Friday, January 30, 2009

Getting the job(s) done

The last two weeks have been super busy - multitasking up the wazoo. Is that actually a word? After Roubaix World Cup, i started doing more group rides, mountain bike tours, fixed gear rides - basically playing with others on the bike.

The most exciting of all these rides was last Tuesday's Beginendijk ride. This group ride is so large that it is usually split into three or four groups of fifty riders. The cops demand that it be split for safety sake. This and many other group ride rules are strictly monitored by a couple of ride leaders who are about 60 and 70 years old - the average age riders on this group. But instead of riding at a pace of 30kph like my local old mans ride, these guys haul ass at 35-38kph average. And after the official ride of 80-120km is over, many continue for another 20km for race simulation. Very cool.

Anyway, last tuesday i was in the second group. About an hour into a painfully slow group ride crawling at speeds of no more than 32-34kph, the two guys leading our group did the unthinkable - they led our group in overtaking the first group - fifty riders passing fifty riders.

Apparently this has never been done in all the years this ride has been taking place. The rules of the ride would never usually allow it - i say usually because there was something unusual about our group that gave us permission to bypass the rules. Sven Nys. Ruler of the cyclo-cross world, an actual God in Belgium. He was one of the leaders of our group. We flew by the first group at turbo speed. It was so fast that i didnt realize we were overtaking group #1. I thought instead it was possibly my local old mans ride that was coincidentally on the same road.

After we overtook the group, there was a bit of confusion because Sven veered us off the set course onto some side roads. Minutes later one of the Group Monitors rode up alongside Sven. I thought for sure he was getting repremanded. Jonas disagreed. A couple of days later, while on the group ride I found out Jonas was right. The group monitor confirmed that he was just informing Sven of his wrong turn on the course. Yeah, if it were anyone other than Cyclo-Cross God himself, there would have been hell to pay. Coincidentally later on that night, I had the chance to talk to Sven and he was pretty casual about it, saying "Yeah, the first group was driving too slow, huh." (I was talking to Sven to get his thoughts on Cyclo-Cross World Championships this Sunday in Hoogerheide, Holland. If you want to read all about it on Cyclocross Magazine, click HERE.

In addition, if you want to read more Pre-Worlds interviews of racers, go to Marianne Vos' is up there now, and within a day or so should be interviews from Hanka Kupfernagel, Helen Wyman, Gabby Day, Nikki Harris. I think that was it.

On a side note, I just submitted my next column for VegNews Magazine. I am still so excited to be writing for them - what an honor. And my boss Aurelia is great! And if you love to look at scrumptious food, VegNews has a food blog as well. Click Here for it. I have gotten lots of meal ideas from it.

Last Sunday's mountain bike tour was also rather special. It had 22 short steep hills. They even numbered them at the base of each hill. Included on the info plate was the length and gradient so you knew how much suffering you could expect. Click HERE to see a video of the mtb tour. By the 18th hill I started to feel my quads and ass burn while the rest of me was still chilled from the sub-freezing conditions. Just when i was ready to lay off the power workout on the climbs, I got passed by an over-enthusiastic guy looking for a two-wheeled duel. With no scheduled race for the next few days, I gave him the playful head-nod and off we went, tearing it up the next climb. I won. Gosh, i am so petty. Hey, but a win is a win. teehee.

Most of my last days have been pretty busy but yesterday has to top them off for multitasking effort. I was out the door at 9am, took a bus to Leuven to meet up with Cyclocross Magazine top guns Andrew and his wife Maissia (i am sure i killed the spelling) for breakfast. They gave me a couple copies of their latest magazine - the one with my Lars Boom interview, a teeny tiny cowbell keychain made by (ask for elizabeth if you contact them - she's sweet), a Class of 2008 Cyclocross Magazine tee with my name listed on the back, and a very cool 2009 Cyclocross Magazine calendar. After talking a kilometer a minute I sprinted back to the bus stop to go home.

