European Training Days

Sitting here right now in the trusty RV, parked in a campsite in Nurnberg, Germany. We ended up staying overnight in Aigle and then on Monday after I got in a solid two hours on the bicycle paths, it was back in the RV and off to Frieburg, Germany.

Have to say the riding in Aigle is simply amazing. I managed to keep my ride flatish and not go too high up the many mountains. The bicycle path system is most impressive and everything is really well signed. I wish I could of ridden for longer as it was just amazing.

We got into Frieburg and set up in a campsite (thanks Pete for the information) and then walked into the old town for some exploring and supper. This morning I was out on the bike for another bicycle path adventure. These paths are just not like the paths we have in Ottawa – rather you can ride these paths for hours and hours. I rode along the river that runs through Frieburg and eventually ended up in a nearby town which I was told is the gateway to numerous mountain bike trails. It was uphill and into a headwind all the way so I was pleased to turn around – not exactly what I wanted for my recovery ride.

(I did take a bunch of photos on the ride but the WWW connection here is not great – so I think the photos will have to wait until I get home. For photos from the race – check out Luc Van Der Meiren’s photo album – he has tagged me in a bunch of photos as has Johnny.)

Tomorrow I’ll set out and discover the bicycle paths from this campsite in Nurnberg. Have a two hour ride on tap with some tempo intervals with some accelerations thrown-in for some extra spice. My body is feeling pretty good – think I’m responding well to the treatments. Looking forward to seeing what I can squeeze out of it this weekend in Plzen.

Tomorrow after I’m done training we’re heading into Nurnberg for some exploring. Then after my ride on Thursday we’re driving to Plzen where we’ll stay put.

So far the trip is going well. Bit wet today so I’m hoping it stops raining tonight as I don’t feel like two hours in the rain and 8 celsius! I didn’t bring a small hat or neck tube with me, but I found both in a Euroshop (dollar store) – each for a Euro!

Thanks for the great comments on Facebook and the emails. I retweeted a link from Mark Legg-Compton – it has a link to the race highlights – including the women’s race. It is worth a watch – you get a feel for most of the race course.

(Thanks for the patience with these blog posts – it is nice to finally have some WWW access. No guarantees at the next place though!)

Life is good. Body feels good. Pretty darn thankful to be on this two week racing adventure. I’ll be home on Oct. 26, racing in Toronto on Nov. 6 and then on the place on Nov. 8 and racing in Niel, Belgium on Nov. 11. Whirlwind but the way I like it!

My dad has posted some photos on Flicker: http://www.flickr.com/photos/81271459@N00/sets/72157625198902960/

Aigle World Cup

Well, the first Cyclo-Cross World Cup is in the books. It was a mixed day. I’m happy with how I rode some parts of the course and not as happy with how I rode other parts of the course. And most definitely I would be much happier if I hadn’t been lapped and pulled. But this is bike racing.

All I can do is be appreciative that I feel much better than I did three weeks ago. It is a relief to know that my body is starting to heal and that hopefully the ugly days with this last ulcerative colitis flare are behind me.

Anyway, enough about that stuff. What you really want to know about is what happened in the race. I had a fourth row call-up but was able to squeeze myself into the third row. All eyes were on the traffic light. But there seemed to be some chaos at the start with one side of the start grid reacting and the other not… Kind of crazy. I had a decent start and unlike last year I wasn’t gapped from the start (so this is a plus). I was just on the tail end of the pack and through the first twisty bits was able to squeeze by a couple of girls. When we hit the first off-camber/steep climb it was pure chaos with the girls ahead of me electing to run – I wasn’t prepared for this and became a bit of a mess on the bike…. I gapped myself as a result and was pretty much a couple bike lengths off the group in front of me for the first lap. At times I’d close this gap and then at other times it would open.

And as how these things typically go, if you don’t close the gap immediately it simply continues to grow. And this is what happened. My mistake. I just kept on digging and trying to close the gap and I would gain on the Swiss Champion on the descents and the open bits and then lose her on the off-camber sections.

