Fresh off his National Championship win in the 40-44 Masters group…oh, and a top 20 in the Elite race the next day!…Pete Webber is back in Belgium and already up to his antics. Pete, wife Sally and daughter Ella are braving the massive cold and snow front bringing Europe to a grinding halt for their second year running. The best part of it all is that 365 days later, I swear there is a “Supporters Club Webber” over there now, including one of the true ‘good guys’ of the sport, Mario Lammens…the current Belgian Master’s National Champion in Pete’s Age group. These guys couldn't wait to get into battle with one another…as evidenced by their loving Facebook exchanges.
I LOVE it! Such great sportsmanship and it is awesome to see how this sport is making such great friends and sporting rivalries. It’s the way it should be!
And without further adieu, let me let Pete take over the keyboard and tell you about his first race back in…Za Motherland!
Za Webber Trip 2010
Christmas Cross at Beernem
Racing on Christmas day? Only in Belgium!
Today I tackled my first race of this winter's Belgian adventure, and it was a proper snowy Christmas cross.
To back up a bit, I am at the start of a month-long Belgian cross adventure. Following the path of last year's "Za Webber Trip" to za motherland of cross, I am extending the USA race season by visiting Belgium with my wife Sally and 8-year-old daughter Ella for an immersion in Flemish culture, food, beer, cobbles, and cross. The family will stay for the first two weeks, and then I'll be joined by a group of notorious racing buddies for two more weeks. Stay tuned here and on FB for regular updates thru out the month!
Now to race report #1. I did this same Flemish Cup event in Beernem last year, and was lucky to take a win after masters World Champ Marc Druyts missed a step on the last run-up, an incredibly steep muddy wall. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous and excited to attempt a defense. Epic packing, travel, jet lag, German autobans, and wintery conditions were having me feel beat up, but a memorable string of Colorado races plus good results at Nationals created some confidence too.
The Beernem course is difficult to describe. Let's just say it has a bit of everything: grass, ice, snow, mud, singletrack, bike path, roads, alleys, driveways, cobbles, and most importantly, crazy technical steep rutted ups and downs. As is typical for smaller events like this, the course was not wide UCI style, instead it is totally fun jungle cross and lightly marked.
No call up at the start line since I have no points here, but today's field was very small, only 3-rows deep for my age group. I had a good start and hit the first turn in about 5th place. Belgian legend and all-around good guy Mario Lammens took the hole-shot and was riding very well. For about five minutes he had a small gap off the front, but our group thankfully closed it down before the first lap was complete.
The crux of this track are a series of four technical drops followed by four steep climbs. Two of the climbs are ridable if you hit them perfectly, and two are impossibly steep, with deep foot-holds. There was a lot of super fun twisty singletrack, but each section was short and plenty of places to pass. A few minutes of each lap were on hard-packed snow or ice. You had to stay smooth and not touch the brakes at all or else you'd be down in a split second. Fortunately, the steep stuff was not too icy.
As the race progressed, I figured out how to tackle the technical stuff and what to do on the steep run-ups. The trick was to really carry your speed, dismount without slowing down, and then stay focused on finding those essential foot-holds. The lead group was down to 3: Mario, an Italian rider, and myself. With two laps to go, I punched it going into the trees and nailed the run-ups. A five-second gap opened up and I kept the pressure on for a whole lap. The gap grew to 20 seconds and I rode the last lap all alone, keeping the hammer down. A fun Christmas win.
Tomorrow's another race at Balegem, just 20 minutes down the road. My bikes are washed, gear packed, and a delicious Belgian pastry is waiting for dessert.
Thanks for reading!