Monday, April 28, 2008
Offenburg World Cup Report
Round 2. The Offenburg World Cup race is one of my favourites. HEAPS of singletrack, great crowds, steep hairy drops and a short 5km loop. You need fitness, strength and technical skills for this race so it seems more like old skool mountain bike racing.
I had a decent start. Didn’t gut myself too badly and moved forward to about 15th on the two start loops. Once we hit the singletrack it was a big line up of traffic and I could hear the crowd cheering the leaders up the trail. 18,000 strong. Once the traffic thinned, I got into a rhythm. Until all hell broke loose.
Some Colnago chick tried to pass me on the left with zero space and hooked her bars on mine and sent me full speed into a tree. Hardwood. It did not move. I smashed my head and shoulder into it before wrapping my extra long limbs around the tree. I was pretty frazzled as I hit it hard and the crowd had gone silent waiting to see if I was ok. But the Simms’ have strong bones - lots of milk growing up. It took me a second to pull myself together but when I saw her get back on her bike and take off the anger hit me. I was PISSED. I sped off to catch Suzie Colnago. The adrenaline was pumping. I caught her and yelled some obscenities at her as I passed. I am pretty sure she knew what the jist was, even if English wasn’t her first language. If not, she can get the full video footage from Newt. I really wanted to punch her in the head but even in my rage I knew that would not be cool. Not that yelling obscenities is that much better…..Allright, it wasn’t my most shining moment in sport, but she had pulled a moron move and needed to know it. Super agro passes, on lap 3, for 18th position, is not really necessary. I did not see Suzie Colnago again. Maybe I was faster or maybe she was just terrified of what I would do if I saw her again.
After the rage subsided, I assessed the condition of my Kula Supreme. My left shifter had been smashed down quite a bit so it was hard to access and my gears were jumping. But it all worked so I decided to skip the pits. Not much Norm could do for me that wouldn’t take too much time. I just had to be careful on the descents because my brake lever was hard to access. The adrenaline lasted for a little bit but then it wore off and I was left with tired legs. I rolled in battered and bruised for 22nd place. Could have been worse I guess.
Watched the boys race against the other 248 men. All gunning to be the first into the singletrack....the Kona boys had a tough gig starting FIFTEEN rows back.
Off for some dinner in town. Schnitzel is a pretty hot item here. I wonder if they have chocolate schnitzel? (they have chocolate covered bread, its not that far off). I will have to get German fluent Sue to scan the menu.
Next stop Madrid, Spain.
In other news. I gave up on my chocolate boycott. It wasn't helping. Perhaps even hindering my results. I think my glycogen stores were depleted without chocolate to top them off. seriously. I think I race better on chocolate.
Guest Blog: Normon Thibault
Wendy is doing her pre-race casual routine watching German MTV: Pimp My Ride so it is up to me to do a little post for Wendy's Blog.
Adventures in Zwembad
Traveling in other countries it is always tough to get a good swim in. Finding the pool (It is left of the windmill.....nope......it is near the center of town.....nope). Figuring out the schedule (No swimming on Sundays or mondays......not a long schedule during schule times.....). Negotiating with the locals.......you get the picture. 95% of All Belgium swimmers swim breast stroke 95% of the time.....I think it is so they can keep an eye on everything. Knob suits. Speedos. Banana hammocks. That is all the boys wear. If they are working on maintenance, lifeguarding or actually swimming. I saw this one 30 something ripped-runner-triathlete the last two times I was at the pool. The guy was water running back and forth in one of the lanes. Back. Forth.....repeat over and over for more than the hour that I was there. Well the last time I was there I was swimming by and well.......his "Junk" was hanging out of his swim suit.......there was probably 100+ people in the pool. Situation remained the same for 75m more before his business was put away.........
Pool temperature was 28c......I was cooking after an hour. I think it is even warmer than Beban.
Unfortunately some of the elementary school girls that were swimming had more pit hair than me.....yuk!
At a race track south of where we are staying on Tuesday and Thursday nights from April to October there is a night ride that I can only call the SWARM. Starting around 6:30 riders start heading around the motor speedway in one group that gets more and more strung out until it breaks into smaller and smaller pace groups until people start peeling off and heading for the exits around 8:00 or so. The kicker is that there is probably 300+ cyclists there. There is guys on full 10k race rigs right down to guys with panniers. Everything inbetween. MTB's with knobs, MTBs with slicks, TT rigs, old road rigs....everything and all ages from 10 to 80. The race track has a permanent cyclocross course in the infield.....that is up year round.
Just one of the girls.
Cycling in Belgie.
