UCI Cyclo-Cross Training Camp Days 2 and 3

It has been another couple of most awesome days on the cyclo-cross bike. Lots of learning. Lots of laughs. Really just a great time. It has been awesome to learn from Rudy and just listen to the little subtle tips he gives that make a big difference on the race and in just being a bike racer.

So on Tuesday we all did our own thing in the morning – this meant that Rudy and I didn’t have to leave so early to make the two hour drive to Koksijde. But as we were leaving at 10:30, I still went out early for my ride. I got in a great 90 minute “sightseeing” ride – it was amazing. Got to watch the sun come up, followed a rainbow and just generally was able to open my legs up a bit from the efforts on Tuesday. Then quick shower and pack of the bag, dash to the health food store to buy some peanut butter for my sandwiches and we were off.

The drive was pretty easy. Well, especially for me because I just had to sit there! Had good conversations with Rudy about bike racing, life, and Belgium. We hung out with the Danish kids for a bit and then it was off to De Panne to hook up with Kate and Ian. We quickly hopped on our ‘cross bikes and rode over the race course.

When we got there we met the Mongolian team and we got to meet their prime sponsor: Johan Museeuw. Wow – I was kind of starstruck. I think I stuck out my sweaty glove and said “I’m really happy to meet you”. Surreal. The Museeuw ‘cross bikes are interesting they are made of flax carbon (yes, flax). Then we all jumped on the course to check it out.

What a course! I really really like it. It has so much going on in it. There is the sand. A lot of sand. But there are also some fun kind of bumpy power sections where you can really open it up. There are some fun descents. A couple of fly-overs. Some fast twists and turns. Probably the trickiest parts of the course are the sand descents. The sand is so deep it is hard to get going. One of the descents is quite steep – just push the bike over the edge and go! It is a really challenging course but also a fun course. The brain is always working and it is just fun to ride it.

The only negative thing happened yesterday was the theft of my jacket… Can’t believe it! I left it on the back of the Belgian team truck. And when I came back, it was gone. Ticks me off because unlike some racers, I don’t have a closetful of team clothing. I have one jacket. Sigh. Well, if I see someone wearing it tomorrow or on Saturday at Koksijde, you can be pretty darn sure I’m going to get it back!

After the ride we were treated again to some amazing tea – so tasty – and really helps you warm up after a ride in the rain. Then it was back to the hotel to get cleaned up and hit the road to drive home. I tried to clean my bike, but Rudy wouldn’t have it. He cleaned my bike for me while I showered! So amazing. Drive home was a bit slow because we got caught in rush hour. But still a good drive.

I was a bit wiped out though last night – hence no blog posting.

Today we did things differently. Rudy said it would be too much to ride the Koksijde course again so instead we met at his place. His wife had prepared lunch for us and then we jumped on our bikes for one of the best rides I’ve done since I’ve been here. We did a combination of on and off-road. Super fun. I had the Michelin Jets on and they were perfect. One minute we’re rolling along the bicycle path and then we’re in this super fun forest all trying to keep up with Rudy. Then we rode along a river on this little grass road. Then more pavement. It was super fun. Great way to keep the ride interesting. I’m definitely going to try to do more rides like that – great way to train for ‘cross with some time in the woods combined with some road riding. I think we were out for about 2.5 hours. Nice.

While we were showering, Rudy cleaned all of our bikes. That was five bikes that he cleaned and lubed. I tried again to clean my bike and help him out. But he wouldn’t have it! We were told to go inside and drink tea. We hung out for a bit and then went to a bike shop so we could all look at gear. Looks like I’ve found another pair of Mavic Fury shoes – yay! We had a great afternoon of just talking about racing, training, and some of the stories about Rudy’s racing days. Then we were treated to supper. Many thanks to Rudy and Anita for their hospitality and for letting us take over their house today!

All in all another great day. It was just what we needed – to get out on our bikes away from the race course and just enjoy being outside.

Tomorrow I’m off to Koksijde to ride the course a couple more times and then I’ll stay over night there. Racing on Saturday! I’m pretty excited. I have no expectations going into the race. I don’t know how well I will do in the sand compared to the other girls. I only know that I have improved a lot in the sand this week. There were sections that I really struggled with on Tuesday that I was able to ride yesterday. Sand is funny stuff. It is so unknown – one lap it can be almost easy to get through a section and then the next lap you stall out before you even get half-way through it. I can only go out and do what I can. I’m looking forward to it. The course is challenging and interesting. I’m bracing myself for the spectators as well. Luckily I have some experience with this at some of the races I did last year. Definitely it is going to be a good day. I’m super luck to have one of the BKCP team (Neils Albert’s team) mechanics helping me out on Saturday and on Sunday in Geiten, Netherlands.

Alright, time to go. I’ve said it before, but it needs to be repeated – many thanks to Matt Knight of the CCA for helping me register for this camp and supporting my desire to participate. It has been an invaluable week. I’ve learned so much on and off the bike. Also many thank to Rudy for everything this week.

I’ll check in with you tomorrow night (hopefully – I don’t know if I’ll have Internet access) with my pre-race thoughts. Thanks for reading and send me some speedy vibes on Saturday and Sunday. Also make sure you send some down to New England since Steve a.k.a Fearless Leader is racing this weekend.

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