Friday, 1 March 2013

From Be to KY and NZ

For most of the past cyclocross season in Belgium I had been hoping that things would work out for making it to the World Championships at the beginning of February, but at the same time hadn't wanted to put too much pressure on myself or get too excited about the possibility of going just in case it didn't happen. As January rolled around I was able to plan going to Louisville, Kentucky properly and thanks to all of the generous donations people made through my fundme site I could book my tickets and start packing up my bikes and gear for two weeks with two races in the States.

I have written about this trip in two parts on the Spoke magazine blog (one and two) so will now jump forward to slightly closer to the present and my final week in Belgium.

Returning to Belgium after the high of the trip to America - meeting so many great people and getting to be part of an amazing and historic event - was somewhat of an anti-climax, and although the snow had temporarily cleared it was still cold and a bit miserable. As I had decided to return to New Zealand some time previously it was all I could do not to think about the magnificent summer that everyone was raving about back home in Wellington. Up until this point I had been sufficiently distracted by all of the racing, living in a different country and the novelty of the Belgian fans and their reaction to my moustache so as to not get down about the summer I had swapped for the coldest winter I've ever experienced. But now, seeing the end of my season approaching I couldn't contain it any longer, I missed the warmth of the sun.

I decided to make my final race the penultimate Superprestige in Hoogstraten, on Feb 10. I was due to leave for NZ the following weekend, and had arranged to meet and visit some friends in Holland and Germany over the days between, so wanted to have a good last sprint around in the mud or ice with my extended cyclocross family before bidding farewell. In the end it didn't quite work out to be the best time - I couldn't find the GPS so although I was fine for heading to Hoogstraten, I had to track back and forth a fair bit when I got there as I looked for the arrows in the street pointing me in the right direction. Snow had fallen overnight and the temperature was hovering just above freezing, so it was an awful combination of wetness and sloppy mud with occasional patches of frosty terrain. Due to my problems of navigation and time management I didn't manage to fit in a pre-ride of the course. This is generally considered essential, as it is really the only way to work out what tyre selection and then tyre pressure you are going to use in the race. And it allows for practising tricky sections. Most of all it just makes sense to have some idea of what you are going to be racing on. I ended up relying on a combination of advice from other riders, my experience after a 6-month season, and my general relaxed demeanor to get me and my bike to the start line in a state of more-or-less appropriate readiness.

I had a good start, and for the first while was riding alongside a few riders who I am generally quite far behind. This didn't last long though, and the first moderately tricky section of ruts caught me out and spat me off to the side and into the barrier tape. By the time I had extricated myself and my handlebars from the tape I was at the back, and the subsequent discovery that my front brake was largely disconnected as I accelerated down into the next descent caused me some small amount of discomfort. Once I had that back together it wasn't long until I dropped my chain, twice in a short space of time, slipping off just like my hopes of a combative and successful final endeavour in the mud of Belgium. Although this was a bit disappointing, I could never forget how amazing the whole time has been and how every race has really been a new and great experience for me, with lessons to be learned in every case.

Photo: Peter Schepens
So after the busiest season of racing ever for me, ready for a bit of rest and recuperation I cast my eye back to New Zealand and allowed myself to look forward to the sunshine and company of family and friends once more. I had seen that one of the biggest MTB races of the year in Wellington, the Karapoti Classic, was adding a cyclocross bike category to its roster for March. It is a brutally steep and rocky course, and while I realised how unpleasant it may well be on a cross bike, I have done it on my mountain bike several times and figured after my time overseas I might as well continue on with my 'cross bike and give it a crack. If not a crack, then at least a few punctures that's for sure. So now that I've finally got around to writing this, the race is on tomorrow. I think there are only a few other individuals testing themselves in this way, so it will be interesting to see how we fare against our MTB counterparts.

Whether it goes well or not, it feels like a nice finale to book-end my time racing cyclocross in Europe and dovetail into the coming cyclocross season in NZ, due to start in about June.

4 comments:

  1. Welcome back, enjoy the sun tomorrow!

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  2. Thanks for the great blog stories and for bringing a fresh kiwi-wind in the European cyclocross races! Enjoy the sun.

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  3. Thanks for all this fantantics storys!
    Hope you have a godd rest and to continue making your reports to us.
    Hope to see you back in Europe for the next season :)

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  4. Dave Microwave3 March 2013 10:24

    Enjoy NZ and the racing. Hope to have you back next season!!!

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