I haven’t been that good at keeping this thing up to date this summer. I normally like to write a blog after every race, but I guess I just haven’t been taking enough photos lately.  A blog always has to have photos.  So I guess I’ll just give you a bit of an update with some random photos of Germany then…

Sweet statue to look at on the way to sign in!

Sweet statue to look at on the way to sign in!

Freiburg XCO TälerCup

Last weekend I headed down to Freiburg with my new training partner Uli.  He is actually one of the MTB coaches for Baden-Württemburg and like myself is a cyclocross rider.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with this race, but I guess I can say that with almost every race I do here, because I really don’t know anyone and or know much about who is fast yet.  In the past weeks I’ve got a bit of a surge of energy and motivation after realizing how close we are to cyclocross nationals.  It still feels like summer here as well as this being the first year not with Team H&R BLOCK so my season clock is so messed up it almost feels like April…  Anyways, the course in Freiburg was really cool.  Climbs weren’t too steep and or too long, but they had some really cool fast and fun downhills too.  I’m sure Kabush would say it was granny in a wheel chair accessible, but it really suited my style of MTB riding.  Off the start, for the first MTB race since I got here, I was able to hang with the lead riders which was kind of a big shock.  This also gave me a bit of extra motivation to ride a bit harder I think.  After a half of a lap or so the leading three guys took off and I was relegated to the chase group of about 4.  I did what I could to try and not get dropped while still allowing myself to pace for the full hour and a bit.  After the second lap, I had basically rode the rest of the group off my wheel and sealed the deal on the downhill.  But the bummer part about MTBing is that for the rest of the race I was in no mans land.  Didn’t know if I was getting faster or slower, so I did my best to keep it a fast pace and hammer hard.  Finished up 4th behind a couple regulars to the podium and some guy named Milatz?  Yeah, he is the former European Champ in the XCO.  I guess I was just on form that day?  Finally a race to write home about!

Loose Translation:  Those who burn Burn Books also Burn People... Erie...

Loose Translation: Those who burn Burn Books also Burn People… Erie…

Neustadt Marathon

The race I did on Sunday was a 56km typical bike marathon in Southern Germany.  Just on the edge of the Black Forest, the start was in town and the rest was spent in the forest.  This one was particularly cool because the trails were not like normal Marathons, but more like an XCO track.  Soo much single track it was awesome and an obscene amount of rock boulders blocking the middle of the most knarly downhills.  I even had to get off once or twice…   Soo cool, and finally the legs felt good in a marathon as I was continuously dangling off the back of the group I was in (which was racing for 9th) on the climbs and would easily chase back on when it started to go downhill or flat even the slightest bit.  All was going well until about 10km’s from the finish when I noticed my rear tire going SUPER low and sloshing around.  So I stopped to put some air in it with my CO2 and got going again, but it only lasted like a minute before I had to stop again and this time replace it with a proper tube.  Trouble is that the tube I grabbed from home was only a 26″ tube and I am riding 29″ wheels.  Well thanks to the Norco boys for showing me this trick because with careful stretching, I made it fit, used up my last CO2 (which probably gave me about 16psi) and headed for home.  Given that my rear tire wasn’t at the pressure I wanted it at and the fact that I was expecting my tire to blow out at any time, I was being a bit cautious.  Until my legs came around and the terrain got a bit less hairy when I stared drafting off a guy going at a good pace for what I could handle.  By now we were a ways behind, but I hate passing up a good sprint for the line, so I lead it out on the downhill and given that I reconned the last 3 km’s I knew what I was in for.  Technical back alley racing at it’s finest!  Only problem is that I fully expected to go straight into the finish line, when in reality we needed to do a 4 corner crit around the church before coming through the finish line.  NOT the way it was layed out in the morning, but oh well, slammed on the brakes and slowed down just enough to make the first corner.  By this time as I didn’t expect this, I was pretty gassed and the guy behind me came sprinting by me only to misread the sign and take a wrong turn when I rolled easily across the line for 23rd place.  Just a few (I mean 10 or 15) minutes behind where I realistically should have been.  Bummer, but what can you do.

 

Next up, my post summer season break where I’ll be wrenching for the Trans Schwartzwald Stage race!  then it’s almost CX Time!!!!!

Are MTB’ers softies?

