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Za Trip: Friday January 11th - The Americans have landed

Place: Blauberg, Belgium

The Eagle has landed. Even after all of the drama from United the day before, we are here, safe and ready for action.


So, after after the cancellation and ticketing drama previously reported about, Brandon and his beautiful fiance' Heather picked me up Thursday AM in the Boulder Cycle Sport war wagon and we rolled and chatted all the way to DIA.We get to the United Check In and start the whole process. I am prepared to be REAMED for all the bike stuff. The lady says: "Oh you guys are Premier Execs so you get 7o pounds for the bike bike and three pieces. Brandon, like the gangasta street wise Masshole, he is, props his foot under my 70+ pound box to ensure it reads 65 pounds. Genius. All free. We get our tix and we're rolling.

The flight was the best kind: Uneventful and we slept like babies. The big bird landed in Brussels ahead of schedule and Brandon and I got in almost exactly the same time as Kurt via Munich. We all convened at the baggage carousel and waited for or stuff. Everything comes 'cept the bikes. Sweat. Nether regions start to pucker. I go on a hunt and actually see the bike boxes. I make contact with a 'native' and after confirming he speaks (perfect) English, he says "Come vit me, guys." We go into a back room (I think he's going to mug me) and there they are. Our bikes in a TOTALLY different place. All safe and sound. The other boxes I saw, identical to ours...down to the USA Cycling stickers... were of course weren't ours, just the other 7000 people coming to Belgium to ride. In the rain. In January. Chrissakes, we are sickos for this sport.

So the guys says, "Bikes, eh? You mountain bikeeers?"

"No actually, cyclo-cross" I say.

Let the talking begin....

"What?! Veldrijden? I am a HUGE Nijs supporter!" The guy is visibly excited. A bead of foam materializes around his lips along with that spittle in the corner of his know the kind when people get excited and start talking incessantly. We chat, and he sends us on our way saying...

"Don't let the Belgians treat you zat bad, OK? You just race hard, OK?"

The AIRPORT BAGGAGE guy is like the proverbial grim reaper. And a sick 'cross fan.

So with our stuff KP, Dubba and I meandered our gypsy-like caravan of double-bike cases, bags, duffels , etc and we went looking for the van. I separate from the guys, find it, the guy anonymously hands me the keys and I go BACK in search of the boys.

"SON OF A!" Driving to find them, I am spat out of the car rental garage on to the motorway! I loop back (twice) and finally say "F-it". I am parking HERE! I stop the mighty Mercedes Van in the middle of now where and YELL to Dubba an Kurt: "Let's go, let's go!" Within what seems 60 seconds, they run with everything, we chuck it all in the van and with people honking behind, we get the beast moving and we are on our way.

We make it to Blauberg basically uneventfully and find Za House no problems. We come in and are greeted by our hosts, Vicki and Mark who give us a brief tour and introduce us to the other 6 sicklo-crossers here staying for the racing. We go back outside to extract our bikes from the beast, and we see some damage.

SON OF A BEEATCH! Damage to the tail light that either occurred BEFORE we had the car or sometime when we parked to load at the airport. We'll deal with it, but BUMMER.

So we get into the house and make introductions. There are a FEW people here. Oh, we found 'them': The North American 'cross junkie. They are here. 6 of them other than the three of us. All in this house. They come to Belgium. They learn Dutch. The drink good beer. They know how to glue tubulars with precision. Obsessive 'cross fans and racers.

A bit about the house we are at:

It is owned by former Festina rider (yes, pre, '97), Tour de France, Paris Roubaix and Classics rider...oh and British National Champion Tim Harris. The first thing we see:

Podium flowers and trophies from Mark Cavendish, Robbie McEwen and others. PRO. We get the bikes unpacked and all is OK. YEAH! Our new friend Rob suits up with us and we get on our first ride.

In Belgium.

If I could have slowly humped the muddy earth, I would have. Za Mutherland. Bike paths. Rain. 48 degrees. Cross bike parts. Dugasts.


So we finally were so excited to get out...some from being in Belgium, but frankly lots because we were bound of from planes and needed to release. We rolled for an hour to get the legs loose and smiled as the spit from the other guys bikes and rain splattered my face. Perfect. Some digital celluloid.

Form a very tired Blauberg, I'm signing off. Our first race is tomorrow in Schriek Groot Lo. Wish us luck!


