Saturday, February 28, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
February 24th, 2009 Filed Under cyclocross news, racers, rider diary
by Christine Vardaros
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Counting Them Down, Ready to Party - A GP Heerlen Report by Christine Vardaros
February 17th, 2009
by Christine Vardaros
The second and third photos below were taken by Hugo de Spiegelaere. First and fourth by Bart Hazen
With only two races left to the season, my sole mission for the GP Heerlen in the Netherlands was to have fun. I expected no miracles in fitness but hoped for luck on my side. This race contained neither. Twenty seconds into the race, we hit a sand section and I was knocked off my bike. A girl came up from behind and somehow managed to squeeze her body between me and the fencing. In hindsight, I guess she didn’t manage to fit as I ended up involuntarily moving out of her way. There was a small upside of my crash though - it was suddenly easier to focus on my mission again of having fun. What made it even more effortless is that there were so many people cheering for me throughout the course. There were even fans who knew I was from California, cheering to me that I seemed ready to go back to there for vacation. If I ran faster out of the course’s famous “cave” I guess they wouldn’t have had so much time to chat with me. Just a thought.
I did put in a serious effort on the last lap after the disappointment of getting nailed in the first lap faded. I went from fifteen seconds behind a girl in front of me to finishing 35 seconds ahead of her by the finish. Funny how an intangible thing like motivation can create something real. Again, just a thought.
The infamous cave is like an oversized bowl. You dip into it, then back out on foot up a steep slippery mudslope, cross over to another dip, ride across the sandy bottom and then head back out on two wheels, but slowly since it is a tough power climb. Just when you think you’ve had enough ups and downs, the course takes you down below again only to deposit you at the bottom of a 28 step staircase. They’re the wide ones that require two steps per level.
The other interesting aspect of the course was the start/finish. It is just uphill enough to light your legs on fire (think 2007 Kansas City Nationals). Sprinting for placings up the gradient is like no pain I ever felt on a flat straightaway.
In the men’s race, the real star of the day was Holland’s Richard Groenendaal of AA Drink. Since the announcement of his retirement a few months ago, every one of his races has been treated like a retirement party. It is his last race in Zolder, his ultimate showing in Scheldecross, his last time attending a GVA race, his final Superprestige event, his ultimate appearance in Holland. He has always been one of my favorite riders. I have known of him for years since he played one of the leading protagonist roles in dozens of cyclo-cross videos Coach Elmo lent me when I was just starting out in the sport. I will surely miss him. And even though there are many Belgians who will never publicly admit it, I am sure they too will miss his animated riding style.
Next week is the last race of the season for most of us here in Europe - Int’l Sluitingprijs in Oostmalle, Belgium. I look forward to that day, since the post-season bash is held that night. All the superstars of the sport usually attend. Now to figure out what to wear…
Thanks for reading. Drop a comment if you have attire suggestions!
Photo Gallery, go to Cyclocross Magazine's website
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Read my article that's printed in the current issue of VegNews for some helpful advice. Or at least pretend to read it so you dont hurt my feelings as I am super excited to be a columnist for them!
In the same February issue there are articles on where you food really comes from, the truth about water shortage, fountain of youth foods, and easy recipes from Indian food to whoopie pies.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
As you look at the large photo of Lance, is it me or does he look like an american football player - pads and all? Maybe it is partly the misplaced yellow strip and party his over-muscled body.
According to Johan bruyneel, Lance still needs to lose a few pounds, not of fat but muscle mass in his upper body. That must surely be a tough one to deal with. It's not like he can cut out cookies and cake or ride a few extra kilometers. Oddly enough, i bet if we saw him with regular clothes on he would look like he had a tiny upper body.
AND on a tangental note, i finally found a doctor who is giving me hope that my nagging repercussions from my head injury of last year can finally be resolved. Yippee!! I will surely keep you updated. This Sunday is my last cross race of the season. It is in Oostmalle, Belgium. By now i expect no miracles in my result - especially now that i found out what is going on in my body from the neverending head injury - but i will surely make the most of it in fine "peanut" form. After the mens race, I have an invitation for a drink at the Kevin Pauwels mobile home. That could be fun. Maybe i will even snag a quick interview for Cyclocross Magazine if it works out.
