First, let us all join in concert:
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Peter,
Happy birthday to you!
Indeed folks, get Pete gift cards to Target because home boy is going to need his Depends. Homie turned FORTY today! And what a day to spend a birthday...in Sint-Michelsgestel, The Netherlands. Today Pete, Sally and Ella spent their last day of their vacation before heading home by donning winter gear and bearing the cold and ice of the parcours to cheer on their husband and daddy to another WIN!
Pete, we're all unbelievably stoked for you and you've represented the US of A in a way that the Euros better understand that we eat, sleep and LIVE this sport of theirs...err...ours. You've done us proud homie.
And now, Pete's farewell report for Za Motherland. Come home safe Webbers!
Hello readers. First, I want to say thanks for checking my reports and allowing me to indulge in some storytelling. It has been a fun couple weeks!
For the final race of za trip, we made a 2-hour drive into Holland to partake of the Grand Prix Groenendaal in Sint-Michielsgestel, just south of south of 's-Hertogenbosch. This has been the site for several Dutch National Championships and the World Championships in 2000, won by today's namesake Richard Groenendaal (NED).
Before we get to my race report, let's spend a few moments on Mr. Groenendaal. When I was just a 24 year old rookie, I raced at the elite worlds in Koksijde, Belgium. I was a total noob when it came to euro cross racing, and without the internet, videos, coaching, or any mentors, I knew zilch about the deep sands of Koksijde or anything else. I was inevitably lapped. But just before I exited the course at the nearest beer tent, I wintnessed a legendary drama play out as pre-race favorite Belgium Paul Herijgers finally bridged up to a 23-year-old hotshot who had taken a bold mid-race flyer. Herigers, pre-ordained to win, soft pedaled alongside the red-faced youngster and draped an arm over his shoulder in a show of fatherly affection. With a pat on the back and a few encouraging words, Herijers stomped on the pedals and powered away to win. That young hotshot? None other than Richard Groenendaal. He went on to many big wins, including 8 national titles. He earned other accolades too, as seen in this quick video.
With these memories in mind, Sally, Ella and I loaded the van and for the o-dark-30 drive (really not so early but the sun isn't up til 9 am here) over snowy roads thru Gent, Antwerp, and into Holland. Upon arrival, the sun was glistening upon 3 inches of fresh snow and an awesome course (if you happen to be from Colorado). I made three practice laps during which the Rhinos were lowered progressively to about 24 psi and mushing all over the slipperyness. The site was very flat, but the course used every bump and wrinkle. Cornering was the primary challenge, and there were at least 30 turns per lap where you could make a mistake. A set of barriers, a mini staircase, a flyover, some woodsey singletrack, and open field riding completed the circuit. Great spectating and difficult passing were in store.
The masters field was 54 strong, and guess who scored number 54? I worked the staging as much as possible, but was still 4th row when the gun went off. With yesterday's lessons fresh in mind, I attacked the first lap like a kamakazi. I knew that the favorites had started from the front row, and would be impossible to pull back if they got too far. Passing guys on every straight, and sticking my wheel into every door left ajar, I worked up into fifth place by the end of the first lap. The second lap was fast, but I clung to the lead group like glue. These guys were quick, but I could feel their hesitation with the snow. We've had a crazy season of snow in Colorado, and a couple icy days at Bend Nationals too. I've had some snow practice and hoped I could make the turny course work for me. As we hit the start/finish with 3 to go, I went like mad, passed all 4 guys, and forced my way into the first hairpin bend. Now in the lead, I focused on two things: railing the turns and sprinting like hell on every straight. It was my bud Brandon Dwight who showed me that sprinting out of turns is essential on flat, turny courses. Without climbs, it is the only way to make time. So I sprinted, 30 times per lap, and by the last lap I had 20 seconds over two chasers. With this slim margin, I took my 3rd win of this trip.
The post-race scene was totally PRO, with a warming tent, hot drinks, podium girls, and of course fresh Dutch tulips. And to bring it all full circle, I got an arm around the shoulder and backslap from Mr. Groenendaal.
The Master's Field was 54 deep. And yup, I got No. 54.
The Dutch do their courses PRO.
Never letting the Dutch Master National Champion out of site.
To the victor go the spoils.
The amzing Sally. Pete's now totally PRO wife. She'll be in demand in Boulder as a pit boss this season.
Boulder's Yannick Eckmann drilling it off a fresh podium appearence in Sint Niklaas.
David Kessler from Littleton, CO throwing it down with the juniors.
The cutest girl in Europe: Ella met Frites. My boys would have cried uncle and cried for warmth. Ella: she's hard.
Obviously for warmth.
Pete with Richard G and his daughter Ella.
Dutch National and former World Champion Lars 'the real tree farm' Boom prepping bikes for his debut in Sint Michelsgesten before he tries for the Dutch jersey again.