Saturday, December 22, 2007


Off to Huijbergen, Holland today to race. I think Huijbergen must be the cutest little town on the planet! Cute and tidy little brick houses line the streets, plants growing in most windows, all-brick layed streets fashioned with geometric designs and bike paths. Loved it. I wish I had time to explore it and take some pictures to share. But I was otherwise occupied with racing!

Huijbergen proved to be a very technical course. To me, it felt like a mountain bike race. Or what I imagine a mountain bike race would be like, that is. It's been many ages since I tried one. I am beginning to think that I really need to race mountain bikes to improve my 'cross skills, so you may see my on the fat tires a bit this summer. How I'll fit that into a big road season, I'm not quite sure yet. Anyways, after pre-riding the course, I was a little nervous to be racing on it. I wasn't nervous to just be riding around on it medium-slow, but to actually be trying to go fast would prove to be quite another story. There were two tricky descents, and the ground was frozen solid, making the cow-trodden field hard bumps to ricochet off, and several corners were slick. There were two run-ups, one dirt, one sand.

I am no psychologist or biologist, but cycling has led me to believe there to be a certain survival instinct based on self-preservation. For example, when you sense danger in speed, you instinctively pull the brakes. When you sense danger in a corner, you might unclip your inner foot. Well, I have figured it out: I am simply evolutionarily superior to most other racers. I have the self-preservation instinct down-pat. I will live longer and healthier than my daredevil competitors and bear more off-spring. Well, great, but it's not helping me one bit in cyclocross!

The whole race I was trying to coax myself into letting go. Letting go of the brakes, letting go of fear. My body has so much more inside, but I am caging it. If I could let go and trust myself I could fly. I suppose that's what sport is about for so many of us - wrestling with our demons, conquering our selves. Every lap I tried to go smoother and faster. I believe I did as the race went on, at least I relaxed a bit and had some fun on an awesome course.

There was this super steep sandy descent with a 90-degree right hander. Boy, was it a disaster on the first lap in traffic! I did improve on it every lap, and was having enough fun by the last lap that when I almost bit it, I actually laughed, and the surrounding spectators laughed along with me. Well, I prefer to see it that way - only they know whether they were laughing with me or at me, but it seemed in good spirit.

Speaking of laps, I had no idea how many laps we were doing! There were no lap cards, and the race seemed incredibly long. Every time I came through the finish straight, I had no idea if it was the end! I don't speak Dutch, but I now know that 'ronde' means 'lap.' Of course, I don't know numbers in Dutch, so that really wouldn't have helped much. Finally, when I came through again, the announcer took pity on my ignorant American soul and said in a thick accent "Rebecca Wellons, this is your last lap." It was the only English I heard him say over the speaker the whole race.

The start was ridiculous. The girls over here have none of that aforementioned "self-preservation" instinct. None at all! I do a lot of crit racing and have never seen anything like this. I thought I might actually eat pavement in a 'cross race. The starting chute began straight and flat for 150-200 meters, then took a had 90-degree corner. I was the last woman called up to the front row and was stuck with the spot furthest right. Not the one I wanted. I should have declined the first row and taken the left side second row. But I figured I'm a good starter, so I can maybe get ahead of most. The gun shot off and we charged. I tried to move left as we went up the road in one big pack, but some girl shot through where there really wasn't space to put herself, bumped me on the left side pretty hard and unexpectedly, charged in front of me right at the corner on the inside. She did a full-on powerslide into the first corner and almost took out the first 5 riders, cramming in maybe second wheel. I was totally stunned. Honestly, I want to race hard, I'm not afraid of an elbow or asserting myself if need be, but that was f'ing ridiculous. And it didn't stop there. Girls swam around chomping like sharks at blood. I felt like a guppy. Someone went down in the next corner into the woods and we all piled up. I was now at the back, and rode the whole race trying to pick off riders in front of me. The same lonely game I played yesterday.

Sounds disappointing, but really just being here was fun! Riding these courses will improve me. I need to learn to start more aggressively. I need to let go. I have the legs to be there, but I have to strip away this instinct limiter.

I was in the pits for Shaun in the elite race today, and I have to say it was exciting to feel a part of the race as Bart, Sven, and others shot by. I got to the finish in time to snap this shot of the finish from a spectator point-of-view.
Bart Aernouts wins!

A pep band livened things up!
Bart comes through with one to go.
The two Barts and Sven come through, taken from my vantage point in the pit.
End of the first woods section. Very single-tracky-mountainbikeish.
Standing in the pits, the good elevation difference to the first hill and descent was very noticable.
Check out all the press for the men's race!! No, the women got nowhere near the amount of press or spectators.

Check out this crazy tree-shrub hedge I saw on road outside Huijbergen on the way back into Belgium. Does someone trim this??

I really want to race Zeddam tomorrow. I am on the start list. Iwant another shot at this! I am having too much fun to miss one, but I am unsure if I can get a ride there. Nobody has room to take me! I'm hoping the friendly Northwest duo of Sue and Wendy can pick me up and bring me....

1 comment:

GCDavid said...

Congrats on being there. It was great seeing your name in the results. Good luck and safe travels. Looking forward to reading more updates!