Friday, November 22, 2013

Interviews, advertisements and cyclocross kit!

Finally after a long while, my hip problem was diagnosed. That meant both a relief for me but also

Hasselt by Bart Knops
many hard workouts with the therapist to get my body back in fighting shape. The last couple of weeks I've had some heavy sessions but it's only pain, i tell myself. In the process a few races were sacrificed. I still showed up at the start but with heavy legs. I must admit, though, it was still a blast! I really do love to race cross!

This week has been a busy one.  I wrapped up my interview articles on Jonathan Page and Lars van der Haar and turned them into CYCLOCROSS Magazine to be published in their next issue. 

In addition to my therapy workouts and normal trainings, i gave a cross clinic to a few Belgian kids i've been working with for a few weeks now.  They are the cutest, sweetest, most enthusiastic boys ever! A pleasure to teach them.  We reviewed on/of, jumping barriers, bunny-hopping barriers, tight muddy turns, stretching, and a bunch of other things that i could cram into two hours' time.  One of them, Yoni, competes in the provincial championships this weekend and Belgian Championships shortly thereafter. So excited for him.  If nothing else, he will look GREAT on the bike. Of that I'm sure. I was lucky to have my Coach Elmo teach me from scratch so it feels good to pay it forward.

My busy week continues straight through today where I was training, stretching, eating a bunch (pancakes are for dinner, i decided), packing for tomorrow's World Cup race in Koksijde, Belgium, and packing a teeny tiny bit for Spain. We leave monday for 12 days to Benidorm.  Hoping for dry weather, and if I'm lucky, a bit of sun on the bare gams! The day we return will again be a packing day as the following two days are race days in Scheldecross and Overijse.
article by Joyce Verdonck

In Benidorm, we're staying at Fiesta Park Hotel so if you're in the neighborhood...

On another topic, I am in the current issue of Belgium's GRINTA! magazine. YIPPEE!!! It is an article about those who ride throughout the winter. AND i did my FULL INTERVIEW in Flemish!!!

yes, i am in physician outfit
A couple months ago i did a photo shoot for SBB, the newest big sponsor of the Superprestige Cyclocross series so now i am being spotted in booklets and on the giant billboard TV's at the races.  Pretty cool I must admit!

Lastly, my new kit finally arrived!!! It was beautifully designed by PinkOliv out of Belgium where they GOT how important it was for me to have a kit made specifically for cyclocross, while capturing my "green" lifestyle.  Hence, the clothing is mainly black with a sea of faded CX's where CrossVegas swims, and with a light green trim. Totally LOVE IT!! You'll also notice that there is the official VEGAN logo on the collar and the ass, courtesy of The Vegan Society.

foto by Juan Plowy
The sponsors are STEVENS as bike sponsor, T Strong Transportation - a VERY bike-friendly green transportation company out of Texas, Challenge Tires, 3T Cycling, Vermarc clothing, BOOOM! nutritional energy supplements, HempAge - maker of earth-friendly comfy casual clothing,  and CrossVegas baby!!! 

Now to get back to packing for Koksijde!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Today I gutted myself...

to finish the motorpacing workout that Amy Dombroski never got to complete two days ago.  
Even though I can only dream of having the talent that Amy had, I rode faster today behind that scooter than I had ever ridden.   By the end, I was completely empty – both physically and emotionally. 

My upcoming cross season is dedicated to Amy.  As I tackle almost all the races she had on her schedule, I will keep her  in my thoughts.  Every pedalstroke I will be sure to relish - in her spirit of “play”.  This is the very least I can do for a truly exceptional person -  like no other.   

When she was first planning to take on the Belgian cross scene a few years ago, I happily helped her out with some of the logistics as I had been there…done that.  We had a special bond as two of the three Americans (the 3rd is Jonathan Page who helped me in fact) who sacrificed lots to follow that dream of being Belgian-based for the cross season.  As I know how difficult it can be to make that happen, I had much respect for her courage and conviction. She fought hard and remained strong, even when it got tough and lonely here on the other side of the world.   In such a short period of time, it was amazing to see what worldwide impact she’s had – all the folks she’s touched - while following her dreams.   xxx

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cyclocross Season is FINALLY here...

and i am not feeling ready. Hate when that happens! The STEVENS bikes are finally put together and are absolutely DREAM MACHINES!! I never imagined riding a cross bike could feel like this.  It also helps that they are spruced up with 3T parts and Challenge tires! I'm a lucky girl.