Once home, i headed right to the computer to call Hanka Kupfernagel for our interview. She was in her car on the way from Germany to Hoogerheide. After a great talk, i put the headset down and got my clothes on for the Beginendijk group ride. Since i was running late, we drove there by van. Once the clothes were on and water bottles filled, we got into the van and drove, arriving with five minutes before departure. When we got home, I again headed directly to the headset and called Sven Nys for my second interview of the day. I took a brief pause to shove a bunch of macaroni in my face then went to work to transcribe Sven and Hanka's interview.

Today was the most relaxing day i've had in a while. I spent part of it in the kitchen, a therapeutic place for me, making pumpkin scones and lasagna. Went for a bike ride, showered then sat down to a large slice of pumpkin scone with maple syrup and washed it down with red wine while reading my friend's first novel - thoroughly entertaining!

Thanks as always for reading!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Roubaix Cyclo-Cross World Cup Report

January 21st, 2009 Filed Under editorial, racers, racing, rider diary
by Christine Vardaros

Looking ahead to the race, I had expected to stand at the start line, head filled with optimistic thoughts of taking down my opponents for my own inner peace. I was basing this on the speeds and sensations I had during my pre-ride the day before the race.

But later that night, my optimism took an immediate turn for the worse when my hand spontaneously cramped into a tight fist delivering paralyzing and extreme jolts of pain. The hand cramp was most likely a pinched nerve caused by smacking my hand on the bar during the pre-ride. It was exacerbated that evening when I spun on the trainer as the cramp kicked in moments after I dismounted.

Within minutes my eyes welled up and tears began falling, leaving dark splotches on my light pink pajamas. The cramping and pain remained throughout the night, eased only slightly for the race with the help of heavy painkillers and numbing spray.

Now standing at the start line, I considered myself both lucky and stupid. The aggressive thoughts I had planned on for inspiration were gone; now I was willing my cramped hand to hold the bars firmly enough to prevent carnage.

CLICK HERE FOR THE REST (There are also a ton of photos of the guys' race)

On another topic, I've been getting lots of emails about my column in the current VegNews Magazine. Thanks to all for your support!!! As i appreciate all the comments, it has been frustrating for me because I haven't seen it yet myself. Ugh!! For those of you who didnt read it yet, I wrote it on sticking with your new year's resolution to get in shape.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Housecleaning is for real men...

or at least it is for Jonas more than it is for me. Yesterday I found that out the hard way. We found out yesterday that we were having an overnight guest that night! With no forewarning, Jonas had no time to clean the house which meant it was either i give it a go or hope and pray that the guest doesn't get eaten by the creepy large dust bunnies. Usually the house is kept under control but with the heavy racing schedule recently there was no time for cleaning.

I dusted all the furniture and five knick-knacks, scrubbed toilets, countertops and sinks. But then it came time for my least favorite chore - vaccuuming. I had gone my whole adult life without ever owning one of those things just so i could avoid using it. The first couple of rooms were a bitch. The handle was so short that i had to hunch over to make contact with the floor. But then something magical happened when i accidentally dropped it - the handle got longer! Apparently there is some adjustability with these things. With the hunching behind, i continued with my vaccuming a bit more comfortably.

With the whole upstairs done, it was time to get into the corners. I saw on TV a few times that the handle can pull off, leaving you with a vaccuum tube so i gave it a try. succees. But then the damage started. When you stick a tube into dark corners where you have no view, you can suck more than just the bunnies up. That is exactly what i did. I had to stop every few seconds to pull random items out such as stuck electrical cords, curtains, wallpaper. Good thing Jonas will probably never see the damage as it is out of sight.

Next project was the stairs. It would be interesting if they could ever take a poll on the percentage of stair flyers that occur while vaccuuming stairs. Between the oversized cord, the powerful sucking of the vaccuum that decides for you which direction it will head, and the balancing act of carrying the handle in one hand an the heavy box in the other, i'd expect the rate of disaster to be high. Although i survived it this time around, not everything in the house was meant to survive.

