May 20 , 2008
Well, I'm writing this from back at the Cycling Center or Johan Bruyneel Cycling Academy, as it is officially known. The past few weeks have been really busy, I finished up the ECCC conference championships with my Penn State team. I also managed to finish up finals for the semester at school as well. And now I am back in Belgium, but I didn't just magically appear here.
Most people take for granted the fact that you have a full day of traveling to hope across the ocean and weasel into a small Belgian town called Hertsberge by train and car. There are actually three ways to get to the Cycling Center. The first way is by teleporting. I have to rule that out because I don't have a teleporter. The second way is by airplane to Brussels, an hour and a half train-ride to a town near the Cycling Center, and then a short car trip the rest of the way. That's the best way.
I, however, took the third way. The third way is the same as the second way, except it requires you to pace around in a few frantic circles after getting pick-pocketed in Brussels. I had my wallet stolen out of my back pocket only minutes after I bought a train ticket. When I realized I didn't have any money, or any way of getting any money in a foreign country, the "Oh darn-it!" factor skyrocketed to immeasurable levels on my Oh-darn-it-o-meter.
Not to mention, I lost my International racing license, my driver's license and a free movie rental at Blockbuster. I had 62 US dollars in my wallet at the time the stranger so slyly reached his hands in my back pocket. So my pick pocketing pal is going to have to go through the hassle of going to a bank and exchanging the dollars to euros. I feel bad for whoever pick pocketed me. Not only do they have to convert the money. When it's all said and done, they might have enough money to buy a loaf of bread with these exchange rates. If I look on the bright side then I guess that saves me the hassle of exchanging money.
I sat on the train wondering what I was going to do in a foreign country without any money or ways of getting money. I immediately made some phone calls when I got my computer setup back at the Cycling Center. I did everything I could do, so now it's just a matter of waiting until I can get my new bank card and credit card in the mail. I also have to be thankful for my roommate/teammate/friend Santiago Rosell, who is helping me until I get things straightened out.
It was a rough start, getting my wallet stolen upon arriving in Belgium. But it's not healthy for me to worry about it. It's now time to focus on racing, so that's what I intend to do. I raced a kermesse two days after getting back to Belgium. I had memories of my first kermesse last year and I was pretty nervous for this one.
Last year was my first year at the Cycling Center, and my first kermesse was a brutal awakening to what real European bike racing actually was like. But I also remembered the mentality that I learned after spending a full season at the Cycling Center last year. It's a warrior mentality that you learn and apply to bike racing. At the race I was unsure about my physical condition, but psychologically I was ready to kill. I had no idea how I would feel. I didn't have the ideal pre-race riding preparation, I was still a little jet-lagged, and I hadn't raced in any warm weather yet. But the other thing ringing in my head was the idea that to be a good bike racer, you have to be able to race well on a good day, and race well on bad day.
On top of all that, I needed some money after having my wallet stolen. I hate having to be "that guy" who is always borrowing money. At any rate, I was hungry for a result and I had a bike race ahead of me. I was ready to race, even if my legs were not ready. At the end of the day I raced my legs off and walked away with 40 Euros and a 6th place. I wanted a result like that so badly last year, but I was able to nail it my second day in Belgium this year.
To me, that made it obvious how a full season at the Cycling Center had improved my racing abilities. My Belgian teammate - Steven Van Vooren, who has been with the Cycling Center for three years - has shown how the Cycling Center has cultivated him over the years too. That very same day I raced the kermesse, he was winning a stage at the UCI 2.2 Tour de la Manche. It wasn't just Steven that rode well at la Manche, the whole la Manche team; Vince Roberge, Christophe Vandesteene, Aaron Pool, Peter Horn and Ian Holt were making their mark amongst some very good professional teams at the race. Racing season is definitely at full kilt for everyone at the JBCA, and the biggest races are yet to come.
Up next is Tryptique Ardennais, one of the hardest stage races in Belgium. Stay tuned.