Friday, December 24, 2010

Scheldecross and Kalmthout World Cup report...

is now online!  See CYCLOCROSS's website for my story or CLICK HERE to go directly there.

My next race is Zolder World Cup this Sunday. I wish you could be there because i am having a cookie party after the race for all my supporters/friends, and fellow racers!  on the menu is toffee bars, tahini cookies, sugar cookies - all different shapes and colors, fudge with walnuts and my favorite - mexican chocolate cookies-hot, hot, hot!!!

Have a wonderful holiday season and have a glass of champagne for me please (since i am in the middle of racing season) !!

(photo by Ali Verleyen)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Racing with the Guys

Last weekend was US National Championships, but as i am Belgian-based, i opted to skip the arduous trip around the world to Portland.  Besides with Katie Compton on the start line, we'd all pretty much be racing for 2nd - or rather 3rd since Georgia Gould was also present. 

Instead i spent my weekend competing at a local race against the guys here in Belgium.  It was so incredibly worth it.  Not only did i get an excellent workout in, but i had a very entertaining day of it.

The race was Vlaamse Wieler Federatie's (Flemish Cycling Federation) "World Championships" held by De Morelgem Vrienden as a memorial/fundraiser race for Danny Vettenburg who died from cancer.  When i showed up at the start line, i could tell a few of the guys were confused. I am guessing the rest of them just thought i was a junior boy - as usual.

My start was fairly solid until we hit the dirt where our wheels sunk into the soggy ground.  The whole course in fact consisted of soggy ground so i was in for a real power workout.  Against guys, who naturally have more power, the only thing i could really do is race my own pace and hope it is good enough not to be too embarrassed. by the end of the race, i had passed enough to finish in a surprising 5th place.  Naturally i was elated considering my goal was to not come in last.

A few moments after i finished, i got called to the podium for the awards presentation - an impromtu one for their only woman rider.  I got a "Christmas Plant", a shirt, and 10€ prize money which i spent party on the post-race tombola (raffle where everyone wins.) As i stood up on the podium, i heard a loud roar from the beer tent - my cheering section that screamed for me, bringing a huge smile on my face every lap.

Once my post-race routine of trainer-riding, recovery shake and cleanup was complete, Jonas and i headed back to the race site for a relaxing drink while watching the womens category breeze by - some wearing belgian national jerseys and others with the european championship jersey.  There must be some sort of agreement between the Vlaamse Wieler Federatie and some other organizations where they win these jerseys. I havent figured that one out yet. 

while it could have been fun to be back in USA racing against friends, I made a few that day at my local race.  And the organizers were exceptional - friendly and extremely helpful.  Hopefully i can attend this race again next year.  Anyone want to join me??  If so, here is the link:

This foto came from the VWF's facebook page.  If i can find more photos from the race, i will surely post them.

My next races against the gals are this weekend - Scheldecross this Saturday and Kalmthout World Cup sunday.
Today was a hard motorpacing workout in preparation for the weekend.  The weather here is still unsavory so i equipped my bike with Challenge Grifo tires to combat the snow and ice and it really helped a lot. I felt very safe, even around the questionable turns.
Another bit of help i got to make my motorpacing a solid effort was from my Blueberry Fruition Bar  - the sports energy bar from PROBAR.  I ate one just before my workout, and a few bites during the effort and i really felt the difference!

Thanks again for reading!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Two Jobs Rolled into One Weekend

by Danny Zelck

Koksijde World Cup earned its fame through its extensive sand sections that take the riders up, down and through the sand dunes on Belgium’s coast. But this year they changed the course so it could exactly match how they plan to run it for next season’s Cyclo-Cross World Championships – which turned into even more sandy sections – a feat I didn’t believe possible until I saw it.