Last room was the kitchen. Just when i got to the last corner, BAM, the vaccuum led me right into a large bottle of Gluhwein (red spiced wine). That thing shattered into a zillion pieces while the blood red liquid oozed in every direction - across to the cabinets, under the refridgerator, and through the doorway to the basement. Shit. Paper towels werent enough and i had already been yelled out for using kitchen towels to clean up messes on the floor. So instead i just stood there watching the puddle slowly inhabit much of the kitchen floor space. Finally I remembered that there were "outdoor" towels perfect for the job! I pulled the heavy wooden shutter open, unlocked the door to the backyard and grabbed the towels. The hardest part to clean was probably the stairs and cellar. It had streamed down the stairs and onto the concrete cellar floor.

Thankfully my cleanup job was enough to kill the "alcoholic" smell that permeated the house. Either that or our house guest was too polite to call me on it. I suppose Jonas will take me off house duty for a few more years before he agrees to give me another try. Or at least i hope.

On a highly tangental note, my latest race report from last Sunday's Roubaix World Cup should be posted on Cyclocross Magazine's site either today or tomorrow, so be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Peanut Makes the News Again!

I just found out that my name is mentioned in the same article as Maarten Tjallingii, one of Holland's most famous cyclists - and recently voted Holland's Most Famous Vegetarian. As of 2009, he is racing on Lars Boom's Rabobank Team.

The article is about famous vegetarians in the pro cycling peloton.

Just in case you want to check out the article, here is the link.

And here is the paragraph from

Verder vinden we nog de namen van de Amerikaan Jonathan Boyer, de Australiƫr Alan Peiper, de Engelsman Sean Yates (dit wordt op een andere plek tegengesproken) en de Amerikaanse veldrijdster Christine Vardaros. Boyer stond bekend als een nieuwlichter. In het begin van de jaren tachtig nam hij een Zuid-Koreaanse acupuncturiste mee naar de Ronde van Frankrijk, wat voor enige opschudding zorgde in het peloton.

Have a great afternoon!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Inebriated by caffeine?

Yesterday Jonas and I rode our cross bikes over to the Tervuren course. What a difference from last week! The whole course was covered with ice topped by a thick layer of snow. We played around, sliding on the turns and skiing on two wheels down the mini hills. We even took a detour to join the kiddies on the snow-covered frozen pond. A few times i felt both wheels skidding around which only made my screams of excitement even more enthusiastic. I hadnt laughed that hard in a while.

Before we left the course, we attempted a couple of hot laps. It was the perfect day to challenge Jonas to a race since he was getting over a cold, out of shape, and short on sleep. Up the first gradual uphill straightaway, Jonas took the lead. But on the first turn, he overshot it and I jumped ahead. I held the lead for a couple of minutes until it was my turn to overshoot the course. But within two icy turns, we were back together coming down the finishing straight. I took the win since he was afraid to take the last turn onto the multi-use road at high speed since his brake pads were almost gone. But a win is still a win and i raised my hands high.

On our second lap race, Jonas again took the lead but within ten seconds his lack of top fitness and recovering cold caught up to him and i easily passed him. So instead we decided to just take the technical sections like turns and icy ruts at speed since I need to work on racing more courageously. Well i not only got practice at riding on my technical limit but i worked on not tipping over on the bike when laughing. We must have been so entertaining to passerbys as we skidded almost completely off the path on every turn as we took them at high speed side by side.

Today was a "recovery" ride. Ronny and Dries picked us up at 10 this morning and we meandered over to Leuven for a coffee...or three. We went to our favorite place called Cafe Onan on Parijsstraat. They serve the best international coffees that come with high quality dark belgian chocolate squares. After three rounds of coffee bombs with sugar balls on the side, we were visibly buzzing down to our toes! The ride home took about half the time even though we took a longer way home through the tiny towns connected by snowy, icy footpaths.

