Sunday, April 20, 2014

Off to Canada to race the infamous Paris 2 Ancaster!!

After a long hard trying cyclocross season with an excellent wrap-up cookie party (see party video

Foto: Lydia van de Meerssche
HERE
 - courtesy of Start-Box.be), I took some much needed time off of the bike.  Usually my rest would last 5 days before i'd have to start training again for my yearly pilgrimage to the Tour of Cyprus. 

But with the race canceled for this year, I went a whole 3 weeks without the bike to fully decompresss, recover, regroup and re-humanize.  It felt great!  I would have taken even more time off if i hadnt received a fantastic invitation to the infamous Paris-Ancaster bicycle race in Ontario, Canada to be held on April 27th.  It is an offseason point-to-point cyclocross, a kind of Canada equivalent of Paris-Roubaix.

I'm traveling there with rockstar Ellen van Loy from April 23rd through 28th.  To make the trip even more exciting, we're holding a women's only cyclocross clinic the day before the race.
Here is the press release of the event on CYCLOCROSS Magazine.
And for those who read Dutch, Veldritkrant.be did a nice piece on Ellen's trip to Canada.

As for other aspects of what i've been up to, I am now an official supporter of The Vegan Society.
They just changed their logo to celebrate their 70th anniversary as you can see in this photo! You can check out their site here.

Their old logo can be seen on the butt and collar of my skinsuit as shown in the photo here.

GP Sven Nys by Tom Prenen

Oh, and I've been interviewed by none other than THE cyclocross superstar Sanne van Paassen! What an honor!

Click HERE to read the interview on her website.





I finally got my new trading cards! The focus was on "nature" to reflect my earth-friendly sponsors such as T. Strong Transportation, a green transportation company based in Texas, and HempAge clothing company out of Germany.

Hope you like it!


I'm sure there are lots of adventures/happenings that i am forgetting to mention but if i remember any that are particularly interesting, I'll be sure to post it here!
Thanks for reading!!
 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Interviews, advertisements and finally...new 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 camp...in 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.

Lefkara
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 slowtwitch.com 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.
 CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE

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...

To follow me on facebook, click here for my Christine "Peanut" Vardaros page or you can subscribe to my regular Facebook page here. Thanks!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Been a rough few weeks but i see the light!!

If you want to read about my last few weeks of digging myself into a hole, click HERE to be taken to my online diary at CYCLOCROSS Magazine.
Post-Scheldecross by Ilse Hendrickx

Friday, November 23, 2012

Superprestige Gavere article live on CYCLOCROSS Mag

foto by Kris Claeye
If you want to read all about the Military Domain of Pain, click HERE to read it on CYCLOCROSS Magazine.

Latest Article in CYCLOCROSS Magazine

Here is my last article in CYCLOCROSS Magazine. The magazine is now available in digital format - click HERE to check out a free preview!  If you are happy with what you see and want to read more, click HERE to subscribe.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wanna know what i've been up to?


Gavere - by Bram van Lent
Oops.  I promised myself i'd be better at updating my blog but I fell off the job. 

I am now two months into the cyclocross season and it has already been filled with highs and lows.  It started off solid with a 4th, 10th, and 12th at the first three events of Hoboken CX, Soudal Neerpelt, and Bosduin Kalmthout.  (The 12th was bittersweet for me as I had a mishap two seconds into the race where my chain bounced off to the outside of the chainring, putting me in  2nd to last place.)  Although the early season is usually a bit trying for me as I need a few races to get into the rhythm, I was pleased with my form. 


Niel by Patricia Cristens
Expecting every race to get better and better, I was surprised to find that the following race took a bit of a turn for the worse where I placed 13th in the Ruddervoorde Superprestige event.  The following couple of weeks were spent in the Czech Republic where I contested the first two rounds of World Cups that were held in the towns of Tabor and Plzen where I placed 30th and 28th  respectively.  A few days later I was back at it again at the opening round of the BPost Bank Trofee series – Koppenbergcross where the race course is held on the infamous cobbled Koppenberg climb made famous by the Tour of Flanders, one of the two greatest one-day road races. There, on a course that suited my sinewy climbing legs, I placed 19th so I knew that it was time to take a  much needed rest.

Gavere by Bram van Lent
For the next week I rode no more than 20 minutes a day in an attempt to recharge the body.  Thankfully it worked because the next weekend I came out fighting again at Soudal’s Niel event.  My start was excellent, putting me immediately in top six in the beginning of the race. Unfortunately I took myself out on a manmade ramp, wrapping myself and my bike around a pole when I slid out on a muddy bit. Chasing back from almost last place, I made it up to 9th by the finish.  Job well done. Most importantly, that experience left me feeling optimistic for what is to come in the next months!