Posted: 18 July 2014 in Uncategorized

Headed out to Mosbach, Germany last weekend in hopes of finally being able to race in an LBS Cup MTB race.  It’s basically a somewhat local series that focuses on development which I’m in dire need of for MTB.  So I jumped on the train with some spare wheels and a bag in tow, to make sure I had all the bases covered in case the 40% chance of rain on Sunday actually appeared.  Well as my luck would have it, Mother Nature did decide to show up.  Not just overnight with a bit of a dousing, but right when I decided to change my wheels to the Mud tires, she opened up a drenching once again, and she wasn’t taking it easy on us.  So I headed to the nearest spot where I wouldn’t get soaked which was as close to the building as possible.  A nearby parent of one of the junior racers invited me over to the back of his van (ok, ok, it’s starting to sound weird, but just read on) and under the tailgate where it’s dry.  As I didn’t speak much German I was just waiting for the opportunity to shoot him my main liner to open all my discussions with people, “Entschuldigung, Ich verstehe nur ein bischen Deutsch!” (Sorry, I only speak a little bit of German!)  After sitting there for what must have been 5-10 mins while we waited for the rain to settle down without speaking a word to each other and both of us trying not to, the man speaks up to his son who’s just come back from his pre-ride and in a very English accent says, “Hurry up and get inside so you don’t catch a cold.”  I turned to him and said, “Are you English?”  Yes, and that is how I met my new friends Christopher, Lomas (son) and family.  Who knew we were both non-German speakers sitting there in a small space trying not to speak German to each other!

 

My new support crew!  Christopher, Lomas and Family.

My new support crew! Christopher, Lomas and Family.

Onto the pre-ride and this is when the conditions started to really get bad.  I tried to keep the pre-riding down to a minimum as I knew I’d have some work to do on the bike before the big show and the weather was starting to make me behind schedule, so I just opted to scope out a couple of the lines a few different times and try them a few times to see what was fastest.  Obviously, I was trying not to crash, but on one of the corners I slipped out and banged up my hanger really bad.  I Headed over to the van and borrowed a wrench to try and straighten it out, while having the derailleur come apart on me and slicing my finger open, after some jigging, and a half stripped hanger later, I managed to get it all fixed up, or at least ridable.  The Germans here call me “ein Beschtler” which is not a German word, but a Schwäbische word that basically means ‘one who makes things not by design or the way it was intended to be made, but jerry rigged into a functional state.  Kinda like a fabricator who doesn’t follow a design.  At least that’s my interpretation of it anyways.  I tried looking it up in a dictionary, but got no where, it’s like I live on mars…  Anyways, got it all fixed up just in time for them to cancel the race because of all the rain and the very close proximity of some crackling knarly thunder and lightning.  So Lomas and I went out riding anyways to get some good training done in some conditions i’m normally used to, but not on the MTB!!

Now this feels like Cyclocross!

Now this feels like Cyclocross!

And many thanks to Lomas for pushing me on the uphills!  I have some work to do in that area…

But here’s the fun part!

Checking the traction of the tires/tire pressure.

Checking the traction of the tires/tire pressure.

Testing the limits of traction!

Photo credits from the LBS MTB Cup website!

Next up, XCO Baden-Württemberg Champs in Freiburg!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but almost everything I’ve been doing has been a learning curve.  I decided to switch to MTB racing this summer in the hopes of seeing how far my skills will take me.  What I’m finding out is that it might take a bit longer than anticipated to reach the top.  I’ve raced a few races so far doing the occasional Marathon MTB race here and there with some hard but not exactly mention-able results.  In the last month I’ve had the opportunity to try my hand at XCO racing.  Given that I haven’t had any experience with this style of racing, I suppose I can’t exactly be upset with my results, stacking up against most guys who have been racing MTB’s for the last 10 years or so.  With the ultimate goal of gaining enough UCI points to start at a World Cup this year, I went in search of some points.  Luckily, Emily and I have some Czech friends we met in Canada who are currently living in Ulm not far from here.  Luckily enough Jan and Lenka’s family come from a small town about a half hour drive from one of the Czech Cup races, a C1 in Kutna Hora.  So we made a trip out of it.  Jan’s father was generous enough to put us up for the weekend and feed us some great czech food along with the occasional Vodka shot (one upon arrival, and for Emily, one before I woke up the next morning as a bit of a pre-breakfast ‘wake-me-up’ sorta speak).

