Euro assault #2
Not your typical Christmas week. No turkey. No cookies. No carols. But we did manage to catch the Simpson's Xmas special on TV - in English, so we can't complain too much. Instead of the traditional family Christmas, ours was filled with a lot of mud, sand, grit, fritturs with mayo, pain, suffering, and unfortunately, a trip to the local hospital.
Hofstade World Cup
Christmas day we all slept in, did laundry and then went to Hofstade to pre-ride the World Cup course. We were all moving pretty slowly...a little tired from our 3 races in a row off the plane. The managers meeting was Christmas night. hmmm. I guess they value cyclocross more than family dinner here in Belgium. The course was one giant sand box. Really deep sand and then minimal recovery before the next sand section. I felt pretty good pre-riding but I would soon find out that although I consider myself a decent sand rider in North America, the euros put me to shame.
It had poured all night so race day was a different story. The sand was heavy, the mud was slick and my legs were flat. I pre-rode the course and never got out of my granny ring. Bad sign. With all the big wigs on the line, I was third row. Not ideal but better than previous years. I had a decent start and made it through the bottlenecks in top 10. But once we got to the sand sections I just didnt have any power. My legs protested but I was stubborn. I should have gotten off and run the sand because it was faster than my riding. So stubborn. I should have taken a bike every lap because my bike weighed a ton. But I was so scribbled I wasn't thinking straight and it cost me a lot of spots. I lost 5 spots. Only 2 seconds but I had no fight in me and lost them all on the last lap to end up 18th. Maybe that third race on Sunday was a little too much before the world cup......
So my travel buddy Barb Howe (Velo Bella - Kona) had a much worse day than me. She was riding well, moving up with 2 laps to go when she jumped off her bike to run a steep hill and heard "pop" . She tried to take a step and collapsed. Turns out she tore her achilles. Ouch. I went to the ambulance after my race but she was taken away to spend 2+ hours in a waiting room by herself, muddy, in her bike shammy, where everyone speaks Flemish. When we were packed up and called the hospital she was about to go into surgery. We finally got to see her at 10pm that night. She was pretty drugged up and groggy, with a big heavy old school cast on her leg but pretty happy to see us. She had taken notes after the surgery: where am I? who won the race? can someone bring me chapstick? and beer. and stroopenwaffels (tasty mini waffles filled with caramel, a yummy Dutch treat. mmmmmmmm). They released her the next day with some walking sticks so when she trips on them we call her TIMMY!!! Seriously though she is staying pretty positive all things considered. I am impressed. I am sure I would be a cow to live with after that.
I wasn't sure if I should even race after my pffflat Hofstade race and then spending hours in the car going back and forth to the hospital but it looked like a fun course with some BMX style whoop-de-doos, cobbles and mud. Unfortunately our CC buddy Natasha Elliott (Stevens) crashed in the warm up and her wrist was ballooning and darkening at an alarming rate so I was the last one standing for this event. I had a pretty slow start. The girls seemed excessively aggressive and I was losing spots fast in the opening corners. But we hit the sloppy thick mud that I had decided to run it (what I SHOULD have done at the world cup) so I went right when everyone else went left, and got back up with the lead group. Hell, I somehow found myself on Hanka Kupfernagels wheel at the end of the lap and I still don't know how that happened because I was suffering like a dog. She dropped me in the mud so I fell back to the big chase group. I was dangling off the back of the chase group in about 8th for a couple of laps wondering how long I could last. I was tired. But at some point we dropped Daphne van den Brand and the pace eased up a bit so I got a chance to pull myself together. Until the last lap when somehow I was leading the chase group. Saskia (Kona) tried to get us to attack and get away but she had more energy left than I did and got a small gap, without me. I fell back in behind Helen Wyman to let her lead me out for the 4th place sprint and managed to take it over her and the Belgian National champ who had the most cheers from the 20,000 Belgian fans, many of who were absolutely hammered throwing their beer cups at us on the course.
Now I have a much deserved rest.