Gavere by Robert Goedgezelschap
Even though I may not have won any of these races, the supporters on the sidelines – and on facebook, twitter, etc – treated me as if I were a superhero.  It is a very special feeling to hear a steady stream of folks cheering your name at every single event.  I am very lucky to have so many wonderful people who believe in me no matter my result. 
If you'd like to read all about my trip to Czech Republic - including my trips to places like Prague - check out my post on PelotonPost
And to read all about my latest race last weekend at Superprestige Gavere, you can shortly check it out on CYCLOCROSS Magazine.
Gavere by Tom Prenen

For the next few months I race at least once per week, with a 3-week holiday period filled with 3 events per week. In two weeks, the World Cup events resume with Koksijde, BE and Roubaix, FR - one after another.   after that it is around two-three races per week through first week of January. Then one race per week for the rest of january, followed by two per week through end of February.  Fingers crossed that my future results match the motivation I am feeling right now!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

First Belgian CX Racing Weekend Completed


Neerpelt by Johan Pelgrims
In Belgium, a country that seemingly revolves around cyclocross, the first big weekend of the season is always filled with much anticipation for both the riders and fans.   While the riders are curious to test out their offseason training, the fans are equally occupied with thoughts about the riders as well as with their own preparations for the long season ahead.  Just like racers, the fans’ work begins months in advance, with tasks like making sure to equip themselves with the newest supporter clothing, readying their winter gear, clearing their calendars for their favorite events – even if just to watch it on TV which is equally important, creating facebook pages for each event where they can check in with others about the race, and solidifying plans with their friends and supporter clubs on where to meet at the event as well as their game plan once there.  Just like the racers, the fans show up a few hours before the start of the event. They use that time for meet-and-greets, giving their favorite riders a few encouraging words before the event, collecting photo trading cards and setting up their ideal spot to watch the excitement.   

Neerpelt by Jozef Cooreman
Now that the first big weekend has come and gone, it appears to me that it did not disappoint.  While some of the riders and their fans may have been dissatisfied by the results, the festive atmosphere clearly remained intact.   

The weather may have helped the atmosphere as it was atypically sunny and warm for Belgium at almost 70°F.  The riders could luxuriously parade around in their short sleeve skinsuits while the spectators could enjoy a nice cold beer under blue skies.   The weather also led to swelled crowds, adding to that party atmosphere that was felt by both rider and spectator alike.   

The first up was Soudal GP Neerpelt (formerly known as FIDEA Neerpelt).  The course was very interval-intensive which proved to give many athletes a test of endurance, including me. The first half of the lap was mainly mini semi-sand where you have to either power ride or run up, then immediately descend to the base of the next one. For the ones we had to run, the trick was to clip in the moment we remounted before shooting down the bumpy, loose descent. Otherwise it was a scary ride from what I discovered the hard way on one of the laps. The second half was mainly flat winding terrain with an out-and-back sandpit close to the finish.

Neerpelt by Lesley Staes
I had only done one training race before this weekend so I felt a bit underprepared.  My mind, though, was keyed up and ready to go.  I stood there at the start line feeling confident as I watched the giant LED screen above the start-finish strip that was to signal us when to take off.  As the five red balls that spanned across the screen lit up one by one, I knew it was a brief moment before all five red balls simultaneously turn green which was our signal to GO!

As every cross racer knows, the first few minutes of that inaugural race is always a shock. It was no different for me. While part of me was overwhelmed with excitement to hear all the cheers of my friends and supporters, my legs and lungs were screaming in pain. It turned out to be worth the suffering when I crossed the line in 10th place – a first for me in over a year at one of these UCI events in Belgium.

The next day I was even more motivated to race, with the goal of besting my 10th from the day previous.  I am usually better on the second day of racing so it was perfectly possible that I could make it happen.  The course was mainly winding singletrack – the kind that reverts even the toughest badass into a free-spirited kid as he shoots out of berms at rocket speed.

Start by Robbe Jochems
The first two seconds of my race played out perfectly.  I nailed that elusive instant “clip-in-and-go” and was powering my way to a solid run down the starting straight.  But it was that third second that shot me to the ground – almost literally.  Out of nowhere, my right leg jerked straight to the pavement with an explosive force that left my bike uncontrollably wobbling from side to side.  Magically I was able to keep it upright. Once steady, I took a peek below to see what was off. My chain.  It had bounced off the big ring and onto the crank arm.

I soft-pedaled for a bit while trying to tease the chain back on. Just as I slipped it in place, the last place girl came by and kindly gave me a push to help me on my way. I still am amazed by that unbelievably kind gesture.   On such a course with single-file turns every few seconds, I had a trying time moving up in the field. By the time I got four gals in sight who were fighting for 8th through 11th, I was fried.  Game over.  I rode through the finish in 12th, feeling both dejected yet optimistic for the races to come.

by Victor Zandbergen
The flipside to my race was that I put in a good show for those who came out to watch me (HEEL ERG BEDANKT VOOR JULLIE AANMOEDIGINGEN!!!).  I may not have made it anywhere near the podium but my supporters managed to make me feel as though I were just as spectacular as Sanne Cant, the well-deserved winner of the race. 

The next race on my schedule is Sunday, the first round of the Superprestige Series to be held in Ruddervoorde.  As of this week, the cold rainy grey skies are back in action here in Belgium so I expect it will be a Limus kind of day – mud, mud, and more mud.  It may have been easier to be a cross racer in California when it comes to the weather, but I must say there is nothing like being inspired by tens of thousands of folks at every race – even when the weather turns to crap.   The Belgian tradeoff, I suppose.

 

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm a HempAge Girl!

For those of you who are linked to me on my facebook account , you already read about my partnership with HempAge, a super cool clothing company that makes clothing out of HEMP!

AND for those of you who have already asked if i plan to smoke my clothes, just thought you ought to know two things, 1. Hemp clothing IS made of weed, BUT another variety that is not smoked, and 2. Even if it were the same variety of hemp that you get a high from, I doubt that i would smoke it since i never smoked pot - ever.  Hard to believe considering my past lives, but, hey, we all have to have something strange about us!

To read all about the partnership between me and HempAge, CLICK HERE on CYCLOCROSS Magazine's website.