Canadian Cyclist


January 25/06 1:12 am - A CycloCross Blog: Wendy and Normon Prep for World's

Posted by Editoress on 01/25/06

Wendy Simms and Normon Thibault are in Europe prepping for this weekend's CycloCross World Championships. Over the past couple of weeks they have been training, travelling, racing and... blogging. Normon's report from the Master's World's can be found in Daily News. Below is a series of reports from the start of their trip. Reports can also be found at : Frontrunners Blog

Part 1

by Wendy Simms

It was Friday the 13th but it looked like our 2005 CX Worlds trip was not going to start with any bad mojo. There was no fog so we could fly out of Nanaimo and make our connection in Vancouver (unlike 2003) AND, better yet, the extra upgrade coupon that Peter Reid had given us worked like a charm so we were being served wine and cheese while those at our regular seats in the back had to buy crappy pre-made sandwiches for $10. SWEET! We watched movies, ate lots of yummy food and then stretched out our legs for a snooze. That is not to say that we slept much but it was a helluv a lot better than trying to keep the head upright using a blow up pillow. We were woken an hour before our flight landed with orange juice and a smile. I guess that is what the extra $3000 buys you in first class - expensive but if I had the $ I would do it every time.

Saturday the 14th was a little less smooth as our luggage did not arrive. I hacked my way through a french conversation to find out that it would not arrive until Sunday - would we like to leave our address so they could deliver it? Hmmmm lets see in 2003 Corey did not receive his bikes from Air Canada for 6 days so I think we will drive the extra 4 hours to come back and pick it up - merci. We drove north to our hotel and had a strong nap before we went to Lievin to register and walk the course. When we flew out Norm was bragging about how little carry on luggage he had, today he was pretty quiet as he had to borrow Barb Howe's (Velo Bella) salmon (read pink) coloured mini jacket and crazy tube with strings she called a toque. I think he will go back to max carry on luggage for our next trip. We set a goal of staying awake until 8pm and barely made it. Of course we cursed ourselves at 2am when we were wide awake but I am weak when it comes to sleep.

Sunday morning. Race day. But....we had to drive into Paris and pick up the bikes and luggage. I am not even going to try to describe the insane, inefficient baggage system they had at Charles de Gaulle airport but we got it all and arrived at the race course feeling a little frazzled. Norm got the bikes together in time for me to do a few laps of the course. It was mostly grass but pretty twisty and definitely hilly for a cross course. My Jake the Snake's felt great on the course and I thought my legs were OK but I hadn't done many hard efforts outside of my cheese sprints two days before in first class. The weather was perfect but for some reason I was freezing (my mom would say this is from lack of sleep). I had one of my WORST starts in history as I was still sitting on the start line at least a few seconds after the gun. In the end it didn't really matter because after the first corner onto dirt there was mass carnage and most of the girls that DID have a good start were on the ground or running. I managed to find a small gap in the bikes and bodies so I could ride the first hills. Ann Knapp (Kona) was right beside me. We pulled away from the pack but there was obviously a group that had gotten away off the front because they were rounding the next hill. Lyne Bessette ( was up there and I later found out Stacey Spencer (Symmetrics) had a great start and was up there too - go Canada! I tucked in behind Ann who races a LOT smarter than I ever do and tried to settle in. But it was pretty obvious who was stronger because I could not hold her wheel. Half a lap into the race and I was already going backwards. I was breathing heavy, I was suffering and I had another 37 minutes to go. Girls would pass me and I couldn't hold their wheel, even the Velo Bella girls (Barb Howe and Christine Vardaros) who were trying to lend me a wheel were too fast. The only positive part of the race was that I was riding technically well on my Jake the Snake. I limped in 27th over 5 minutes behind the leader hoping like hell it was the jet lag talking.

Thanks to everyone who helped me get here. Thanks to KONA for providing me with wicked bikes, Helly Hansen for keeping me warm and stylie, the Malaspina crew for covering me at work, Frontrunners for covering Norm, the Simms sponsorship program, and Norm for keeping me from getting too bummed about my first race.

Part 2
by Normon Thibault

Wendy and I stayed over in France one more night after the World Cup to try to settle the sleep monsters down. It did not work! Of no help was the fact that you can not get any food in France on a Sunday night....nothing is open at least in a small town. To our HUGE dismay we ended up hitting Mac D's and then hitting the bed at a late 8:45pm. Of course I was again awake at 3am.

