Sunday, December 23, 2007


Did you know that cyclocross is a full-on contact sport? I didn't, either. But it is over here. I was determined to start more aggressively today, so I could show I am better than pack fodder, but it was a similar story to yesterday through the first few turns. It doesn't matter where you get called up here, girls jam themselves in between you, those in the 3rd row jam themselves up in between and onto Daphny's wheel, so everyone starts pretty much touching each other. Elbows are out. When the gun goes off, it's mad. Girls take all sorts of risks like a mob in a crowded burning opera house. They'll do anything, cut you off, elbow you, push you, pull you, whatever to get in front of you, then they are completely out of control and take themselves out right in front of you and cause a pile up. If you're not in front of it, you're out of luck. In the second pile-up of the first 1/4 lap today, I had to pull some girl's pedal from my spokes, and I basically came to a stand still for several seconds as bikes and bodies were all around me and we were trying to navigate a 180-degree turn. The first 20-25 places got far away up the road. Then we had a long, fast descent that transitioned into a very long stair climb - 100 stairs!! Again, I came to a stand still, since the first 2/3 of the stairs were narrow and single file, and the wankers in front of me were going so slow. It was like frantically trying to walk up a crowded escalator at the mall on Christmas Eve. I lost so much more time. Apparently, part of the traffic jam was caused by an actual fight somewhere on a stair up ahead of me. Review sentence one.

I rode reasonably well in similar fashion to the past two days: picking off riders in front of me, one by one. I have noticed a strange paradox in race behavior here. In the first lap, everyone's out for blood, but when you pass someone later in the race, they don't even seem to attempt to challenge you. Maybe it's because I have been stuck at the back with riders compared to whom I am significantly stronger, and I pass them with enough speed that it crushes their spirit. Maybe that's wishful thinking. I ended up 18th, I don't know how many starters. I know without doubt I am stronger than that result shows, but the start is so important, and I have to learn to add anger, aggression, and fearlessness to my bag of tactics. Honestly, I think maybe those things are not in my nature. But frustration is building, and it may tip the scales of my temperment.

Zeddam was another incredibly fun course. Apparently it was a totally different course than when World's was held there in 2005. Not overly technical, lots of power sections, a 100-stair leg busting run-up, and grassy turns. I loved it. Even though I was not riding further up where I wanted to be, I was having a blast on the course. I can't wait to do it again next year, because I want another try!

Post-race, I decided to play avid fan. I watched the men's race, took some pictures, ate my first frites with mayo, and talked to some spectators. This trip is about racing, but it's also my vacation! The scene is fun. The crowd is much quieter than I expected. They watch you intensely, but don't shout often - well, unless you mess up! Just like inebriated Nascar fans, they are definitely excited by race carnage.

The race pits. Notice how low the sun is on the horizon? It's about 2:30 pm in this shot, and the sun never got much higher. It sort of skims the treetops then sets. It also likes to sleep in, taking until 8:45 to rise.
The band and the frites!
Snapped this on the way home. Anyone want 98 octane? The cheapest octane is about 1.20 Euro/liter. There are 3.8 liters in a gallon. That's a little over 4 Euros/gallon, and one Euro is about $1.65. You can do the rest of the math.
Well, today marked three races in a row. The legs are now tired, as is the rest of me. I am really looking forward to sleeping in and having a rest day tomorrow. I think we're going to visit the second largest bike shop in all of Europe tomorrow afternoon! I might bring my camera, but I think I'd better leave my wallet at home.

Oh, does this adventure and the racing ever have to end?!? I am loving this so much. And I am already excited just thinking about all the training and preparation I'm going to do to be faster and stronger next season!

1 comment:

Anna Milkowski said...

Sounds like mayhem! I think though you are strong enough to start fast enough to escape the fray (or maybe I am just hoping you don't come back to New England with elbows blazing next season). And if someone is careening into you, supposedly you just need to lean hard into them, and you will save yourself and maybe even do her the favor of keeping her up too.