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No more Mr. Nice Guy

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The view across Izegem from the window of my room in the house.

The view across Izegem from the window of my room in the house. (Image credit: Steve Fisher)
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Travis Livermon (second rider) racing in Lichetrvelde.

Travis Livermon (second rider) racing in Lichetrvelde. (Image credit: Steve Fisher)

Today was the first race of the Euro 'Cross Camp VII. Danny Summerhill, Travis Livermon, Josh Berry, and myself went to the town of Lichetrvelde to do a smaller National B race. We figured it would be good to get a good effort into our legs before the bigger race in Kalmthout tomorrow.

Let me rewind a bit and fill you in on the weather that prefaces this race. It is quite cold here in Belgium right now… A sort of cold like it was in Bend, Oregon last weekend. Although when there are three inches of snow on the ground in Belgium it is much more like Seattle, Washington rather then Bend, Oregon. It doesn’t snow often here, so when it does many folks are struggling. People aren’t used to driving in the white stuff, airports close, etc.

Today was particularly cold and well below freezing all day. I think it may have been the coldest race I have ever done.

This is my third year at Euro 'Cross Camp, so my past experiences here had been helping me out a lot the past few days. It has been nice knowing where to train without getting lost, which foods I like best, and how to work the light switches around the house.

I thought I was ready to just jump right back into the European racing seen as well, but I proved otherwise at today’s race. I think I was about the fifth from last rider to be called up today, and the start whistle blew within ten seconds of the last rider having been called up (this isn’t normal, even on this side of the pond).

Half of the field didn’t have their hands on the bars when the whistle was heard and another good portion of us didn’t even have our jackets unzipped. So I rode the first two laps of the race with my thermal jacket still on, but it wasn’t so bad because of the frigid temperature.

I think the start catching us by surprise today may reflect upon my possible lack of preparedness for this first race of the camp. But not to worry, my race would come to a premature end soon enough…

Shortly after I removed my jacket I was making a pass on the inside of a slick corner and I lost the resulting battle with my much larger competitor. I forgot that you cannot give the kids over here even an inch of space that they don’t need. I hit the cold and icy hard ground, but bounced up rather quickly.

I remounted my derailed chain and was about to remount my bike when I saw that my front brake was snapped in half. Being far from the pit and not wanting to ride brakeless in the slick conditions I pulled the plug. Hopefully I still got my legs opened up a bit for tomorrow’s race. But maybe even more importantly I think I was able to sharpen the mental edge and get into the European racing mindset: fight and only worry about yourself.

Sometimes that it was it takes to succeed over here. In America it would often be considered dirty racing, but here it is completely necessary. If you let people push you around and pass you whenever then that is what will happen and you will quickly end up at the back.

No more Mr. Nice Guy, fighting for every inch will now ensue.