Heading out on Monday we did a little detour to Vimy Ridge. This was a place that every kid in Canada learns about in WW1 History lessons. Canada was defined by the actions of our troops at Vimy Ridge. We did a tour of the grave-sites and then some of the trenches and information center. As Wendy said you don't really get it from reading it in a book. you really have to see it. One thing that was amazing was how close the front line was between the Canadians and the Germans. It was about 20 meters. Crazy to live that way for so long. The historic site is still pock marked with craters and mounds from explosives from 90 years ago. They are still digging out explosives out of the ground so you can not wander around too much.

Tour of the Bike Shops.
We checked out one of our favorite shops in Bergan-Op-Zoom on the way to Zeddam. This was a cool shop that we looked at with Corey last year. It is 5 stories high and has so much clothing that all the bike shops in BC combined would not match it. Driving around Zeddam we found a stand alone shop called, De Pedaleur, which was pretty cool. Probably close to 15 thousand square feet of retail space and everything really nicely displayed. Between the first two shops we thought we had seen it all. Then at the end of one of our rides we met a local guy who told us about this shop in Germany only 20k away. We hit it yesterday and it was not hard to find with lots of signs pointing you in the right direction in their town. Well this was the HUGEST bike shop I have ever seen. Probably close to the size of REI in Seattle or 2 times the size or MEC in Vancouver. It was CRAZY. They had pretty much every small part or wheel that you could think of. The only disappointment was that the bikes were all a house brand, Red Bull, and were not that great. One more bike shop....we headed to Hoogstraten after a pre ride of the Mol course on Thursday to visit our friends from the past 2 years, Frank and Johan at Ciclo Morello. This is a cool shop in the back of Johan's house. They did not know we were coming so it was a great surpize. Not as much gear as all the BIG shops but way more heart and we all know how important that is!

The Week.
It is amazing that our days can be so full during a week that did not have too much training but we have been busy.....riding, me fixing the bikes, shopping for food, looking for "Broodjes", checking out the worlds course, checking out the Mol course, reading business books, Wendy planning her comeback tour, a few runs, no sit ups to contribute to the FR monthly quota (I promise next week), checking out local run stores, getting the new laptop to work with the internet, trying to figure out local shop open and closed hours, testing chocolates, and licorice (wendy spit one out into the failed) thinking about beer and two full days gluing, stretching and mounting 6 tubulars....still glue on my hands right now.

Tomorrow we are off to Mol for my race. I don't feel too prepared having not raced for over 2 months but I did get a boost in confidence with riding the crazy sand section 6 out of 8 times yesterday. Wendy made it look so easy that I had to try harder and I nailed it. I have ridden that course 4 times over the past 2 years any never made the sand section until yesterday. I am excited to race the bike; new bar tape and new tubulars.

Sunday Wendy races her second World Cup up in Hoogerheide.

Thanks to everyone at Frontrunners for taking care of everything while I am away (I am working on what I can over here...honest) as well as Brodie and Helly Hansen for the support they have given me over the last 2 years.

Part 3
by Wendy Simms

I think I finally shed my jet lag AND I started getting psyched for my next race after watching Norm race Masters Word Championships on Saturday. He had the WORST call up (OK the fourth worst but close enough) but still managed to pull out a great race.

I didn't get a chance to ride the Hoogerheide course Sat because we arrived after dark. We decided to stay in town so I could get up early and check out the course and Norm could help fellow Canadian Mike Bidniak (Juventus) get organized for his Junior race.

Apparently the hotel/castle/hostel that we were staying at was a refuge for roosters so we didn't have a problem with the early hour. The course was pretty similar to last year with a few changes that included a second run up, some mud and a few more turns but the major feature was a long open stretch on cobbles that passed through the start finish.

Greg Rein (Stevens) and Mike were just finishing up their pre- ride and the fans were starting to show up. They were staking out the best spots on the course, they were hitting the beer garden, they were unfolding their Belgian flags, they were sporting their Sven Nys supporter jackets and the smell of waffles and frituurs was in the air. Ahhhh cyclocross in Europe. SO cool to be a part of it!

Norm pitted for Mike & Ryan so I will let him relay the race report and I am sure you can read more from Ryan at:

Last thing I heard before the start: "Rip them a new one Wendy!!" Ann Knapp (Kona). And she looks so innocent!

I still don't have a great call up position on the world cyclocross scene but I managed to have a good start. I found a few little gaps and moved up quite well through the looooooong cobbled start through town. No crashes just a lot of bumping - they race super aggressive over here. Lyne Bessette ( was just in front of me so I knew she must not have had a great start (uncharacteristic for her!). So I decided to try to stick with her.

We were taking completely different lines but both moving up through the group we were with - me cutting the corners tight, her powering the open stretches. I think a small group had gotten a gap but we were in the big chase group that was moving quickly (42km/hr according to the speed trap). I was trying to rest on certain parts of the course so I didn't blow up like last week but the group would get a gap so I had to keep on the gas. Lyne was moving to the front of the group and I was near the back soon to be dropped. But somehow I ended up pulling the next group around the entire open cobbles section (duh).

