Sunday, March 14, 2010

First Mountain Bike Ride in SEVEN YEARS

Today Jonas and I joined our friend Ronny for his birthday on a mountain bike group ride - they call them toertochten here in Belgium, organized rides with feed zones attended by usually one to two thousand riders.  This one was a semi-hilly 60km one.

I did ride the mountain bike for two times last week - both for about an hour each, but it wasnt any preparation for what i did today. I thought since i hold a pro mtb racing license, even competed in World Cup races back in the day, it would feel completely normal.  I was so wrong.

As we hit the dirt for the first time, it felt like both wheels just sunk into the ground and it took all my strength to push the bike forward, along the false flat straight line. My heart rate hadnt been that high since that Hasselt Indoor cyclo-cross race a few weeks ago.   I must admit that part of the reason why i probably felt like crap was because i had been sick for over a week now and my lungs are still filled with that gooey stuff. But i can easily blame a lot of my sinking sensation is due to the heavier big-wheeled machine.

It took me about thirty kilometers to get over that "cross bikes are so much easier to ride in the dirt" feeling, but only the feeling of additional friction.  Steering that thing was a whole other issue i had to work out.  It felt so incredibly strange to ride offroad through trees while on the "tops" so i ended up riding a lot with my hands on the bar ends. It felt like i had limited control over the steering since it's rare that i ride on the tops of my cross bike while riding in the woods.I think i was the only one doing that though.

My descending wasnt the best either.  After the first descent, Jonas gave me the niener-niener gesture since he beat me on a descent.  I definitely got better by the end after i worked a bit on descending on the tops. It also helped me to finally realize that i can mow over mostly everything with those big wheels and suspension - that is once i had the courage to push that button that activates it.   I must admit it was also a lot more comfortable to ride on the bike once i figured out just how much stronger disc brakes are than my dainty little cross model that never really stops you, only slows you down.

Climbing was also on a learning curve.  When i see mountain bikers climbing, they are always in these tiny gears so i thought that is what i was supposed to do. but every time i did that, Jonas and Ronny were gone - way up the road. I felt like a loony toon spinning like a mo' fo' but going in slow motion. Eventually i worked out the gearing a bit more towards the end.  And then there were the super steep climbs where you actually needed that tiny chainring in the front.  That surprisingly went well - really well, so that gave me hope that one day i can ride a mountain bike again without making a complete fool of myself.  Fingers crossed that "that day" comes by next Sunday, my first mountain bike race. uh-oh.

Here are a couple of photos of me in the backyard taken by Jonas last week, when i was optimistic.

Friday, March 12, 2010

US Cycling Report just published an interview of ME !!!

yippee!! Lately i have been doing more interviewing than being interviewed so this was a treat - and as always a real honor!

Check it out on HERE!

Looking forward to hearing your comments!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I met former runner Miel Puttemans today

I have been sick the last few days which is always unnerving since it is rare that a bug gets me like this! But anyway, i have been taking it real easy the last days so i can recover quickly. part of my recovery protocol had me riding with the old mans ride today out of Kortenberg - the one where i met jonas millions of years ago it feels.

On that ride, Jonas pointed to some random guy dressed in Merckx clothing with a bike to match and said that he was Miel Puttemans, the famous belgian runner.  This guy has held the world record in most distances including and over 2000meters. He also won the silver medal in the 1972 olympics. 

Naturally i had to ride alongside him to tell him that i am a member of his facebook fan club. Based on his reaction i dont think he knew one existed.  About two hours later, he rode alongside me to chat.  Turns out he is super friendly!  He told me that he used to train and race with Steve Prefontaine.  He said that there were three of them who would often be well ahead of the others when they'd compete.  The third guy was probably the Olympic champion Lasse Viren, who is now better known in history for having introduced blood doping to athletics during the Munich games. He's in fact the guy who finished in front of Miel when he won his silver. Bummer that they werent tested like cyclists are nowadays.  If so, Miel would have been Olympic champion.

What i am certain of is that I couldnt imagine running half Miel's speed!  When i asked him if he still runs, he said that he's too old at 62 years. He added that anyone over 50 shouldnt run any longer. 

Six years ago he took up cycling and seems to be a natural at it!  I dont think the other guys on the old mans ride are as happy about it though, as he speeds up every hill before them. Even so, I personally am thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet someone of his caliber.  (Of course i also appreciate that i had the opportunity to meet many amazingly talented cyclists - too many to name!)

If you want to join Miel's fanclub to check out his photos, CLICK HERE.

The photo was taken by Geert Keyaerts. It is of Miel's trading cards - just like we have in cycling - too cool!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My First Week of "Off-Season"

Last Saturday was my last hard effort on the cross bike with a number pinned on my back.  It was at 3x World Champion Erwin Vervecken's retirement race party.  As it was more of a retirement than a real race, it felt really good to play on the bike without any pressure to ride hard. Watching Erwin hang the bike up for good was a tough moment for many of us who have admired him for a long time now.  For the full ten years i have raced cyclo-cross he has been one of the top guys in the sport.  Thankfully he is staying in the sport in some capacity.  His new job it with Golazo sports, setting up cyclocross and mountain bike events for them.

You can CLICK HERE to read it on CYCLOCROSS Magazine's website. Of course there are lots of photos too so you can feel like you were there. 

My first week of "off-season" has been busier than i would have thought.  I had all of one day to recover before starting for mountain bike season.  Today was my first day on the new (second-hand) mountain bike and it felt strange.  I think the last time i rode a mountain bike was six or seven years ago.  Jonas joined me on his road bike for this momentus occasion.  As i watched him soft-pedal alongside me, i realized how he must have felt all those times when I rode with him on my skinny-wheeled cross bike while he chugged along on his monster truck mountain bike. Big difference. 

Tomorrow we will join the Begijnendijk ride for the second time this week. we ride there and back too so it turns out to be about four hours on the bike - perfect for "base training" I suppose.  I gotta do something so i am not so out of shape for long rides when it comes time to do 400 mountainous kilometers in 4 days when we compete in the Tour of Cyprus later on in the month.  That ought to be an adventure!  I do look forward to riding with the sun warming my quads. I'll be the one with my sleeves and shorts hiked up real high to let the sun shine everywhere! Luckily i dont have to worry about sunburns thanks to Doc Martin's of Maui sun block which is sweatproof - and smells like pina colada to get me in the holiday mood!