Namur, Namen, Namuer – French, Dutch and Walloon. All these names for one of the most beautiful and enchanting cities I’ve ever been to. A city full of history dating back to before the Romans. Settled at the confluence of two rivers,the Sambre and Meuse. A city so strategically significant that it has been held under almost every major conflict throughout Europe’s vast and ancient history. The Citadel of Namur has had an active history in battle as recently as the 1940s, during WWII. Its remnants are now just a tourist attraction who want a bit of history with a view, and maybe some good food, at the Chateau De Namur at the top.
There is better venue for some of the greatest battles in Cyclocross’ history, at what seems like the top of the world.
For the two previous editions of the Namur World Cup, it had been unseasonably “dry”. This year, we woke up to some light overnight rain and pretty heavy fog settled on the river. It was hard to call it dry with how much moisture was all around: trees dripping with dew and the ground slick and loose. Roots and rocks became treacherous and added a level of difficulty to the high speeds the course demands. In years past it’s been a running heavy course. In any year, it’s one of the great climbing and descending parcours, with a very iconic off-camber section.
This is yet another race that I have watched from home for as long as I can remember and never once thought that I would be racing it, let alone start on the front row in my snazzy white (I am learning more and more about keeping white clothes clean) Continental Champions skinsuit. What an honor!
I spent Saturday pre-riding the course instead of racing in Antwerp. It was hard to not race there, as I like that course, but I have a strategy through Nationals that needs to be stuck to. When you have a plan to fall back on, these things make more sense. Either way, I knew I was in for a challenging day of racing.
Last year’s edition was my first go in Namur. As is usual for me, I decided to hold back and race the course first and the racers second. The plan worked out and I had my best World Cup placing to date. I was proud of my ride and knew I had more in me. This year, however, I had a different game plan: a much less conservative approach. I wanted to race for real.
Making good on my front row start, I was fourth over the top of the first climb behind Mathieu van der Poel, Wout Van Aert and Tom Meeusen. I kept it cool and rode within my ability – watching the lines and taking in the first lap demonstration. The first lap is classroom time every race: watch, learn, incorporate. I even rode some sections better than most (check that one off the list) and got some good TV time in the process! HI GUYS!
Toward the end of lap one, I began to fade off the front (duh!) and started to settle in to my group. I was feeling good and making moves where necessary without taking huge risks. Unfortunately, I lost the ability to control my destiny: I was hit off my line and found my self hitting the deck on the off-camber. I kept a cool head and made my way back up.
Then, Flat number one. Somewhere, at some point, I pinched on some root or rock and caused a slow leak on my front tire. I limped in to the pits and swapped bikes. I wasn’t comfortable with the pressure so I swapped again a few laps later. Maybe that was a bad choice? Flat number two. Another front before some pretty nasty descending. It was slow but I made it across in one piece. Swapped the bike and made up more spots.
At this point I’m more then 15 riders back from where I was hoping to be. I gritted it out and made some power with my legs. It was very uncomfortable…let’s just say: it hurt. I went deep and stayed focused. Made some spots up and kept my engine hot.
I rolled across the line in 19th. Not what I wanted but better than it could have been, and better than last year. Hell, I’ll take it! I am happy with my improvements over last year and even from earlier this year. As long as I feel like I am learning and progressing I am happy. I am focused on results, one step at a time.
Next up is World Cup Zolder on Monday, December 26, then back to the good Ol’ US of A for Nationals in Hartford. See you there!
December 26 – UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup Zolder – Zolder, BEL
January 8 – USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships – Hartford, CT
January 22 – UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup Hoogerheide – Hoogerheide, NED
January 29 – UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships – Bieles, LUX