They dropped me as soon as we hit the grass. I was in no-mans land by myself for a long time before a chase group that included Ann Knapp (Kona) and Christine Vardaros (Velo Bella) caught up. Ann always cheers me on when she catches me, but I never have enough breath to do anything but grunt. I jumped in behind Ann and am not ashamed to say that I took some rest behind her 5ft whatever wee frame. It was exactly what I needed to get some life back.

I was starting to plan our finish (us Kona girls aren't known for their tactics....). We went through the last mud section together but all of a sudden I looked over and she was DOWN. It was a slick mud that did whatever it liked with you and then spit you out but unfortunately it decided to spit Ann out sideways on the last lap. Too bad because she was so strong at the end of the race and I had been working on our finish plan.

I hit the cobbles first but didnt want to tow the pesky French girl on my tail up the hill and around the corner so I let up and she surged ahead. Again not so s-m-a-r-t on the tactics because I have to be moving fast enough when she passes to stay on her wheel. I spent the rest of the hill and finish chute catching her and trying to sprint pass her but was a few cms shy. 16th place in the end. Not the greatest race but a lot better than last week and a few things to think about for the next week. Cyclocross - always learning.....

Part 4
by Normon

Wednesday Morning.

Sitting in the bungalow waiting for Wendy, Barb and Greg to get up so I can make more noise. The past two days have been the calm before things ramp up towards the weekend and the races. Nothing official to take care of other than keeping track of who else needs credentials for the Canadian Team so we can have everything dialed in for the weekend. The accreditation center opens today to I will start to do more official duties this afternoon.

The Weather
It just started to snow for the first time since we have been here. It has been REALLY cold in the morning at -2/-3C with a wind and damp but the snow will add even more skill into the course as people try to stay upright. If the snow goes away it will make the course slippery. If it stays it will make the course will be slippery! But thinking of every option if the snow goes away and then the course freezes the course will be super rutted, hard and fast. Tire selection is always one of the most important elements of cross races and I am in constant discussions with Pim to get ideas and learn about what to do.

Pim our Dutch mechanic came by on Monday to have a first look over the bikes. He fixed Ryan's rear brake and we looked over Wendy's bikes and wheels. He explained to the members that were here that he is there to help. We wash the bikes. He fixes the bikes. Don't touch his tools without asking and everything will be fine. We both went to the course on Monday afternoon as he had not seen it in a while and he wanted to know more about how everything will be set up and how the specific sections look. Pim is volunteering his time and even dragging along another friend to help. As he says, 'I like the stay with you guys!!! Ill hope to be a plus for the team and help to improve the results. That would be the best feeling for me. See you the next Thursday. Pim." He also said his head hurt from 2 hours of speaking so much English so we will have to go easy on the conversation.

The past two night we have had Team Canada Bowls night at the main center of our accommodations. The first night is was Stu (the US mechanic from Cyclocross World that is here to help Lyne), Ryan, Mike and myself. Barb joined us for the second game. It became pretty clear that we were all pretty bad bowlers! The family that was in the lane next to us was just laughing at us the whole time. Last night we went again and this time Lyne and Wendy also joined us. It became a girls vs. the boys competition. Apparently Wendy can bowl and in the first game she had 4 strikes in a row. She said the last time she bowled was after she handed in her thesis and her and Erin got the boot from Mayfair lanes as they were "enjoying themselves" too much. Well she led the girls to double victory (in average score) by over 20 points in the first two games.

We still had some time left in our hour so we had a third game. Fearing that the racers arms would eventually fall off we changed it to a game of "granny bowl" between the legs and/or backwards. We had some other experimental techniques as well including the slide-push, the double ball, machine gun and others but granny seemed to work the best. Again the girls crushed us with Wendy leading the way with 3 strikes and a score over 150! She wondered if she could make more $ as a pro bowler than as a cyclist and i think Lyne snorted.

The biggest worry right now is anyone getting sick for the race. The days are short between now and the competition so there is no time to recover. Lots of rest. Lots of hand washing and....Bleek used on everything around the house. "Bleek" you ask? Well Wendy sent me to the store for some Bleach to clean our bottles and the kitchen etc. Bleach here I determined was called Bleek. They had two kinds.....regular "Bleek" and "Dik Bleek" (I can hear Corey snickering right now). The "Dik Bleek" worried me a lot so I opted for the regular "Bleek". I know you can call us germ a phobics but we prefer "Germ Aware"!

There is a good dusting of snow now. Will keep you updated with at least one more report before the race.


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