Monday, January 26, 2009

Master worlds update

2009 master cyclocross world championship, held in zilvermmer, outside of mol, at the same venue for 12 plus years, brought no great surprises. For the eight years that I have attended, a duplicate par-course, with a notoriously long sand section has challenged every international rider. Advantage locals, as they spend a good part of their September to February season racing in a mix of sand and mud. To be a world class crosser, one must endure racing the fields and forests of the heartland of cross, Belgium. Every weekend from September to February, there are as many as 6 races in the flat corn fields of west flanders to the forests of the northeast. Mol offers a particular challenge with its huge sugar white sand beach that is sure to humbly bog even the strongest rider. Here in Belgium, it seems not speed, but power and fortitude carry the day.
This years race held no real surprises when American women scored, not over shadowing the accomplishments of Kathy's second championship and Trina’s repeat silver performance, the American men battled for field results. Starting in the middle of the day, left little time to watch others, so my story tells only of my event. The biggest drama of each start is the call up, which is random, drawn from a hat or however the Belgium’s tea leaves read that day. Never having the first two rows, a forth row start means looking for the opening and sprinting for them. It worked ok on entering the beach, as I change my direction several times on the in run. The jam was normal in the sand, running the outside made sense to the first turn, where some ones chainring tattooed my calf. Got off the beach an sprinted by a couple of riders into about 10th. Now at this point, there is a lot of windy single track and there are limited places to pass, but you have to stay after it, because there are always some really fast guys already clear and charging. This means you have to go harder then them just to catch up. There is the rub. Now the Belgium champ was called up first and last years world champ second, and they were already clear. I had raced the Belgium champ just last weekend at kasterlee and he is strong. So here goes everything. And that seems that’s what it took to get up to a chasing group of four. Attacking on the start finish stretch, put me on the front, but Scheemaeker caught me off guard. (he was the champ when I finished 2nd in’07) He ran the sand and pinched me while I rode to the corner. This forced me off the bike. Willems flew up the side, attacking the water front. ( Willems won in ’06, when I was of the front with him and my wheel got taken out on the beach in a break). Guinle, the Frenchman won last year, stayed close to the departing Belgiums. With my momentum slowed, there was no response. The others reacted, and separated from me. I tried hard to chase the last lap, but encountering lapped riders slowed my progress in many of the difficult sections.
The raced is scheduled for only 30 minutes, very short, about four laps. Fast laps are between 6 and 6.5 minutes. We ended racing 6 laps, 2 more than you might figure. The winning time was just around 37 minutes. These guys are old, but they are not slow. My 7th place kept my top 10 consistency alive, though disappointing, kept 8 year streak alive. The only trepidation is the unrecognized call up process, that has kept podium finishers from returning to race. Just remember what Jacob said, “if you don’t start, you can’t win”. So maybe one day…………..

Sunday, January 25, 2009


this is classic Belgium cross. some short hills with lots of undulating turns, throw in some mucky field grass and a bit of pavement. you get everything and and an announcer to boot.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Well, that was yah ok worlds and it didn't go to well. the tweaked me. they called up the belgie champ first (yah fair) and then last year champ, a random draw? that is why a lot of people don't make the trip a second time. I got called up on the forth row, bitter, bummer. got going ok and moved myself
past a small group into forth spot on the second lap. into the long sand section, got pinched at the turn on the beach and lost contact with them.
made a couple of mistakes getting round lapped riders and managed to hold on to 7th.
disappointing to say the least. thanks for the support, will race
tomorrow at wilrijk, a hilly muddy super tough venue, and try and get some mojo back. all the best, henry

Sunday, January 18, 2009

now that felt good

what a most awesome par-course, worth the trip here. have wanted to do it for years. lots of twist and turns through the woods, up and down on tacky sandy loom. Add a stretch of bricks. a challenging race to boot.
starting at the back was a serious handicap, as the Belgium champ rode away from the front line. had to manage through traffic safely to attack the leading group on the second lap and getting free. opening up a good gap, was able to keep the leader in sight til the last circuit, when last year Belgium champ got up to my wheel and attacked me at the start of the woods, determinedly stayed glued to his wheel on the short snaking tree cluttered rises, and realized my advantage. he went hard on a short straight before the faster winding section, so just before we entered a sweeping dip, jumped around him at full tilt into the drop and shot away. gained the gap and then nailed it shut on the bricks into the finish. it was an exciting avenging ride and a very very fun course.
This Kasterlee venue is in a town with a bike shop that Bart Wellens worked in till he got his first pro contract. At Harry Van de Watters shop, many of Bart's bikes are for sale, not available at his haberdashery in Herentals. asta

Saturday, January 17, 2009

jet lag

The trip has always included the weekend before for warm up races. many of these races have been repeated over the years. Places like Langemark, Veregem, Schriek, Viekevorst, Wilrijk, and this year 2 new venues at Londerzeel and Kasterlee. That first year, a 6th place at worlds was everything. Since then getting a silver medal and places consistently in the top10, keeps me coming back to dawn the prized tunic. Winning many of these races have kept me encouraged. Last years result was set back by a broken leg 6 weeks before, but it didn’t stop me from winning at Schrieck and placing 6th at worlds.
Last year a large contingent of east coasters showed and mark howland’s black market racing has brought a large group for many years. One thing all enjoy as much as racing in the worlds race is doing the local races. It gives a real look into the heart and soul of world class cyclocross. The fans, the kids, the young stars looking for contract, the moms , the dads, the officials and the promoters. All of it is so great.
This year trip began with the worst case of jet lag ever. In the past several year, I have got right off the plane and been able to win races, but this time, I didn’t sleep for 2 days. So the adventure began at 2 new venues, Londerzeel and Kasterlee.
So saturday was a bit of a struggle at Londerzeel, no sleep, up at 4am, driving around in circles lookin for the venue. all the Peets couldn't super charge this engine. The course raced on flats through horse pastures, with bmx style rollers, bumpy straight aways, lots of wide slick muddy turns. It was a wide open start in one of the horse pasture, not super fast ,like we are use to, but it wears on you always being on the gas, grinding away. not much finesse.
knew it would be a struggle as I started to doze on the way to the race. But was awoken on entering the lot, as a Belgium yelled out my name. There were lots of hellos and hand shaking. "how are you?", that is as far as are language skills take us. The officials ask me if I am going to win this year. One even joked, after the race, that I must be jet lagged, he expected me at the front contesting. The start went ok, with a mad dash across an open field, digging into the deep grass for traction. Not willing to take any risks, it took 2 laps to manage the front group, but by that time 2 great Belgium riders had already flown. a stubble here and a dab there slowed me off this lead group after serious effort from a back row start. But it was the slip in one corner that put me off and it required too much effort to regain them. Then the jet lag fatigue pulled the needed power out of me as I struggled to earn and protect a 6th place finish. Well, it was a good finish, but I knew I had to get some rest, falling asleep on the drive home to Retie.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Well, made it to the motherland of cross, got in a short ride in after putting my bikes together. it is cold, 2c, but the sun was out...... awesome. everyone is riding a bike here. but I did notice a bunch more stop lights, bummer.
will be racing tomorrow at a new venue, Londerzell, sounds muddy. I'll let you know. all the best

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Off to Belgium

The incentive is there, so off to Belgium to race cross, the 8th year in a row. Same trip as in the past, a couple of weeks, 4 races, great beer, good people and lots of cold weather.