The last two weeks have been really busy trying to get back into the swing of things after the trip to the USA, racing a lot and setting my bikes up and running. It seems like every year it's the same thing. You would think I'd be used to it by now, but for some reason it always surprises me when I feel like I have a ton of work to do but when I get to the end of the night I realize, "geez, I'm STILL not done!"
So let's see, the kids were over the jetlag, thanks to Cori, after only one night of being awake from one to four in the morning. They were off to school again two days after we arrived back in Belgium. Cori and I, well, we were a different story. Nine hours is a big difference. At least I got some good bike work done in the wee hours of the morning. We had school conferences a few days after we got back, and our daughter Emma who is in the first grade is doing awesome again. We're really proud of her. I could never do what she's doing and the best part is that she absolutely loves school and can't wait to go each morning.
I raced the first Super Prestige in Ruddervoorde exactly a week after we got back. I thought it went really well despite some bad luck in the VERY FIRST STINKING CORNER and that was exactly what I was hoping WOULDN'T happen. After I caught back up to what was by then the second group, I rode much of the race alone, first in 12th, then in eighth, but was ultimately hunted down by a group of seven riders led by Klaas Vantourenhout, and I didn't end up placing as well as I'd hoped.
The next race was Aardooie, on Thursday. It's usually a race where not all, or at least not many, of the top racers show up but not this year. There were a lot of good riders and they were GOING for it! I suffered incredibly through the whole thing. I ended up eighth but had to fight for it until the last meter. I headed home as quickly as possible to get the mobile home packed up for the next adventure which was the first World Cup in Aigle, Switzerland that was on the same day as my daughter's sixth birthday - October 17.
We packed all the makings of a party with balloons, cake with pink frosting that came all the way from the USA, presents, a banner, sparklers, Tinkerbell plates and napkins, a crown, and the makings for "princess pancakes" for the special morning. Oh yeah, and of course, bikes, wheels, clothing, water bottles, etc. Let's just say we had the hazard lights on outside of our house for a good while Friday morning while we packed and all the neighbors stood in their doorways smiling and watching curiously. "Going on a trip?" they asked, "yup!" we answered. We sure were...
We drove the whole eight hours to Aigle on Friday and parked the mobile home at a river, just across the street from the World Cycling Center, where we slept for the night. They were already busy setting things up for Sunday's events. Saturday morning, we moved the mobile home to the racer parking area and then headed to the giant shopping center for a half cafe/half supermarket breakfast. We had some awesome crusty Swiss bread, pastries, coffee, hot chocolate and our favorite yogurts. It sounds dumb, but we always like going to the supermarkets in the different countries we visit, especially Switzerland!
After breakfast, we headed back to the mobile home where I spent the next few hours building another bike. I headed out on the course in the afternoon and was absolutely psyched with it. It had been raining and was going to continue to do so but it made the course really slick and fun. I did a few laps of it and came back really hopeful for a good result on Sunday.
We made some last-minute birthday preparations in the mobile home that night. Emma was on our bed trying to peek behind a curtain to see what was going on. Her younger brother Milo was blatantly peeking and then whispering to her what he saw, as if we couldn't hear him through that curtain that separated us. In the morning, both Emma and Milo were fired up for her birthday the next day, and I was fired up for both the race and her birthday. We got up to even more rain (I was happy) and some AWESOME pancakes that had people gathered around the mobile home sniffing the air. Emma got to open one present and then it was time for me to start getting ready for the race. I trained on the course around noon and was still really excited and hopeful. I knew what I had to do.
The World Cup started, and I made it cleanly through the first lap and was in the first group. Just into the second lap, the person right in front of me crashed and that launched me over my bars on an uphill for crying out loud. Then several others behind me smashed into the two of us who were already on the ground.
It was a mess. My bike was tangled with Christian Heule's and both bikes were wrapped around the tape on the edge of the course. I was pinned under my bike wondering what the hell had just hit me so hard in the thigh. Once Heule freed me from my awesome position, we tried desperately to free our bikes from each other and the tape but it wasn't going to happen for us that day.
By this time I'd lost the first group and lost A LOT of places. I put my head down and tried to catch up but they had too much of a gap. I spent the rest of the day running into the back of people, frustrated in traffic, in and out of groups that were anywhere from two guys to eight or nine guys. It's all a bit of a blur actually. I ended up a very disappointing 19th place. And the worst part was, there just wasn't anything I could have done about it. I am happy with my form, for the most part, for this time of the season but I am not happy with the place and am really looking forward to giving it another go next weekend at the World Cup in Plzen, Czech Republic.
I couldn't spend too long being disappointed because my daughter came to meet me at the finish line with my party hat and noise maker in her hands. She told me, "Well, Daddy, did you try your best?" I told her, "yes," and she responded, "well then that's all you can do and at least you didn't crash and have to go to the hospital like the last time." She was right about that.
The last time I was in Aigle, I didn't even make the start because I crashed in the warmup, went to the ER and then ended up having surgery that took me out for most of the season. I sang "Happy Birthday" to her right then and there (which made me feel much better) and then headed back to the mobile home for more singing and the birthday cake that I'd been looking forward to for two days. We had a gathering with friends who were at the race, some Swiss, some Belgian, some American and one lone Canadian. It was fun and Emma was happy.
I cooled down on the trainer with my piece of cake and then packed up to head toward home. We stopped in Montreaux, Switzerland, a beautiful lakeside city to have Emma's choice of Italian food for dinner. We drove as far as Basel and stopped for the night next to a quiet forest. Emma fell asleep on the way with her crown still on her head and one of her gifts (a spiral-graph) in her hand.
I'm really thankful to my wife for helping me juggle two very important things that fell on the same day. Emma had a really fun birthday, and I was able to properly prepare for an important race that I really hoped to do well in. So tonight, now that we are home, the mobile home is unpacked and cleaned and the kids are peacefully sleeping in their beds, my wife gets a back rub. There's a lot more than bike racing in our lives, but we are doing our best and I think, for the most part, we're doing a good job.
We'll leave Thursday for the second World Cup on Sunday in the Czech Republic. After that we'll go to a fun but difficult race called the Nacht van Woerden in Holland. Start time? 9:45 pm! Normal temperature? Below freezing! I'll get back to you sometime after that. Thanks to everyone for all the support and kind words. It's incredible how many nice people I find out there.
Thanks to the Cyclingnews readers for reading my diary.