Four weeks in. Yep, I’ve been here for four weeks now. Amazing. Crazy. It doesn’t really seem possible. The time has whipped by. Yes, there were some quiet days when I just rode my bike, came home and didn’t do anything or talk to anyone. But this is the life of a bike racer living far away from home.
I admit that it is not easy. Some days after a tough race or even a quiet day – I would question my decision to be here alone. I used to scoff at riders who said it was so “hard” to come to Belgium and live and race. In the past, I couldn’t relate to this sentiment… But now that I’ve been here alone – I totally understand where these guys are coming from. It is one thing to come here with your spouse, best friend, team mate, etc – and a completely other thing to come here alone.
But, I’m glad I did it alone for a bit. It has made me a stronger person and bike racer. From getting the flat tire on the first day, to being responsible for all my own bike maintenance, to getting to the races, finding pit help, and just simply getting on with the business of racing my bike – I’ve learned a lot.
Really, it has taught me that, I can do this. I can race my bike here in Belgium. I’m not winning any races. But I’m not out-of-place. I can think on my feet to adapt to the race conditions and most importantly recognize when things aren’t coming together. I think this has primarily come from not having a “shoulder to cry on” after the tough days. I’ve simply had to learn to suck it up, listen to the hard advice “your starts are terrible”, “you’re too tense on the descents”, “yep that was a bad day”. Truly these are all things that have been said to me after races. Tough words to hear, but I’m really thankful that people took the time to give me this advice.
I think this is what can make or break a stint of racing ‘cross in Belgium. You really have to be ready to have some hard days and to hear the sometimes brutally harsh words after a race. There is no coddling here. You have it. Or you don’t.
I like to think that I’m on the path to getting close to having it. I’m learning each and everyday. Now the next big step is to make these things second nature… For example: always a high cadence, don’t grind through the mud and sand, look ahead, don’t use the front brake, light on the saddle, sprint out of everything, start wide, go slow to be fast, don’t stop pedaling when you’re thinking/nervous.
I’m looking forward to a good couple of weeks of training. I’ve got two weekends of smaller racers happening. Looks like this weekend I’ll be chasing the junior boys around. The following weekend I’m off to Holland for some races with the girls. Then the big races happen with Scheldecross, two World Cups, Azencross, etc. Fast times indeed.
I have a feeling the next four weeks are going to be just as good. My head is ready for more lessons. My heart is feeling strong. My legs are fresh and want to keep pushing on the pedals.
And in typical Vicki fashion, I’m already thinking ahead to next season and how I can swing coming here in September… Yes, September. I need to be here racing and training to reach the level I want to be at. Just need to work on that money tree! All kidding aside, I am serious about coming in September – so if you have any ideas/suggestions – I’m all ears.
Oh, Marc brought some goodies with him yesterday. Most importantly my Fatcyclist.com cycling hat and socks. Lets just say both items are super hot. Love the pink detailing on the cycling cap. And the socks – perfect height – not too high and not too low -black with the Fatcyclist.com logo on the back. Very cool. Marc, also brought me a super gift for achieving the UCI points I need – a Sony eBook Reader. This is the coolest gift ever! I am a book lover. I can’t get enough books. And now with Sony eBook Reader, I can cart around up to 350 books on my handy little device. Perfect gift for a book loving bike racer living far away from home. Thanks Marc!