Dombroski representing the US in Europe. © Bart Hazen (file photo)

Amy Dombroski took a few weeks off after Nationals to rest and re-focus for a big 2011 cyclocross campaign, complete with a new sponsor, new bikes, and a new journal. Join her in her adventures right here. Her first race was the GP 5 Sterne Region in Beromunster, Switzerland, last week.

by Amy Dombroski

Petange Race Report:
Day 2 of the “Euro ’cross stage race” that is the holiday week in Belgium was much better and less discombobulated, which was probably what made the difference. I dunno ’bout you, but I know after time away from racing, it’s a cluster the first day back. Yes, it was only three weeks off, but coming to Europe is a different beast in itself. It’s different and intimidating…. But I love it.

What I’m trying to say is that I had my shit a bit more together today. The course was essentially a hill climb, some paved, some thick mud, some country path. And at the top of the climb we went down, down a singletrack-slick luge track with a couple tricky corners. Then we entered the woods into a sticky singletrack before the pit and a couple s-turns before shooting back onto the hill climb. It was like doing intervals up the climb then trying to recover on the descent while holding on for dear life with muddified mitts on greasy bars.

Still off to a slow start, but by the end of the long drag climb I was able to work my way toward the front end of the bike race. Reigning orld champ Vos took off with a vengeance, and I was surprised to find myself with former world champ Hanka Kupfernagel as we entered the first singletrack section. I kept her within grasp for two laps, sitting in fourth position. A tricky section on the second part of course, with a narrow wheel-grabbing line up a sharp incline, got the best of me, and that’s when my forward movement turned into damage control.

I wheeled back and forth with two girls, but they had more in their tanks. Unfortunately on the final lap I entirely lost my head and flailed along the descent like a drunk driving a bumper boat. I faded to eighth, but was happy with the first few laps. It’s important to find the positives of every race you start and finish; I’m happy with the improvement and plan to improve on that improvement tomorrow. We drive back to Westmeerbeek tonight and prepare for the third day of racing in cyclocross’ motherland – Tervuren, Belgium.

See also Cyclocross Magazine‘s coverage of the Grand Prix Hotel Threeland in Petange, Luxembourg

Tervuren Race Report:
Should I find another race somewhere tomorrow because it gets better, dialed, more fluid and, most importantly, more fun each day? It was nice to have a “home race” just 40k from Westmeerbeek in Tervuren. I had my porridge cooked the way I like it cooked and instead of packing the entire duffel and car to the gills, I packed what I needed for the day. Sure would be nice to live here and have that luxury most race weekends!

Today was a proper ’cross race. You didn’t need to be a mountain goat to thrive; you needed mad skills in the mud, a flexible backbone, quick feet and bite. Number 14, I lined up second row just behind world champ Vos. The start was a flat straight of 200m turning right into a slight mud bog incline. This bog saw us off and running for half of it, remounting at the top to a right hander and heading into the woods. The course made amazing use of the natural terrain as we weaved through trees and within hillsides, up and down various banks, over and out, up and over…so much that I was lost much of the course.

It was a muddy day like the past two, but not quite so heavy mud, and there were puddles to ride through which rinsed the thicker mud off. I got off to a mediocre start, but as we ducked into the woods was boxed out, and through some of the technical stuff I had to bite my tongue and be patient, sitting about 10th. By the halfway mark, I came around a corner to find Vos and Nikki Harris tangled in the mud. I moved into seventh and battled with a few others for the remainder of the race; it was a nice change to be swapping spots and trading blows all race.

My legs were better each day, and I was happy with how I rode today. After the longer miles post-Nationals, I have a great base to build on with intensity, and I’m looking forward to the fitness and speed I have to gain in the coming weeks. After three consecutive days of muddy races, I now have some time off racing as all the Europeans enjoy their Nationals this weekend.

See also Cyclocross Magazine‘s coverage of the Tervuren Fidea Cyclocross Classic