Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Belgie Christmas

With the Zolder World Cup race on Boxing day we didnt really celebrate much of Christmas on the day. Stefan and Helen, sporting her "I HEART CHRISTMAS" pin, woke up early to open presents but the rest of us rolled out of bed much later and all that was left was ripped paper and a few things under the tree. I got some yummy Belgian chocolate and a heart shaped frying pan for my eggs! (I had cracked last trip and bought the house a couple of new frying pans so my eggs wouldnt taste like burnt bacon). A preride on the course and race prep was about as festive as we got after that. Ok maybe I had some of my Xmas chocolate...

The Zolder course was super fun. A lot of the girls were surprised at what they had put together but I thought it was a great course. Twisting in and around a formula 1 race track, it used the sandy banks and woods to make a short fast loop that on the day, was pretty frozen as it hovered around zero.

As I looked around on the start line I realized that I was one of the few gals that did not have legs or knees on. Hmm. Usually I use Georgia Gould as my litmus paper as she is always wearing fewer clothes than me. Not today. No time to reconsider. The light turned green and we were off down the loooong paved straightaway. Unfortunately the stretch pinched at the finish banner and as a result I got pushed back further than normal. And then things got chaotic. Every second corner we turned had bodies on the ground or piled up in the corner. I am not sure what the hell happened but I do know someone tried to ride OVER me as I have tire burn marks up my calf. I stayed pretty calm and passed girls here and there. I made my way up to the chase group and could see the lead group but as things got more technical it was harder to make up time. Frozen descents. Brick wall run ups. Sandy corners. When Maryline Salvetat came by me with a few gals on the start of the second lap  I knew it was now or never for the bridge. Apparently I had the 2nd fastest lap but never quite made the jump to the lead group. Salvetat did.

So that left me "drafting" off a wee Czech girl. I was trying to race smart but I the 5ft-er was doing nothing for me and a few girls were closing in so I decided to push on. The wee one drafting off me the whole time. Once she realized where I was making time on her, she starting to CHOP me.  I got pissed off and started to chop back. two can play at that game. Unfortunately we started to focus too much on each other instead of the overall picture and lost a couple spots out of stupid passes. On the last lap, after my battle with the wee one was over and I was spent, I saw Luna colours charging hard. What the hell? I just assumed Georgia was ahead of me. She passed me and then proceeded to fly head first over her bars and eat shit on the last sandy corner. I had to scramble around here and run scared up the finish chute to stay ahead for 9th place. 

We celebrated Christmas last night (27th) with a big feast. Stefan spent all day in the kitchen roasting chickens, veggies, making custard and nutroast. It was so yummy it did not last long. But we will need the fuel as we have hit a cold snap here in Belgium and its hard to stay warm. Next race Azencross Dec 30th. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shaky take off

So I am back in Belgium and it hardly seems like I left. Back in the Tielt-Winge house with the Brits but this time with a few extra canucks in the mix (Natasha Elliott, Derrick St John, Aaron Schooler and Andre Sutton). More of us seem to be coming over for the Xmas racing scene and the Brits seem to take pity on us. Cheerio. Tut tut. 

It was a long haul from Nanaimo as there have been snow storms since the weekend before I left. Norm says there is now about 40cm of snow in Nanaimo! He has apparently been doing a LOT of trainer rides....poor Norm.

With the snow, every flight out of Nanaimo was cancelled the day before I was supposed to leave for Belgium. We started to think of a plan B. It involved ferries, buses and a lot of extra grunt work as I was traveling with a double bike case, a regular bike bag full of wheels, a carry on suitcase and a regular bag that was packed FULL. Not very mobile and no porters....semi pro. I checked the first flight the next morning and it was cancelled. Uh oh. I kept getting ready and checked the flight before mine and it was scheduled to go ahead so we made the decision to go for the flight and hope for the best. Except...Nanaimo drivers aren't known for their snow driving skills so it took a  loooong time to get to the airport and I was a late check in. With all the cancellations and Xmas in the horizon the plane was full and my bikes & bags did not make the flight. They even tagged my file LATE CHECK IN. Bugger (as the Brits would say). Oh well. At least I got first class seats all the way to europe. Ahhhhhh. And at least I packed some underpants and Ts so I didn't have to wallow in my own filth for 2 days waiting for my bags to arrive. I have done that before and its not pretty....

