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Appreciating the small things in an unfamiliar place

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McFadden after a successful race at MFG's Woodland Park GP

McFadden after a successful race at MFG's Woodland Park GP (Image credit: Matthew J. Clark/
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Courtenay McFadden's number before the mud of Namur

Courtenay McFadden's number before the mud of Namur (Image credit: Courtenay McFadden)
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McFadden in her first race on European soil

McFadden in her first race on European soil (Image credit: Dan Seaton/

Finding comfort in a strange world when you're miles away from home can be difficult. As this is my first trip across the pond, I heard story after story about the way of Belgium, the racing, the spectators, the racers, the weather, the mud, the courses. The more I heard, the more worried I became. I was leaving everything I know, everything I feel comfortable with to travel to an unfamiliar land with unfamiliar people, racers and courses.

As I lined up for Namur on the fifth row, I felt a sense of nervousness fade away. All I had to do was race my bike to the best of my ability, soak up the experience, learn, and have fun. I was prepared with sharp elbows to hold my lines, I was prepared to hear no cheering, and I was prepared to crush the drops of Namur.

As the race began, I realized these girls are no different than racing at home, no matter what race you are in, everyone is vying for the best position. As I passed riders through turns and on descents, I realized I'm not the timid rider I thought I was. I found myself enjoying the steep drops of Namur, slipping and sliding around the ruts of mud that isn't typically seen in the US circuit. My favorite part of the day was dropping down one of the descents with tons of spectators at the bottom. As I was flying down the hill towards the padded barricades, I couldn't help but smile when the spectators would “ooh and aw” in fear that you were going to hit the barricade, and as you rode through the mud cleanly they cheered for you. Every lap I gave them a huge smile, and every time they cheered even louder as I pedaled away. Who said Belgium fans where quiet?

On the drive back to the house, we went through pockets of rain clouds and sunshine and saw a beautiful rainbow. As I reminisced on my first race day in Belgium, I couldn't help but smile. Being from the Pacific Northwest; rain, clouds, pieces of sunshine and rainbows commonly occur at the same time. When we race at home, we race in mud, and the fans in Seattle, they love to cheer. As it turns out, a race day in Belgium isn't much different than a race in the PNW.

Even though I'm miles away from home, in an unfamiliar land, it's the small things that you find comfort in to help you feel more at home. So as the skies open up with rain, and I hear the raindrops on the roof, and I can't help but smile as I find comfort in the small stuff.