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.

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.