Monday, February 9, 2009
(top photo taken by Krist Vanmelle, photo below taken by Hugo De Spiegelaere)
Thursday, February 5, 2009
On a more positive note, it was good to see Nys crossing the line with hands in air so soon after Worlds at yesterday's Parkcross race in Belgium.
My next race is this Saturday at Lille. I am really curious to see how my body responds. I have done the physical work to be ready. The rest is left to fate i suppose.
Thanks for reading.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
But just in case not everything is translated into english for us english-speaking fans of the sportm, here are some tidbits of what transpired during the interviews.
For the last weeks, lars boom has been joking with the belgian team saying that he is not threatened by them and doesn't believe they could ever come together to work against him. He even mentioned in an interview in his house that he was only threatened by Stybar, and possibly Belgian racer Kevin Pauwels (Kevin Pauwels?????? the guy who peaked too soon according to Fidea Team Manager). In a post-race interview, Bart Wellens, Sven Nys and Belgian Team Manager Rudy De Bie confirmed that the belgians indeed worked together. This is something that has never been done on the Belgian CX team before.
When Bart Wellens attacked early in the race, the belgians stayed put on the Holland riders' (Thijs Al and Lars Boom) wheel. Once Bart was caught, Niels Albert jumped to the front with Nys on his wheel. When nys realized there was a string of Orange (holland) jerseys on his wheel, he caused a gap to let Niels free.
When Stybar took off in pursuit of Niels, Sven Nys was having a weak moment and couldnt stay on his wheel.
But when Nys took off again, as did Wellens later in the race, they didnt take anyone with them while the rest of the Belgians helped block.
Most of the belgian racers and fans agree that if Lars wouldn't have been so vocal about his antagonizing of the belgian team, they wouldn't have come together to bury him. As they say in Flemish, the belgians "hebben Boom droog in z'n gat gepakt" (english translation: The belgians took Boom dry in the butt). Crude, huh. I guess that's how much Boom pissed them off.
Regarding Niels Alberts' win, he admitted to hiding himself in roubaix and milan so the other riders didnt mark him as a guy to watch. He continued to say that is exactly what he needed to win.
Nys said his inability to stay on Stybar's wheel early in the race was due to a bad moment. He was having a tough lap coincidentally when Stybar took off to chase Niels. It makes sense to me since he jumped away shortly after that on his own to claim the last spot on the podium behind Stybar and Albert. Nys went on to say that every belgian can be proud that he helped the belgian team to claim the win. And that Niels will prove that he is a great athlete over the next few years.
Included in the string of interviews was Ellen, Niels' girlfriend of eight years. She was absolutely beaming with excitement. Considering Niels is 23, that makes them a couple from the age of 15! Shortly, Niels plans to move out of his parents' home so he and his girlfriend can live together.
I dont know what eventually happened to Jonathan Page but earlier in the race he got caught up on a pole in a u-turn - or maybe that was Jeremy Powers who had a strong race for 35th i think.
Regarding the womens race, my first choice was obviously Katie Compton (i must admit that this is partly so there will be an extra Worlds Team spot awarded to USA for next year). But if she didnt win, my second choice was easily Marianne Vos. I love her. She is so sweet, humble and down to earth. Before some races, she even camps in her mobilehome with her dad and brother. No high class hotel for her! I interviewed her recently and I especially loved her response to any special pill, food, ritual or preparation she takes before a race. She said that when the fitness is good, the rest doesnt matter. She also describes racing as "playtime" with the other girls. She races because she loves to play and rides because she loves just being on the bike.
I was expecting that USA's Rachel Lloyd to place top ten - closer to fifth, but after watching the race it was clear to me that she spent much of the race at the front, dragging almost ten riders round and round. If she pulled off the front it seemed the other riders would slow the pace down. And on a fast course like that, it is especially tough to break away from other riders. With that in mind, she rode an incredibly admirable race. Georgia Gould who placed a couple spots behind Rachel seemed to have ridden much of the race solo. With a windy course, it only proves that Georgia must have been exceptionally strong on the day.