Here it comes!

8 feet in Tahoe. Holy crap. All that powder and none of mi compodres will be make it up the 80 or 50 to even enjoy it. A million people without power. D'oh!

I say this because THIS is the exact tip of that storm coming in over the Flat Irons:I got out today on one of my final prep rides to get some openers in. I am trying out that Freddy's XTra as well. Holy crap. As I type this my legs are on fire. Swung by the Boulder Res and got in some hot laps on the sand, to get all Mol'd and what not. Felt super good and powered through. I feel like I did in September. I got in just enough to open and feel confident that the fire is still burning and get that taste again of butt-in-seat power to drive through deep sand lap after lap.

On the way back, I got all Kerkove-style with the camera.

My best Jeff K impersonation.

Colorado pavement
Impersonation 2. Could be a Sager though.
Point and shoot
The sizzling is starting from the Freddy's but I can not feel it yet

Stoic. Or: How many k's back to the house? The coffee just presented it self to my chamois. Hello chamois.

Za Touch Ups

T-minus a couple-a days and we're on the aluminum tube over to the Motherland. THEN, I'll have some new stuff for you all to read. Sorry for the lead up dribble.

So at this point, I am doing some touch up. Whatever work I've put in is in and that is that. I've definitely put everything I could given the balance I have got to maintain into this trip in terms of body prep so all that is left is dodging this light cold I have (nothing big) and doing some tuning this week with prescribed intervals designed to keep the channels open in za muscles.

Changing subjects, I just want to say THANK YOU to all my homies. Honestly, the emails and shouts of encouragement are truly special. At the end of the day, I'm not deploying to Iraq. But it feels like it! If you lessen the degree of severity to the scale I am venturing on (a 'cross vacation), there is still a sense of 'man, give 'em hell' when I speak to true 'crossers. It is like going to battle, gladiator style. Here's where I am at with all this:

  • We've chosen a sport (cycling) that is by its very nature hard and inherently self-weeding of non motivated people.
  • The specific part of the sport we've poured our passion into ('cross) is probably most prohibitive...even for long time racers...given the extremity of it all: conditions, intensity, aestheticism/technique. The shit's hard, yo. I can't believe I've maintained fitness and motivation since August. I do NOT want to stop!
  • We participate in this discipline and it gets us so close to PRO....more than any other sport. As an example, Fred, the local softball 3rd baseman from the East 53rd Street McSorley's Irish Pub team is likely not going to escalate his skills up the 'series' ladder to compete against the best on earth. Frankly he can't. The escalation doesn't exist. Cross can give us that. Look at our homies over there new throwing down in the Super Prestige and GVA's. Many of you race against them/with them weekend in and out in Portland, Seattle, Boulder, Boston....It is that exciting.
So in my head, it's basically those points and more which are are deeply embedded in your (the crossers) brains...possibly without you realizing it....and yet you know what's up with trips like this to Belgium and you take the time to say 'Give 'em hell'. That is so rad it makes my hair stand up. I will try to throw down as hard as I f-ing can.

I look at this picture Jon C sent to me to stoke me up. Open this bad boy up and look at it.
This is the face of a man saying "Holy shit. I just won the hole shot at the Master's World's." I love it. It's these sort of stoke ups from Jon, Mark Howland, Will Black, Brandon, Boups, Bobby Noyes....and boat loads of other folks....that again, make may hair stand up.

I will report. You will be stoked. You will come to the Motherland next year and get it on.

Start saying it. Write it down, print it out, and hang it up (or set an Outlook reminder, worker bees) and it will come true.

Ya-f-ing HOO.

More from Mr. Sales

So a few days ago I posted about photographers growing around the country and really 'getting it'. Again, Joe Sales impresses. He posted this pic below and it epitomizes his strength as a photographer but also as a person who understands 'cross to its core. The last time I said that it was about Brian Vernor when he did his photographic essay at the GP's a season or so ago. This photo is creepy as it is as if Joe molded these racers in wax. Time truly standing still. The strobe behind them is what is giving it that 'staged' appearance as if said "Cut! OK guys, let's do it again."


Zoopa fans

Let's face it. Sports is a heavier subject in many households than religion or politics. People would throw themselves directly in front of a bullet to save their start quarterback than their local beloved politician or spiritual leader.

So let's observe some of these species around the world, shall we?

