Roubaix mud. photo by Mitch Clinton www.clintonphoto.com
Roubaix World Cup
Everyone was pretty excited to be racing at the legendary Roubaix velodrome. Finish of the Paris-Roubaix classic. I think we all felt the history of the place when we arrived. You could almost feel the pain. No cobbles on our cyclocross course but they managed to piece together a really fun loop in a small space in the middle of the city. No features mattered except the BIG DESCENT. It was the talk of the day: did you ride the BIG DESCENT? what do you think about the BIG DESCENT? We (when I say "we" I mean NORM IS HERE!!!!) prerode before the masses so I managed to ride the BIG DESCENT no problem. I am not going to lie, it was sketchy - super steep with big ruts at the bottom - but it was a straight shot with a run out at the bottom and I am a mountain biker so I rode it out of principle. When I left the venue I saw about 12 pro men at the top of the BIG DESCENT looking down and not a sole rode down it for the 5-10mins I watched. At the managers meeting Saturday night they announced that the BIG DESCENT would be removed for the womens and juniors races. WHAT?! Pretty cheezy move as we are trying to prove that elite women should get more respect and then they anounce its unsafe for the women but OK for the men to ride. Apparently Katie Compton was livid. In the end it rained all night and the BIG DESCENT was 10X worse on race day so prooooooobably should have been removed for everyone. Maybe after a U23 guy in the lead group busted his fork and just about killed himself? hmmmm? What about after witnessing 98% of the top pro men in the WORLD running down it?
In Europe I have realized they do things a bit differently here and for the most part I have adapted. But one of the things I cannot get used to is the !%$#'n FALSE STARTS that they let slide. Today was no exception. Hanka Kupfernagel was probably 3 bike lengths ahead of me by the time I got off the line. I just saw a white streak to my right and unfortunately my left side of the grid was screwed as a result. So I ended up into the mud 15-20th. Nooot a great start to the day but I was not the only one to get screwed by a world champion's itchy trigger finger. Surprisingly there were a couple of front row girls back there with me. I had a good first half of the race and managed to pick people off and move into the top 10. It was slow going but I was riding pretty smooth and steady. Until the second half of the race where my legs just didnt have as much power to donate to the cause. Still smooth, still steady, just not as powerful. I did a bike change and came out of the pit behind a group of 5 girls instead of ahead. A couple small errors and they got a gap and I was struggling to try to catch back on. Which I never did so my top 10 went to a 15th.
Covered in mud and freezing my butt off, I was called for doping control AGAIN!? I thought I could just go right away and be done before the leaders came in off the podium but I misfired with only 60mL of pee and had to drink 4 bottles of water and wait and hour before I could finish the job. Rookie maneuver.
Lucky me. I have been chosen to be part of the Whereabouts program. That means I have to account for 1 hour of my day, every single day of my life , minimum, so I can be randomly tested out of competition with no notice to prove that I am a clean athlete. I am all for making sure our sport is clean and fair but this is going to be a pain in the ass. I can tell that already because of the introduction I got to the program.
The UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) apparently sent me a letter on Dec 22 which informed me that I had been chosen for the whereabouts program. I guess my one week stint as world #1 caught someones eye. This letter must have sat in the CCA inbox over Xmas holidays because I did not receive it until Jan 5th. As it was the start of a new "quarter" I am assuming I was already in violation as my whereabouts information for Jan had not been inputted into the ADAMS website (Anti-Doping Administration and Management System). I read the letter over and over but had zero guidance of what to do next. I emailed my UCI contact person on the letter. Its Jan 10th and I still have had no response from them. I emailed people at the CCA (Canadian Cycling Association) who had forwarded me the letter, but they could not answer my Qs and forwarded me to the CCES (Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport). So I finally had someone from the CCES who sent me a link to a PAPER copy of the form I could fill out TWICE because one copy had to go the UCI and one to the CCES. Uh no thanks, I would rather use the electronic method. It is 2009 after all. All I needed was a login and password. Noone seemed to know it. Someone from the CCES eventually got back to me with a login/password. He was keen. He even used an exclamation mark when welcoming me to the whereabouts program. I knew he would be good. I sat down ready to start inputting my wherabouts into the ADAMS program but the login/password did not work because of "inactivity".They use big BOLD red lettering when you have an error. And errors seem to be common. I am assuming this "inactivity" refers to the gap between me receiving my letter Dec 22 and my first attempt at input Jan 9th. My keen CCES guy transferred my account from the UCI custodiam (not so helpful) to the CCES (helpful) and I got a login/password that worked.
