Entries in Belgium (38)
My dear friend Michel sent me some bummer news.
Davy Coenen, a popular mountain biker and crosser for the team2mega/Ridley crew in Belgium was diagnosed with brain cancer last year where a 2x3 cm tumor was extracted.
A year of radiation and rehabing and it unfortunately appears that Davy is not gaining ground on the disease.
I snapped this photo of Davy railing the sweet singletrack in Shriek Grootlo in Belgium in January 2008. A mere year before he was diagnosed with the tumor. He flowed that day. I focused on him that day while Brandon was racing because I loved his style. It was noticeable and hooked me. I learned from watching him.
Life is... Well, life just 'is'. Think on Davy as anything can happen. More importantly, put that extra strength down on those pedals each ride. Because you're healthy and you're able.
VT4 covers the SP's live via streaming so even us U.S. mopes can enjoy. The Hamme Zogge Superprestige starts at 7AM MST (3PM in Za Motherland). Click here to watch and FaceBook message all your favorite friends in Belgium.
Oh and if you need to remember last year's H-Z...
Well, it's official, I guess. The news is now emanating from Za Motherland about the cancellation of this year's UCI Master's World Cyclocross Championships. Sad sad sad state of affairs.
A few months ago I heard rumblings from my dear friend Mark of Black Market Racing. Parenthetically, it needs to be understood that we...we=Americans...have a rich history of participating in the Master's Worlds for a decade or more. Folks like Mark and the BMR crew, Kathy Sarvary and Tom Stevens and of course the machine himself, Mr. Will Black, have been packing up their bikes and heading to this race for a decade or more.
With these relationships having been formed over the years by guys like Mark et al, we now have great relationships with the inner-sanctum of the Belgian Cycling Federation and regional authorities which are kept up around the calendar year and re-formed when the troops head back over to race year after year. Dialog with authorities on the Belgian Cycling Selection as an example indicated that these 2010 Master's Worlds getting cancelled unfortunately all comes down to a lack of financing (isn't it always money??). 30K Euros was the apparent sum required and unfortunately not able to be sourced for the event. How that was to be utilized (e.g. between the UCI and the Zilvermeer course and others) is not understood....but alas it's assumed that hands were thrown in the air and brain damage was being done and the event was whacked. The solution: The European Masters Cyclocross Championships held in Mol, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel...just sans UCI. And sand beautiful master's jersey. Oh and 'non Europeans' are apparently allowed to race their championships. Sigh. What does it all mean....
This all begs the question of fundrasing. I mean, we pushed and got something infinitley more insurmountable done here in Boulder with the Valmont Bike Park. That is a multi-million dollar sustainable park! Here, I wonder why a consortium wasn't assembled, sponsors solicited and pushed hard. Maybe it was. It makes me think that the Master's Worlds is just something that is 'humored' by its organizers and the UCI itself....yet still cherished by riders.
Anyways, I digress. I'm bummed out for those who were making plans for this yet I'd still encourage you to go. The racing in the area at that time is unbelievable and you'll learn lots you need to bring back to your regions here in the US. This is how we grow.
Check out the pics from the BK course recon yesterday. Tough, tough, tough. Still looking to see if it is being carried live. VT4 does not seem to be streaming it today. French championships being played LIVE right now (7:55AM MST)
While I am in the zone, I wanted to get these up for you all to have some look sees at the various daily goings on from our trip. You can always go to my PhotoBucket Site to see originals.
OK, I'll let you in on our secret training. This is how we got utterly amped for our races. Who needs EPO? I used to listen to Rage, but have moved on...
Here's Dubba at Fort 6 Sunday. Ha! Sunday. I can't believe I was racing my bike in Belgium last week. Sweet.
Dubba had a very strong race against heavy contracted hitters at Fort 6.
So there you have it folks. Some vid and stills from Za Trip. I can NOT thank you all for reading and commenting religiously. It made me smile. I think I got my points across about the trip and the impact it had on many levels. I can't wait to hear other people's stories of their trips next year. START PLANNING NOW! That is my only advice. Again, Brandon and I are scheming a slide show at Boulder Cycle Sport for local folks and have some beers and give you some color commentary on the experience. I'll post something in the coming days.
