Another installment from friend and teammate Pete Webber along with his wife and daughter, Sally and Ella as they romp through the mud and cobbles of Belgium this holiday season. The last few days saw the Webbers take advantage of some well needed rest, some RVV museum visiting and some cafe'-viewing of the latest stop of the GVA, the Azencross in Loenhout!
Monday and Tuesday have been rest and relaxation days. First, the bikes needed complete washing and tuning. Also on tap was laundry, grocery shopping, a visit to the bike shop, and some chilling. The weather is pretty rainy and temps are low, so even when fully rain-kitted the recovery rides are short. Today I did 40 minutes along the river in a steady 35-degree rain. It was actually a great spin, and I don't think any ride in Belgium is bad.
The tubulars needed some attention, because the constant wetness and mud has been tough on the Dugast sidewalls. The only way to dry them out is to bring 'em inside, as nothing in the garage ever dries out. A fresh coat of sealer is needed on the older set where a few nicks have allowed water to infiltrate the side-wall and is creating these spreading black stains. Nice.
During this trip I had intended to ride some Master events as well as some Elite races. At 40 years old, I'm definitely a Master, which starts at 30 over here, but I also wanted to try some of the second-tier mid-week Elite events. However I have learned that Belgian rules do not allow for this. A rider must choose only one category and stay there for the whole year. In the US, we are allowed to ride different categories, even in UCI races, and I was a bit surprised by this rule. So this week I looked into changing my license to Elite, but that is fairly difficult to do, especially during the holidays, and it would disqualify me from riding any more Master races in Belgium. Additionally, after checking out the results in the recent Elite races, I realized I would be the oldest rider in any elite race by several years*, and would be getting lapped, or close to it. It is a difficult position, and unfortunately, there are no mid-week Master races, so I'll have to wait till Saturday to race again. But hey, that leaves more time for riding the amazing Flemish countryside and family adventures. Not to mention some rest, I'm whupped.
Today we watched the GVA Trophy race from Loenhout on TV in a nearby cafe. Of course, all the big cross races are on live TV, and they have plenty of pre and post race analysis. The mud looked incredibly difficult. You could see that many riders were running, while the top guys stayed on the bike. It is sick how much power they generate. Churning thru the mud at a good clip while everyone else has to run. I'm also amazed at how they can create (or close) gaps so quickly. When they turn on the speed, its like an instant 20 meter gap. Powerrrrr.
We also went to the Tour of Flanders museum, located right here in the center of Oudenaarde. This region is known as the Flemish Ardennes, and is the heart of the Tour of Flanders course. Many of the key bergs are within a few miles of town. The museum has great stuff, like photos of all the champions, ancient team cars, bikes through the years, examples of the different types of cobbles, and of course heaps of jerseys and team stuff. They even have a bike that simulates riding on cobbles. Hilarious.
Here's a funny thing that happened last week. While grocery shopping, I looked and looked but couldn't find any salt. I asked an employee, and in broken english he said "no salt, no salt" and a bunch of other stuff in Flemish. I'm thinking, what? no salt? I turn to a nearby shopper and ask again for salt. She laughs and explains that all the stores are completely sold out of salt because of the recent snow and ice! The locals even bought little shakers of table salt to battle last week's abnormally snowy conditions. Ha! The snow has all melted now, thanks to the rain, but salt remains out of stock in the grocery store.
*Really a decade and a few - Sally
Some Digital Celluloid from Za Webber Lens: