I’m sitting in my hotel room in Luxembourg listening to Jonathan Richman; sitting next to the window where I can look out on a snow-covered European landscape dotted with row houses, all colored blue, yellow, pink and eggshell. They’re not your normal Belgian red brick or stone. Some of the architecture is the same, but mostly I’m surrounded by the old world. My ride this morning consisted of two countries, three switchback climbs, four roundabouts, one abandoned coal tunnel and some of the most fantastic winter mountain views around. However cold it may be, I am enjoying every single minute of this.
It’s been a minute since I have been able to put my experiences to words. I was on a bit of a roll with the post-race round ups and it was becoming part of my weekly, if not daily, routine to write and recollect. Sometimes I go through waves of passion for recalling and retelling of my travels and of my races. At other times, it seems either to be a chore, or perhaps the line between regular life and the travel are just blended to deeply. I guess that’s the great part about being an amateur blogger: it’s just not my job. Well, not my main job, anyway.
But here I am writing and feeling it. Certainly the afternoon cup of (product placement) Chilmark Guatemalan is to blame for my sudden urge to lay the proverbial pen to paper.
This last month has been pretty crazy, as you might imagine. Just when I was getting used to a certain level attention in my career, I returned stateside long enough to win my first Elite Cyclocross National Championship. It’s probably the proudest moment of my life. It clinched the greatest season of my career, but it was NOT easy!
Heading into the Hartford weekend, I knew I was on good form. I also knew every one else would be too. If there is one thing I have learned in my career, it’s that you can never, ever, ever count out your competition. Armed with that, I focused on staying sharp and really dialing in my snow riding. As a Florida native, this kinda thing isn’t exactly my forté. However, show me a challenge and I will show you what hard work looks like to adapt to it; my unofficial motto.
The race could have gone badly for me. I started off well by getting the holeshot but managed to slip up and lose around 15 spots in the first minute of the race. I know I gave some of you a heart attack there! Well, for me, it just meant I needed to calm down and reestablish a rhythm. I picked off riders one by one and made my way back to the front through patience and deliberate moves. Once I got on the front I knew what to do. That wasn’t easy though. With a course completely covered with ice and snow on top of ruts from days past, the name of the game was patience and perfect lines – no brakes and no big accelerations where I didn’t need to. I had some falls and some real close calls. It wasn’t until the last lap that things got really scary for me.
At one point, I was up by 40 seconds. By the last lap, it was down to twenty. Jamey was coming like I knew he would and I had to nail the final lap. Right after I passed the pit for the last time, I realized that my front tire was rapidly losing air. SHIT. I nursed it through the turns and put down watts where possible. He wasn’t going faster, I was going slower… The last two turns and my front flat got the best of me. I slid out on the tricky off camber. SNAP, my derailleur hanger broke clean off. I thought my chain was off. I instinctively grabbed the bike and ran to the top of the next hill, full gas. I Remounted at the top and hoped for the best at getting to the bottom of a pretty treacherous off-camber downhill. When I hit the pavement I started to pedal and finally realized my drivetrain problems weren’t just a dropped chain. I scooter kicked in and looked back for Jamey, just in time to see him barreling in. He never let up until he crossed the line. Neither did I.
There I was, holding my bike over my head on the finish line with a crowd going absolutely nuts, my mom and dad there by the side lines. Most of my best friends in the world there too, I couldn’t believe the feeling. Tears of joy – absolute joy. I will, literally, never have that moment again.
The rest has been a bit of a blur. I headed back home for a few days after making the trip out to Cannondale headquarters and a quick stop in a Thule, right down the road. Then back on the ol’ United 950 flight back to Brussels.
Sittard, in The Netherlands, has become quite the second home for me, even though it’s a re-purposed mental hospital turned USAC boarding house. I find it comfy, being on the hill over looking the Dutch country side, just out side of a sleepy little city. I like it. Everything there is slower, the way I imagine my life being: not rushed, not feeling hurled into whatever panic people tend to be in in the States. It’s small town life with a city’s worth of people.
Next up was the World Cup in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. This would be my third time there. The first, however, in dry conditions. The course was a criterium on ice. It was fast, real freakin’ fast. I rolled up to my front row start with the confidence of a national champ but that was soon put to the test. I was quickly put in my place with a terrible fast start that I apparently had no business being in. A quarter of a lap later, and twenty or so spots back, I get caught in a crash around a corner. More spots gone. I made up a few by the pit only to put my self onto the ground yet again. Even more spots gone.
I finally found some flow and got my legs to start moving in time with my brain. I raced for position in a group of about 15. I managed third out of the group and came in 27th on the day. We’ll just call that a good opener.
1st – USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships – Cyclocross Magazine | Cyclingnews | Cyclingtips | Velonews
28th – UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup Hoogerheide – CyclocrossMagazine | Cyclingnews | Velonews
Now I am with my Cannondale P/B Cyclocrossworld.com teammates and USAC in Bieles, Luxembourg for the World Championships. The course is pretty crazy. Lots of snow and ice right now. With the temps raising throughout the weekend though we are going to see some pretty epic conditions. This will be a Worlds to remember, I hope. Bieles has certainly put together a great course and venue. Now let’s see if the riders take advantage of it!
And now, for a Quick PSA
Those of you who know Balint Hamvas and his photo book cyclephotos.co.uk know that he is a seriously hard working and talented photographer. He goes above and beyond to create the book that he is so passionate about. I am lucky enough to have a multi page spread in this year’s edition – Something I will certainly cherish for my life. There is also a huge portion of the book dedicated to the legend that is Sven Nys in his last year of racing.
This year instead of doing a huge order and hoping they all sell, he set up a Kickstarter campaign in order to pre-sell the volumes. If you like his work or are a fan of cyclocross then I would suggest clicking through the link and getting your order in!