Hamme-Zogge

A few weeks ago, Marc had a lot of bad luck in the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross race in Cornwall – but he persevered and kept on fighting. Well, today I had the same experience. Lots of bad luck that made it very challenging. To say I was frustrated at the end of the race would be an understatement.

Before I get into the details (also check out my race report), I need to extend some big thank yous: a big thanks to Ignace for driving 70 kms to pick up myself and Nikoline and then drive another hour to take us to the race and for doing everything for me (cleaning my bikes, setting up the trainer, cheering me on, doing the pits and packing the mobile home), a big thanks to Jacob and Karsten for their help on Saturday with my tires and for giving my bikes a check over (as well for the cheering and the understanding words after the race), and a big thanks to Nancy and Andy for coming out to the race – helping out, cheering, standing in the pits, taking my clothes at the start and for being really good friends.

So the race, well, I’ve written a blow-by-blow over on the Race Reports page but here is the nitty gritty:
– decent call-up and managed to squeeze into the second row
– mediocre start
– passed a bunch of girls and caught and passed a bunch on the first climb
– realized my front brake was clamped on fully on my wheel and had slipped under the rim (I had a slight collision with a course barrier in the start)
– lost lots of time trying fixing my bike – was dead last by a country mile
– got going, passed girls, and had more in my sights
– few laps later – I dropped my chain and had to stop to fix this
– next lap I hit a bump and my left shifter/hood became really loose and turned to a 90 degree angle with my wheel
– pitted, lost two spots
– put my head down, kept on digging and finished the race

So a frustrating day. I felt really good out there and for once I was in the action and in a group that I could have ridden with. It was a good course for me – dry, power course and not super-technical. I guess this is shown by the fact that even with all my issues I didn’t get lapped. It is not fun being the last rider on the course (I wasn’t last in the race but the last one allowed to finish) – but it is better than dropping out.

I focused on riding as hard as I could and on improving on the technical sections. I’m sitting here watching the elite men race with my housemate and pal Nikoline and already I’m picking up on things I can do differently and improve on.

In the end I suppose it was a good day. After all – I was racing my cyclocross bike in Belgium – it really doesn’t get much better than this! A big thank you to all the people who cheered me on and took photos today. Also a big thanks to Gabby Day for loaning me her PowerTap battery cover tool (battery died yesterday).

Up next for me is a race with the junior boys in Hasselt on Saturday and the famous Asper-Gavere on Sunday.

Best of luck to Marc and all my Ottawa pals in their race today in Kingston! Thanks as well to Mar for not complaining when I woke him up this morning to tell him about my race!

Tabor World Cup Pre-Ride

I just got back from pre-riding the Tabor World Cup cyclcocross course. It is similar to the course I raced on in 2010 but there are also some big changes. Changes that I think have made the course even more challenging. The start is flat and fast and quickly we enter a series of steep ups and flowing corners. Then it is up a draggy climb and a fast run up some very big stairs. The course continues to climb after the stairs and we then descend down the hill with a series of straight stretches combined with a bunch of corners. A quick zip by the pit and then onto the steep uphill barriers. This is where the real climbing begins and then after a climb that seems to last forever we hit a quick section and a short steep descent, a fast little ridge (in the world champs we descended this and then ran up the hill – second set of stairs) and then it is a big descent leading into some tricky corners and by the pit for the second time.

The course is definitely more technical than the course we raced on last weekend in Plzen. The corners are very crucial and maintaining speed and flow between them and the straight draggy sections will be important. The steep descent is pretty harmless though there are some big ruts already – but the section is wide so there is lots of room to choose a line that you’re comfortable with.

Overall, it is a fun and challenging course. It is all big ring except the section after the stairs and the barriers. Today during the pre-ride the current World Champion Zdnek Stybar was out pre-riding – we waited at the barriers to see if he would bunny-hop them but we couldn’t convince him to do it! It is very cool to see someone so smooth on his bike – he makes everything look effortless.

I’m feeling pretty good about the course. The key for me is to really let the bike go in the corners – this is something I struggle with, but if I can stay confident and calm I should be fine. It is interesting – Nancy said to me today “I think you pre-rode better today than you raced last Sunday”. This is an interesting comment since often during the pre-ride and day of warm-up I’m able to go easy on the brakes but during the race, I tend to over brake. Not sure what this is all about….

I must admit I’m feeling a bit stressed about the course. You see, I like the course – it is good for someone like me with a lot of power – but the flip side is that there are a lot of girls with lots of power as well. But all I can do is all I can do. I’ll go out and give it my all. I know where to really bury myself and I feel comfortable with all sections of the course. I just will go out and ride as hard as I can. Maybe stressed is the wrong word – but I guess I’m just feeling the typical day before nerves.

One thing that does help today is having Ignace here. He has done so much for me – it is amazing. The parking at the race is not the best so he has left his mobile home (camper) at the course so we’ll have a good spot for tomorrow. Complete with a tent, power washer, and a fridge full of Coke and Red Bull!

