As I've mentioned quite a few times over the course of recent months a big part of my trip to race cyclocross here in Belgium was to take part in as many of the World Cups as possible. I used to always get confused by the difference between the World Cup and the World Champs, so just to clarify for newcomers to the sport the World Cup is a series of races throughout the season. There are 8 in total this year, two of which I didn't do in the Czech Republic have already been. The next is Koksijde, Belgium this coming Saturday followed a week later by Roubaix, France on Dec 2nd. There are two more late in December, Namur and Heusden-Zolder both here in Belgium, then I will skip Rome in early January and enter the final one in Hoogerheide, Netherlands on January 20th. The overall winner of the World Cup series gets lots of money and fame but generally the world title is more sought after. The first weekend of February is when the World Championships is on in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. This is a one-off competition to decide who is the world champion, and thus who wears the coveted rainbow stripes on their jersey. I am going to be there to contest the title, representing New Zealand. Faced with the international airfares, comprehensive racing and travel insurance and ongoing costs associated with travel to and from races, not to mention worn out equipment and other material, I need a fair bit of help to do this.
A month or so ago I set up a paypal-based gofundme.com site where people could donate towards helping me realise this dream trip of racing cyclocross in Belgium and going to the World Championships. I have to thank the many people who have already generously supported me so far, from friends and family to complete strangers. I still have a fair bit to raise to continue, so I wish to propose another, more interactive way in which to earn this support.
Being from New Zealand, I grew up with bikes as a small part of my life. While they have always been present and I have always enjoyed a bit of mountain biking and touring with friends, I have only been racing competitively since the age of 23. Here in Belgium, racing often begins at the age of 12 so some of my competitors have 15-20 years' racing experience over me! The cyclocross scene in Belgium is like nowhere else in the world, so while it really is the best place to come to learn from the best and therefore gain rapid experience, it is incredibly difficult and I find myself struggling while others make it look easy. I aim to get as close to finishing each race as possible, but as riders are automatically pulled from the course if they fall behind the leader by more than 80% of the leader's first lap time, this is a most tricky business. If a typical race has 6 minute laps, and thus 10 laps over the course of the hour of racing, I can only lose up to 4 minutes and 30 seconds before it's over. That leaves a maximum loss of 27 seconds per lap in order to stay in it, but sometimes I lose a whole minute in one lap! Considering I'm facing the best in the world, it's a tough ask.
My proposal is that while I am racing in these World Cups, I ask people to pledge a certain amount per lap that I complete, to donate towards my campaign. Some of the courses will have shorter laps and therefore more of them, others longer and fewer. But overall the average seems to be between 8 - 10 laps per race, depending on conditions and terrain. Pledges could take the form of a one-off amount per lap for all five World Cups, or individually by race. There are typically between about 70-90 riders in a race, and my goals are to stay in the race as long as possible (preferably right to the last lap!) and to reach the top-50.
So if you think you are able to donate, please have a think about how you might like to do it. You could choose to let me know what your method will be, to motivate me. Or alternatively not disclose it and make it a surprise. I will post on this blog before each race and describe the course to the best of my ability, what to expect and what I hope to achieve if it differs from my aforementioned goals. I have been overwhelmed with the support I have received so far - whether it be financial, vocal from the sidelines or simply friendly messages with encouraging words, it all helps and keeps me even more motivated to continue to push myself and gain as much experience and improve as much as I possibly can during my time here.
On another note, my team Los Pedalos have made a whole bunch of merchandise which they will be selling at races on my behalf, with proceeds going towards my campaign. They have had cycling caps, beanies, T-shirts and jackets custom made with a special moustachioed theme. They are a lovely bunch of people, and have really taken it upon themselves to help me as much as possible, for which I am extremely grateful. So for the Belgian fans and supporters out there, please look out for the team truck at races. For those of you in New Zealand, I will soon be sending a package to Revolution Bicycles in Wellington for further national distribution. For those around the world, it may be tricky! I'll bring some to the World Champs in February, so if not for a moustache then come along for what I'm sure will be an amazing weekend of races and festivities.
I'll add below some of the videos that have surfaced from the various interviews I've had in the Belgian media since my arrival. For further post-race debriefings and other intriguing observations from my travails please check my blog The Cyclo X Files on the Spoke magazine website. Thanks again for all the support so far, and I look forward to doing you proud!
Iedereen Beroemd - segment from Belgian TV programme Everybody Famous
Sporza.be Reportage at Ronse round of the bpost Bank Trofee