It has been four hours since we returned home and i am still flying high! Why did WADA remove caffeine from the anti-doping list?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

CX Mag's Vlaamse Witloof Cyclocross Coverage

Just in case you didnt read my race report on CYCLOCROSS MAGAZINE from last weekend's Vlaamse Witloof Cyclocross in Tervuren, Belgium, here it is (photo taken by Krist Vanmelle) - and more photos on CXMag site HERE:

A Fun Race at Home - a Column by Christine Vardaros
January 6th, 2009

Yippidy-friggin-doo-dah! I finally found some semi-form at the Vlaamse Witloof Veldrit race in Tervuren. I think this may be true because I finally recognized the names of everyone who beat me. I sometimes wonder if I am the only one who plays the guessing game of figuring out where I would have theoretically finished in certain races if I had my normal fitness level. It somehow helps me get past those moments when I am not doing too well.

Tervuren was a hometown race for me as it is located fifteen minutes away from my house by bike. I ride through that neighborhood at least two times a week. As part of the hometown advantage, I benefitted from a larger than normal cheering section consisting of family, friends and neighbors. The course was located in the park of Tervuren, a well groomed tourist attraction complete with picturesque ponds, bridges and footpaths. Thanks to the extended freezing weather conditions, the swans and ducks normally found on the ponds were replaced with a swarm of kids sliding about.

The start of the race went better than normal for me. After my slow clip into the pedals, I caught the lead group as they were turning onto the grassy uphill. After that, it was fire road riding with icy 90° turns every ten seconds. The first crash of the day happened on a fire road straightaway covered with thick deep ice ruts. When one girl goes down, the whole line is backed up. Once we got through the mess, the next holdup took place in the sand pit. In theory, it was the easiest sand pit imaginable. It can be ridden literally at 5kph. But when you put a pile of nervous women in it, something is bound to go wrong - and it did.

Just when I thought the holdups were past, we hit the penultimate (I soon found out) one located on a short steep hill. The girls who couldn’t ride it, coincidentally walked up it on the one rideable path, forcing the rest of us to dismount. Two minutes later, the final obstacle showed itself in the form of a racer with bike lying completely across the bottom of a teeny descent. Once past all that, I was able to get to work.

From 18th position, I slowly caught the riders one by one. I passed a couple in the sand, another one on the steep hill, and two more on the straightaway before the sand. Just when I thought I was doing well in moving up through the field, I was passed by someone. Before I had a moment to be discouraged, I noticed it was Wendy Simms. I rode by her a lap back while she was running with the bike. According to Jonas, her chain got caught between the cassette and spokes and she had to run to the pit.

I conveniently jumped on her wheel and stayed with her for a whole lap until she gapped me on a technical section. I never expected to be riding with Wendy, so it was a real treat. I especially enjoyed watching how smooth she was through the turns, carefully modulating her speed, gears and bike tilt for optimal effectiveness, and elegance. Thanks Wendy!

After she left, I went back to time trialing and caught a couple more riders, both on the last lap which always feels good. I may have crossed the line in only 12th place out of 32 starters but it felt like a victory to me. I impressed my friends, family and neighbors, made 30€ prize money and, most importantly, had fun! That evening I scored again (no, not in that way!) as Jonas’ mom made us her famous Belgian frieten, served with ketchup and veganaise.

The actual finish line glory went to Daphny Van den Brand, with USA’s Rachel Lloyd and Britain’s Helen Wyman filling the podium. Sue Butler represented well for a solid 8th and Wendy rounded out the top ten.

In the men’s race, the USA again put on a good show in the name of Jeremy Powers and Jamie Driscoll who finished 19th and 22nd respectively. Molly Cameron started really strong but got caught behind an early crash on the ice and ended up in 39th. While I watched Jeremy come down the finishing straight with Tom Meeusen of Fidea, Jeremy said something to Tom. Knowing Jeremy’s courteous yet playful ways, I bet he was asking Tom if he wanted to sprint it out. Clearly Tom declined since Jeremy immediately got out of his saddle and sprinted away.

Aside from the Americans, my hero of the men’s race was Tom Van Den Bosch of Rendement Hypo who rode with the lead group chasing Niels Albert and Enrico Franzoi, who were off the front from lap one. Tom is a U23 rider so it was amazing to see his face up front in such a dominant fashion.

