So far, EuroCrossCamp XI has been a lot of fun! Getting to know everyone and seeing the country side of Belgium has been awesome! The first couple days were tough to get adjusted, but now I have adjusted to the new time zone and living with 16 other riders.
My first race in Belgium was in Waremme. It was a pretty crazy race. Trying to register we kept getting cut in line by all the Belgians. Finally we got out of the registration bar, which smelled like cigarettes, and headed back to the vans. We got kitted up and tried to get on the course but we were unable to because there were kids racing. We finally got on the course 40 minutes later and got out first taste of a Belgium race course.
It wasn't too technical of a race but there were some steep slick parts in the woods. It was fun to ride some mud, because in Colorado we rarely get any mud. Everywhere else on the course was flat and somewhat muddy, which was pretty tiring. After pre-riding we went back to the van and got the bikes dialed.
The Belgian guys that we were with were pretty funny. 90% of the time you couldn't understand what they were saying and then they'd look at you and start talking about something and point to your tire. Then they would just start adjusting your tire pressure and have you go and check it. I think I had about 18-19 psi in my tires. At first I was like, "this is too low," but these guys just nodded their heads and gave me a thumbs up.
We warmed up on the road for a while and then headed to the start. Once we were there the wind really picked up and it was freezing. Five minutes later we had six of us Americans huddled behind a tree trying to stay warm. At the start line they were calling up everyone and even though I had UCI points I ended up last row.
Off the start there was a crash but I was able to avoid it and sprint up to the top third going into the first turn. Half a lap later I cut my sidewall on a little corner stone that I did not see pre-riding and had to run about 100 feet, which was pretty lucky. On the B bike I slowly started passing people and after two laps I was off the front with a solid lead with my teammate Chris Key. About a lap later Chris crashed and broke his derailleur hanger and had to run for a while. After Chris crashed I just kept riding how I had been and tried to stay as smooth as possible.
With a lap to go the next kid was probably 30 seconds off so I just kept pushing and ended up with the win. I was very surprised to end up with the victory. It was a very special moment to win a race in Belgium even though it was a small local race. All the preparation that I did with my team this season, getting us ready for Belgium was a huge help in this first race. Our next race is Thursday the 26th at Beernem. Hopefully it will be another good race and some sweet mud!