The Tennis fan:

The Hockey Fan

The English Soccer fan

The American Collegiate Football fan:

The German fan (who gives a shit what sport):

And, last but not least, the Cyclocross fan:

I am proud to share a heritage where incredibly bad footwear combined with insane amounts of alcohol can allow any person to join in the fun and speak the language. It's all slurred together and guttural anyways.

Thawing of my body is not possible.

Shhhhhhhiiiiiivvvvveeerrrr. I am still shivering as I type this. 12 degrees when I rolled out of my garage this AM. I do not think it is going to be possible to truly thaw out and repair all that frost bite damage. I sure as shit hope nothing bad is going on with them toes!
Today saw some true suffering. The irony it was not the legs and body suffering from 'too much work', but the elements took their toll on me.

Today was what I think is the LAST Poormans session for 2007. In 2006 and years prior, I probably went up that slog like 10 times merely as a connector/cut-off road from the high mountains down back into Boulder. In 07 and Za Plan, it became a 'tool'. I now know every single solitary nook, cranny, hitch, bend, rise and rock on that God-forsaken hill. The Sessions Taro has lined up are extremely difficult, one building on to the other, week after week. Today I struggled through all of teh prescription but was so dodgy given the ice and 10 degree weather in the shade (plus wind howling) that it was sloooow going. I couldn;t stand to get in a huge effort as the back wheel would slide out. So seated at a slow an deasy tempo was about all that could happen.

My session began with a hard tempo up Sunshine Canyon (see photo above). It's a slog of a climb used for mountain time trials in the summer. I then dumped onto the top of Poormans and had to catch my breath less from the effort, and more due to the view (see right). Sick. So cold but super clear. Note the wind blowing the snow in the distance in the picture.

I'm feeling pretty good and back down to fighting weight which I am happy about. Taro has me loaded up with the required work in my legs and lungs with some further tuning to do over the next week before the rest is enforced before Belgium.

While on Poormans and under stress during the workout, my mind wanders. I keep thinking about what it will be like...I hope my bikes make it I fit they really spit beer in your face. Granted, I'll be at some local yocal races and not a World Cup, but 'cross is 'cross over there! I get into this monotonous thought skipping while I stare at my shadow as I try and get the legs lifted, one after the other slogging up the beast.

I hear Michel in my head from a recent email thread:

Let me repeat, be ready to fight hard, expect less than your normal placing and remember a Belgian will sprint to death even for a 40th place...

I have no expectations but experience and fun. But I am not rolling over like a lamb. As cheesy as it sounds, I am going to do what I can to show that Americans can cross....or at least give a shit enough to go all the way to Belgium and throw down. Honestly, when the Japanese or Dominicans came to NYC as a kid to do exhibition baseball games, I was amped to see it. Always a step behind the American sluggers, but they seemed to 'look' like they had it. I hope that is the case in the Motherland. And I hope that the experience leads to stories which leads to more Americans going over there to crack the code on it.

Less than two weeks...

Endless Winter

Man oh MAN! Things are going OFF over there in the Mother Land. Geoff P's got the boys amped and racing hard....even with all of the crazy logistics and skewed travel plans many faced with planes missed, bikes not showing up, etc. Catching up on their blog, it's great to see Danny, Brady and the rest of the local boys throwing down. I race against Brady's dad (trust know exactly where the genes come from if you should race against Mr. K). It's great to see them there giving everything. It is especially rad to see Tim Johnson there with the stars and bars. I would LOVE To see Cannondale rush a skinsuit to him so he doesn't look so bush league with the podium jersey he got at Nats. C'mon! So un PRO!

Sager's team mate Mitchell Peterson is there as well. He has a great race report here. Some observations:

Observation No. 1: Mitchell Peterson is the 2nd coming of Charlie Hayes.
Have you ever seen these guys together? Have you? Mitchell could be the spawn of the legend and my hero Charlie Hayes.
Observation No. 2: Mitchel is spanking Kamiel Van den Berg
I love this shot. Go lay the smack down on Kamiel, Mitchell. If you've seen it, Kamiel is the guy who on the 1st lap of the 2006 World Championships from The Netherlands who gives that group of jeering Belgium spectators the finger. After taking the hole shot, Kamiel implodes like a dying star on the 2nd lap. Ouch. So this whole shipment of Americans over to the Mother Land (including myself in a week!) is sort of like the Endless Summer....of the Winter variety. We are on a quest to catch the biggest and the best waves all for the experience. To really understand what this sport is about come good or come bad.

