While Sanne van Paassen and Helen Wyman were sprinting it out for the win at the Superprestige Asper-Gavere, racer and CXM contributor Christine Vardaros was having a bit tougher of a go at it. Read on for her story of how this famous course played out.
“Here it comes, just around the turn. Oh no – say if it’s even more scary than the last year’s. Wish it weren’t behind a blind turn leading up to it. Here goes nothing.” Those were my thoughts during the pre-ride as I approached the treacherously greasy mud chute that claimed half of Niels Albert’s season two years ago. And the year previous, this same descent had claimed my season as well when I catapulted into a tree head first. Once comfortably down it this time around, I thought to myself that the hardest part of the day was behind me. How wrong was I.
My race at Gavere was supposed to be one of the most special racing memories of the whole season for me. Partly because of the course design – stunningly gorgeous views with some technically demanding bits, some power climbs and speedy mud descents. It is also one of the most famous races of the season, which brings out tens of thousands of spectators; that always makes racing it more exciting!
But it was not meant to be, as was determined by my crappy first lap. While hovering somewhere around the top ten early in the race, my chain popped off on the outside due to a bump with another gal. Once on the bike again, I quickly moved through the field, but got nailed again. This time I was completely taken out by a nervous-nellie who got a bit too fidgety in the mud before crashing herself out and knocking me under the course tape. Once back on, I pedaled 500rpm until admitting to myself that something was amiss, namely my chain which had again fallen off on the outside.
By the time I was back on track, the entire peloton was out of sight. For the first few minutes, my motivation flipped between giving up and digging deep. As I passed riders while hearing the crowds kindly cheering for me, my enthusiasm increased…but only for a bit before finally settling into frustration, knowing that I would never ever reach anywhere near the top ten by the end of the race. But just before the finishing straight, I heard a stream of cheers for me which gave me one last bit of encouragement I needed to pass one more gal to finish 19th.
Poor CX Mag journalist Dan Seaton had the unfortunate opportunity to be the first person I spoke with after crossing the line. Immediately I dumped on him in my finest NYC slang exactly what I had gone through. Once done, he pulled out his recorder and asked me to repeat it all, but maybe make it more appropriate for family reading. Oops. (you can read all about the race – and my quotes given to Dan by clicking HERE.)
As I turned the corner to the parking lot and spotted our van, I saw a group of people hovering about. And shortly after, more and more came by – all to say hello to me! They didn’t know it but thanks to their visit, I went from feeling totally dejected to feeling like a real racer again. You’d think after all these years of racing, I wouldn’t be so fragile. I suppose that is just how I am wired – a blessing and a curse.
The next race up is Koksijde World Cup this Saturday. It is most famously known for its extensive sand sections, where we are normally weaving in, out and over the coastal dunes. But this year the course will be different. It is their trial run for next year’s World Championship event. And the difference from what I am hearing is that there will be even MORE sand. I don’t see how that is possible, but I shall find out on Friday when I pre-ride the course.
Instead of sticking around after our race on Saturday, I have to head directly home to pack for Paris the next day. I am speaking at Paris Vegan Day. (www.parisveganday.fr) My speech is naturally about “A vegan diet for optimal health and performance.” Wanna come?
As always, thanks for reading!