The crew minus Emily

The crew minus Emily

 

The course was pretty cool though albeit quite demanding with lots of pretty knarly technical bits and lots of up and down.  Not much time to rest, which was fun, but definitely a hard introduction to XCO racing.  It even had a rock garden which was my first of this kind.

Rock Garden in the Pre-ride.

Rock Garden in the Pre-ride.

Because so many people came out to hang out for the day, I had a pretty large contingent for my own personal pit crew!  A friend of Emily and Jan’s even came down from Prague for the day to help out!  They were Extremely organized!

Extremely well tuned pit crew.

Extremely well tuned pit crew.

With lots of pushing and shoving on the first lap, I felt like I was right in the mix of a cyclocross World Champs.  I was also one of the last riders to get pulled.  Considering the calibre of the field, I don’t think I did that bad.  Finished up 24th after picking off quite a few riders.  Little did I know I would be headed to Budapest the weekend later…

Action Shot Kutna Hora C1

Action Shot Kutna Hora C1

 

So I’ve been a bit busy lately.  I know it’s no excuse for not writing a blog post, but if you don’t write the post right after it happens, then it doesn’t really matter when you write it as long as it get up there…  Right?  At least that’s what I tell myself to make the little man inside me happy…

P2A 2014:

This year’s Paris to Ancaster was another GREAT success, aside from the results at least.  I made it in with plenty of time to get over any residual jet lag from the long haul back over the Atlantic and had a few good days of visiting with the in-laws and being well taken care of.  The School of Cross pre-ride and mini clinic went off without incident and thanks to the Norco Factory riders Evan McNeely and Andrew L’Esperance for showing up and helping out!  I’m stoked to get to do the pre-ride every year because I get to see what the mud-chutes look like ahead of the race which is some much needed bata before the big event.  And as it were, they were in rough shape.  It had been pretty dry and nice closer to the weekend, but the grounds had been open to a lot of the wet stuff leading into it.

P2A Start Line

Photo Credit: Jeremy Allen

Race Day:

I was also pretty excited to see how many big names showed up this year, many former winners, big names from the States, and even a very strong Canadian contingent of guys ready to swing some arms.  In the past it’s really been just a few top racers attending the race who take off early and are never seen from again, but word is out on P2A and it’s attracting a bit crowd of top end riders.  This year is the first of many I hope.

P2A Action Shot

Photo Credit: Jeremy Allen

Off the get go it was pretty hectic which it always is with people who shouldn’t really be up front going balls out to get a good start only to soon be slowly shoveled to the back of the group.  As it was really only my second race type effort in the year my start was one to forget, and after some crafty positioning on the first rail trail, I was soon back at the pointy end of the bike race.  After the first major turn off the rail trail the group basically shredded into small groups and the lead group was formed.  We all worked pretty well together with a minor bit of team tactics happening off the front, and although it was a really hard slog this year, the group stayed together for the most part.  That is until Mike Garrigan bobbled on a really rough sloggy section which was also starting to get close to the end and the speed from the pack started to ramp up.  The game was officially on.

P2A Drilling it

Photo Credit: Jeremy Allen

With the speed ever increasing, we all plowed into the mud chutes full bore and whoever rode it cleanest could actually make up quite a bit of time.  Going into the second and final one there was a bit of hargy bargy followed by lots of mud.  I ended up having to put a foot down at one point only to find out the spot I stepped in was a foot deep mud so my foot disappeared along with my rear shifter.  After I got up I ran to the end of the chute leaving it just behind Evan McNeely only to discover that my rear shifter was no longer working.  I let out a few not so nice words, followed by a couple gentle love taps on the shifter only to finally realize my race was done.  I felt pretty good, but sometimes luck is just not on your side.  At least I had fun racing with the boys!

P2A Finish Face

Photo Credit: Jeremy Allen

Next up, Honeymoon in Iceland followed finally by ever so cool MTB racing in Europe!