So yesterday I sat down and tried to get started. Login/Password worked! Step 1 complete. I had been warned by Tony Theriault and Helen Wyman that the ADAMS program was not very user friendly. And I had read Simon Whitfields blog about his frustrations with the program. He basically said - I would rather you inplant a GPS chip in me than have to fill out all this paperwork. Hmmm. Doesn't sound promising. Helen gave me a tutorial but even though she had been part of the Whereabouts program for a few years, the input software had changed 3X since she started so she was still figuring the latest one out. This was the least efficient of the bunch apparently. Well, it took me over an hour to enter my whereabouts for the next 1.5 weeks of my life. Then I was exhausted and needed to go to bed. With an MSc in science I like to think I could do pretty well in "Americas Most Smartest Athlete" TV show so I would hate to see how much time the not-so-smart athletes clocked for this event. I hope to hell I get faster but I really should start tallying how many times I have to type my home address into the system. I guess that is what you get for being world #1. If only for a week.....
Gary sweeping the driveway (he's from California....)
The Major Jake in full winter mode. I have to wash it after every ride because of the salt. Sounds easy but our hose is frozen so I have to shuttle buckets of hot water from the house to thaw the frozen slush off the bike.
Geo stretches in the snow. Running seems easier and warmer than riding
I checked the weather this morning and it was -10C. With the windchill: "feels like -17C". brrrr. Everyone was gearing up for trainer rides indoors. At home I probably would have done the same. Rent a couple movies and get it done. But I had a 3hr ride on the books and new house rule 5.3.7a said no more trainer workouts in the living room in front of the TV. I dont want to name names so lets just call her "Sweaty Sweatersons," sweat too much on the living room floor and the new rule came into effect. That left crappy Belgian TV in the hall or the dark and dank basement "catacombs" so I decided to gear up and see how long I could last outside. It took me almost 20mins to dress. Top to bottom:
1 ear warmer
1 Helly Hansen toque
1 pair Rudy Project sunglasses
1 leg warmer pinned around my face & tucked under said sunglasses (couldnt find my neck warmer)
1 Helly hansen l/s sleeve base layer
1 Helly Hansen wind jacket
1 Champion systems soft shell jacket
1 Champion systems winter jacket
1 Champion systems bib short
1 Sugoi thermal running tight
1 Champion system thermal bib tight
1 Sugoi winter ski gloves
1 Sugoi wallaroo sox
1 Shimano WM80 shoes
1 OBB neoprene booties
The scary part was I wasnt too hot in the house...hmmm this could be bad
I put cross tires on my bike and set out not knowing how long I would last. Helen said she would give me a medal if I lasted an hour. I had 20 euros in my pocket in case things went horribly wrong. I dont even know if there are taxis in Belgium but I am sure I could bribe some one to get me home.
I am not going to lie. It was pretty damn cold. I had zero skin showing when I first set out but my fingers started to get cold almost immediately so I did a few efforts to warm up. That helped. Then the sun started to warm up and I found some great side roads with hard pack snow and some trails that had a foot of snow to keep me working hard enough to stay warm. It was pretty fun. 1hr clicked by. participation medal guaranteed. I got a bit lost and then headed for home and another hr clicked by. Hell, I wasnt going to get this far and do my actual workout on the trainer. I found a bakery and got a chocolate croissant to get me through the intervals. Damn right I deserved it! Plus my bottle had frozen so I needed some hot water to thaw it out. Found a good spot for my workout got it done just as my toes and fingers were starting to go numb. 3.5 hours. As my nephew Noah would say: yeah me.
I was feeling pretty proud of myself until on my way home I saw this young Belgian boy riding his bike to the store with no hat, no gloves, and his jacket open at the neck like he was overheating. Freak.
I borrowed a mini video camera from Rick (Gabby's man) and attached it to my Major Jake for the Azencross GvA race. Its a pretty big file so I had to chop it down. Here is the first lap.
Quick race report to go with it:
I had an OK start but got swarmed by bodies into the first few corners so Marianne Vos (red and blue butt), Katie Compton (butt with stars), Daphny van den Brand (blue DESTIL butt) and Hanka Kupfernagel (white butt) got a bit of a gap. I sifted through most of the bodies and tried to chase down the leaders. They were SO close. But I didn't want to tow everyone around all race so I pulled aside to get some help. Rachel Lloyd (Giant Strawberry butt) took up the chase on lap 2 and closed down the gap to the leaders. We were together for most of the race although I am not going to lie, I dangled a bit. The pace slowed down a bit on the second last lap so Myriam Melchers van Poppel (red white and blue butt) caught back on. We were 7 on the last lap and I had caught my breath. Things were looking good. Although I can't guarantee how I would fare against 3 world champions, I have a decent kick on occaision. But.... with half a lap to go my PINS of STEEL stomped on the pedals and snapped my chain. crap. I had just passed the pit so I turned around and ran back into the pit and got my other bike. Unfortunately I had lost a few spots as a result. I tagged back onto the end of Georgia Gould's group but had a hard time moving forward as everyone was trying to do the same thing. I ended up 13th. Bummer.
I will try to figure out how to post the entire race but this should entertain you until then. Enjoy.