To be honest, the last few weeks of racing haven't been all that interesting but we've had fun with other things in between. For starters, we've had a few days of snow here in Belgium. I mean real snow that stuck around for almost three days and had even accumulated to a few centimeters on the ground.
I opted out of the World Cup in Igorre, Spain in the first weekend of December. Instead, I was invited to race in Leudelange, Luxembourg. The race organizers booked us in a great hotel that we've stayed in a few times before, in nearby Petange. It's also the town where we've spent a few New Year's Eves, since they host a race on January 1.
Sunday was the race itself. My problem was that I didn't get it together until it was more than half over. I had taken an easy week to recover from everything so I hadn't expected to be awesome, but this was just bad. By the time I got going, I was in fifth place, more than one and half minutes behind the race leader Lars Boom and I was a minute behind the second placed rider.
It was as if I was a new rider. I set out to make as much happen as I could in the time I had left. I caught and passed the fourth placed rider and then the third and by the end, I was just five seconds behind the second placed rider. Boom still had almost a minute but I was happy to have at least made the podium.
After the race, we set out in the snowstorm back to Belgium. Not far into our drive, the nice snow turned to beautiful rain and at home all the snow had melted and turned to a slushy mess. No more sledding for us, darn.
The next weekend was Nationals in the USA and I stayed in Belgium to compete in a race here that I'd never done. On Saturday, December 11 I raced in Essen which is part of the GVA series. I was handed lucky number 13 but I didn't mind because I'm not superstitious. I had a decent start and then on the second lap I got my first flat tire of the year. Ok, fair enough, I was riding on older tires and it was my first one of the year.
I'd forgotten about my number 13. I chased as best I could, making up ground rather quickly and then I heard, psssssssssssssssssst, it was a second flat tire. I couldn't believe it. It was a while to the pit again and by that point, I knew my race was over so I was out with four laps to go. Stupid number 13. I flatted two of my three rear mud tires. Just in case it wasn't the number, I decided it wasn't a good idea to use the third tire, that was just as old, for the next day's race at Vlaamse Druivenveldrit in Overijse, Belgium.
I got into the mobile home on Sunday morning, headed to Overijse, when Franky said, 'hey, guess what? You're lucky number 13 again today!' I decided to turn it upside down this time because although, as I said, I am not really superstitious, I just couldn't get past the fact that my only two flats of the year had come while wearing that number.
The course in Overijse was hard, maybe the hardest of the whole year. There were only about 100 meters where it was flat. The rest was up and down and steep with a tricky hill. I liked the course, but was definitely bummed to have run out of mud tires as I spun-out up much of the rideable climbs. The right tires could have made a big difference for me but wouldn't have stopped me from impaling my hip on the same metal pole twice in a row.
The first time only made me lose a couple of seconds, which I got back immediately, but the second time, I gave myself such a charlie horse on the top of my thigh that my leg gave out and I pedaled straight into the tape on an uphill. I couldn't believe it! I'd been riding in 10th place with Gerben De Knegt, but was passed and left by him along with two others and didn't have enough time to catch back up. I ended up placing none other than 13th!
I headed home to once again nurse my wounds. I hope I never see that number again. I am now officially superstitious.
This week, I've been gluing my fancy new mud tires that I paid out the ass for, seriously, I've never paid so much for tires in my life but this was an emergency of sorts. All in preparation for the upcoming weekend, Christmas series and beyond. I'm going to be happy to have them for sure.
Thanks again to everyone for all of your support. I keep getting really nice emails and Facebook messages. I can't tell you how much it helps me out over here. Happy Holidays everyone. Please drink LOADS of eggnog for me. We can't get it over here and it's the one thing that can't be sent via post from all my caring friends and family who send us care packages!