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.

Liking the Double Double

Wednesdays in this house mean one thing – double double. Road in the morning. Cyclo-cross in the afternoon. A good hard day of training that leaves me with a healthy glow in my cheeks and satisfaction in my soul. Today was a particularly good day of doubling up.

Started the day with a tempo work-out on the roads and paths of the Belgian countryside. I did this work-out without my SRM since I kind of cracked the head unit (nothing major – it is healing as I write). I’m pretty sure I rode harder than I should have in these intervals because I didn’t have any visual feedback. All I had to rely on was my heavy breathing, my pounding heart and my burning legs. A good ride was achieved on some of my favorite twisty roads and intervals roads.

Quick clean of the bike, change of the wheels and it was time for ride number two. I did get in some good downtime with my book and got some stuff sorted in the house. Karl and I hopped in the trusty Peugeot and drove out to Floreal Lichtaart for the afternoon.

The riding at Floreal Lichtaart is top-notch. The cyclo-cross course has a bit of everything and everyone is super helpful. Today we hooked up with Ignace (my mechanic this year) for some training. Ignace drove 100 kilometers to come train with us! Amazing! We did a couple of laps and worked on some sandy corners and descents. Karl took off to ride with one of his friends and I continued on with Ignace. We were quickly joined by a couple of “older” guys who come out to coach the riders. I got lots of amazing tips and advice from these guys. At times the session was a bit challenging since the three guys really don’t speak any English… But with some visual cues, much repetition and hand signals – we got the job done.

I really feel like I learned a lot today. Particularly about when to shift on climbs and how to really attack the climbs. I also got to work on my fearless descending skills. The one area where I know I really need attention is my cornering and just letting the bike flow in the ruts. Baby steps I suppose.

It was a great training session. We did a light spin on the road to shake out our legs and then it was home to clean our bikes. Today was the grimiest I’ve seen Floreal Lichtaart. It made for some interesting riding conditions and really changed the feel of the terrain.

It was a good day. I can say that I really enjoy these double days. Wish I could do them everyday. I hit so many sensations in my body on days like today. I’m also challenged mentally as I’m forced to push my limits technically and really open myself up to risks and rewards. Can’t ask for much more from a training session I suppose.

Alright, off to bed now. Marc is arriving on Thursday and it seems as though I’ve got a lot to accomplish before he arrives.

Koksijde World Cup on Saturday. Should be a good one.