I finally made it to Germany and had a very relaxing off season.  The few times that I was required to go for a bike ride just blew my mind.  My backyard is basically the Schönbuch Forest. Which is a large forested area similar to the Black Forest, and large enough that I can do a 4 hr ride in the forest and not have to deal with any car traffic, it’s great!  It’s mostly all double track gravel roads, so I’ve been spending a whole lot of time on my cyclocross bike.  One of the major differences in terms of training out here that is different from Edmonton is all the climbing.  Switchback gravel climbs up the ying yang!  I’ve been doing my best to learn and speak as much German as possible, but the overwhelming new words and phrases are sometimes hard to manage with.  Lucky, but not good for my German language progression, is the fact that when I try to speak German to locals, they sense the bad accent and immediately switch to English.  My incredibly talented wife is having the other issue because when she picks up languages, she picks them up with a flawless accent, so locals look at her funny when she asks them if they understand English in near perfect German.  But we have been attending German classes twice a week which is what I need and it’s a bit too slow for Emily but it was important that we would be able to do them together.  On the other hand, my role here aside from training like a professional cyclist is to do all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning around the house, or the house-husband.

A typical weekday of shopping with the new German Steed.

A typical weekday of shopping with the new German Steed.

I’ve been getting pretty good at it and am getting really good at sourcing really cheap things that we need around the house and for my training needs.  For example, last week I found a lady on E-bay-Kleinanzeigen (which is basically the Germany Kijiji) for a weigh scale I needed who was in Stuttgart (40km’s away) so I made one of my training days go long and headed up to see if I could find her house.  Thankfully I have a GPS directions app on my phone that tells me where to go otherwise I would have definitely been lost in the forest and small towns.  It’s pretty hard to navigate around here over long distances because of all the hills and all the small towns look so similar.  Anyways, all that and the weight scale only cost me 2 Euro.  Totally worth the trip.

Sunday is a fun day to head out adventuring because it’s the one day per week that people have nothing to do.  Literally all the food shops are closed and most family’s head out doing family things, so I see a lot of smiling family’s out on the trails.  Today I figured I’d head out in the other direction on my ride and head towards the Schwabische Alb.  I found the coolest looking tower thing on the top of the nearest mountain and headed straight for it.  With a few detours, I eventually found it (along with some very rare single track)…

Threshold View of Schwabische Alb

Schwabische Alb View back to Tübingen.

The riding here has been phenomenal, and I can’t wait until my rides get up to 4 hrs in length because it would open my reach to some very cool options in the distance.  For right now I’ve been keeping most of my rides close by Tübingen in order to keep the expenses to a minimum, but on the rare occasion I’ve head out on a bit of a travelling adventure.  A few weeks ago Emily and I headed out in search of snow and found Davos.  Very cool place to be skiing that’s for sure!  I can’t imagine what the downhill skiing must be like there!

Emily and I skiing (Langlaufen) in Davos-Klosters.

Emily and I skiing (Langlaufen) in Davos-Klosters.

Speaking of that photo, I’m definitely going to have trouble regulating my chocolate intake in Germany here.  Emily took me to the Ritter Sport factory in Waldenbuch (about an hr ride away) last weekend and we rode away with probably 4 kg’s of chocolate in our bag.  In order to keep the intake to a minimum, we have implemented a 4 square per day rule for me and Emily hid the chocolate somewhere in the apartment so I can’t find it and randomly chow down on a whole bar… or two…

In team news, I have been able to hook up with a local MTB team for the summer so I’ll be doing a mix of marathon races with some Olympic races thrown in for good measure as I try to do my best job at transitioning from roadie-CXer to MTB-CXer.  Check out the website!  http://www.haico-racing.de/  Haider’s shop is very cool.  I have a feeling I’ll enjoy this summer!

 

Ok, so first off, thanks to all those who cheered me up after last weekends, lets call it, debacle.  I’m better now, seriously!  My sanity was never in doubt, I just needed some nice words of encouragement and a bit more familiar things going on to straighten my head out.  Well I got it and Belgium didn’t disappoint.

Don’t ever ride your bike into cars.  Just don’t do it.  It sounds like it might be fun, but it’s not.  That’s all I have to say about that.  Luckily my bike is in tacked and the lady driving the car didn’t freak out that much.  6 Euro’s later and it’s settled.  The scrape on my knee will take a few weeks to go away, but my ego and confidence was hardest hit.  It’s really hard to figure out the rules of the road here in Belgium, but that’s what it’s like living in a foreign place, you learn fast!  That was my Tuesday.

