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...