As usual, my husband Jonas and I arrived on Friday, the day before the race, to check out the course and collect race numbers. I did my first lap with [CXM regular contributor] Vicki Thomas and her countrymate. It was a fast track where slick tires were ideal. For my second lap, I traded riding partners for Hanka Kupfernagel. Just before we took off, it started to rain hard. Even before I stepped out into the rain, I knew it was going to be an unpleasant one since the temperature hovered at the freezing point. It seems I wasn’t alone in my thoughts; as we took off to ride the course in the bitterly cold rain, Hanka muttered the words, “This is definitely my last season.” I laughed, and so did she since there was not a thing we could do about the conditions. Within a minute we figured out that slicks were no longer wanted. A few laps of frozen riding later, we were sitting in her mobilehome to warm up.

showing my frustration -
By Danny Zelck

The next day we awoke to dry sunny skies. We parked our van alongside the mini BABOCO fleet and were ready for a great day. My pre-race preparation went well, I was feeling good and ready to take names … until about five seconds before the light turned green when I realized I was in the last row – just like in Plzen World Cup. How was I to move up from there? I’m no Daphny, Sanne, Bart or Niels. There is only so far I can move forward.

by Danny Zelck

Unfortunately, what you focus on is what you create. When they took off, I was slow off the start and never really moved up. I could tell that my fitness was solid since I rocked it every once in a while when I was able to get out of my own head. But for most of the race, I just couldn’t get out of my own way. I must have fudged every single sand and mud section. Considering I rode almost every one of those sections almost perfectly in the pre-ride I knew it was not my technical skills that had failed me.

Lesson learned the hard way – again. I have made this mistake as recently as Plzen, but it’s time I learn new lessons. From this point forward, I have made a promise to myself to give it everything I have for the full race no matter what. Period. Let’s see what comes of it.
speaking at Paris Vegan Day
After some good old American screaming for my favorite guys in the men’s race, we headed home. The weekend was only halfway over. The next morning Jonas and I were waiting on the Thalys train to Paris where I was scheduled to speak about “the benefits of a vegan diet for sports” at Paris Vegan Day. (I am a spokesperson for IDA – In Defense of Animals.) When our train was almost two hours delayed, I immediately realized that my strenuous exercising for the weekend was not yet over. Once the train arrived in Paris we had 20 minutes to sprint three miles. We showed up late, looking like two sweaty rats. Immediately I stripped my clothes, put the hair in a ponytail and stepped on stage to address a waiting audience.

Gentle Gourmet B&B Table by
Jonas Bruffaerts

With the idea that I had to make up time, I talked faster, which produced some confused faces in the crowd since I was speaking in English. But once I brought it down a few notches, it seemed everyone followed me nicely. I even got quite a few nods of agreement and some of surprise from the audience in reaction to what I said, which helped me to know that I was understood. And for those folks who didn’t follow the English, I had some help from a fellow athlete Christophe Berg who translated for me. Once my hour was over, I focused on recovery from the sprint by stuffing my face with all sorts of tasty cakes and brownies courtesy of The Gentle Gourmet – a vegan bed & breakfast.

famous falafel

That night we returned for a concert by three-year vegan rockstar Princess Superstar. I was really excited to see her since I expected her to perform my all-time favorite video, “Bad Babysitter.” It’s so stupid-funny that I must have watched it 20 times. But no such luck. Even so, I was glad I went.

Jonas as tour guide

The next morning we slept until noon, walked around Paris all afternoon, had the famous falafels at L’As du falafel. From the first bite to the last, I was teary-eyed, as it was simply incredible. We finished our sightseeing with a stroll down the Champs-Élysées, only seven months early to watch the Tour de France.

in Notre Dame

Since that weekend it has been snowing here in Belgium. While half of the peloton took off for a couple of weeks of sunny warm training in southern Spain, the rest of us are toughing it out. As for me, most of my training has been done indoors for safety’s sake. But yesterday, I finally cracked from all the trainer rides and bolted outside with running shoes. I quickly found that running in heavy snow is like sand running, but you have no idea where your feet will land. I slipped twice. And today Jonas and I took the ’cross bikes out, equipped with Grifos. Our timing was a little off as a snowstorm hit right in the middle of our two-hour ride – the third hour was done indoors. Now I know what it must feel like to live in Michigan or Canada. Brutal. My next big race isn’t until December 18th, so I have time. No Nationals for me – too expensive and too far.