Place: Wilrijk, Belgium
As I type these characters, I have a warm flush rushing through my cheeks...partly due to the work today in the mud of Fort 6, part due to the work apres-race cleaning and packing of ALL the equipment for our trip to the airport but a LOT due to the Westvleteren Yellow Cap hitting every friggin happy-nerve synapse in my body. Yes, it is an incredible beer.
My beautiful friends: Za trip. She is done.
I want to write. A lot. At this moment I have so much to tell you my 'crossing brethren but in sum, I can only say: I 'saw' it. You know those album covers or posters made by computer generated imagery...e.g. the ones where if you stare long enough you see Jesus or the Led Zeppelin signs or maybe a fish? Well, it didn't take much proverbial squinting on my part to see what they have here in Belgium. By that I mean how this sport is Belgium and Belgium itself as a society and a culture is lived out each weekend on these muddy pastures. Field riding. Veldrijden. And that is the slightly hazy imagery I started to see come into focus with each and every race, and each and every experience here in the Motherland.
In Belgium, when a crosser is seen on the parcours with hands on hoods, head focused forward, jaw clinched, rooster tail of mud and grass spitting out the back, the Belgian silently watching is not watching like you and I watch a cross. Indeed, there is the sport of it all they are interested in, but beyond that, it is a communion of all that they are as Belgians and it is inherently known by the spectator there lining the tape on these fields. They're born into it. Grit, determination, nature, heart...they are watching a communion of their boys with the same earth and fields and conditions they call their home. It is not like what you and I know when we watch cross. We've made a spectacle out of it. And it's fun, do not misconstrue what I am saying, but the essence of that person and how the person communes with their birthplace is something we do not yet have the history to embrace and have sunk in.
They, my friends, are harder than us. But we are fast. Faster than you think.
Please do this. Please race over here and talk with as many people as you can about it when you return....but talk about it in the RIGHT ways. Please ask them their opinions on their racers...on their local courses, on their local beers. You will be taken in.
OK, enough of that. It is what it is over here, and what it is, simply needs to be experienced as a racer if you truly feel you are a crosser and you truly want to understand its roots. That was my mission and I call it complete. And the completeness has me staggering on how I want to build courses and involve town committees, and....well, you get the picture.
On to the day, peeps. Today was the Fort 6 Cyclocross literally within the city of Wilrijk, just outside of Antwerp. I'll get right to it and say: 18th folks. Out of the money (15th was the cut off for za prijs). It was inexplicably hard for me today and no excuses. Seriously. I am better than that but I've never felt more empty. Zero in the legs after truly leaving my corpse on the sands of Zilvermeer yesterday. Absolutely nothing. Let me give you a bit of a taste of the day.
We got to the course, went to the inschrivung, said hello to folks we've seen at the registration TONS already, and grabbed numbers. We then kitted up and jammed out on our B bikes. We could immediately see that today equaled MUD. When we got onto the parcours, holy God, tough. axle deep mud, slippery single track that pitched up at 45 degrees and equally down at vicious pitches. Dubba, as always, has us totally dialed, bringing our A rigs to the start, collecting all our crap to keep us focused.
So, we got the 5 minute to race time TWEEET! and we all queue up. I was hoping for a good call up but it wasn't to be. they called up 1-30 and the' De reste!" which means the rest should fall in. Literally last row. I was bummed! After pre-riding and knowing that the legs were not turning over the way I needed them to, I knew I was in for it.
"Ein minuten!". Again the tension then TWEEEEEEET! The whistle blows....
We roll down the pavement into a 180 switch back into mud and from mud into a mud uphill. Dudes are squirly and I am fighting to get past as many as I can. We climb this muddy fire road up onto the 45 degree pitches. LITERALLY, people are standing still so I run through the woods to get around some of these foolios. More climbing. with whoops and off camber slippery mud. Dodgey. On this one downhill chute, there is hesitation. I dismount and run past 5 guys (literally) to ensure I am safe and out of their schwag.
The course demanded unbelievable power which I was not in surplus of today. My 42 x 12/25 really needed to be a 42 x 12/27....
