I’ve been in the Netherlands for a week, so I guess it’s about time that I post something.
It is SO COLD here! When we get off the plane and finally make it to home base, we always do a little spin to get the blood moving and help us stay awake. Then it’s dinner and straight to bed. I had to wear everything I owned on the ride and my hands and feet were still cold! I can still recall the days when I wouldn’t ride outside if it got below 50! That’s a luxury only Floridians get to have.
But the day before Het Nieuwsblad, the snow started coming down.
It didn’t snow in Belgium, so Het Nieuwsblad was still a go. It wasn’t forecast to get above freezing all day. I raced with a short sleeve base layer, a long sleeve wool base layer over that, arm warmers over the long sleeve base layer, a long sleeve jersey over the arm warmers, and a thermal vest over ALL off that! Two pairs of gloves, two booties, and legwarmers as well. And this was for a race, mind you, not a training ride. Here’s us before the race:
Het Nieuwsblad wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I made the split going over the second berg, but got stuck behind my teammate, Janel’s, crash at the bottom of the third berg and had to put my foot down. It was a very unfortunate place to have to stop because I never made up the those 50m to the group. As I was getting dropped, I watched a girl I know who was also slowed by the crash, barely make it to the back of a small pack.
I finished the race in a small group. The officials stopped us at one point and told us we weren’t getting finishing times, but we had to keep going to get to the team cars that were waiting for us at the finish. Just yesterday I finally looked at the full results and saw that the girl I knew who chased on was one of the last who got a finishing time! Bummer.
Still, I got to do some of the famous bergs (Kluisberg, Paterberg, Molenberg) and cobble sections (Holleweg, Paddestraat, Lippenhovestraat) you hear about in cycling lore.
By the following morning, it looked like this, which is why the ended up having to cancel Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne for the men.
Which meant I spent three days here:
This is the mechanic’s room. It looks like a kitchen with the stoves and everything, but to us it’s the mechanic’s room. Maybe you’ve heard, but the national team is moving team base from the house in Izegem, Belgium to Sittard, Netherlands. Truthfully, I’m not going to miss Izegem. We’re in a temporary facility in Sittard now which is why the mechanic’s bench is a kitchen counter for the time being.
After Het Nieuwsblad, a bunch of us decided we needed warmer cycling clothing. Andrew took us to “the biggest bike shop in Holland” which none of us were expecting to be very big. It wasn’t that many square feet, but it had everything! ALL of the best winter cycling clothing. There was one room dedicated to all Assos products.
By race day #2 yesterday, I had all the kinks worked out of my body and my bike, I had some warm clothing, and I was ready to go. The race was Le Samyn in Dour, Belgium. The forecast called for warmer weather (in the high 30’s and possibly reaching 40 degrees!) which got us all excited. Never thought I’d live to see the day I thought 40 degrees was warm. Ended up being just as cold as Nieuwsblad. I did triple shoe covers, and my feet were finally warm. Here’s a picture Jack took from the caravan.
Le Samyn has four, 20k finishing circuits. The most critical part is a short, uphill cobble section halfway around the circuit that you must be in position for if you want to make the split. As a team, we rode very well for only our second race together. We all made the front group of 70ish riders. When close to 200 girls start the race, a group of 70 starts to look small! Subsequently, we had some bad luck. Megan Guarnier did a gazillion bike changes and crashed once and Kmac and Janel both crashed.
Jade got 20th and I was 34th.
You know how I know I went hard? I woke up this morning with a bedside table full of crumbs, but I can’t remember making them.
After track nationals, I came home, hung my jersey up at my parents’ house, and took three weeks off the bike. When I started back up in late October/early November, it wasn’t what you might think. I was only riding three or four times a week and the other days I was doing a combination of gym, hiking, and core work. Only recently have I quit the gym and started riding every day.
Since we’re talking about the off season, I had to include this picture:
This is the time of year when one of these comes in handy. For some reason, I only get cravings for bad food when I’m not training very much. Underneath the leftover Halloween candy, you’ll find at least one jar of Nutella and some cookies. Combination to the lock box? Only Dan knows that.
In early November, right when I was starting to get back on the bike, USAC contacted me about getting back out to LA to do a team pursuit camp. That’s how I ended up here today, watching the GoPro footage of a practice 3k flying TP:
That’s Ben Sharp there on the right who “had a full head of hair four years ago, and this is what London did to [him]”.