Over the summer, while i mainly "relaxed" i did get a chance to spend much time in the hills.  After two weeks in Cyprus,  I went directly to the Ardennes (hilly part of Belgium) to spend time with Jonas and his family on their yearly holiday. I rode the bike a few times, including a couple of laps of the Belgian Championships course where my former teammate Liesbet De Vocht took the title a few months later. Yippee!!

Haaltert crit by Johan Pelgrims
Next up were a couple of road races to keep in touch with the speeds of the peloton. It was also fun to see some friendly faces again (amidst the grumpy bitchy ones you find in the Belgian peloton i must add.)

In June, I took off for France for a dream job as a Tour Guide. My job was to ride 10 stages of the Tour de France for a private tour.  There were 3 clients and 9 of us in support. Every day, we got to ride the most beautiful terrain through France then come home to mind-blowing accomodation - one day a castle, the next a villa, and so on.  The experience was surreal. It also helped that the clients were a dream to work with. It may be hard work but it felt like a pleasure to do it - a job i really loved doing.

Ronny and me
After that trip i needed a bit of recovery (I snuck in a couple more road races but just sat in with the peloton - that counts as recovery, right??). Part of that recovery included a visit to see Ronny, one of my all-time best friends. He lives in New Jersey, just over the George Washington bridge to NYC. Almost every day of that week we rode into Manhattan to "cruise" as Ronny puts it!  I also had a chance to again see Frankie, another top friend, as well as two very special folks who are like my second parents - Ruth and Bill. They are two of the most amazing people i know. Married about 60 years and in their 90's!  They just returned from a trip to Iceland. They also still work and go to their country house on the weekend. They have more energy than me most times. 

Ruth and me
The day i returned from NYC, Jonas picked me up at the airport on the way to Vermarc - my new clothing sponsor. A bit after we returned home, my friend Claire arrived to spend the night as we were taking off early the next morning for training France.  We were able to stay for a couple of weeks at her team's apartment located in Valmeineir, high up in the Alps - 1850m to be exact. 

The first few days were amusing with the altitude, combined with the super long-ass climbs! Coming from Belgium, i was in shock. 

every day a heatwave
And every day, after our rides, we still had to climb back up to 1850m.  Once showered, we made tasty ginormous veggie meals with all sorts of goodies i brought from our garden back in Belgium.  In the evenings, we walked 150m down to "town" where we sat in on silly entertainment with all sorts of performers geared to keep kids engaged. I fell asleep during one of them. oops.

A few days before we were to depart, Jonas showed up for the festivities. He may have suffered like a mo'fo the first few days of riding - going from not riding AT ALL to directly riding the Galibier, Telegraph, Croix de Fer, etc with us, but after a few days he was starting to really move. His best climbs were most likely Col du Glandon and Alpes d'Huez.  Proud of him.

Jonas atop his first climb
Then it was time for Claire to head back to Belgium to contest the big UCI road events, Jonas and I took off south to meet up with Nancy for a week in Mazan, just next to Mt Ventoux.  She left us only a day after our arrival as she decided at the last second to go to Austria for a one-day cycling event, but even so it was great to see her! She can be proud that we used her little apartment to its fullest.

Every day we went on an adventure. One day up Mt Ventoux, another to Avignon, then to fontaine de vaucluse, and so on until it was time to drive back to Belgium at the end of August.

Last weekend was my first race of the season and while I had a great time over the summer, my racing definitely paid the price. The race was Soudal Classics Neerpelt - an intervalfest, something I

hadnt focused on yet. In fact my first real interval was in the pre-ride on the trainer. I thought i was going to die.  I was warming up alongside Ellen van Loy and and after her interval she looked about as worked as i did so i figured i didnt miss much in terms of the pain feeling any better. But i did miss a bit of fitness I'm sure. She went on to finish 4th while i was back in 14th (not that i would ever be able to finish 4th in a race like that on such a high level but maybe top 10?) No worries, though. I have a full schedule until the last week of February to give it a go...again and again.
my new kit
 This year around, I started my own team. My sponsors are STEVENS Bikes, Go-T-Strong (a super cool "green" transportation company out of Texas), HempAge (casual clothing), Challenge Tires, 3T Cycling (wheels, cockpit), BOOOM (energy bars/gels/drink), Vermarc, CrossVegas, SHEEX (performance bedsheets and pajamas), Tam Bikes out of Mill Valley, and Specialized (helmets, shoes, gloves).  I also added a bike pure arm band on the jersey as well as the official Vegan logo on my collar and ass.  It feels GREAT to be able to once again hand pick my sponsors who parallel my beliefs.  Unfortunately my new clothing isn't ready yet, so until then i will be sporting the STEVENS factory skinsuit.

