We’re Not in Canada Anymore: Winter Comes to Belgium

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uitbergen

Richey racing in Uitbergen ©Craig Richey

by Craig Richey

The Koksijde World Cup was my fifth consecutive weekend of racing, and between races I hadn’t done much training. I decided to pass on the World Cup round in Spain and instead do an endurance block of training. Logistically, racing the Spanish round would have been tough, plus flying with bikes, car rental and hotel was going to make it a really expensive race. There also ended up be an air traffic control strike in Spain the weekend of the race, so getting there might not have actually been possible.

The three days after Koksijde I took really easy and did a tourist day in Brugge before beginning my nine-day block of training. My initial plan was to primarily focus on getting in steady base miles, but my coach Elliot at Mountain Endurance convinced me to include some intensity to keep me sharp for the upcoming races. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and I was forced to log a lot of miles in really ugly conditions. On one particularly nasty four-hour ride in freezing conditions, I passed a cross country skier on the snowy path that I was riding. Being from a ski town I can officially say skiing in Belgium is atrocious.

leaving-on-a-training-ride

Taking HTFU to heart: leaving on a training ride. ©Craig Richey

The conditions for my whole training block were pretty ugly, and it seemed ironic that I came to Belgium to train and race cyclocross while all the Belgium cyclocross riders leave Belgium and go to Mallorca, Spain, to train. I embraced the HTFU mentality and logged over 30 hours of training in what is now officially the coldest start to winter in Belgium since 1875. It was actually not that bad considering that at the same time parts of Western Canada were the second coldest place on earth, with only Antarctica being colder.

To finish off my training cycle I raced a non-UCI elite race in Uitbergen on Sunday. The “B” races in Belgium are for riders who don’t have series contracts with the GVA or Superprestige series and are not ranked in the top 50 in the World. These “B” races are surprisingly fast. I had Saturday to recover for the race and was determined to break the top 10. The course was dead flat, windy, and almost all soggy field with some mud sections.  After racing in Belgium for a month I think it is funny how my perception of what is considered a muddy course has changed. A ’cross course here is NOT muddy if it meets these two criteria: 1) All mud sections are rideable. 2) After one lap your socks are still somewhat dry. Shaun and I decided that this course was not a muddy course (I still raced on Rhinos).

At the start of the race I was able to make the lead group of seven riders, and after a few laps we had a large gap over the rest of the field. The group contained three riders from the SDC-Rogelli Cycling Team, and they skilfully used team tactics to successfully work over the group. In hindsight, I probably spent too much time chasing because I was pretty gassed by the last lap attacks and rolled across the line in sixth. I was still happy with how I raced and pleased with how my legs felt considering my recent hard training.

Now the focus is rest and recovery before the Kalmthout World Cup this Sunday and the crazy Christmas block of racing. I am excited to have the US Euro Cross Camp guys In Belgium for the next couple weeks of races. It is a really good group of guys and I am looking forward to racing with them.

 

 

Cyclocross Magazine, Issue 22, Print and digital subscriptionsHave you subscribed yet? You're missing out if not. Get all-original content and your cyclocross fix throughout the year with a subscription and Issue 23 back copy, with features on Lars van der Haar, Jonathan Page, Elle Anderson and more!
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1 comments
OasisDouglas
OasisDouglas

Congrats on the 6th place. Thanks for continuing to document the adventure. Hope you have a great time at the Kalmthout WC.

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