So I ground it out and got 'er done. I had Richard Groenendaal in my head as I had to dismount and cross country run through the fields and up pitches to stay within contact of my competition.
I changed bikes once to lighten up the mud and eventually came in on the lead lap about 4 minutes after the winner today who was flying.
It is late here in Belgium and I've got to finish up so I can get some Z's. I will post on Brandon's race tomorrow or Tuesday when I am States-side which was great! I have a TON of photos as well. Arne won today amongst a pretty impressive field. Tim Van Neuffel looked uper strong early on but faded and big Arne just dieseled this mud with inexplicable power. You really have to witness it.
Oh, we met Mario De Clercq today after our race who was pitting for his son Angelo and we chatted and it was really fantastic! It confirmed the communion I speak about above when you see a 2 time world champion working his son's bike over in the muddy pits, running across the fields in the mud to get to sections to cheer him on. Awesome.
The dream has been lived. More to report in the coming days so you can see some more digital celluloid. Brandon and I are talking about a slide show between our numerous photos and videos to talk you through our experiences. Likely at Boulder Cycle Sport in the coming weeks. We'll bring the beers. Stay tuned.
Lived the dream. You will too. 363 days.
Tick tock tick tock....
Place: Zilvermeer Strand, Belgium -
MASTER'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, BABY!
Ladies and gents: She's in the books. The UCI Master's World Championships age group 1968-1973. I will say this before I dive into the gory details: I left every single solitary ounce of myself out there on the sand, pavement and single-track today. It is done.
So let's get to the day, shall we? We rolled out of Blauberg at 11AM for our 45 minute drive to Zilvermeer. We passed Dubba on the way as he's getting his training on today. All those 'nice' days we had caught up with us today with pissing sideways rain and windier than a mo fo out there.
We get to Zilvermeer and look out out the course...
It's gonna be brutal today. We proceed to inschriving (registration) and it is like a well oiled watch. You walk up, fill out a form, show them your UCI license and they take care of the rest. Oh, and they all speak perfect English.
While there, I was able to meet with Phillipe (did not get last name, but the gentleman in the middle below in the pic) who is the MAN. He literally runs the show. We chatted and he is an incredibly great guy who was as excited for us to be there as we were. Thanks Phillipe!
I finished up and grabbed my numbers for the back and arms. I got Bo Jackson'd today. Sweet.
So, let me tell you a bit about the atmosphere. In the summer, you could see how this place must go off with a bunch of pasty white dudes with banana hammocks hanging with their kids and tanned brides. it's a full on beach play land in the middle of nowhere. Today, only the hearty, not afraid of sideways rain and fashion faux pas with a set of Wellingtons on came out to line the Visa tape of the course. There was cheesy 80-'s re-mixed music blaring (e.g. I could NOT get Hall and Oates out of my head...STILL can't: "I can't go for that. Nooo, no can do.") and lots of cross fanatics from EVERY place in the EU. Sick. So many languages it was incredible. I spoke more German today than I have in 10 years.
Dubba was our FULL ON mechanic, soigneur, coach...you name it today. Brandon, thank you my brother. I tapped into so much of your calmness and advice this week. I am indebted. Dubba dialed us in on our pits, spare bikes, etc and came to the start with all the other North Americans (thanks Dave, Tom, Henry, Gannon and Kathy....and CONGRATS KATHY ON YOUR WIN TODAY! Sweet! American's rocking the dark blue and stripes. So g.d. good).
OK, stay on topic, Greg. So KP and I were able to pre-ride about 3 laps between races. The course had changed significantly in my opinion within the woods...the sand being exactly the same as we rode it yesterday. What changed were the berms and more importantly specific drop offs and the like within the woods. This was significant enough to keep you on the bike in some sections versus running them or taking totally different lines we trialled yesterday. So net net it was great to get at-speed laps on before our race.
