on the Gordel route. Just out of curiousity, i finally asked Ronny why he would choose to ride along the cyclotourist parade route. His hand motion of drinking said it all - FEED ZONE! On all the Belgian tours, there are feed zones every few kilometers. Sure enough, five minutes later we were enjoying drinks courtesy of Gordel. Clearly, Ronny has a zwarte gordel (black belt) in seeking out the one benefit of the Gordel ride for non-gordel riders.

Tomorrow is an evening criterium, Avond van Zonnebeke. Afterwards, we are having a drink with our friend Krist at a cafe. Considering there is at least one cafe in every belgian town (NO MATTER how small that town is) i bet we will have no problems finding one. In fact, race registrations here in Belgium are usually held in cafes - yep, smoke and all.

And after this race, all focus is on CROSS!

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2009-10 Cyclocross Season Calendar (almost) Finalized

Wanna know where i will be the next months?
Here is my tentative list. Changes will probably be made, but the bulk of the events will remain the same.
Hopefully you can come out and see me at one or more of the events!

13 Sep: 6 Uren van Kortenberg - BEL
26 Sep: Stabroek - BEL
4 Oct: Treviso World Cup - ITA
10 Oct: GVA Trofee CX Int'l Namur – BEL
20 Oct: Nacht Van Woerden - NED
25 Oct: GVA Trofee Koppenbergcross - BEL
8 Nov: Nommay World Cup - FRA
15 Nov: Superprstige Cyclocross Gavere - BEL
21 Nov: Int Döhlauer Crossrennen - Döhlau bei Hof - GER
22 Nov: Karl-Wagner-Preis Int – Strullendorf - GER
28 Nov: Koksijde World Cup - BEL
6 Dec: Frankfurter Rad-Cross - Frankfurt a/Main - GER
13 Dec: US National Champs - Bend, OR - USA
18 Dec: Scheldecross - Antwerpen - BEL
20 Dec: Kalmthout World Cup - BEL
22 Dec: GP Montferland - Zeddam - NED
26 Dec: Heusden-Zolder World Cup - BEL
29 Dec: GVA Trofee Azencross - Loenhout - BEL
1 Jan: GP Hotel Threeland - Pètange - LUX
3 Jan: Vlaamse Witloof Veldrit - Tervuren - BEL
13 Jan: Int. Centrumcross van Surhuisterveen - NED
16 Jan: Int CX Huijbergen - NED
17 Jan: Roubaix World Cup - FRA
24 Jan: Hoogerheide World Cup - NED
31 Jan: World Championships - Tabor - CZE
6 Feb: GVA Trofee Krawaten Cross - Lille - BEL
20 Feb: Lebekke - BEL
21 Feb: GVA Trofee Int'l Sluitingprijs Oostmalle - BEL

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wanna hear about my NEW Cyclocross Team?

Yep, I have a new cyclo-cross team! It is a small one with two elite riders, me and Belgian powerhouse Veerle Ingels. Our sponsors are Zannata, Garage Van Ermen and Champion System. And i couldn't be any happier!

The bikes and clothing are set to arrive next week so you will have to settle for photos of photos for the moment. As you can tell, we will easily be the best looking team in the peloton! The World Champ stripes are in tribute to Roland Liboton who worked with Zannata boss Johan Moeyersons (pictured with his bike) on the cyclocross frame. The clothing design came from David at Garage Van Ermen who is always Mr. Fashionable so naturally the clothing reflects his style.

Now that the bulk of the team stuff is handled, i am busy with getting everything else in order. I'm always amazed by how many little tasks are necessary just to race my bike.

Regarding the fitness, I have been doing the work - training hard, eating well but you never quite know what to expect until the first cross races. If the few road races i've done so far is any indication, it is theoretically coming along. I have felt pretty solid during the races. My wheels and tires, however, have fallen apart. In only a handful of races i managed to go through two new tires, two Mavic Ksyerium SL wheels, and three flats in total. A few more intervals, hard workouts, training races and i should hopefully be ready to go for cross season!

Next weekend is my first offroad test. I am competing in 6 hours of Kortenberg, a mountain bike relay race with three others; jonas, Kris (jonas' sister's husband), and Ronny. Of course i will be on the cross bike.

The following day i am racing my last road event. After that it is two more training cross races with the junior men and off to Treviso, Italy for the first World Cup on October 4th. Oddly enough, i am already nervous and excited for this race! I also love road trips so that always adds to the excitement.

Until next update...thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

CYCLOCROSS Magazine GETS Interviewed!

In The Crosshairs, a website created for ALL levels of cyclocross riders and racers, recently interviewed Andrew Yee, publisher of the World's ONLY Cyclocross Magazine to give us a behind-the-scenes look at how a magazine comes about. And in the process, we get to read all about the guy who made it happen. Nice interview!

CLICK HERE to read it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tour de France Belgian Newspaper Highlights

"Fireworks canceled" The cartoon was in response to the fireworks expected in the high mountains, only for the top GC's to conservatively hold their places in the GC line.
Top story: Lance Armstrong is quoted as saying that doping control at
6am is not humane. He claims it was the French Anti-doping agency's political game.

The king Alberto cartoon is pretty self
explanatory. I started to like Contador until his final podium appearance when he completely DID NOT thank his team and support crew for getting him onto the podium.

And i wonder who the "lucky guy" is who ends up buying lance's bike for €700,000. Crazy.

"Last hope for the boss." The livestrong anklebands was a nice touch. My favorite of all the Tour titles in the newspaper was "'The BOSS is BOOS'" which means "The boss is angry". I love how creative the Belgians are with their wordplay. Belgians seem to play with words much more than americans.

"Armstrong doesn't give up 2nd place" - he surely did fight, or rather struggle, for it too. He is definitely not the Armstrong of years past. hmmm......

Speaking of...there are two new drugs on the market. I am particularly impressed with the second one called Aicar. They tested it on runners and apparently if you take it for four weeks - WITHOUT exercising - you can run Apparently, if you take the pills for one month WITHOUT exercise, at the end of the month you can run 23% longer than four weeks ago and have 44% more endurance - according to studies done on lab mice in La Jolla, California. The article went on to say that to have better condition without exercising is everyone's sexual fantasy, surely that of the topsporters. The drug is not yet on the market so dont bother looking for it in your nearest pharmacy. Personally, i just dont see how something so effective in cheating a daily regimen of a healthful diet and exercise can be good for you.
In many of the stages, if you look just behind sprinter Mark Cavendish who won every "sprinter" stage and even some non-sprinter stages, you'd see America's Tyler Farrar, or should i say America's AND Belgium's. The Belgians have readily accepted Gent-based Farrar as one of their own. His fluency in Flemish really won them over! The title of this profile article says, " Normally i'd be at the Gent festival now." He does say later on in the article that "The Tour is also not bad."
What i admire most about his Flemish is his confidence to talk without stressing over words he doesnt know or over making mistakes. When he doesnt know a word, he just plugs in the english equivalent and keeps on going! Excellent!!!

Every day while the Tour was going on, the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad was running the daily stories from the 1969 Tour de France. This story is titled, "Where is the tour winner?" Apparently Eddy Merckx was left behind at the post-Tour party in Paris. His team forgot him. They finally found him after an hour of searching.
Next are photos of post-tour crits (my races as well as the boys) and even one of Sven Nys. Stay tuned...