Posted by Editoress on 01/9/08
|The Chown Report - Final Reflections from Belgium|
Well I am now typing at an even lower rate than before due to my nice hunter's orange cast. The guy said it was a good orange, yeah right.
After the accident, I got somewhat fixed up and got the go ahead to race if the pain was not too bad. My first race was to be the Hofstade World Cup. The course was nothing like I have done before and required the proper tire choice and sand technique to do well. I do not think I had either of the previous and basically just did 3 warm up laps to see if my wrist could take the terrain. I found it to be okay and got 2 good positions I could bike in. The only issue was fighting for space so my plan was to take the least wanted lines on the first 1/4 lap then get into a good pace for the rest of the race.
It turned out to be a good strategy for a back row start, as I had clear lines and moved up to Tim Johnson's wheel a the first clog up section, only later to read he had a really bad start. The first lap was easily my best, as I nailed all the sand sections and actually moved up a few spots in each muddy or sand part. However after this there is not much to be said. I kept losing big time in the sand, I would lose all speed each section after that ,I just did not have the power left to hold the lines after a lap.
I tried to ride clean as possible after lap 2 and avoid crashing. I got lapped about 40 mins into the race and finished out the lap to place 48th. The lesson learned at this race was just knowing what people can ride and the speed at which the top riders hit the mud and sand. They definitely do not think about the line they just hit it and go -- no hesitation.
Well after this I was pretty happy, as I was worried that I would do a 1/2 lap or so and have to pack it in. So the prospect of a few more days off the wrist and another race was pretty motivating for the spirits. I started in Nordzeecross on Dec. 29th but really it was a bad call. Due to space I only had one bike, which was shifting badly, and the course was 90% ankle deep mud.
I got good start, rode about 7 minutes then stood up and ripped off my rear derailleur right by the pits, at least the bad shifting was explained. I walked to the pits had a few offers of help to get my other bike, which was non-existent, but a kind wave and smile let them know I was done. I did get to watch a few laps at the end and again really could notice the difference in the confidence and commitment in the top riders lines and riding.
The last race was to be under the lights at Diegem and was a Super Prestige. We were told the elite riders parking lot was full and we needed a pass anyway. But to get the pass you had to get into to the lot to access registration, Go figure. Well basically if you only speak English and do not have a van with you picture on it you are S.O.L. and have to park with the spectators in the mud. Oh well.
I did a few warm up laps and this course was definitely not bad. It was fast but had lots of room. The start was up hill for 200 meters or so then a sharp left onto the course. Again I took no big chances on the start, went through the first corner and got into a good group as the race progressed.
All the corners were pretty well lit except one and for the life of me I could not find the rut to ride it, my night vision is not so good. I fought hard and placed 36th. I got lapped about 1/2 way into Sven's last lap I believe. He was again way ahead of the field. It seems when he is on the others riders are going for second.
This race was the most fun I have every had in a race - the atmosphere was crazy and some places on the course you could barely see the fans, but definitely hear them. Again the fans cheered no matter where you were in the race. I draw this conclusion for at the start, prior to the whistle, I was near the front and at the end I was at the back and the whole time I was cheered or heard cheering. After this race we had to break down and get some pizza because my wife was sick of the frites and such.
I believe this will make me a better cross racer just by showing me what is possible on the bike. Hopefully next year my super supporters club and pit crew (my wife and son) will allow me to make the trip again, we'll see.
In the mean time here are some general observations about Belgium
1. The frites or fries really are not that good -- sorry.
2. The only inexpensive thing is Beer -- and it is really good.
3. The riding in general is unbelievable -- bike paths and trails that are labeled everywhere.
4. The deep fryer gets a lot of use.
5. There are no crappy bakeries or chocolate, only degrees of how good each one is.
Well hopefully I can send some reports next year. I would like to thank my sponsor's for the cyclocross season. Kona Canada www.konaworld.com and Handlebars Bike Shop www.handlebarscc.com.
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