Lille C1 – First B Post Series Race

After worlds I wasn’t too keen on sticking around Belgium for another week, but I weighed the pros and cons and I’m glad I chose to stay because even though I’m really burnt out from the long season and in need of a rest, I really had a lot of fun this weekend which is hard to do when your getting your head kicked in by these super fast Euros all the time.

The course in Lille was really cool, lots of open straights where you just need to power so if your not feeling super hot, it’s not the greatest, but we basically rode up and down a sandy beach around a lake.  The bummer about this course is that it’s like racing in heaps of fresh snow, which means single track.  When your basically at the back of the pack to begin with, you just have to kinda wait till the dust settles, then hammer your ass off for as long as you can stay alive and ride a flawless race.  I really liked the course and learned some new things, was also able to bunny hop the barriers every lap which I doubt many guys were doing.  I also came out of it with a new supporters group who were cheering for me near the barriers.  They’ve promised to come next year with a Go Schooler Go Banner!   I’ll hold them to it!

Racing on the Beach

Racing on the Beach

Hoogstraten C1 – Superprestige Series Race

I’m super pumped to have shown up to this one.  It too was a bit of a mud fest but not as bad as the B Race I did in Waregem this year.  At least this course was more riding than it was running. The majority of it was on grass, which understandably turns into mud when cyclocross riders chew it up, but the cool thing about this course was that it wasn’t all deep shitty mud.  Some of it was almost mud mud, some was deep rutted mud, but the reason why I liked the course was because the type of mud changed based on where you were on the course.  They even decided just because the course was too easy that they needed to throw a man made, easily 60m, sandpit in for good measure.  Just because once the bikes come out of the wet mud, they are definitely lacking in the sand department and need to make more grinding noises.  Plus the bikes usually come in around 16 lbs or so and that’s not heavy enough, they need to be like 20 at least before you have to pick it up and run with it again right?   Ok I’ll stop now, Photo break:

MudFest: AKA just another Belgian Race

MudFest: AKA just another Belgian Race

The race got off to a fast start and as we went off the tarmac and onto the first section of deep rutted mud I right away was thrown to the right and ran into this guy beside me.  I hit him, and my momentum pushed him into the fence.  I was amazed that I didn’t go down either, but I really felt bad for the guy as it looked like he crashed hard.  But that’s cyclocross, some dude did that to me at Worlds and sometimes you just can’t avoid it.  There was also a really cool section in the course where the barely ridable mud turned into barely mud then a random ditch a few meters away from some actually quite high barriers.  Normally I try to hop them but as I came up on this in the pre-ride I wasn’t quite sure it would be doable based on the ditch right in front of it.  Anyways, as I was walking back to get another go at it, Rob Peeters goes and straight up bunny hops the ditch (my main concern) so I figured it was all ridable.  I hopped them (somewhat sloppy) and the rest was history.  I like it when I can hop them and no one else does.  Gives me pride in what I do.

Verging on deep-rutted and peanut buttery mud with a bit of sloppy wet mud thrown in for good measure.

Verging on deep-rutted and peanut buttery mud with a bit of sloppy wet mud thrown in for good measure.

Oh well, finished off the season with a couple races a couple laps down, but I had fun this weekend and gives me motivation going into the off season and a year of more unknowns.

Next up, my life starts in Germany!  4 hrs of sleep and a bit of driving on the docket for tomorrow.  Looking forward to seeing Emily again!

It’s pretty hard to get used to racing in the mud EVERY race you attend here in Belgium, but that’s just the way it goes.  You need practice in the mud?  Spend more time in Belgium.  This weekend was the World Championships.  And I was representing Team Canada for the 4th time in my cycling career.  It’s a special feeling to put on the maple leaf and wear it proudly, especially when there are so many people there to cheer you on.  I know it’s only one race, but when you have a bad race at the world champs, it’s hard to take as an athlete.  You spend so much time making the selection and doing well to get here, but what’s the next step from Worlds?  Obviously to win would be nice, but there’s no life or death feeling I get when I show up to Nationals and have to make it on the podium or I can’t race Worlds.  I’ve had a lot of people tell me how good it is to just be racing at Worlds, but as an athlete, your always looking for more.  Why are Canadians at the back of the pack?  What will it take for us to shine on the international scale?  What will it take for me to shine?  What’s the answer? I don’t know.  Maybe I should spend more time with Geoff Kabush to find out.