My next races are October 12-13 in Grote Prijs van Brabant (s-Hertogenbosch, NED) and BPost Bank Trofee Ronse (BE.) Not sure how they will go but i can tell you one thing...I will be excited to be there racing my heart out!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tour of Cyprus adventures now posted on CYCLOCROSS Magazine

I am now back from Cyprus for a while but still dreaming about my time there - what an amazing
posing with teammie Marie Claire Aquilina
photo by Hesham Sweed
land, amazing folks and an unforgettable Tour of Cyprus.
CLICK HERE to read all about my adventures there in cycling paradise. Hope to see you there with me next year!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Now onto road season - 1st up is Tour of Cyprus

It has been a busy February with six races left on my calendar.  To read about my adventures in the events, click HERE. It will take you to my published article on CYCLOCROSS Magazine. The article is aptly called, "Bring on the cookies and jenever."

After my last race on February 27, the Cross Masters Waragem (set in the middle of a town where we rode around swingsets set in sand and down the main drag that runs you through the city center), I took a full 3 days off the bike. The first day was the best of the three. Jonas and I spent the day at a spa, courtesy of his sister and her husband.  The package also included an "aprodite" massage where they first put you in a bathtub filled with rose water for 20 minutes, then they lay hot stones on your back and finish you up with a tender back massage that feels more like a feather than a massage.

Part way through the massage part, i mentioned to the guy that i usually get my legs, not my back, massaged. After a couple minutes of talk, i got the message across that a real massage would be more appropriate for my body type. How excited was he! It turns out he hates giving silly feather massages and had even studied sport massage and is a soccer player.

Well, half way through my massage it was my turn to get excited, or rather more nervous, when i felt him spread my legs. My first thought of course was, NO, that is not the massage i signed up for! But then i realized he was preparing to massage my legs. SCORE! Legs were not even part of the massage package so it was a bonus - MY kind of bonus, that is. And it was very welcome considering i had just raced the evening prior.

After my three days rest, i got going again to be at least semi-ready for Tour of Cyprus.  It is the perfect kickoff to spring training for me.  We travel through the most picturesque mountains, visit quaint traditional towns, get treated to all the delicious delicacies that Cyprus has to offer - all on two wheels!

This will be my third time taking part and it is, for me, an event not to be missed. This is why i get back on the bike so soon after cross. While i doubt i will be race-ready by the end of March, my goal is to at least have a basic level of endurance and climbing so that i can better enjoy all that is up for offer. Each of the three stages is 1200 -2000 altitude meters, which is always a shock coming off a cross season where the most we did was 200. But bring it on! My mind is at least ready for some warm sun on the quads after sitting in dark, cold, snowy, rainy Belgium where we saw the sun maybe once in the last six months. I'll be gone from March 25 through April 7 to make the most out of the trip.

In preparation for the hills, I did a trainer workout that simulated the Black Forest terrain in Germany. For three hours i powered up those hills and by the end my quads were on fire, literally. I felt electrical sparks! That was my key to get off.

As it continues to snow here, making the roads too dangerous to ride most days, I am often relegated to the trainer but i doubt i will be doing any more of those 3 hour rides. My legs -and ass - can only handle so much.

Upon final reflection of cross season, i want to thank everyone who has made all the diffference in the world for me. A big thanks again to all my sponsors such as BABOCO, STEVENS, 3T, Challenge, HempAge, Tifosi, PROBAR, Mt Tam Bikes, and Specialized for excellent support, to Jonas for doing more than humanly possible to keep me on track, to Jonas’ mom for dropping off meals at our house after the races, to my coach Elmo for repeatedly patching me back up enough so I can stand at the start lines, to Peter Meere, Sofie Piens, and J├╝rgen Landrie for serving as my on-hand support crew, and to everyone who cheered for me, read my blog or even had a kind thought about me over the last six months. I appreciate it all!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I was interviewed by SlowTwitch

foto by Tom Prenen
If you ever wondered what i am really like, here is a link to the article by that will enlighten you :-) . Be ready to laugh, maybe cry a very little, but mainly experience what i went through to make a life for myself in Belgium as a cyclocross racer. Hope you find it entertaining.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Racing, Photo Shoots, and Interviews

Rucphen by Dirk Bruylant
My last two races were definitely an ice-skating experience! It is rare we race on ice in a cyclocross race but last weekend we had two ice-riddled events in a row.  Int'l CX Rucphen in Holland was held between a beautiful frozen pond and an indoor ski ramp.  My start was a bit unfortunate. Right after we turned off the track into the dirt, I opted to ride the mini technical descent. The problem was that i was surrounded by gals who opted to run it. The train of runners forced me off the good line and into the deep snow.