I can’t begin to describe how much I’ve learned this week. I wish I’d known even a quarter this much before I did the TP at nationals! There are two coaches here, Ben Sharp and Neil Henderson, for the five of us, so we’re getting quality instruction.
The first two days of camp, we did a lot of flying team pursuits of various lengths. We practiced enough for me to be able to say I’m comfortable flying around the track in aero bars behind teammates. But today, when Ben pulled up an excel spreadsheet and started analyzing data in terms of deltas and slopes, centers of mass, and accelerations, that’s when I knew this event was made for me.
One of the cool things I’ve learned this week is to watch Ben while he’s standing on the apron. The apron is the dark blue part (see above). It isn’t banked and you don’t race on it. I’ve only gotten to this point because the rest is starting to come naturally. This is called “walking the line” for a coach. Ben explained: we can’t rely on verbal communication in international events because of the cheering of the crowd, so one step = 0.1 seconds. If we’re 0.4 seconds “ahead of schedule”, he takes 4 steps ahead of the start/finish line. And he resets every lap. So if we are going faster then the the schedule but we’ve slowed down since the last lap, Ben will be standing behind the start/finish line. “Schedule” is just jargon for “the predetermined laps times you need to do in order to achieve the desired final time.”
There’s so much more to say, but not enough time to say it! Maybe next time. Thank god I came out to Cali for this week. Otherwise my parents probably wouldn’t be able to get through our entry way any more.
The World Cup was cold. Very cold. The sign in building was near the start finish so we stayed inside until the last minute, myself, my team, and the whole peleton, eyeing each other’s clothing choices and, in my case, second-guessing ourselves. I had a bundle of clothes on under my rain jacket, bibs, legwarmers, and three (3) shoe covers. Legwarmers AND three shoe covers? I wasn’t sure it was necessary, but sometimes warm and heavy beats hypothermic and light. Vos was wearing legwarmers anyway, so were the Belgians, both good signs. People were starting to move toward the door. I had to push those thoughts out of my mind and go.
Team presentation and sign in room:
In this World Cup, the course profile literally looks like this:
Don’t believe me? Photo coming soon…
Each of those hills is actually the same hill, Trash Hill, that we go over it three times. It gets its name because, you guessed it, it’s a hill of trash with sheep grazing on top.
The race would not be decided on the hills, however. It would be decided on the three cobble sections between the first and second GPM’s, and on positioning out of the third GPM. That’s why I was SO excited to be in the front group coming out of the third cobble section. Half the field was gone. I had made it, but I was gassed. I yelled to Jade who had caught on after a crash, and we moved up together before the second GPM. I must have spaced for a minute at the wrong time because all of a sudden we were turning into Trash Hill, I hadn’t seen it coming, and I was near the back.
I made it over the hill, but got popped on the crosswind section immediately following. The course takes you into the finish before it goes back out for one final small loop to Trash Hill for the 3rd GPM. I rode through the finish and was almost back to Trash Hill when they pulled me and the girl I was riding with. We had to ride back anyway! I wish they’d just let us finish. I ended up riding only 10k less than the total race distance.
We got lost on the way back, and ended up having to stop to ask directions which was very bad. My feet were frozen even with the three shoe covers. We were soaked to the bone and disgusting. It was 34 degrees out. Here’s Jade post-race.
The next morning we awoke to more snow. That’s our hotel on the left.
Around 8:30am, Jack was sitting at the breakfast table with us when he got the call from the Novilon race promoters informing us the race was cancelled. All the directors were called, and immediately people were coming to the table with smiles on their faces saying, “Ave you eard da news?” You could hear and see the collective sigh of relief. People began laughing and talking to people who weren’t their teammates. Kirsten Wild said to Janel in the buffet line, “I guess I should not eat breakfast now.” Then after a pause, “Eh, no I eat anyway,” grabbing some bread and loading her plate.
There wasn’t time to relax though. We were in the car headed back to Sittard less than an hour later to get ready for the next adventure, 2013 Worlds Recon camp in Italy. Worlds is in Florence this year, and we’re going to be ready.
Just couldn’t leave this guy out:
Foreshadowing my next post. Pushing team vehicle.