Tick tock tick tock.

Stocking Stuffers

Merry Christmas! What a picturesque day here in The Reepoobleek. It went from 20 degrees in the AM all the way to 50 degrees yesterday. But the mercury corrected itself today to a steady 20 degrees and snowing. It made for a very Bing Crosby-esque day.

Santa came and boy did he. All the little goodies to make a thirty something year old boy smile. Timmy would be proud that he brought a new coffee maker with some of the black goodness to boot.

On the bike tip, Santa knew that I am STILL with numbness in the very tips of my big toes still after the CX States earlier this month. While getting better, he knew that I needed some legit stuff to combat the cold gremlins, and so the stocking was stuffed with all the kindness one could hope for:

New Swix gloves, woolie socks and tons of these adhesive heat packet things Troy made a recommendation to get.

I used all of this new stuff today on my run and holy crap they work. In fact, it melted the snow off my shoes! It is the real deal and I wish I had them before States! They will be packed for Belgium fo' sure.

So now, we're just chilling in a sort of post present opening haze/hangover. Incredibly fun this AM with the boys being as old as they are now. I wish you and all of yours the absolute best Christmas!

Thanks for reading.

Observations of the Cannibal at Scheldecross

Hmm. Sven. The Cannibal Part Deux. Father. Husband. Crosser.


My God. First, he demonstrates crappy tape jobs wherein it is my opinion that his mechanic should have to work the pits without his Wellingtons for a day. Now this?? (queue in a record scratching horrifically...):
For shame, Sven. For shame.

See, Radio Freddy agrees with me that ya just gots to match that tape and that saddle. And if matched white? Mmmmm white. Very PRO. Call me OCD, but it would cause my skin to crawl with all that un-matchiness going on with my bike.

Get PRO Sven. quickly. You're losing points. Niels is taking you down you on the PRO tip.

Touch my iliotibial. Touch it.

So now that I am past this CO 'cross season, I'll let a cat out of the bag (no excuses though!): I have been suffering tremendously through this crazy IT band issue since the early Fall. Crazy shooting pain in my glutes and my tibialis anterior....all on the left leg. It's so f'd up: I'll be riding along (racing I am definitely under pressure) and it's like a light switch turns on: Shooting pain in my ass cheek and in my lower leg followed by a near immediate decrease in power. I mean like only the right leg can turn it over. Eventually things come 'round again but I always have ground to make up because of it.

So last night I go over to Bliss' house to discuss some 'cross business related to a non-profit he's architecting (note: you will all be affected positively by this if we get it off the ground!!! **), and his wife Michelle, my team mate, over hears us talking (OK, me bitching) about this problem. With all the training these days it is flaring up too so it's fresh on the mind. First thing John says: "Get on the floor." He then whips out his (get your mind out of the gutters you perverted monkeys...) foam roller and shows me what to do. "MOTHER PUS BUCKET!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I scream as I roll like he showed me and my IT band starts to smash and get worked on this foam machine of death. Unbelievable. At this moment Michelle says: "OK, get on the table...". Ah, team mates. Michelle is an unbelievable talented physio-therapist. She begins her treatment and gasps as she starts o feel about: "Holy crap, I could lift you straight up with this IT band!". Not good. She goes to work.

"Jesus HELP ME!"

"Lord, please God have mercy"

"Holy Mother, save me."

I am acting for contrition right there on that table. Pain. "AH, you're a screamer, aren't you?" says Michelle sadistically. Twenty minutes later she finishes up and I feel like I am on drugs. Her work is in.

Now mind you, this WHOLE season I could have helped myself. I run, I train, I do skills....and not once did I take care of the muscles...even with Ward prophetically hounding me to see his guy months back. So with a pat on the back and the Bliss family handing me the IT foam roller as I left their beautiful home last night, they suggest I get some more work done before Belgium to get things re-aligned and back on track.

That said, Michelle's work did some goodness for me today! Today the 'poor man' showed no mercy. Sub 20 temps and snow and ice, the prescription was a set of intervals that sincerely should be tasked to prisoners of war. Good but cold suffering. The last one did put me in cross-eyed mode and randomly Bliss shows up on the last one....maybe to secretly check in on laugh a bit as he's in fun mode now.

More depth tomorrow. Sweet dreams.