Worlds weekend is always stressful.  Regardless of how prepared you are or not it’s a big deal.  Each country sends their top riders pitting the best against the best.  There is no other higher level event than that.  I was hoping that with my connections here in Belgium, I’d have no better preparation leading into Belgium and all was set up pretty well or at least I thought.  At least I was all smiles before the race:

Signing autographs for fans

Signing autographs for fans

You never know what can happen, but when the stripes are on the line, people tend to get a bit aggressive. I started quite well on the road and all was fine until riding through the first mud pit when a rider who was running around a crash just pushed me off into the barrier forcing me off my bike and to start running.  You can find the video of this on Facebook.  Shortly after this I managed to somehow get T-boned by a French rider from behind.  The first photo on this site shows the aftermath.  http://www.wkhoogerheide2014.com/HoogerheideEN/goto56.aspx

I ended up tangled in his bike and felt like throwing it into the crowd.  Anyways, when I righted, I noticed that my rear shifter was broken in half rendering my bike a two speed (both gears being utterly unusable)

If you look close enough you can see how messed up the shifter is.

If you look close enough you can see how messed up the shifter is.

After changing the bike I tried everything I could to chase back but it was a rather large deficit to come back from.  I lost it mentally and after endoing a couple times in some ruts later in the race I was totally out of it.  I felt like a fish flailing around without water.  Eventually I got pulled with 3 laps to go.  It’s hard to accept that sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, but I guess it’s also how you deal with them.  This years worlds I dealt with things poorly and am feeling the effects of a really long season.  All learning experiences that are worked out with a new coach, but also a change of life events.  I’ve dealt with a lot this year, so I’m happy to come out of it with the great results I have earned.

Worlds 1

Next up:  Lille and Hoogstraten.  The last 2 races before the much needed off season!

This one is a little late, but I’ve been… ummm…  busy?

Actually quite the opposite. I’m bored out of my mind, and trying not to eat too much food is proving challenging.  I came down with a throat sickness thinggy after the flight over and the first couple World Cups so I’ve been a bit under the weather.  Good thing is that Emily came over for Christmas which was good to have some sort of visit as it’s been a while.  She went home over a week ago now and I’ve been slowly getting back to some sort of a healthy state and consistent training.  The days are still short, but the longest ride I have been doing is no more than a few hours so it’s easy to get the training in when you don’t have to go to work for 8 hrs a day, but I’ve been spending too much time watching movies on Project Free TV.  When I get to Germany I’m going to have to set a limit to one movie a day or this could get out of hand…

So onto the racing:  Waregem, My first ever Belgian B race.

I was still getting over the sickness and didn’t have the logistics planned out to attend the Rome World Cup so I figured I’d hit up one of the local B races in Belgium instead to see how the health issues have affected me and get some hard riding in the legs.  Why I didn’t just get back in the car and drive home after pre-riding the course is beyond me, maybe I’m stupid, maybe I just like to suffer, maybe I just enjoy the feeling of mud being squished into every part of my body, who knows.  Regardless, I stayed and raced it anyways.  The course was the most insane I’ve ever ridden (nope, not ridden, taken part in), not in a good way, not in a knarly/fun sort of way, only in a ‘this is stupid’/’why am I doing this’ sort of way.  It was about 300m’s of pavement, followed by some zigzags, followed by another 100m’s of pavement followed by what can only be described as shit for the rest of the lap.

The very small amount of ridable pavement on the course.

The very small amount of ridable pavement on the course.

Some of it was ridable, but I was going so slow I might have been better off running, then the other half was so muddy/boggy that you had to run, and the mud was at least 1 ft deep in the good sections.

The expression on my face says it all.

The expression on my face says it all.

Not to mention every time you stepped down your foot got stuck so every step you took was like taking a gigantic leap half way up everest.  Or at least that’s what it felt like anyways.  Oh yeah, and the best part:  The first lap both in training and the race, the first steps that I took in the foot deep mud were after a small step down in gradient so I had some speed going into it and the force of my body weight plus the super deep mud ensured that there was a vacuum that immediately sucked all the remaining air out of my shoes and replaced them with mud.  Yes, this mud went right through the double socks I had on, and filled every remaining void I had left in the shoes.  Try running for half an hour as hard as you can with a bike on your back with feet that weight like 20 lbs each in the sand and let me know how you feel the next day.  Needless to say I was a little bit sore.