Next weekend is the National Championships for most of the European countries so I will take that time to rest and recharge for my next race in Valkenswaard, Holland on January 17th. The following day is another World Cup in Roubaix, France. This is the first time they are holding a World Cup for Women so I am curious to see what the course is like.

Have a super 2009 and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Krawatencross Lille Cyclocross Race

As i was doing my homework on the upcoming races, I came across my name featured on the infamous Krawatencross Lille race site. I could think of a few names who, results-wise, deserve the attention more than I but nevertheless I am thankful for the publicity! It is especially cool when my name is highlighted in Dutch language.

Here is what they wrote about the pre-registration of the women, U-23's and Elite men:

15/12: De voorinschrijvingen van de reeksen Dames, Beloften en Elites lopen als een trein, zo konden we reeds 25 rensters voorinschrijven, let ook op de opmerkelijke inschrijving van Christine Vadaros, reeds enkele malen aan de start van de Krawatencross.

TRANSLATION: Pre-registration of the women, u-23 and elites run like a train, we already have 25 racers pre-registered, also take notice of the remarkable registration of Christine Vardaros, who has already started a few times at Krawatencross.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Thanks Race.CX for the memories!

One of the amusing aspects of having a semi-public lifestyle is that my phases in life are a bit more documented than most. I just came across an interview I did for a couple of years ago and couldn't help but laugh aloud at some of my responses. I also found it interesting to see how much my life has changed in two tiny years. Heck, i bet if i had responded to this interview two days later than i did, the answers would have been quite different. has a bunch more interviews including one from Jonathan Page, so click here to read them!

CPQ #4: Christine Vardaros
on November 2, 2006
in CPQ. 8 Comments
We’re happy to have Christine Vardaros as our first female CPQ! Christine had a strong 2005-2006 season which she finished by representing the USA at cyclocross worlds. She’s had two top ten World Cup finishes, and right now is headed to Italy for the Treviso World Cup. After that she’ll high tail it back to Belgium for the Vossem cross. Good luck Peanut!
1. How old are you?
Did you ask my weight…it’s 54kg.

2. Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
I grew up in Long Island, manhattan, and brooklyn. I now live mostly in belgium (i am writing you from Leuven where I live now.) When I am in the USA, I live in Mill Valley, CA.

3. How long have you been racing?
As an elite?I started riding and racing in 1995. I upgraded to pro mtb in 1998, elite cx in 1999, and pro road this year for Lotto-Belisol Ladiesteam.
4. What was your first bicycle?
Breezer Lightning mountain bike.
5. What is your road/mtb racing background?
I raced for Joe Breeze on Team Breezer MTB four years until the team dissolved. Then I discovered cyclo-cross. I was instantly hooked. I started to race on the road to train for cyclo-cross.

