Massachusetts born-and-raised racer Jeremy Durrin has had a “wicked fast” season in the US in the past few months … a season so successful that he then set his sights on testing his racing mettle in Europe for the remainder of the season. Through some serious fundraising efforts (including a sausage stand at Cycle-Smart International), he was able to raise the money for his trip. His last US race, Bay State Cyclocross Day Two, he managed to score his first UCI podium of the season. Now, he’s been racing in Europe for two weeks, starting with the World Cup race in Spain last weekend. This past weekend, he saw his first two Belgian races, and shared a bit about how they felt.
by Jeremy Durrin
Durrin chugging along during Scheldecross.
Finally made it to Europe and ready to dive head-first into World Cup cyclocross racing. The Igorre World cup was on tap and I was filled with nervous feelings about the race. I was able to pre-ride the course the day before, and it was looking like a repeat of the previous years, with lots of mud and technical corners and lots of running. We showed up the day of the race a few hours early and got on the course a few more times, and for some reason they started to open up the course to the sides of the mud, which made the course so much faster and easier! I was not very excited about that because that just means that the leaders will be going a lot faster and I would most likely get lapped earlier in the race. I set a goal for myself to race my brains out for 45 minutes and then anything after that would be good.
The gun went off and I was immediately introduced to the aggressive, sketchy start that I’d heard so much about in these races. People were not looking out for each other one bit and using were others as ways to make cornering easier by just slamming into them. Luckily, I was able to get behind a good wheel and move up from dead last on the line to about 10th from last at the first run up. I rode around in a group for a while, then had some issues with the bike and had to pit. I lost the small group I was with and rode as hard as a could for the rest of the race. I raced for 45 mins before getting lapped by the super fast guys.
I had very mixed feelings about the race. I was happy to have my first European racing experiences out of the way, but also a little disappointed that my legs felt so crappy after all the traveling. I was definitely looking forward to getting up to the Chainstay in Belgium where I will be racing out of for the next month. Next on tap was Scheldecross and Overijse.
After a nice relaxing week of easy riding and doing fun touristy things in Gent, I was ready to get into my first Belgian cyclocross race. Gabby Day, one of the other cyclists at the Chainstay, was telling me that Scheldecross is kind of sandy and pretty flat. So with that in my head, I went out for a pre-ride lap and was completely overwhelmed with the amount of sand there was on the course. The first section was just five minutes of riding/running through the most technical loose sand along side the canal. I was having fun pre-riding the course and was getting better each time through the sandy sections.
But little did I know that when you are going full gas in the bike race, it would be a lot different. You have to really finesse the bike and your body when riding through sand and I was gassed and having trouble keeping composure through these sections and ended up having to run a lot more than I would like. I was able to race with a group for a little while and had another great start. I ended up just getting lapped right before heading into my last lap by a charging Sven, who was riding through the sand as if there was a secret line that no one else knew about! I was scared to get passed so I physically got off of my bike and let him by. I didn’t want to be the guy known for getting lapped and crashing the leader out!
Durrin taking the run-up at Overijse.
My body was completely spent after this race and I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t race the next day. But after a long stretching session, I decided that I wanted to race Overijse, “the mother of cyclocross races.” We got to the venue a few hours before my race and it looked like I would be in the pain cave all day, by the looks of the course. The course went straight up and down a really steep hill and it was a little slick from a little bit of rain the night before. I like to compare this race venue to the Nor’Easter Cross race at Loon Mountain last year. That race was straight on the side of Loon Mountain with a lot of technical descents and lots of elevation gain. But Overijse had to be twice as much elevation gain with even more dangerous and sketchy descents. I was looking forward to seeing how I would do against a field of 60 of the best European cyclocross riders.
The start was totally savage with it starting at the base of a one to two minute climb up cobbles and to the highest point of the race. They are really aggressive in the starts here, so you really need to be able to hold your own and not let people push you around. I was able to get a really great start and be in front of about 20 or so people coming into the start/finish line the first time. I rode around in a good group of people and moved up throughout the race and felt really good, but when I first looked at how many laps we had remaining and saw 6 laps to go, well, it was a little disheartening!
This course was seriously the most challenging course I have ever seen, and this is after already doing the hardest cyclocross I’ve ever done race the day before. Every lap you had to sprint straight up this really steep hill and head into the top side of the course, go back down some muddy twisty chuted of death, and then continue traversing the hill until you wanted to vomit. I finished one lap dow and beat a lot of people, including a couple Belgians that came to the US and I was having a hard time beating when they were here. So overall, it was a very successful first full weekend of racing here in Belgium. My body is completely messed up right now, so I will get a massage tonight to help the recovery process.
So the start of my European Cyclocross season has been a really good one so far. I’m being competitive and actually racing with people and not just getting thrown straight out the back. The next two weekends are back-to-back World Cups. So we will see how things go as the racing continues.
For anyone reading this, I really want to thank everyone for your support and well wishes on my trip. So many of my sponsors have stepped up big time, including my employer VOmax, who has been letting me travel for an extended period of time and experience this amazing racing scene over here. My team, JAM Fund/NCC has helped me in so many ways, it’s hard to show them how much I appreciate all the support. I really do have a really good life right now, and I thank all of my supporters, friends, and sponsors for allowing me to make this lifestyle that I have dreamed about a reality!