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.

So Far So Good

I have to say that this trip is going really well. I really like Plzen. The area is beautiful and the riding is so good. This would be a great place to come to for a training camp. Lots of good roads, rolling hills, and very affordable. I’m impressed with all of the bicycle paths.

Today I rode a path that started very close to my hotel and ended up riding along a river – it was a great ride. On one side I had the river and on the other some very pleasant houses. Here are some photos of the houses:

Today I just did an easy 75 minutes on the bike. The ride was supposed to be flat but this is impossible here – at some point there will be some climbing and descending! After my ride I hopped a taxi into the centre of Plzen and met up with Nikoline.

Nikoline and I met in 2009 at the World Cup in Treviso, Italy. This year she is staying with me in Blauberg, Belgium. It was great to catch up with her. We had a good lunch at Cafe Fellini and then wandered around Plzen for a bit. A very enjoyable afternoon. I think we were both happy to have someone to talk to!

The rest of the day has been pretty quiet – Ignace and his girlfriend arrived a couple of hours ago. They drove here today in the mobile home (RV)! Ignace and I met in 2009 when he was the mechanic for the Mongolian team. Last year he helped me out at the races and primarily was Marc’s mechanic. We’ve become good friends – it was super of him to make this trip to help me at the races. Having him here takes a lot of pressure off of me knowing that I have someone in the pits to help me and take care of the bikes.

The three of us had supper at the hotel and caught up with one another’s life. It can be a bit challenging at time since I don’t speak much Flemish – but Ignace speaks French so I can get by with my broken French. It was very nice to have someone to talk with during supper. The hotel is starting to get busy with cyclocross racers now. Francis Mouray is staying here as well as a number of other riders.

As for the rest of the night, well I think I’ll chill out and watch a few episodes of Modern Family. I’m hopping to get some good sleep tonight – I’m still battling jet lag. Looking forward to getting out on the course tomorrow to check it out.

I’m feeling good. My nerves are in check. My health is spot on. I’m excited to race. Last year I put a lot of pressure on myself to get a specific result. This year, I just want to have a good ride. I want to race my bike like I can – the result is the result – I can only control my performance.

I’ll try to take a few photos of the courses tomorrow and post them for you. But in the meantime, here are some photos from the centre of Plzen:

The synagogue

Plzen Opera House

Tempting cakes – I think I’ll have such a treat on Sunday evening

A Suitcase of Nerves

I suppose it was inevitable, but I honestly thought it could be avoided… Nope, it is here. I’ve got a full-on suitcase of nerves. I’d like to say I have a suitcase of courage but not at that stage right now. Instead I’m sitting here three days before I get on a plane to fly to the Czech Republic for the first two World Cups of the season and I’m fretting and stressing.

I’m double-checking hotel reservations. Making sure I’ve got the car rental details straight. Trying to remember how to put my bikes together. Thinking about where I’ll go for training rides. Essentially thinking and obsessing about every detail.

This happens every time I make one of these trips. I thought that by this time around, I’d be past the worrying and obsessive thinking. I travel alone to the World Cups every year. This year is no different (well last year I did have my dad with me and this helped a great deal). This year while I’m travelling alone, I do have a mechanic and friend coming from Belgium to give me race day support – this really takes a load off. As well I’ll soon be connected with a bunch of racing pals that I’ve gotten to know over the years.

But still… I’m nervous. These two races (Plzen and Tabor) are very important. I have some goals. I have some wants. I just really want to get out and race. Last year I had a not-very-good race at Plzen so I’d like to make-up for this. The last time I raced in Tabor the course was covered in snow and ice so I’m curious to see what it will be like this time.

I guess this is a good kind of nerves to have. If I was super relaxed and uber-calm that could be considered a sign that I’m not excited to race or looking forward to it.

Once I get on the plane and then collect my bikes at the other end, I’ll be okay. I’ve never driven in the Czech Republic before but the last time I checked the cars have four wheels and the road has a yellow line down the middle of it – so I’m pretty confident I can handle it.

Yes, as you can tell I’ve got two suitcases of nerves right now. It’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. Just need to get out and do what I do. These feelings are normal right? I’d like to think that there others out there getting ready for the upcoming World Cups who are feeling the same right now…

Okay, well one of the best ways I know to get over these nerves is to get outside and ride. So, I’m off to get a ride in and blast the nerves right out of my body and into the pedals.

What’s Up?

I have to admit that it can be hard to come up with something to write on a cycling-focused web site in February. Like most of you, I’m busy with training and looking forward to warm days. Really not much else is going on. There are no spring or late-winter training camps or trips “down south” in my horizons.

I guess I should start looking at race calendars and get myself organized for some spring and summer racing. Last season I didn’t do any racing, I realized that I missed the racing. Besides the fun that comes with racing it has a pretty good training effect (I think). Yes, I know that racing doesn’t build fitness but you can often go deeper in a race than you can do alone out on a quiet road with only your power meeter as your measuring stick. There are also all the intangibles that come with the racing experience: pack riding skills, learning your limits, forcing your limits, taking risks, and simply having a good time. For these reasons, I’ll be out racing on the road this year.