Tonight rather than going out I’ll connect with Nancy who has brought a portable burner and hotplate with her – this way I can make some of my own food and not have to find some good pre-race food. I find it is a bit challenging when I need to avoid gluten and dairy. Tonight I’ll have some rice with a bunch of veggies and also cook up some rice to eat before the race. A big thanks to Nancy and Andy for all of their help, support and friendship. Looks like I’ll be brining some extra maple syrup and Canada hoodies back with me to Belgium!

Alright, I’m going to watch some episodes of Modern Family and maybe the UFC from a few weeks ago. Thanks for the support, cheering, comments, emails and the belief. I really couldn’t do this without you guys backing me. Some days I wonder what I’m doing – but then I remember how low and sick I was last year and I’m super grateful to have this second chance.

If you see Marc this weekend – give him a big hug and kiss for me. Can’t wait to see him on Tuesday.

Plzen World Cup

Well, the first World Cup is done and in my legs. What a day! In fact it was a very good day – from start to finish. The day started early since we wanted to be at the course for 9:30. Had a good solid breakfast and watched Francis Mourey eat a massive bowl of eggs and toast with jam – he ate for a solid hour – most impressive!

Today Ignace drove me to the race so I was able to sit back and relax. Had some excitement on the way there when about 100 meters from the parking lot we discovered the Fidea women’s team camper van (RV) was stuck between some parked cars! Ignace had to help the Fidea mechanic lift the other car out of the way! Here are a couple photos:

We got a good spot and managed to keep some room for Gabby and Gregg as well. We were well set up with Ignace’s mobile home and had lots of space. The sun was shining brilliantly and the ground softened up quite a bit compared to Saturday. Really wasn’t much to do until we could get on the course at 11:45 so I talked to a bunch of people, read my magazine and watch Sven Nys’s mobile home get stuck in the soft ground:

Sven’s mobile home was eventually towed by the Belgian National Team’s truck. And with this over with it was time to get down to business. I got in two laps of the course – two easy laps to see how the lines are and what had changed after having three other races on it. Well, the ground was definitely softer than Saturday – this made the steep climbs a challenge for me. On Saturday I was able to get up them but a combination of a lack of technique, the soft ground and too much pressure made them a real challenge for me… Unfortunately during the race I was forced to dismount and run these two sections – this caused me precious seconds and at least one position.

Okay, so on to the race! I had a last row call-up but, I’m used to this in Belgium and at the World Cups. For the first time in a long time I had a decent start – still not my best start – but better than the starts I had in Gloucester, Vermont, and Pennsylvania. I was on the back of the group on the descent and we were one massively long chain of racers. I managed to get by a few girls and was ahead of four girls but on the first steep climb section I lost two of them – because they were riding and I had to dismount. I then yo-yoed with them a bit and then ended up racing against one other girl (with one girl behind me) – I would pass this other girl on the power sections and in the corners but she would get ahead of me on the first steep climb – I would catch her before the long stair run-up and she would pass me – then I would catch her on the start/finish straight and she would pass me on the long wooded descent. (And this pattern repeated itself each and every lap!) Very frustrating because if I could have ridden the steep climbs and descended better I would have stayed ahead of her.

In the end I was caught by the winner Katie Compton just before the finish line (I almost made it to the bell lap!). So I finished one lap down on Katie Compton. Some people wouldn’t be happy with this, and I wouldn’t say I’m happy but I’m content. I know where I am. I know where I want to get. I know what I have to do to get there. My power and strength are returning – what I really need to focus on is my technique. My goal between now and Canadian Nationals is to conquer riding steep inclines. I need to be able to do this – this is very important for me. My cornering is better. My descending – well this takes guts and practice – the only place to practice such descents is in Belgium – we simply do not have the same kinds of descents in Canada and the U.S.

So, I’m feeling okay. It was nice to have so many people come by after the race and tell me it was much better than last year. I felt like a bike racer today. I gave it my all and was completely wiped at the end. On the last lap I was so cross-eyed that I rode into one of the barricades on the descent! Definitely a good hard race today.

I’m very happy for Nikoline who had a fantastic race and finished 23rd. I ended up finishing 37th and I now have 25 UCI points – I need to get 50 more by the first week of December – this will qualify me for the World Championships in Kokijde, Belgium.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out with Gabby Day and watching the elite men race. Then the four of us (Ignace, Katie, Gabby and I) went out to dinner at a Spanish restaurant and finished this with some fine desserts! It was a good day all around. Here is a picture of my post-race cake and hot chocolate:

A huge thank-you to Ignace for the mechanical support. A big thanks to Luc for the cheering and the photos. Thanks to Kelly for taking my jacket at the start and for cheering. Thanks to Matt Roy for the cheering and to Mo Bruno Roy for the kind words and encouragement. Thanks to all the others who I could hear cheering me on – Simon, Rudy, Stefan, Serge, Katie, and Gregg.

It is late here so I’m off to bed and tomorrow I’ll post some more pictures from the day and I’ll likely have more thoughts and about the day.

A big congrats to all the folks who raced in the Eastern Ontario Series today in Cobden. I heard the course was pretty darn good. Hope everyone had a good time. As well, a big thanks to my sponsors and Marc for making all of this possible for me.