The Antwerp race was supposed to be a blow-out race so I didnt stress when my legs felt like C-R-A-P. And I mean poo. We got there a bit late and only squeezed in one lap on the course. I would have liked more because there was a lot of sand that was a make-or-break feature of the course. In the end I was in the "break" department. I got dropped by the leaders in the sand and I got dropped by the chase group in the sand. I thought I knew how to ride sand but apparently not like the euros. But I didn't expect too much and my legs actually raced better than they felt so an Ok start to the campaign. We drove back ate, got a massage, unpacked, repacked and went to bed. 

We had an early start Sat morning as Nommay was almost 6 hrs away. My legs felt worse and a 6 hr drive was probably not going to help so I pulled on my new SKINZ that Norm got me for Xmas. They definitely helped. The Canucks had rented the Listers sprinter van so we looked legit. It was no Swift pink RV camper van of style but the next best thing.

Race day. We got an early call as the Brits and Canuck were all on random doping control. As were the Belgians and Czechs. Convenient that we were all in the same hotel hmmmm. Blood for hematocrit. At least they wore gloves this time...The Nommay race was a new one for me and it was actually pretty cool. Super muddy course with some fun twists and turns and ups and downs. I had a perfect start and went into the sharp corner into the stairs top 5 without killing myself (it was a crazy start) but managed to hit a stake with my shifter less than a minute later. dammit. Then the masses started to come. 

I was riding technically pretty well but didnt seem to be pumping out as much power as the other girls so they would catch me on the muddy straightaways. It was a great battle from about 8th-18th. Lots of back and forth with pits, errors, strengths and weaknesses. back and forth. back and forth. A ding dong battle as Norm would say. Helen was away up front but myself, Natasha and Gabby were in the ding dong battle together so our pit crew was run ragged with bike changes for all of us at least every lap. I got my mudders back on the second last lap and decided to keep them, as they were riding the mud much better than my B bike tires. I made a move (undetectable to the human eye I am sure) on the last lap and caught and dropped a group of 4 girls with Natasha but then a couple (including Natasha) came back from the dead and caught me guess where - the last mud straightaway. I went into the finishing stretch worked over and looked back to make sure I was in the clear. I saw someone in my periphery but too far back to get me. wrong. Gabby Day nipped me on the line for 14th. serves me right.....

Then as a final smack I was a random for doping controls after the race. again. crap. 

So although I was world number one at the start of the season I seem to keep slipping. slipping. slipping. time to get back on track...

Friday, December 12, 2008

USGP Portland - Pair of 5's

Portland. The heart of CX racing in North America. Maybe I am a little biased because I am from the West Coast but from what I have seen, it really is THE hot spot of CX culture this side of the Atlantic. Rabid fans that come out in the worst possible conditions to wag their cowbells at you, inventors of "the windmill of death" and the only place you will see a full drum corps belting it out while hurricane winds threaten to blow them away. So when the weather called for sun and balmy temps it was hard to believe the usual mudfest might not happen. Huh?

Since I missed the first USGP weekend in Kentucky I wasn't really in the running for overall series standing. In fact with all the issues my belly was throwing out at me Portland was more of a tester to see if I would be leaving for europe as planned. I was starting to feel better but my training had taken a bit of a hit. Its pretty hard to throw down hard efforts when you are surviving on rice, applesauce, yogurt and bananas. I don't know how vegetarians race...I was craving red meat and feeling oozy for lack of...No meat makes Wendy a useless feeb.