We kitted up and headed to the start. Everybody is circling and then the UCI officials head down to us with their clipboards and watches. "TWEEEEEEEEEEET!" Whistle blows and the racers flood up to him. He starts announcing names and numbers in the language of the racer! Sweet. 1, 2, 3, 4 people called up. Then "No. 34, Gregory Keller, U-S-A." Holy shit. I GOT IT! I got the front row call up. I shit you not I had dreamed it two nights ago and today it materialized! I let out a gutteral sort of shout and Dubba gets me back in the game. Focus grasshoppah! It gets better. "No. 35, Kurt Perham U-S-A." What the??? YES! KP got called up next. This was TOTALLY odd as they were calling TOTALLY random numbers a la Bingo. 1, 22, 46, 51, 7, 17....you get the picture. The fact they had two numerically sequenced numbers was mad.
In our midst today were ALL the big big guns. German master's national champ. 2 or 3 previous multi-time world master champions...the list as we were told by a local was fairly mad. I will do some research and maybe do a post on some of these guys. Lined up directly behind KP was the winner of our Schriek Grootlo race last week, Bert Vervecken. Sicko...but cool guy.
"1 minute gentlemen!"...then the 30 second count down. I am gonna f-ing drill this mo fo. Taro is in my head saying: "GK, don't win the hole shot. Save it hombre." but there are exactly 52 other dudes back there who want to tear my legs off. I can feel my tire being bumped in that empty silent space between the 15 seconds and 5 seconds to go eternity. Then I remember: Look Up, man. I looked up at the sky and smiled. Smiled and closed my eyes once I knew I realized where I was and where I'd been and what sacrifices have been made by more, WAY more, than just me to be here.
TWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!" 'Cross fans, we are OFF!! Check this sheeit out caught by Dubba "Graham Watson you've got nothing on me" Dwight.
Your fearless blogger won himself the hole shot to the beach with Bert and I plowing through the sand. I followed his wheel through the wooded section past the pits and on through the woods itself. 5 guys came past and I hung on to that group until I was absolutely cross eyed. I was drilling the lines, nailing the run ups all PRO like but the BPM's were in the 180's.
We get to the pavement and the last guy on the train LITERALLY waves me in. Sort of like a "hang in here in this group" gesture. I put my wheel like 2 cm's from his and these guys get it in the 46 x 11's...click click click click....down their chains go to the 11. Almost like the sound of a hammer on a revolver being cocked back before it is released to hit the primer on the bullet that will launch into my head.
I follow this group of 5 about 10 seconds back from Bert onto the beach again. One guy bobbles and forces me to and dismount. "whoosh whoosh whoosh". Belgies flying past. Like 3, maybe 5. Frieght trains. Back in the woods and we're rolling. I am so loaded but doing everything I can to dig ever deeper and spin fast. More dudes bridge, drop me. I stay on for dear life. My eyes are crossed and I am starting to lose composure. Lines are taken not the way I want, power is lost on the flats. I need to collect myself.
The race then is attrition. I swear to you I am drilling it as deeply as I ever have in my life. I am saying to myself: "Dude this is the master's f-ing worlds. Go f-ing faster". On the pavement I literally ran out of gears in my 42 x 12. The whole bike was a mess of sand. All the gears worked miraculously but I did consider changing bikes, The problem was that the racing was SO TIGHT with dudes around, I did not want to risk losing spots. No one was changing. It was just WAY too fast.
2 laps to go. I know I am in the 20's. And I STILL can not believe I am in a cluster of dudes. People are shouting at them in every language. I am being yelled at by every language. F-ing crazy.
Klang klang klang klang! Laatste Ronde. I'm in the woods and I can here it. a 1/2 lap down on the leaders. I guess I can't complain. I am literally closing my eyes in the woods to eek out more power. I am drilling sections and am so inexplicably loaded in the legs...but I am still rolling. I am way smoother now and decide to attack in the woods. I drop one guys and another follows. He comes past me, I wait, then attack him past the pits on to the pavement. This is exactly when that happened:
Folks: It's in the books. AM I stoked? Absolutely. Could I have ridden any harder. Absolutely not. Taro had me at the absolute fittest I could be. I rode my heart out and left nothing in reserve. I raced as smartly as I possibly could have. Could I have ridden smoother? Absolutely. You have NO IDEA how gifted and experienced my competition was today.....and frankly during my experience here.
I am so tired as I write this. We made a dinner at home and I downed some Leffe Browns. Dubba handed me chocolate with a smile. Hard earned.