All in all, at least the announcer was announcing my name every lap after he found out I was from Canada.  And thanks to the wonderful man who picked up my jacket at the start line and brought it to me at the finish line.  I didn’t have anyone to take my clothes, so that was a nice gesture!  Also a big thanks to Luc, my helper in the pits who did an awesome job of keeping the bikes clean and functioning all race.  After the race he looked worse off than I did in the ‘covered with mud’ department.

I might do another B race in West Flanders, all depends on if I want to ride/run through farmers fields against Belgians who do it on a weekly basis again.  But right now, I’m not sure, maybe I’ll mull it over for a summer first.  But happy at least to come in the top 20.  Wasn’t sure what to expect…  At least I felt good on the riding sections…

Next up, Otegem C2.  Aka (according to me) Belgian Nationals Revenge on Monday!

Side Note:  Best of luck to all my friends racing their respective national championships this weekend.  Lucky me, I don’t even have to race and I get free UCI points this weekend :)

I’ve officially been in Belgium now for a couple weeks and it’s been a rocky road to start things off.  The first race in St. Niklaas was not that good as a few days after arriving here I came down with a sore throat that turned into a whole lot of phlegm that I ended up coughing up.  Still, I probably had not too bad of a race as I feel my general fitness getting better from last year.  They did make us ride WAY more of the sand this year which meant that I had to do a lot of running.  I need to keep practicing riding in the sand, particularly when there is a 90 Deg turn into the sand pit, because I feel like an amateur sometimes out here…  The field was a bit stronger though which made it a much faster race in general.

St. Niklaas C2 a

Since I’ve been away from my wife for a while, it was pretty great to finally be in the same house together let alone the same country!  Emily took an all night train ride into Belgium from Tuebingen just to visit with me for Christmas.  So we took some time to ourselves and went shopping, avoiding all the things that seemed odd…

Belgian Trap

 

And sent out a Merry Christmas Belgie gram to the social media universe…

Merry Christmas in Belgium

 

Now, onto some World Cup action:  Namur.  This time I remembered my contacts, and it definitely made a difference as I think this years version of the race was actually much harder than it has been in the past just based on the fact that it was still muddy as hell, but not as wet making the mud sticky and Edmonton style heavy clay.  Very rough on the bikes, and after dealing with traffic on the first lap, eventually got into a groove to move up many spots and battle heavily for the top 50 bringing me in with some points and some well received prize money! Not to mention a favourite World Cup photo!

Namur World Cup Tom Prenen

 

Onto a couple days of rest and I was prepped for the Zolder World Cup.  It is one of my favorite courses normally, and this year it was super fast with a very small amount of sandy mud!  I tried again to have a flawless start, but some of the other riders at the back of the pack were starting to be a bit aggressive forcing me off the bike a few times and just generally not working well in a group but instead disrupting the chase.  Because that’s what we’re all doing at the back of the pack, chasing!  Oh well, found an ok group to ride with if they would stop chopping me after doing the majority of the work on the road then get dropped with 2 to go.  I’m very happy to have finished on the lead lap as I had done a few years ago, but this time in the top 50 and oh so close to a top 40 spot.  43rd and my best ever World Cup finish.  Can’t wait till the next one!

What a beautiful day to top off a Boxing day World Cup Cyclocross race!

Zolder World Cup 1

 

Next up: Baal C2 with GP Sven Nys!   Check out my Race Calendar Page for my next up and coming races!

 

As I sit here on the cramped plane ride over the Atlantic Ocean, headed into a sea of unknowns, I can’t help but think of all the various things that I have ability to do without having to head to work for 8 hrs a day 5 days a week. My plan: To become a professional Cyclist, or more specifically, a pro cyclocrosser.

You see, this is the beginning of my 2 year European journey. A journey that 3 years ago I never expected would even be a possibility and I owe all of it to one cold day in Edmonton 2.5 years ago at the Strathcona Wilderness Park (a popular park outside Edmonton, AB, Canada where cross country skiers enjoy the freshly groomed daily trails and cyclists train in the ‘off-season’. This is where I met my wife, Emily Lynes. She was in Edmonton completing her PHD at the University of Alberta, an avid cross country skier from Ottawa, was out skiing with her uncle. I had seen her out before, but never been introduced. Little did I know that our paths had crossed many times before at various sporting events, and bike races. She asked me out skiing on facebook, as she didn’t have a car and needed someone to drive her, and just over 2 years later, I asked her to marry me.

