My time in Belgium has been incredible. It has been an amazing adventure of culture, making new friends, and bike racing.
The racing over here has inspired me to closely study and learn the details of greatness in cycling. The courses and conditions in Europe are demanding physically, mentally, and on equipment. This challenge is a part of what makes racing here very rewarding. In an odd way, part of the fun of the races here is that they push you to your limits. To add to the hard courses, you have lots of passionate fans cheering you on. For example, I was hearing "Allez, allez!" as we were running the muddy run-ups at the World Cup in Namur. The cheers help as you continue to battle in the races, but the smoke from the cigars and cigarettes of the fans hurts a little, especially when you are going really hard.
It amazes me how much cycling is a part of the culture here. There is a great community of outside help with camp from the Belgian community. Their humility and helpfulness inspires me to go harder into the pain cave during the races. A great example of this is Mario, who is helping as a soigneur. He traveled with Kolben Preble, Geoff Proctor, and me to a race in northern Netherlands last Tuesday. The morning of the race, he arrived to the house early and started making sandwiches for us and then continued to help us at the course. He was a director of a strong amateur road team in Belgium. He always helped with a smile. He is a great guy! Mario and all of the staff here help make the community of the house stronger, which allows the riders to feel more at home and race our best.
This great community was also shown last night, when several friends of Els, the cook at the house, came to help her make our Christmas dinner. Then during dinner, several people from the area came over to the house to share laughs and be together. This dinner celebration of Christmas helped me feel more at home.
I am excited for the races coming up this week! After the first couple races, I have a better idea of how to prepare for races over here, such as mentally preparing. I want to say thanks to my team (Wolverines/acfstores.com), my friends' and family's support, my coach (Ben Ollett), Geoff Proctor, and all of the people who have helped me get to where I am. Without their amazing support and hard work, I would not have this opportunity to grow in my racing and as a person over here.
Now, it is time to watch race footage from the Zolder World Cup last year to get ready for our race there tomorrow.
Thanks for reading.