Belgium, January 2, 2008
Racing in the Belgium Euro ‘cross camp is like taking an intensive two-week long class on the finer aspects of 'cross. Which pit is faster, the first or second? 28 or 30 PSI for that curb at the start? Should I pass this group or sit on for a minute and take a little break? Should I even be thinking about taking a little break?
After spending some time here in Belgium racing, the answers to these questions begin to float to the surface and you start making fewer mistakes. I think an important lesson learned so far is to completely erase your bad memories right after a race and start fresh immediately. This is key when you're racing every other day and have many opportunities to improve.
Other than racing, not much else goes on here at the house. When Gavin, Eric, Steve, Jeremy and I ride every non-race day, we always make sure to sprint for the highly coveted town entrance signs. For us, the weirder the name of the town, the more prestigious it is to win that sprint. Our current favourites are Ingelmunster, as well as Kuurne, because of the famous road race that ends there. Our hometown of Izegem is also a good one because of the sketchy intersection followed by a curb that precedes it.
When we are not riding, we are usually glued to the computer playing games like Max Dirt Bike and Gangsta Bean. My current fast time for Max Dirt Bike is 2:21, which is super-fast. However, it's really nothing to be proud of since it took about 30 hours of practice over the past week. Not something the normal person with a life, other than riding bikes and sleeping, should attempt.
Sometimes, on the rare occasion, we get out of the house. A few days ago, Eric and I made a trip to the local chocolate shop and having the soft spot we do for fine chocolates, we both bought a sizable box of them. Unfortunately, our house mom Els was quick to make us get them gift wrapped so we wouldn't break into them before we got home. Good call Els.
Today we raced the legendary urban Diegem race, and I concentrated on using what I had learned in my first few races to have a successful race. The first obstacle is always the start, which is a completely different ball game than those in the USA, mostly because of the sheer size of the field in the races here.
We get lucky if we are called up mid-pack in a group of 60-90 juniors. This automatically changes your race before the gun even goes off because you have no chance of seeing the lead group and instead have to focus on just moving up throughout the 40 minutes. Once you take off it is important not to take too many risks because a crash on the first lap, usually means a disappointing race. I learned this from another racer in Loenhout when he made an aggressive move before the pits, crashed and took me out. We were both forced to pull out with his broken spoke and my badly bleeding hand. In fact, having a good first lap is probably about 75 percent of the race over on this side of the pond. If you crash or dab in one of the first few turns, you may not see the guys that pass you in the process until you're pulling out of the parking lot afterwards. However, even if you do, the next day is always another chance to improve.
Being able to watch the elite's race on the same course that we've raced on earlier in the day is very insightful. We're constantly gasping at how fast they ride sections that we thought we absolutely railed during our race. Watching Sven Nys win three races this week has also been inspiring. Today in Diegem, he won by over 30 seconds and in the process, took a shot to the head from a crazy spectator on the run-up. Maybe he uses the same philosophy I'm starting to use, another day another race.