Proposal March 2013Answer March 2013

Where to go from here?

What would be the most mutually beneficial place to move for a young professional couple looking to gain experience in their respective careers; Myself splitting my time between my engineering career in the oil and gas industry as a piping designer, and the other half and main focus to an ever growing semi-pro cycling career and Emily researching in Cell Biology and wanting to specialize into the Neurology field?

Europe! Where else?

There are many reasons why we settled on Europe:

* Great opportunity for Emily to find a well paying Post-Doctoral job.

* Cost of living relative to income is much more manageable on one income.

* Give us one last Europe trip before we settle down and start a family.

* Would allow me to, for the first time in my cycling career, focus my attention to cycling as a profession without the need for a full time job to keep afloat and see where it can take me.

The later point being what I was most excited about. After we decided this, all other options were off the table, and the hunt for a job began. Took a while, but Emily found a post-doc in Tuebingen, Germany at the Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Then, the real planning started.

Where are we going to live, how do we get visas, what paperwork do we need, how do I learn German, etc…

Before this, the only second language I had any encounter with was French. Growing up in Canada, it’s mandatory to take French as a second language for a certain portion of your grade schooling. It was ok with teaching me some of the words, grammar, got me familiar with understanding the occasional sentence, but I had no clue how to actually converse with someone. After a gracious package came from a new friend in a similar situation with the move to Germany, I had the Pimsleur method of teaching ‘books on tape’ and off I went trying to learn everything I could. Unfortunately, I was still working, racing, and training at the time so the first lesson sunk in and the rest were postponed until a later date. I’m beginning to find that taking these lessons are good, but the easiest way to learn the language (from what I’ve been told anyways), is being in the country struggling through the words with a native speaker correcting you along the way. And from what I hear, the Germans will always correct you.

Now, to get back on track with the cycling part:

I am a cyclocrosser from Canada. I started racing in 2006 after I graduated from college and had my first summer off of full time Army work since I graduated High School. I got into the sport late as I was 21 at the time and with my sporting experience in downhill skiing, cycling as a hobby, and other various sports, I took to it quite quickly. My first race was in May on the road bike, and by the fall I had discovered cyclocross. Using old worn out parts from my road bike and a new cross frame, I was ready to race my first National Championships where I came 2nd as an Espoir (U-23) and made the selection to go to Worlds. At worlds I had my worst race ever, but from then on I was hooked. I proceeded to make the National Team again in my first year as an Elite and the following year after that. Given the state of cyclocross in Canada and with it not being an Olympic event, I had to pay for everything myself, and thankfully I had enough income to do so with my engineering job. Although I had to take some time off during the global recession in 2008/2009, I eventually returned after focusing on the road season with Team H&R BLOCK for a couple years in the lead up to the World Championships in Louisville, KY only to dislocate my shoulder in a training crash while in Belgium.

Finally I can Bunny Hop Barriers!  Only took me the entire 2010 season!

Finally I can Bunny Hop Barriers! Only took me the entire 2010 season!

Now I’m headed across the pond again to spend the winter cyclocross season in Belgium with the eventual move to Germany happening after the World Championships in Hoogerheide, NL in February.

* What will I do in Germany? Ride my bike and keep house for Emily.

* Who will I ride for in Germany? I don’t know yet, I think that might end up sorting itself out.

* What will I do in the summer time when I’m not racing cyclocross? I may race MTB’s, road, travel a bit, whatever will keep me fit and allow me to enjoy the culture and surroundings.

* What are my goals while I’m there?

o Learn German

o Experience the German/European culture

o Get to a point where I no longer have to spend money to race my bike (ie: become a professional cyclist)

With my latest results at the National Championships (2nd only to Geoff Kabush), I think I’m headed in the right direction…

Canadian National Cyclocross Championships 2013

Canadian National Cyclocross Championships 2013

Next up: The Belgian Holy week of cyclocross starting with GP De Ster in St. Niklaas