Yippidy-friggin-doo-dah! I finally found some semi-form at the Vlaamse Witloof Veldrit race in Tervuren. I think this may be true because I finally recognized the names of everyone who beat me. I sometimes wonder if I am the only one who plays the guessing game of figuring out where I would have theoretically finished in certain races if I had my normal fitness level. It somehow helps me get past those moments when I am not doing too well.
Tervuren was a hometown race for me as it is located fifteen minutes away from my house by bike. I ride through that neighborhood at least two times a week. As part of the hometown advantage, I benefitted from a larger than normal cheering section consisting of family, friends and neighbors. The course was located in the park of Tervuren, a well groomed tourist attraction complete with picturesque ponds, bridges and footpaths. Thanks to the extended freezing weather conditions, the swans and ducks normally found on the ponds were replaced with a swarm of kids sliding about.
The start of the race went better than normal for me. After my slow clip into the pedals, I caught the lead group as they were turning onto the grassy uphill. After that, it was fire road riding with icy 90° turns every ten seconds. The first crash of the day happened on a fire road straightaway covered with thick deep ice ruts. When one girl goes down, the whole line is backed up. Once we got through the mess, the next holdup took place in the sand pit. In theory, it was the easiest sand pit imaginable. It can be ridden literally at 5kph. But when you put a pile of nervous women in it, something is bound to go wrong – and it did.
Just when I thought the holdups were past, we hit the penultimate (I soon found out) one located on a short steep hill. The girls who couldn’t ride it, coincidentally walked up it on the one rideable path, forcing the rest of us to dismount. Two minutes later, the final obstacle showed itself in the form of a racer with bike lying completely across the bottom of a teeny descent. Once past all that, I was able to get to work.
From 18th position, I slowly caught the riders one by one. I passed a couple in the sand, another one on the steep hill, and two more on the straightaway before the sand. Just when I thought I was doing well in moving up through the field, I was passed by someone. Before I had a moment to be discouraged, I noticed it was Wendy Simms. I rode by her a lap back while she was running with the bike. According to Jonas, her chain got caught between the cassette and spokes and she had to run to the pit.
I conveniently jumped on her wheel and stayed with her for a whole lap until she gapped me on a technical section. I never expected to be riding with Wendy, so it was a real treat. I especially enjoyed watching how smooth she was through the turns, carefully modulating her speed, gears and bike tilt for optimal effectiveness, and elegance. Thanks Wendy!
After she left, I went back to time trialing and caught a couple more riders, both on the last lap which always feels good.
I may have crossed the line in only 12th place out of 32 starters but it felt like a victory to me. I impressed my friends, family and neighbors, made 30€ prize money and, most importantly, had fun! That evening I scored again (no, not in that way!) as Jonas’ mom made us her famous Belgian frieten, served with ketchup and veganaise.
The actual finish line glory went to Daphny Van den Brand, with USA’s Rachel Lloyd and Britain’s Helen Wyman filling the podium. Sue Butler represented well for a solid 8th and Wendy rounded out the top ten.
In the men’s race, the USA again put on a good show in the name of Jeremy Powers and Jamie Driscoll who finished 19th and 22nd respectively. Molly Cameron started really strong but got caught behind an early crash on the ice and ended up in 39th. While I watched Jeremy come down the finishing straight with Tom Meeusen of Fidea, Jeremy said something to Tom. Knowing Jeremy’s courteous yet playful ways, I bet he was asking Tom if he wanted to sprint it out. Clearly Tom declined since Jeremy immediately got out of his saddle and sprinted away. Aside from the Americans, my hero of the men’s race was Tom Van Den Bosch of Rendement Hypo who rode with the lead group chasing Niels Albert and Enrico Franzoi, who were off the front from lap one. Tom is a U23 rider so it was amazing to see his face up front in such a dominant fashion.
Next weekend is the National Championships for most of the European countries so I will take that time to rest and recharge for my next race in Valkenswaard, Holland on January 17th. The following day is another World Cup in Roubaix, France. This is the first time they are holding a World Cup for Women so I am curious to see what the course is like.
Have a super 2009 and thanks for reading!