To put it in perspective; We see more people riding bikes here on 1 day than a whole year combined in Nanaimo. On our ride the day before Wendy's 1st world cup we came across the U23 Mens Liege Bastion Liege. This U23 race was bigger than any race in Canada.........25+ motos, 50+ cars. Team busses.....HUGE. Several days a week there are informal group rides near where we are staying that have 100+ riders in it. At the recent Tour of Flanders citizen race there were 18,000 participants. We went to the Mid Week Classic the Fleche Wallonne and there were so many spectators that Wendy asked, "Is anyone working in this country"? Cycling is huge!
Monday, April 21, 2008
Norm and I figured out that this is my 5th trip to Europe in just over a year. My carbon footprint must be approaching sasquatch size. Sorry Earth. Do my cloth bags at the grocery store make up for a few minutes of those flights?? What about when I sneer at people driving their big SUVs when I am on my scooter??
The trip over was pretty smooth. It could have been brutal as we sat down right next to a newborn. Uh oh. The girl flanking the other side of mom & newborn politely cooed before she asked "Does she cry much?" When the answer came that this was their first flight, the chick was out of there SO fast. But mom & newborn moved to the back of the plane 30mins into the flight to find a row of seats to themselves so we had quiet and some extra elbow room in our bulkhead row.
We are staying with the Swift Racing team in Tielt Winge outside of Brussels. I have raced CX with Helen Wyman for a few years and she and her husband, Stefan, have helped out many a "moose" as they call us Canadians. It is a pretty global house as our first dinner we had 2 Brits, 2 Kiwis, an Auzzie, 1 Irish gal, 2 Moose and an Amuricuhn. We spend a lot of time making fun of each other as we are all speaking English but you sure as hell can't tell it most of the time.
It was absolutely freezing the first day we went out for a ride. Cold, wet, dreary. I was worried I didn't pack enough winter clothes. It was even freezing inside the house. I tried to crank the heater in our room but it wasn't even on. We asked the girls (all wearing 3-4 layers, toques and hoods) why the hell the heat wasn't on and they said someone screwed with the central heating so Stefan turned it off until the culprit came forward. Norm took one for the team and said it was him. But he was busted as the night it happened we weren't even in europe. Dammit! Everyone knows my biggest fears in life are starving to death and freezing to death! Eventually someone admitted to knowing who did it and the heat came back on. Stefan is going to be one badass dad someday. I pity their kids.
Houffalize World Cup
I felt great all week. I seemed to get over the jet lag pretty quickly this trip and my legs felt really good. We went to Houffalize Friday and felt the buzz of the first world cup race of an Olympic year. The course was wet and slick in a couple of sections but there was so much road that I stuck with my Cross Mark tires. My new Kula Supreme was climbing great, my legs felt rested, my head was strong and I was seeing my lucky #22 absolutely everywhere so I thought "bring it on".
My pre-race confidence was worth shit
Unfortunately all the good vibes did not pan out into a good race. I woke up Sunday morning and my legs didn't feel so snappy anymore. But I ignored it and went about warm up. My call up was #39 on the 5th row, but with a loooooong 20% grade climb out of the gates there was time to move up before the singletrack. I wanted to be there early because a lot of the girls could not ride it. Everyone obviously had the same idea as the pace off the gun was fierce. I hammered up the climb and moved up to the low 20s. I thought it was worth it (and I thought I was being conservative) because I got through the singletrack with only one girl in front of me holding up the line as she ran the descent. But I could not seem to recover from the start. My legs felt like cinder blocks and my breathing did not settle down. It was going to be a long race so I had to back off a bit for fear of blowing up. I got into a steady pace but it wasn't fast enough to catch people. I had to spin the climbs and in a world cup race steady just doesn't cut it. I ended up 26th. 5th Canadian. Not the result I was looking for.... But hopefully it was just one of those days when you don't have the legs and you can't explain why. Damn the complex physiology of the human body.
China eventually dropped me. Must have been the drag of the baggy jersey
So 26th is a long way from my goal of top 12 which is what I need to be on Canada's Olympic short list. I also told myself no chocolate and baked goods unless I get a top 12. Now THAT was just stupid......especially since I just discovered that my favourite Belgian pastry boat is sold in the bakery 500m from our place in Tielt Winge. Crap!
Thanks to the euro Kona crew for all the support. Thanks to euro Rock Shox who fixed my fork and had it running perfectly for the race. Thanks to Helly Hansen for keeping warm when the heat is off. Thanks to euro Norm for being here with me. He will write some updates soon.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
I LOVE racing in Arizona! Its always hot and sunny, the trails are totally different than my regular west coast rides and there are always cool plants and animals to check out. I headed to AZ right after the Fontana race as I wanted to maximize my time in the AZ sun. Unfortunately it had been a "wet" winter in the desert so all of the plants were blooming. It was gorgeous to look at but apparently I am allergic to some desert plant and my head felt like a big ball of ooze. I had itchy puffy eyes, a stuffed head and a constantly runny nose. I pretty much wanted to shoot my head off after the first day. I shelled out a lot of cash (and spent a lot of time on the athletes drug information database) to try to fight it. Claritin. Breath Right strips. Acupuncture. Vitamins. Saline spray. Neti Pot. In the end, the breathe right strips at night, the neti pot after I had been outdoors and eucalyptus in between seemed to help the most but only for short periods. I just had to deal with it like everyone else that was suffering. Its hard to believe that people with bad allergies used to move to AZ to get away. Damn the pretty flowering plants!
