By Christine Vardaros
“It’s always best to keep positive, things can change in a minute,” I continuously repeated to myself after last weekend’s disastrous World Cup race in Nommay, France. And I kept repeating it straight up to the start of the next race three days later at Fidea’s Jaarmaarktcross in Belgium.
Nommay was easily the worst race of my career. In my mind, I raced my heart out. Sadly, my legs didn’t get the message to move. I meandered around the course until I was lapped by Katie Compton and pulled out of the race. Glad for it to be over, I focused on the highlights of the trip to cheer myself up.
Our pimp parking spot at Nommay. © Christine Vardaros
The best part of the adventure was easily our pimp parking spot which was behind Niels Albert’s BKCP – Power Plus Team ribbon. Our friends Serge and Christophe, the mechanics of Albert’s team, saved us a spot. Our van looked a little out of place next to the oversized mobile homes of Albert, Radomir Šimunek and Philipp Walsleben but it didn’t matter as long as we were on the “correct” side of the tape. Another highlight was getting to see all the other racing gals. Since we only see each other at the events, it is always like a reunion. On the pre-ride and before the race, I got to briefly socialize with a bunch including Sue Butler, Katie Compton, Gabby Day, Helen Wyman, Joyce Vanderbeken, Nikki Harris, Hanka Kupfernagel and Susanne Juranek who brought me pretzels from Germany! And of course I was pleased with myself that I rode the tricky off-camber climb every time, especially after watching some of the guys that didn’t even make it! It’s all about the little things, I tell myself.
With only two days of recovery before Jaarmaarktcross, I focused heavily on only positive experiences I’ve had on the bike, like that great road race during the summer or the training race I did a week ago where I finished top ten against the guys, so I could quickly forget about the disaster that was Nommay. And it seemed to do the job. Right from the start in Jaarmaarktcross, my legs were responsive! I was in such shock that I hesitated to fight for position early on which put me at a disadvantage straight away on a very fast course. Oops. I did however manage a 14th position, ten seconds behind my teammate Veerle Ingels. But what a feeling when the body is ready to race the moment the gun sounds – or, in this case, the moment the red light turns to green. That is what I will focus on until this weekend’s Superprestige race at Asper-Gavere in Belgium.
I’ll also focus on enjoying the experience like I did at the last race when I played around with cycling legend Roland Liboton during the pre-ride. While hovering by a tricky spot on the course to watch the others, a gal yelled to me, “Nice bike!” So, naturally due to my sociable personality, I responded, “Yeah, it’s designed by some famous guy who won World Championships five times. All the Belgians always talk about him. I can’t remember his name but I heard he’s a real hottie – ooh la la!!” They all laughed and a guy amongst them pointed at himself while beaming from ear to ear. Yes, it was Roland Liboton himself standing on the sidelines!
Christine Vardaros leads a group through the first lap in Niel. Photo: Courtesy Christine Vardaros
What I won’t focus on, however, is the men’s race at Jaarmaarktcross. If it wasn’t sad enough to watch Niels Albert repeatedly (although most certainly accidentally) cut Sven Nys off at the top of a semi-rideable hill, causing Nys to put a foot down, the crowd’s reaction brought tears to my eyes. For the rest of the race after the first incident between the two, the crowd booed Albert in unison. All you could hear is a wave of boo’s following the top three riders of Nys, Albert and Zdenek Stybar, courtesy of the thick layer of spectators that lined the course. That was the first time I heard the Belgians boo one of their own. Actually, I take it back. Albert was booed earlier this year as well. They say it’s because the Belgians don’t like it when the same guy is too dominant in every race. If that’s the case, I look forward to being booed too! Maybe this Sunday? I wonder how Albert will react to racing at the same course that claimed most of his season last year due to his unfortunate fall. Stay tuned for Dan Seaton’s coverage of the event to find out…