6. Describe your first exposure to cyclocross.
It was a DFL race in san francisco. I liken it to bushwacking with a bike.
7. Would you consider yourself a cross specialist?
In order to call myself a specialist, i feel that I should master the task. I am not even close. Although currently i am ranked 12th in the World in UCI ranking and 14th in World Cup.
8. Do you race full time? If not, what other job(s) do you have?
Yes, but since there is no $$ in cycling - especially for women - I have a few jobs. I do PR and freelance writing (journalist/columnist/etc.)
9. Did you go to college? If so, what was your major?
Yes. I attended Columbia in NYC - Biology Major.
10. Describe the first time you shaved your legs.
Two days ago to prepare for Koppenbergcross. I heard it is a slip-and-slide course and it’s better to have hairless legs to treat road rash. I’m glad i shaved.
11. Do you have any tattoos, and/or piercings?
I have a pierced belly button, but i took it out once it became trendy.
12. Pre race rituals?
I listen music on my iPod. I love everything from techno to jazz BUT NEVER Country. I also visualize race day from beginning to end - I imagine it exactly how i would like it to play out.
13. Post race meal?
ProBar - raw vegan energy bar. The bar is really well balanced in its nutrient content and is easily digestable. And it’s so tasty that my friends and I make growling noises after every bite!
14. How do you wind down after a race?
A very tall glass of red wine. I’ve been drinking a lot of yellowtail lately.
15. Your idea of the perfect cross course?
One where I win.
16. Espresso or tea?
French press, italian roast.
17. For you, what is the essence of cyclocross?
18. Tubulars or clinchers?
Tubulars - how else can you run the tires at 12psi?
19. Write a haiku about 2005 CX Nats.
in stormy weather
go-go dancing in the mud
did i fail my bike
20. My mind wanders when I’m racing. What were you thinking about during your last race?
Oh great, finally a good start - in 5th position. Splat, not anymore. (ran into a woman who crashed in front of me.) OK, 15th. keep calm and knock them off one by one. Darn, I forgot to buy chips for chocolate chip cookies. Stop thinking about cookies!!! OK, just passed another. Oh, cute spectator yelling my name! I wonder if my ass looks fat in this skinsuit? Red and white are not the most flattering colors. Oops, I just rode past a crowd of people and forgot to suck in my gut. Maybe i’ll skip on the cookies.
21. Seen any good movies lately?
They showed a keanu reeves/sandra bullok movie on the plane that was cute. I am most of the way through Dogville starring Nicole Kidman. Very fun!
22. What are the last three albums you’ve listened to?
Bee-gees, diana ross, and elton john. Albums are those big round things, right?
23. Who is going to win USA Nationals this year?
24. In three words or less, describe how you feel about top mount cross brake levers.
a personal choice.
25. Would you use disc brakes on your cross bike if they were UCI legal?
absolutely not.
26. What is the craziest thing you’ve done to lighten your bike?
Raced without a saddle. 2004 nationals.
27. Any season goals you’d like to share?
Get a front row callup at worlds.
28. What result are you most proud of?
My first cross race. My coach, elmo, gave me one cyclo-cross lesson on a tiny borrowed bike. A few days later, i took that borrowed bike to PA to race a super cup event. I holeshotted the race and almost made it to the half way mark in first place but ann knapp passed me. It was the most pleasant pass I ever experienced. She congratulated me on a fine ride as she and a bunch of other hotshot gals left me in the dust. I held on for 8th. It’s also cool to have placed top ten in two world cups.
29. Who has most influenced your cross racing career?
My coach elmo. I also got a lot of advice over the years from various racers such as Mark McCormack, Tim Johnson, Carmen D’Alusio, the Jacques-Maynes brothers,marc Gullickson. The influx of support from friends and family make a big difference as well.
30. Is there another rider you train with regularly?
When i’m in California, my main training partner is my coach. In belgium, my training partners are Ronny (elite marathon mtb racer) and Sam Mallfliet (top espoir mtb racer).
31. Why do you think the Europeans are so much faster than the US crossers?
The bicycle is a way of life for them. They are on their bikes all the time. If a kid shows any promise, he or she is nurtured and completely supported. It’s more of a blue collar sport here in europe, so being a pro bike racer gets you out of working the farm or laying bricks!
32. Are you married? Have any children?
No and no. Single and looking. Unfortunately with my hectic schedule, the only time I have for dating is in airports (which is where my last date was. I met him during a layover. It lasted exactly three minutes because he was about to miss his plane!)
33. Any (other) passions or hobbies in your life?
Vegan baking and cooking - but mostly baking.
34. What would you be doing if you weren’t racing cross?
Making a ton of money so I can fly my friends around the world to join me on crazy adventures.
35. Do you have a blog or online journal? I also have a blog courtesy of a neo-crosser named Dave Shishkoff who just created it last week. Unfortunately I don’t know the address yet.
36. Any words of advice for those new to cyclocross?
Focus most on looking beautiful and graceful on the bike. The speed will follow.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Azencross Cyclocross Update

Hey ALL!
My rendition of Azencross Cyclocross Race in Antwerpen, Belgium was just published on Cyclocross Magazine. Click HERE to read all about it.

Have a great day!