I’m not planning on doing a lot of races. Yes, I know, famous last words… Really I’m hoping to get in a few road races and some criteriums. I think the bulk of this racing will happen in the May – June/mid-July timeframe. Then I’ll have to change my focus and really get down to business fine-tuning my cyclo-cross fitness. Of course, as has become the norm for me, I’ll be getting out on my ‘cross bike regularly to work on my skills.

One event I’m definitely doing this year is the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. I had a blast last year and I’m looking forward to doing it again. Yep, even with the crazy rain on the second day, I still had a good time. So to get ready for this ride I’ll once again be putting in lots of long rides. Really, these are my favorite rides. I really enjoy getting out for four or five hours on the bike. I wonder how early I can get a ride to Merickville in this season? That peanut butter bar is so very tempting…

Today I hit a big milestone with my training… I rode the rollers for one hour! Yes, my second roller ride in over ten years and I lasted for an hour. It is not the effort that I have trouble with, it is the wobbly factor. I haven’t found that roller riding groove that allows me to move my head around, move my hands around, and generally relax. I know will soon enough since back in the day, (1995ish) I used to attend roller riding sessions in local area shopping malls with the Sportable cycling team. We’d set up the rollers in a busy spot, for example in front of Eaton’s in the Rideau Centre and put up a few signs and place some boxes out and then we’d ride the rollers all day – people would stare at us and sometimes give us money (portion of which went to CHEO). I remember once I was riding and a woman walked by and took my front wheel out with her shopping bags… Miraculously I stayed up. I don’t plan on doing any roller riding demos in malls anytime soon, but I would like to be able to take my hands off the bars soon.

Training this weekend should be pretty good. I’ve got the run and ride thing happening on Saturday. A little trail run followed by 30 minutes or so on the trainer. Sunday I’ve got another 2 hours of hiking planned with a some trainer time first. It is a nice change this winter to be able to get outside and really “enjoy” the weather. Of course on the days when it is super cold and I’m supposed to be training outside, I’ve done a bit of switcheroo with the training days…

Well, I best get off this computer and get myself outside for that run. Thanks for downloading and reading my book. I hope you’re enjoying it. Please send me any comments or feedback you have on it – I’d really like to find out what you think of it. And if you haven’t downloaded and read my book? Well, what are you waiting for? Go check it out over here: An Unlikely Elite. Or click to the link in the sidebar to download the PDF version.

30 Minutes

I was given a gift today. A sweet gift of 30 minutes. 30 whole minutes of riding. You have no idea how much I’ve been looking forward to this 30 minutes. I was trying to figure out how to stretch this 30 minutes to 3 hours, but common sense prevailed… Lets just say this was a pretty darn fine 30 minutes.

What did I do for 30 minutes of riding? I noodled. I played. I smiled. I soaked up the crisp fall air. I let the sun shine down on my face. I worked on my cycling tan. I pedaled amongst the orange leaves and a little bit of mud. I simply enjoyed the ride for what it was.

A reminder that I am here. That I am on the right path. That this really is short-term pain for long-term gain. Would I have rather been racing this past weekend in Gloucester, Mass.? Darn right. But honestly, it is not fun racing the way I feel right now. It is hard on the head, soul, and body. So I became a superfan for the weekend with thoughts of today’s 30 minutes keeping me stoked for cyclo-cross season.

The weekend of racing in Gloucester was top-notch. Deep and talented fields continued to line-up on the hour each day, making for two fast and exciting days of racing. In my opinion the highlights of the weekend include: the Masters 35+ 1/2/3 race – these guys are fast, the women’s elite race had lots of drama and excitement – Wendy Simms coming from the back row and how about Sally Annis?, watching first year U23 Evan McNeely eat up the elite men’s field on Saturday. On Sunday it was nice to see Karl rebound from a challenging day on Saturday – he showed that patience really does pay off.

Away from the race course, the weekend was made even better thanks to our super hosts: Mike and Cathy. These guys let us crash at their place, eat their food, play with their kittens, and generally just relax. Thanks Mike and Cathy – hopefully we can do the same for you one day (hint, hint – Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour???).

I have to say thank-you to all of you who stopped to talk. Pretty much everyone had the same question: how are you doing? You have no idea how awesome it was to hear this question. I really do appreciate it. And to answer your question: well, I’m doing okay. My 30 minutes of two-wheeled fun have done wonders for my spirits. I’ve got another iron infusion scheduled this week. I’m looking forward to the World Cups in Aigle and Plzen. I’m only looking ahead and as far as I’m concerned, the new season starts this week. What happened, happened. I’m just relieved to know that I’m on finally on the path to wellness.

Amazing what 30 minutes can do for the soul.