Archive for December, 2013

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

Up until last weekend the coldest conditions I’ve ever raced cyclocross in was about -5C with a -10C wind chill. This had to have been the last time that Nationals was in Edmonton when it was super cold on the first day and actually snowed on the second day. When I finished the race, after the entire race of not feeling my hands, they thawed out pretty quick and this is the first time I experienced the pain attributed to this ‘thaw’.

Last weekend in Bend was shaping up to be a douzie. Weather called for somewhere around a high of -17C and there was supposed to be a small scuff of snow to fall on Friday. In actual fact it snowed at least a foot and knowing that we race at 3:30pm and well after the high of the day, I wasn’t looking forward to it.

Now the major issued with the snow is mostly the fact that the 3m wide course quickly turns into a 1 ft or less wide trail. If you ride outside the line, your only going backwards. The course was night and day different from the year before though and it was a very welcome change for me. On the start I didn’t have a great one so ended up somewhere in the high teens I’d say going into the first corner although with Logan Owen going down in the first corner I was able to ride around him and gain a couple of spots right off the bat.

Realistically though I just had to hold tight and not mess up. I think I stayed in the same position for almost 3/4’s of the race as it was so hard to pass guys in the snow. I managed in the last couple laps to gain a couple of spots with riders going backwards and Jeremy Durrin somehow magically crashing on the uphill only to lose one of them to a way faster running Carl Decker just to lose the sprint to him and Cody Kaiser. It was so cold out there and I obviously wasn’t wearing the proper gloves because I got the major thaw again. This time WAY worse and they were numb for almost a week afterwards. Not good as this means I got a bit of frost bite. Oh well, not a bad finish considering I wanted to stop MANY times and go grab some heavier gloves from the car…

Earning our keep at the Sorlie Host House

Next up:  The move to Belgium and St. Niklaas C2 Event!

In terms of the cyclocross atmosphere in North America, last weekend was just another weekend.  In terms of Canadian Cyclocross, it was the most important weekend of the year, the Canadian National Cyclocross Championships.  As so many roadies and Mountain Bikers take their off seasons to rest and re-coupe to prepare for next season fresh, it’s just when the cyclists who live for adverse conditions, party atmosphere, and a whole lot of cowbell come out to play.

I pride myself on doing everything in my power to show up to the Canadian National Champs in top form, and this year I didn’t disappoint.  For the first time yet so far I made it one step closer to the coveted Maple leaf jersey getting second on the day, finishing only behind one of the greatest legends in the sport Geoff Kabush.  Not to say it’s not possible in the future, because I will get there.  After all, I promised my Dad I’d win him a jersey one day!

Photo: Rob Jones

Photo: Rob Jones

The weekend:

Nationals played out pretty well for me even though I had a very bad start and managed to skip my foot off the pedal.  Due to the fact that we started in a drenched grass field, things were a little different from what I am usually used to on the road starts.  Although I kinda knew something was feeling good because even though I had a bad start, after the second corner I had already worked my way up to 5th.  The guys were really digging deep in the beginning, but I kept it in check and knew it would be a hard slog the whole hour.  After a lap or two McNeely overshot a corner and I heard him say something about having no brakes.  You see, the issue when it’s raining with disc brakes, is that you burn through pads.  Add sand and mud into the mix, and you burn through them even faster.  Luckily the race is only an hour and I was able to switch bikes to even out the load on the pads, but at the end of the race I had nothing left.  The thing I learned last year though, is that it’s hydraulics or nothing.  Hydraulics end up self-adjusting so in situations like this you keep your braking performance in check. Shortly after that Mike Garrigan went backwards very quickly as well and then I was finally on Geoff’s wheel.

Playing in the Mud - Rob Jones

Playing in the Mud – Rob Jones

Unfortunately, the crafty Kabush played with me a bit and shortly proceeded to take off after a sloppy ride on my part through the sand.  I did everything I could to keep him in sight until the last couple laps when I started to get really tired and kept trying to ride things when I should have switched to running.  Geoff was able to put in some good time at the end to extend the lead to one minute over me and I finished a minute ahead of his team mates Cam and Derek who were team time trialing behind.

Sand Everywhere - Rob Jones

Sand Everywhere – Rob Jones

One of the advantages over Geoff which gained some time was that I could bunny hop the barriers.  In this situation it helped a lot as you could then easily ride the following hill without issues.  Geoff was doing it pretty smooth though so the advantage was quite minimal.  Short video below:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10202598415944293&set=vb.1313785107&type=2&theater

The day was a success.  Albeit a super muddy/sandy one.  I needed to come on the podium to make it into the Worlds selection pool, and I did just that.  I also needed to show the National Team that I can ride with the best of them, so put another check mark there!  Getting excited about wearing the maple leaf again!

BC Grand Prix:

The race on Sunday was another mud and sandy fest with this time the course being more slick and worn in than it was for Nationals.   It didn’t rain as much, so the braking issue wasn’t so much of a problem.   It also played out very much the same with the exception of Evan McNeely feeling much better and having a great day.  Geoff took off and was never to be seen again, and Mike Van Den Ham was riding really well, at least in the first half of the race.  As Mike went back, McNeely and I began an epic battle with him being very smooth and consistent and me catching him, the crashing, catching him, then getting caught in the tape and taken down, catching him and trying to pass him while bunny hopping the barriers, then having to deal with him walking to take the line away and crashing again.  It definitely wasn’t a flawless race, but my more experienced legs were able to distance him in the end to take the second silver medal of the weekend.  A very sloppy second that’s for sure.

Next up:  Deschutes Brewery Cup C1 in Bend OR.  And it’s supposed to be a cold one!