I arrived in Europe for the Valkenburg World cup in the Netherlands. This was my first World Cup and my first time to the Netherlands. Thank you so much to Marc Gullickson for facilitating this event for all of us! Team USA stayed in Sittard at the Fitland center, a big athletic center. This was pretty close to Germany so I later rode there. The Netherlands is only slightly different from Belgium. The houses are a little bit more modern, yet still rustic.
Once done with the World Cup, where I finished 32nd, It was time to set up my base camp at the Chain Stay in Oudenaarde, Belgium. My team mate Gavin Haley, my father and I will be staying here for the next three weeks to race Superprestiges and Bposts. Our first race, Ruddevoorde Superprestige was this past Sunday. The course was pretty different from most European courses I've done, it seemed like more of an American course. Twisty, grassy, and fast. The day before the race it was dry, so I got to try out my new Challenge Chicanes and was excited to race such fast tires... but the morning of it rained a bunch so to my delight it was to be a muddy race. I was the absolute last person to be called up out of 68 riders (Gavin however had UCI points and got a first row call up) but had a fantastic race and worked my way all the way up to 19th place and my team mate Gavin Haley had a excellent race placing 14th. The fields in Europe are super competitive. Everyone is fighting tooth and nail for every last place, with their legs and elbows. This was my best result so far in Europe, and a great first result for Gavin. It's a very positive way to start our campaign. Thanks so much to our Belgian mechanic and friend, Tom Segers for guiding us through the racing scene over here!
Belgium isn't so different from my home town of Duluth. Just more amplified... More rain, more clouds, more wind. However, my first week in Belgium was surprisingly sunny, warm, and pleasant. This past week I have been occupying myself with exploring the town of Oudenaarde and riding parts of the Tour of Flanders. I've found some pretty cool stuff so far.
|Cool buildings....City hall on the market in Oudenaarde|
|Good food.in a resturaunt at the top of the Oude Kwaremont|
|And famous rides like the Koppenburg|
Belgian people have a whole different attitude about their history. They take pride in it, take care of it, and show it off for everyone to see. There are no run down buildings here, and no trash in yards or streets. The streets are smaller than I remember, the hedges more elaborate.
The city centers in Belgium are amazing too. Each one is unique with it's own history. It seems like around every corner and down each tiny alley is some new place selling something different.
Koppenbergcross is Friday and Zonhoven is Sunday. From watching footage of past races, both appear to be brutal. The former is set on the hillside of the infamous Koppenberg and Zonhoven is almost entirely sand, and hills
It's an exceptionally sunny day here in Oudenaarde so it's time for me to go out and do some training, preriding the Koppenberg... and maybe stop for a chocolate croissant at a cafe.