Belgium, December 26, 2007
'Cross Camp V had a rough start. Laarne was a course that was best suited for a full suspension mountain bike. The constant bouncing on top of the tractor holes and ditches that were completely frozen except for the top 1/8th of an inch (a little over three millimeters - ed.) made for an interesting ride. The one section of note was a one-foot wide irrigation ditch. It was something that any junior mountain biker would not look twice at, but a shocking number of the European racers were running across it.
It amazes me how these guys can be so strong, yet lack the skills to jump a very small ditch. Because of the two UCI points that I managed to pick up in the [United] States, I got a front row call up which was very unusual for me seeing as how I don't even get that at my local 'cross races. It is a little scary looking back and seeing rows of angry Belgians behind you.
Upon hearing the sound of the gun I stepped on it and four things happened simultaneously: My cogset slipped, my foot slid off the pedal, I broke my saddle, and I flatted. All in all, it was a pretty sweet first race.
In a foreign country everything is an adventure. I forgot my fingernail clippers at home and was in desperate need. In a grocery store where women's (and men's) thongs are kept next to the chocolate covered waffles, finding fingernail clippers without assistance was impossible.
I looked around the store for somebody to help me and finally found a victim. As I walked over to her she got this expression on her face that said, "Oh shit, here comes a hopeless American kid." Before I said anything she said, "English not good." I don't know how they know that I am an American. I think that I look similar to them, yet they notice me like I was naked with a Captain America cape on.
After five minutes of charades she guided me to the end of one of the many aisles containing alcohol and there hidden behind a bottle of gold slick vodka were the fingernail clippers that I so desperately needed.
Despite the kinks in the first race, by the next day I was back to normal. I think that the World Cup on Wednesday will go well for all of us provided that I can remember where the bus is parked.
Thanks for putting up with me and happy holidays,
Mitchell Peterson (Mona Vie -Cannondale)