The likely culprit...it was everywhere
Other than the allergies, I felt great and had a blast riding in Arizona for the week. Our kick ass Japanese mechanic "Bassman" and I poached Sue Butler (Monavie/Cannondale) and Emily Van Meter's (Sobe/Cannondale) homestay for the early part of the week. We stayed with their Oregonian friend Paul, who has a place just outside Fountain Hills. Paul is 67 and is riding across the US with some of his buddies in May. CRAZY! He downplays it and claims they will take their time and only ride 50miles a day but how many 67 year olds can do that?!? Hell, I don't even know if I could do that. Paul showed us some great trails in the area and impressed us all with his downhill skills. I hope I am still ripping down the trails at 67. Even Bassman got to ride. He borrowed a bike from Sue's hubby Tim (who had to go back to Portland for the week - poor working sod). Bassman was pumped! Although after our 4hr ride Tuesday he said "no more biking!" when we asked him if he wanted to join us the next day.
After a couple of days riding outside Fountain Hills, racing the whiptail lizards down the trail, listening for the swarms of bees that would go by and keeping an eye out for rattle snakes (none - sorry Tim) I decided to go to McDowell Mountain Park to check out the race course. It was pretty similar to previous years - fast, twisty and fun. No huge climbs. A perfect Wendy Simms course. As if the allergies weren't enough I swallowed a bee while riding and got stung in the back of the throat midway through the long loop. I dont have allergies to bees but if ever my system would go into overload it would be now. I imagined my throat swelling so I couldn't breathe and someone finding me twitching on the side of the trail, but it was OK. Even six stings in the armpit after a bee flew down my jersey didn't put me over the edge!
Super D time trial
This year the race was a mandatory stage race. Unfortunately teammates Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon were unaware of this so they showed up just before the start of the race. It was an Omnium format, but noone really seemed to know how they were scoring it. The super D was perfect for me, slight downhill with lots of power sections. The key was to not go too fast and blow out some of the loose corners. I find it hard to stay focussed during time trials. Ten seconds into my race I saw this crazy fast road runner type bird racing me down the trail and I almost blew out a corner. Focus Wendy! I got back on track and caught my 30sec rabbit, Catharine Pendrel (Luna) but I think that made me feel pretty smug so I may have let off the gas a bit. I still managed to get third place behind Luna teammates Georgia Gould and Katerina Nash. And I was place buddies with Ryan Trebon! But for some reason they did no podium for this event. ??. WTF?
After getting played by the Luna gals last week I wanted to race a smarter short track. The course was pretty simple except for a hill that had deteriorated so much it turned into a run up. I had a good start and found myself sandwiched between the Luna gals. Deja vu. BUT this week I was smarter and stayed second wheel! Everytime one jumped I would respond to get my second wheel. We had a pretty big gap mid race and I was expecting another jump so I looked back to see where Georgia was and buzzed Katerinas tire and went down. Dammit! When will I get my shit together for a short track?! I was pissed off so it took me a second to gather myself together and realize I still had a gap on the chase group so I jumped back on my bike and started to chase blue. Frustrated! The Australian National Champ Dellys Star (Spot Racing) bridged up to me and helped a bit with the chase but by the last lap I was in front. Uh oh. Not where I wanted to be. I tried to drop her a few times but she was super strong. She lead out of the last corner and we had a killer sprint to the finish but she snaked me. 4th place. Hard to swallow when you go from a perfect position to hamburger meat road rash and a lost sprint. I was OK but my ego was a bit bruised. No podium for this event either. ??. WTF??
According to the race organizers, call up for the XC was based on Omnium points so I was slated for 3rd call up. Perfect for the short sprint to singletrack. There was not a lot of passing on this course and a good start was essential. BUT some UCI official changed everything at the last minute and based on UCI points I ended up second row. That, plus a crash off the start saw Georgia Gould riding away on her own less than a minute into the race. When I finally got around a few gals I started chasing hard (too hard?) and flatted on the rocky backside. I used my sealant and it seemed to hold so I kept riding but the rocky section was too much and by the time I stopped to put in a tube I didnt have enough air left. I had a long hot hike back to the start/finish area. DNF. Its been a long time since I have not finished a race.... Ryan says I should have just rode the rim.
So with some bad tan lines and pollen residue in my nose I am headed back to the cold wet spring of BC. Perfect for my last week of training before I head off to the cold wet world cups in Belgium and Germany.