Living the dream folks. One more to go tomorrow. Wish us luck.
Details at 11....
Living the dream.
Place: Zilvermeer (near Mol) Belgium
Zaterdag! Zaterdag Zaterdag! T-minus 24 hours until go time, monster truck, er ah, 'cross fans! We pre-rode the course op het strand (on the beach) today. Yum. Another AWESOME course, if not super short. All the details coming up below.
We packed up the Vito with all the bikes, tires, etc and got to Zilvermeer in about 45 minutes on an overcast morning. There were tons of people out from ALL sorts of places: France, Great Britain, Slovakia, Canada, The Netherlands, Belgium....and of course the good 'ol U.S. of A. Great to meet you, our Kansas City and Idaho brethren!
We parked, suited up and made our way from the parking lot to the beach. We dropped off our extra stuff at the Materiaal Post (the pits) and I dialed in the FMB's to try out. I documented the course fairly well below but I'll give you a couple of sound bytes about it:
- Sandy: Duh, but it is ever present not only on the beach but features itself in the woods, in the corners and ultimately presents its own challenges outside of just riding through it, running over it. Tire pressure ,tire pressure, tire pressure. Find the balance grasshopper.
- Technical: This course reminds be a lot of Schriek Grootlo in that is is well suited for riders who like to power out of the corners on very tight turns. Out side of the sand features, it has plenty of run ups (2) that are technical in nature in themselves and S turns and 180s everywhere. No barriers on the course but plenty of other features make it challenging and fun.
- Short: This mo fo is very short. In 85-90% effort trials, the lap times where between 6:40 and 6:50 minutes. This means one of two things: The course designers messed up (nope) or the course designers have it dialed and know that the sand will be the attrition spot that will likely accordion the group lap after lap (yup).
- Start position will be EVERYTHING: When is it not in 'cross but seriously, this course will demand it as the recovery sections will be reserved for just that. In no way am I setting myself up here 'just in case' but ANYONE will say (including all the various nationalities I spoke to today) that start position will be everything tomorrow. If you're on the back, well, it'll be a tour of the beach.
- Start on pavement for 300 meters
- Bang SHARP left into a 50 meter slightly down hill sand slog
- Hard left turn on sand for along-the-beach (harder packed sand) for 175 meters
- Into the woods for tight S turns
- Past the pits...
- Up and over the first log run up...
- More wooded S turns
- Around an S an apex into a small bump of a hill and there is a sheer drop off directly into sand. IMHO, it's gonna be WAY faster to run...
- More wooded S turns into 2nd log run up
- More woods, S turns and past the pits again, onto pavement
- Past start finish.
So, let me 'show' you the beginning of the course at least with the magic of YouTube. Sorry I only got the beginning of the course because I crashed filming this mid way through and gunked up my camera! HA! I need a film crew....
Into the sand....
The 50 meter initial slog...
Some choose to ride...some run...
From the sand, into the woods...
Some action through the S's....
OK, now that you get a sense for what the course is like in video, here are some stills for you in sequential order of the course...
Awesome view from above of entry (on the left side) of the sand trap in the woods...
The sand trap from the racer's view...
Oh, one last thing: Our house owner is tight with the Doping Control leader and I've put in a petition to get tested so I can blog that sheeit! HA! I hope the Nutella doesn't trigger anything. Stay tuned...
Wish us luck! Tick tick tick tick....
Living the dream. You will too in exactly 364 days. Write it down....
...or they'll never know just exactly how much of a chump this guy really is! I am sitting here FLOORED by what my co-workers assembled for me and I'll never forget it. This week is our company's annual kick off. It's the first one in 10 years I have not attended to help rally the troops. To set the stage for you when you watch the YouTube, in all honestly, I've got me some big ass hair. OK, I admit it. The entire company got their hair on for me in support of this whole crazy adventure I'm on. Beeatches.
My Embarcadero people (and Shana and Greg D, I know you were behind this!!): I love you and thank you. Now seriously realize, I am a hack....HA! But I'll take down a Belgie or two for ya while throwing down hard! They'll never take me alive!
I truly am the luckiest man in the world.