By the time i was back on track, I had lost many spots. In my attempt to catch riders, i made many mistakes and slipped out here and there. By the time i put it all together and was powering along, fault-free, it was the last lap - a little too late to make up spots.  Even so, i had an excellent experience - it was a great course and excellent organization. And having that practice of racing on ice was surely going to help me the next day in Holland's Hoogerheide World Cup i told myself!

Hooherheide by Florent Bouchat

The morning in Hoogerheide started off great. I picked up my race packet from the Lanssens Family who help me out periodically with getting my World Cup packets when i have a race the day before. And my Belgian friend who works for the Italian Team kindly saved us a spot just next to the race course. The pre-ride went great. My Challenge tires were gripping nicely and i had tested a few corners to find my limits. I was ready to GO!
just before my slide by Tom Prenen

My start was fairly ok, and the race got better from there as i immediately passed a few riders by pushing my limits in certain spots.  All was going to plan until i reached the first spot where we have to dismount the bikes to run down/up around a tree. By my second footstep, I was across the course, sliding on my ass. Immediately i realized my downfall.  I had opted for long metal spikes in my shoes with the thought that they would simply cut into the ice. Heck, i'd seen it on tv where those ice climbers hang upside down thanks to their spikes. Well, those dreaded spikes had me ice skating all over the place with the end result of me flat on my back.  At least that kept my mind off of my frozen ears and the snow pellets! 

ice runup by Tom Prenen

The second place we had to dismount was running up a hill covered in ice. I had to stop in my tracks a few times when i found myself at that uncertain moment where you know if you make the tiniest move, you're going back down the hill. Every lap these two spots cost me fistfuls of seconds where i lost a few spots here and there. That must have broken Jonas' heart to watch me from the pits seemingly ride backwards during the race.  But at least i lived to tell the tale!  Just after the dreaded runup there was a steep descent layered in ice. In two of my five laps, i had to trackstand at the top to figure out how to ride down while avoiding a crumpled up gal at the bottom.  I was very lucky i didnt have to try and run down on FOOT! Would not have been possible at all with my spikes.

photo by Els Bammens

On my one day off the bike last week, i spent it at a photo shoot for my friend who has relocated her fitness business called Fitness by Farzan from San Francisco to Zolder, Belgium.  She does personal trainings in gyms, people's homes and also over skype.  She is so good at her job that she inspires people to rise to levels they never thought possible.  In the name of  action shots, she had us lift cowbells, do millions of squats, pushups while balancing on some unstable semi-circle, balancing acts, etc.  In true athlete form combined with her mesmerizing ability to get you to gladly suffer, i gave every exercise the best i had - killing myself in the process. Boy was I sore the next day, and the next...but it was worth it!!
modeling my HempAge clothing,
photo by Els Bammens

Lastly, I was kindly interviewed recently by the Brazilian Animal Rights organization and it is now online. To read the english translation, click on the british flag at the top right of the website.  CLICK HERE TO READ IT.

Thanks for reading!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Snow in Belgium - finally!

It has been a very trying month with my collection of injuries on top of one another, especially when they timed themselves to hit just before the Christmas season of racing here in Belgium.  With 7 races in 14 days, there was no time for returning my fitness to normal but rather all i focused on was survival. And that is what i did. I survived.

While i may have had a tough time finding the resources to get to that start line day after day, i think that Jonas had the raw end of the deal.  All i had to do was ride my bike and he did the rest - everything that did not require pedaling, he was responsible for.  We made a good team - but by early January, we were both fried. Luckily we also had a bit of help along the way in the form of Sofie, Jurgen, Ernst, Danny, Peter, Mario, Patricia, Linda and so on!! That surely helped a lot to take a bit of the pressure off.

After a ten day break from racing (which is long in cyclocross), I was back at it yesterday in Otegem's Int'l Betafence Cyclocross today. For the first time since mid-november, I felt healthy and motivated! That was just what i needed to lift the spirits going into the next races.   

Thanks to everyone who has sent kind messages to me and cheered me on.  Very kind of you all!!

Next weekend is Int'l CX Rucphen and Hoogerheide World Cup. Bring it on...

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