Me leading out eventual winner and overall USGP series winner Katerina Nash (LUNA).photo by Russell Anderson

Sunny skies on Saturday or rain and mud on Sunday, the outcome was the same. I had great starts and managed to ride with the leaders for a couple laps but just could not hold it. Once the pressure was applied I slipped. A bit depressing yes, but deep down I knew it was a good sign that I at least had something in there to play with. It didn't last as long as my 40min race but it was there and I didn't want to puke after the effort. Euro was a go. I had taken a hit but I could only get stronger - right? Nothing like the world stage to get your ass in gear quickly.

Me, in the Portland mud pre-fade. photo by Russell Anderson

While I was squeeking out 5th place finishes, Norm was the one piloting his Major Jake like a pro as he finished 3rd on Saturday and an easy FIRST on Sunday! Impressive, most impressive. The best part was that every lap he passed the Kona tent he looked over and had a HUGE grin on his muddy face! He wanted to make SURE that I saw his dominating performance.

Norm Thibault and his muddy 2-pack after his big WIN at the USGP in Portland. photo by Joe Sales

We decided to skip the after party and head North. When we crossed the border the guard asked us where we had been and as usual, we replied with the generic "bike race". But then he asked us if we had been at a road race or a CYCLOCROSS race! Norm laughed and asked him how he knew about cyclocross and he replied "it's my job to know everything". You know the sport is growing fast when the border guards know what it is.

So while the US crew are racing for the stars and stripes jersey this weekend I am packing up for a long haul in europe. The doctors called back and finally figured out what was making me feel like crap for so long - apparently somewhere along my travels I had some undercooked sausage and one of the bad guy bacteria started the party. Stupid pork.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Me, before compression sox were hot.

I am good at the bull, no?! (bonus points if you can name this quote). Me proving I am worthy at my stag.

Me in my BMX days (on the left, the not-so-cute one) with my sister Sharon
The Simms family muscle. L-R Sister Heather, Sister Sharon, Sister-in-Law Wendy & me

Hanging out at the Sneddon household means guns for everyone! No animals were harmed in the taking of this photo. Actually if you must know the truth most of us (OK the one girl) had to be told how to hold a gun.

Proof that my "suffer face" makes me look like I am smiling. photo by Joe Sales.

The underpants-on-head war. Norm lost.

My sister Sharon. On the right, duh.

Its been a couple weeks and people are harassing me for a new entry so I better blog, else I get beaten with a wrench (at Master got me workin'....

New Jersey USGP
Updates: So since I have returned from Europe I raced the USGP in New Jersey, quite possibly the muddiest cross race I have ever seen. Normally I would be ecstatic with so much running (we counted 8x off the bike/lap) but I still had my belly issues so I was in survival mode. I almost quit half way through the race Sat but since it was only THREE laps, by the time I was contemplating curling up in the fetal position and crying for my mommy I only had 1.5 laps to go. I went into damage control and rolled in 5th. My body was wasted with the effort and I couldn't even go out for dinner Sat night. Sunday's race seemed a bit better as I accepted that I just wouldn't be able to go off the front with the Luna gals so I didn't demo myself off the line. With a little extra energy I could at least respond to attacks, most importantly the one Mo threw at me with half a lap to go so I rolled in 4th. I am never happy with 4th but this one didn't seem so bad.

Cross on the Rock
At least now I was going home. I could see my doctor, eat my own food, sleep in my own bed, ride my own trails and Norm would be there to nurse me back to health. Well, sort of. We had the last Cross on the Rocks race of the season in Nanaimo a few days after I got back from NJ. We had a house full of volunteers and I was out in the pouring rain sledge hammering wooden posts into the ubdergrowth for 2 days. BUT it was sunny and warm for the last race of the season and we had the biggest whirly whirl I have ever seen so somehow it was worth it.

So 5 weeks later I am still keenly aware of the nearest toilet and doctors can't tell me what is causing havoc in my belly. I even broke down and went to a naturopath so I am sitting here drinking stinging nettle leaves after spending $200 on pixie dust. Hippie. So forgive me if I haven't updated my blog recently. Maybe when the pixie dust kicks in and I have my energy back I will have some good news to write about and be eager to share. So until then I have decided to share some entertaining photos. Enjoy