Friday, November 15, 2013

GGEW 'Cross Cup & Soudel Neil, 'Cross the pond IV.

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of going to Germany, to race. The intent behind this was to get UCI points. Dad and I packed up the car and left Saturday morning. Besides riding into Germany a few weeks ago while at the USA house, this was my first time in the country. I had not anticipated how beautiful it would be! Flanders has it's own rugged -yet quaint- aura to it's hills and forests... Germany oozes grandoise with hidden valleys, forest, and real elevation change.

We arrived at the course saturday evening and I did a few laps to get a feel for the course, see where the lines were and what-not. Unfortunetly, this pre ride became a moot point as it rained all night... but I'm getting ahead of myself. That night we stayed at very nice hotel and had a good night's sleep, which isn't especially hard when you don't have to race until 13:20 and are ten kilometers away from the race venue.

Once arrived at the course Sunday morning, it had completely changed. In tire tread jargon, it went from a Challenge Fango, debating if one could get away with even a Chicane, to an unquestionable Limus. It was raining really hard there was standing water, and just a few degrees above freezing... needless to say these are some of the coldest possible conditions for a Cyclocross race. So I hopped on the course to take a look at what had and had not changed. The start straight was long, paved, and slightly uphill which fed into the separate finish line, directly after it went slightly downhill, turned to bricks, and took a left hand greater than 180 degree corner. After which it quickly turned right (still on bricks) into a flight of concrete stairs. This already looks like a formula for disaster (something like Rain + bricks + cyclists going fast on mud tires = high likliehood of crashes) but it gets better. Or worse depending on your perspective. After the flight of stairs the course follows a paved town street so you can build up your speed... and then goes down a flight of stairs. Yes you read that right, not up, down.

They have boards on them so it's sort of okay

After going down the stairs you feed into the grass and the rest of the course simply switchbacks back and forth across a very muddy field with a set of barriers thrown in here, going up a ditch there, Ectcetera. After preriding I was very wet so finding shelter underneath a tent with Jonathon Page to warm up was life saving.
JP and I warming up
I finished 7th out of 25 starters. It was dissapointing to not get any UCI points, especially with being so close to the podium... (10 seconds back entering the final lap) I was in touch of fifth place the entire race and screwed up on the last lap, (flipping on the barriers... fatigue has a funny way of messing up your judgment) in the end though, this race was about learning, not results. Initial disappointment in my result allowed me to take a step back and remember why I love riding and racing bike. It's not for a virtual point, or a number on a results sheet, or even success itself.
I love racing because it pushes me to better myself in every possible way to get that extra second.
I love Cyclocross because it's raw, primal, and rewards the tough people.
I love getting a result not for the result itself, but for it to embody all the hard work, difficult lessons, and teaching that had to come together to create that moment.
I love Cycling because it gives me freedom and the opportunity to explore the world.

Apparently it took something really painful like that result for me to learn my lesson because the next day at Soudal Neil was a blast! Dad and I drove back to the Chainstay Sunday night, got all of our equipment and clothes ready, got some sleep, and left for Neil at 8am Monday morning. Once arrived at the race venue Gavin and I immediately jumped on the course to pre-ride. It consisted of lots of tar, more running, and even more mud. 
Gavin and I. Photo Credit; Inne Segers

Pretty much my entire race experience was fun... I was much more motivated, focused, and relaxed. I had a great race. It was a small field, only about 20 juniors, but many of them had placed top ten in the Superprestiges and Bposts we have been doing. Also every one in the top 5 has actually pulled top 5 results in the other races we have done. The rider who won got away at the start, but by the end of the first lap I was in the chase group. Lap 3 I was driving the group. 
Covered in mud. Photo credit; Inne Segers

After reflecting on the race I realize my excitement of finally being at the front battling for the podium led to some poor tactical decisions, namely never letting myself rest on the road sections by driving the pace everywhere. I paid for this on the last lap and lost 4 spots fading from 5th-9th. 

Obviously there there was a little bit of "What if" frustration after the race, it's hard not to when I was battling for the podium at one point in the race. Mostly however, it was a huge confidence booster. I'm ready to rock for Hassalt  and Asper-Gavere.

Big thank you to the always wonderful Segers family for hosting us and taking such wonderful photos! Thank you to my Dad for always being there to help and my Mom for being ever-strong, supportive, and loving... On the team and sponsor side of things, Thank you to John Haley, HED Cycling, Apex Physical Therapy, Challenge tires, Enzo's Cycling Products, Lazer Helmets, Cuore of Switzerland, Honey Stinger the Thirsty Pagan, the Skihut, and Focus Bikes!

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