Well, due to some trouble with flights, I ended up arriving back in Belgium yesterday, October 3, six hours before the first GVA series race in Namur, Belgium: Ouch! I knew I remembered doing something like that once before and never wanting to do it again. On the positive side: I ended up getting to fly back with my family and having more time with them in the USA...I tried to keep that in mind as I warmed up on the oh so challenging course.
Back to my three weeks in the USA: They were mostly great. I was invited by Cascade Cyclery and Rad Racing to do the Starcrossed/RadRacing weekend so I flew to Seattle on September 11, one week before the racing started there. It was hard, as always, to leave my family, but I was also excited to get the season started. My trainer, Todd Herriott, picked me up and we headed to the Kirske's place – my hosts for the week in Seattle.
A little side note about host housing: It is one of the coolest things about this sport, in my opinion. When I have a choice I almost always choose it over hotels because I've met some really great people in my years of cycling that way. A few of my hosts have become really good friends and two of my host families were even a part of my wedding!
I did some great riding around Seattle for a couple of days: some alone, some with David Jnr. showing me the way. I then headed to Yakima, Washington, with my friend Greg – one of the three lawyers that saved my career two years ago – to do a cross clinic for his club there. It was nice to get to spend some time with Greg and his wife E and to meet his new son, Wolf. It was also fun to do the clinic because everyone was really excited to be there and all happy to learn something – which is always satisfying.
On Wednesday morning, after a delicious omelet breakfast, I headed back to Seattle with a box of huge sweet peaches in hand. I did another clinic there where I was again met with excitement to learn. It’s fun to see people learn new skills and its good practice for me.
I also did a big RadRacing clinic the Friday night before Starcrossed, for the second year in a row. I enjoyed it last year because a lot of really enthusiastic cyclists showed up and this year was no different. There were all different ages, abilities, and equipment out there having fun and trying their hearts out. They all appreciated being there and so did I. I have to do clinics more often as they are really uplifting.
One week after I'd arrived in the USA, Saturday, September 18, was Starcrossed. It was pouring rain but there was still a crowd out to cheer us on under the lights. I didn't feel super. In fact, I felt terrible, unfortunately, and struggled through the race for fifth. That was the best I could do. I hoped for better the next day.
Sunday's race did go much better. Francis Mourey was off the front with me chasing solo for much of the race. I had a mid-race battle with a tree that allowed Christian Heule to catch me and pass me during my bike change. I was able to catch him again, take a few breaths, and then we sprinted it out like mad men to the finish. I was able to just take second and I was really happy with that.
I headed back to the Kirske's for one last gourmet meal with them and Todd and then a short night of sleep before HSP picked me up for my flight to Vegas. I was really thankful for my great week at the Kirske's and also really excited to go see my family again.
My kids ran to meet me as soon as they saw me in the Vegas airport! Lots of hugs to and from them and Cori plus a kick from the baby in the belly! Also great to see my parents in law. Cori's mom babysat the kids Tuesday night so that Cori and I could go to the Lazer party at the Hard Rock cafe with our friends from VT and Cori's dad. Cool place. Cool party. Fun to go out!
Wednesday night was CrossVegas. It's a different kind of race course than any other during the year for me. This year was again a pack race and I just tried to stay near the front and out of trouble. With a lap and a half to go, I bunny hopped the barriers and another rider running next to me accidentally took my front wheel out. That was my biggest effort of the night, to catch back on to the leaders before the finish. I just made contact in the last metres but wasn't really part of the sprint for first, even though it looked like I was. I ended up last in the lead group of six. I was happy though just to have closed the gap down and happy with my form for this time in the season.
Thursday I went to Interbike with the family. The Blue Bicycles booth backdrop was a wall-sized photo that was taken of me when I was out in Park City, Utah, in June and they had the whole series of Norcross cross bikes nicely displayed. I have to say that I was really proud. The Planet Bike booth was cool too! It was set up to look like a camp site – the most unique booth I saw. The kids had fun there playing in the ‘fountain’ and ‘fruit bowl’ (made of planet bike lights and handlebar tape) and then later trying on helmets at the Lazer booth. I stopped by Edge and my other sponsors who were there before heading out.
Friday, I flew to my last US races – the Planet Bike Cup-in Madison, Wisconsin. I always enjoy going out there. Everyone involved with Planet Bike is nothing but nice and pleasant to be around and anytime I get to spend with people like that, I'll take.
Saturday's race went pretty well – I was third. There were two off the front so I had to be happy with that. Sunday was an absolute mess but I'll save that for the National Inquirer or the Young and the Restless.
I had one last dinner with my brothers, sister-in-law and Bob from Planet Bike, and then headed out to catch my flight back to Phoenix, where my parents-in-law live, so that I could take my wife out for our eighth wedding anniversary! Time flies...
I spent a few more relaxing days with the family and then headed to the airport for the trip back to Belgium. As I mentioned above, due to flight problems (late connection and full flights) I had to fly back Saturday. Not my best option, but we made the most of it, relaxing and spending time as a family before the hectic season gets into full swing.
The trip to the USA was a lot of travel and a lot of packing and unpacking bikes, but I met a lot of nice new people and I got to spend time with a lot of friends that I don't get to see often. I had lots of Starbucks and horchata, I got to go out twice and the racing as a whole went pretty well so I give my trip a double thumbs up!
Now it's time to get ready for the rest of the season here in Europe. Next weekend is the first Super Prestige in Ruddervoorde, the race I did nearly six years ago just hours after my wife had our first baby. The weekend after is the first World Cup in Aigle, Switzerland, where three years ago I fell in the warm up and tore my shoulder apart... Memories and new chances – I can't wait!
I'll write more often now that I'm not flying around every couple of days. Thanks for reading and for all of the support both at the races and at your computers.