Just returned from our first race of 3 in 3 days .....
The trip over here was pretty smooth - especially when I got bumped to FIRST CLASS on the Vancouver-London route. They kissed my butt with red wine and cheese platters, salmon frittatas and artichoke pesto pasta. Not too shabby!! Call me 5-star. I didnt really sleep but my elevated legs sure felt a hell of a lot better than if i had been crammed back in peon class. Great start to the trip. My bikes made it there (minus one broken spoke on my FSA wheels...guess i shouldnt have been so smug about Norm fitting an extra set of wheels into my bike case). Rented a small car but it got upgraded to a premium Passat wagon! Nice. I got all my luggage and made my way to the Cycling Center in Hertsberge near Brugge. I was feeling pretty good about it all. I have come a long way. I would have been terrified to do this solo journey a few years ago but I am starting to feel pretty comfortable here in Belgie. Bernard and Ann from the Cycling Center were surprised to see me as they hadn't heard from me at all. I guess they are used to dealing with junior boys who end up in Paris by mistake.....true story
This place kicks ass. It is a huge house set up for road teams to rent so it has every thing you could possibly need as a cyclist. Huge vans for hire along with mechanics and massage therapists. Trainers, steam room, sauna, HEATED garage to work on your bikes, a million laundry machines, internet, projector screen for movies, 3 kitchens, dinner after races if you so desire, a bakery around the corner etc etc. This place is awesome! I rented a room with Barb Howe (Velo Bella-Kona) but there are a few other North Americans here and we already feel pretty knit: Nathan Chown (Handlebars CC) and his wife Leslie, Natasha Elliott (Stevens), Derek St john (Cyclery) and Kevin Hazzard (JetFuel) who has been in a homestay in Holland for a month and I think was in desperate need of some North American culture. More on this place later.....
adventures on day 2 (fake ski hills, gratis knuffles (free hugs), and more) refer to Barb Howe's diary on cyclingnews.com
I hadn't switched my internal clock very smoothly this trip (maybe my first class flight made me soft??) so I wasn't sure how I would feel for this race. plus it was really really cold. -4C and foggy and wet. Although they call it "SMOG" here. warnings everywhere. Their SMOG seems pretty harmless compared to brown Toronto smog but they make everyone drive slower in smog. We rented a van from Bernard and hired him and Noel as mechanics for 6 of us. 20mins later he had a printed schedule of the day. The time HE was going to pack the van (sweet!), time to leave, travel time, race times, departure times, cost. Holy crap, I think this dude had done this once or twice (and with junior boys so it had to be very detailed). He even planned that his wife Ann cook for us so we could have dinner ready when we returned.
The race was chaos at the start. It was quite possibly the worst false start I have ever seen because and it was slow motion and lasted about 30seconds. First off, the girls swarmed second line after I was called up (in my new thermal National Champ skinsuit - thanks Verge!) so we were about 14 people across (normally 8). The starter was yapping away in Flemish. No clue what he was saying but my excellent body language interpretation gave me the heads up when the gun should go soon. But the girls started to inch forward and forward and suddenly they did a feeble start (I guess the gun clicked - misfire). A few sprinted full boar, a few rolled forward a few stayed still and everything in between. It was stretched out and then, the gun went off. I had started winding up my start (after I realized I would be screwed if I didnt move) when the gun went, which I thought was calling us back so I braked but by then the race had started. Half the girls were at the first corner and the other half were stretched out back to the start line. Hmm. So I started racing. When you start near the back of the pack its easy to pick off girls. in the corners, in the sand traps. I was feeling pretty good then I found myself on Hanka Kupfernagel's wheel (previous world champion!). I saw Barb close behind and secretly wish she could see me on Hanka's wheel! I thought I was about top ten but on a switchback I started counting and I was 4th! Hanka eventually time trialled away and I raced in 4th on my own getting colder and colder. My hands were useless and my running was wobbly but I held onto 4th. I crashed in the last corner and just about lost 4th but pulled it together just in time. Now I am icing my butt (left side - always..) hoping I will sleep soundly tonight. Gottah get my bikes organized and repeat tomorrow.
maybe some photos tomorrow.