I would like to have a “do-over” with this race since I made some chronic mistakes from which I’ve already learned from. Yesterday in the pre-ride and this morning during the warm-up I was able to ride the steep climbs/off-camber sections. But today during the race they were very chewed up after the U23 race and elite warm-up – so I was struggling in the loose and soft dirt. But I kept on trying to ride them – only to continue to slip and have to come to almost a dead stop when getting off. If I had this race to do again, I would commit to running these sections – this way I wouldn’t loose so much time fumbling around on my bike.

I’m happy with how well I ran through the sand, with how I attacked all the steep climbs (except the first one where I cut the corner too close, hit a post – broke the post and had to stop – this was the first time I gapped myself in the race and the girls I had passed went by me…), I think my barriers were very smooth and I remembered to sprint onto the bike and look for my pedal (could have done a better job at sprinting right away). As for the twisty/turny stuff before the start/finish straight – I needed to keep more speed through this. I did not badly on the BMX bumps. And as for the steep and rather sharp descents – I’m very very happy – my hands did not come anywhere near my brakes – a massive improvement over last year.

So some pluses and minuses to take from this race. It sucks being last. It sucks being lapped. But as someone said to me today “well, it can’t get any worse…”. Am I content – no – I want to do better – I need to do better. Am I relieved that I didn’t feel as badly as I did in Catamount, Pennsylvania, Cross Vegas, and New York – most definitely. Now I know with some training (I basically haven’t ridden for two weeks) and a few solid nights of sleep – I’ll be in much more ready for the Plzen World Cup next Sunday. The other thing I know now is that I can push my body and it won’t spontaneously combust on me. In the back of my mind I wonder if I subconsciously held back a bit for fear of this happening. I guess really, I’ll never know.

As for the race experience? It was top-notch. A simply most excellent day. Kicked it off with an excellent breakfast at the hotel. Had some tasty yogurt (I’m sure it wasn’t 0% fat…) and some very nice croissants. Got here with lots of time to hang out, talk to people and not be rushed to get out on the course. I had an excellent warm-up lap and felt very good about it. The RV is simply the way to go for these races – able to stretch out, get changed easily and not feel all cramped. It was great to catch-up and chat with so many people. Extra bonus was all the cheering on the course – it seems that every key section I head “Go Vicki. Come on Vicki. Keep digging Vicki”. This helps immensely. Many many thanks to my dad for standing in the pits, cheering me on, cleaning my bike and generally just doing whatever I needed today. Also many thanks to Greg for his help as well. Great to see Luc, Linda and Johnny – they were out cheering me, taking photos, took my clothes at the start and had kind words for me after the race. Huge thanks to Serge of BKCP for being there at the finish to take my transponder for me, to remind me to go get some warm clothes and to tell me that I rode better than I did last year. Thanks to Rudy for checking my tire pressure on both bikes. for cheering me on and for pointing out that considering the start to the season I’ve had – this was all things considered a good day (and if you know Belgians – particularly Belgian cyclo-cross racers and coaches, they don’t hand out such words easily). Great to chat with Cory Page after the race and just chill for a bit. All in all a good day. Only thing that would have made it better would be to have Marc here – but it was my choice – he could come for the first two World Cups or the World Championships in St. Wendel, Germany – so of course I chose the World Championships.

Alright, this is getting a bit long. Normally I write a separate race report but I’m limited with the blogging software I’m using on my iPad and haven’t yet figured out how to update existing pages as well as add new posts. And I know I promised you photos…. You will get some – I just don’t know when. I snapped some pics of Sven, Bart, and Francis after the race so I’ll put those up when I can as well. I’m sure Luc has already posted some photos on Facebook…..

We are set-up in the parking lot at the UCI for the night. Tomorrow I’m lucky since I have a two hour road ride to do – so I’ll set out in the morning and explore the wonderful paths around here. Also on the agenda is laundry – we’re hoping to do this at the UCI since I know that there is athlete housing there… Then we’re off on the road towards Plzen, Czech Republic. We have a pretty good route set-up that takes us by Bern, Zurich, Munich, Nurnberg, and then Plzen. Not sure how far we’ll get – our plan is to take it easy and stop off anywhere we find interesting. We did drive to Lausanne today but couldn’t find parking for the RV…. Ah well, we had a nice walk around the center of Aigle and now just relaxing for the night.

Okay, I’m off. Thanks for the cheering, the emails, the comments on Facebook, the sponorship and the support. It means so much. Thanks to my favorite guy for making this all possible.