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De Ronde

Doing my blog surf this AM, a video Molly (get well Mol! I'm in the same boat...) linked to brought shivers up my spine. And this is an ad for a NEWSPAPER! Honestly, this is how in-grained cycling is for the Flandrians.

Look, ma, no hands!

All of you remember when Georgie's head tube sheared off his Trek on the pave in the Paris Roubaix a year or two ago, Brutal. If not here's a video to remind you...

So with that fresh in your mind, imagine you're driving 120 miles an hour in your (race) car coming into an apex and your removable steering wheel comes off. HA! Well, this is my bro from work. Check out how cool he is when this happens...


At the expense of sounding like a weenie/show off, I've always been a good wheelie-er. I guess it's my BMX stuff that's never left me. But Chance shows some absurdity here on this vid...

Mat Barlow's Worlds vid

Man, oh, man today is a day of re-casts of other folk's material, but I've gotta post this. Nice work Mat. Thanks for passing it to me today in your comment earlier! What is most impressive is the HD quality of the vid which loses very little in terms of quality when maximized. I'd like to know what kind of camera you are using. If we chalk Chance's vid up to artistic experimentation, Mat's is sort of like 'real time/real sound' from the event. Cool all around. Nice work Mat!

2008 Cyclocross World Championships Treviso Italy from Mat Barlow on Vimeo

Chance's worlds vid...

Chance Noble has assembled a really spectacular vid of this year's worlds and more. It's great because it's all the 'little moments'...not the usual shots you'd expect. Plus, the music was spot on. Again, not what you'd expect and wove itself perfectly through that vid. It's what I like to shoot as well and try and convey. Thanks Gewilli for passing that are the true hub.

Mol videos on CTodd.TV

While in Belgium, I was able to finally hook up with the man behind CTodd,TV, Mr. C Todd himself! Great to meet and hang home boy! You can see some videos and read some of his perspectives on the race here.


Embedded Here:

Za Trip: Saturday January 19th - The Suitcase of Courage , Opened and Emptied!

Place: Zilvermeer Strand, Belgium -

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, 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, get the picture. The fact they had two numerically sequenced numbers was mad.

I must be in the front row...

KP, gets called up RIGHT after me. Yeah beeatches! See what 10 Euros will get you??

The eventual winner finishing his pre-race 'relief'. Watch those white Sidi's Ludovic!

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' 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.

I sat on this guys wheel for a 1/2 lap. German national champion. Holy crap. Smooth, powerful. He floated. I learned some things I want to try out next season based upon riding at the front for the time I could.

KP bridges up after a great effort from a first lap crash. He works with me and we trap a British guy. We work our way through the pavement and KP uses some savvy and launches an attack. I literally soft pedal and block. My British homie knows he's got to work so he comes to the front and drills it. I am starting to feel better and comfortably stay in his wake.
KP on the way to his 24th.

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:

On my tail...

We come out to the pavement and I am looking over my shoulder. He's on me. We go on a full bore drag strip sprint for our places! It is mad! No concessions!! We come across the line in a throw and apparently I took it (I thought I did not) in 28th place. 28th fricken place earned in a full on I'm gonna gouge your eyes out sprint!

Post race. Ludovic's white sex. I TOLD You it's the shoes, Money.

Ludovic Dubau, 1st, Edwin Raats, 2nd and Bert Vervecken 3rd.

And of course, our 'certificate of participation'. They take this sheeit seriously!

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.


Za Trip: Friday January 18th - Tick tick tick tick tick....

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.
To be more precise, the course lays out like this:
  1. Start on pavement for 300 meters
  2. Bang SHARP left into a 50 meter slightly down hill sand slog
  3. Hard left turn on sand for along-the-beach (harder packed sand) for 175 meters
  4. Into the woods for tight S turns
  5. Past the pits...
  6. Up and over the first log run up...
  7. More wooded S turns
  8. 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...
  9. More wooded S turns into 2nd log run up
  10. More woods, S turns and past the pits again, onto pavement
  11. Past start finish.
Total time should be about 6:40 per lap for those on top of it.

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....

The start...

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...

On your marks, get set...BANG!

Off the long beach from section there is another deeper bog. This one hurts.

The first entry side of the pits.

The first run up...

...and decent down.

The peat is present here as well. It's all about the tire pressure.
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...

The second run up with an arguably better decent on the other side.
Typical example of the course profile when in the woods.

The second entry side to the pits before the pavement again

The finish line and grand stands.

Could you imagine...

And there you have it folks! The course. We've already got the bikes clean and dialed for tomorrow. I am sticking with my Dugasts tomorrow as the course is perfect for them and they are exactly what I want and frankly am used to. The FMB's were great (I like the 34's and the traditional pattern was almost as good as the Rhinos) but I want to go super light weight with my FSA 488's tomorrow.

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....


Photo credits: Brandon "Are you za Dubba?" Dwight

Za Trip: Thursday January 17th - The calm before the storm

Place: Leuven and Brussels Belgium

I am over the hump of the racing trip. Exactly 3.5 more days remains including 1-2 more races and I will be on the big bird back home to see my beautiful wife and children. I am not going to take up pixels and bytes here to discuss this side of the trip, but it a very real side of the fact holding UP the trip and making it possible. It should be obvious to you, my loyal reader, that I am a husband, father, worker and that order....and truthfully this is the longest I will have been away from my family and my growing boys ever since their birth nearly 6 years ago. 11 days is tough with young boys who need their father more than the father needs the racing but I thank my wife for every second she is manning the home front while I live this out and taste the earth that I have dreamed about for so long.

OK, I will move on now but if any of you have children and a wife you respect as much as I do and try and ride the razor's edge of life balance with your passions (especially those that are by their very nature very self centered) you will know what is going on in my head. I am the single luckiest man in the world (broken rental car tail lights and all).

So, what went on today? Dubba, KP and I went on a light one hour spin to keep the legs open before our training day on the Mol course tomorrow. Riding that sand and the course dialing in bikes and tire pressures will be quite a lot of effort, so we went super chill today on a route that was magical. It was super twisty and back road-y that I tried to get it down on Map My Ride buy it was just a bit too hard to remember. We were literally on big roads, one lane roads, single name it. Again, the weather totally cooperated and it was down right beautiful out, if not a wee bit cold.....

KP and Dubba rolling and chatting..
The reverse...Single track...

We randomly hooked up and rolled with Rachel for a bit today.
Good luck this weekend, girl!

After the ride, we scrambled and threw some clothes on to do a sortie out to the cities of Leuven and Brussels. We drive to Leuven first, parked then immediately grabbed a train to Brussels which is pretty close. Brussels as you can imagine is a major city with all walks of life, French is the predominant language but everyone and their brothers speak perfect English. We tooled around and took in the City walking up and down the narrow streets, grabbing some schwag for the fam and shooting pictures of the City....

That's right, cross fans. Dee-hem from my train window. Dubba absorbing the scenery
Students posing or za Americans
Belgium, baby
This one was Dubbas from his favorite place. We all had the banana and chocolate. I will be fatter leaving here than when I came...
Way too cool for Belgium
Tin Tin...the patron saint of Belgium
The famous Manneken Pis
I'm big here in Belgie
Seamus! Look! Like-A-Bikes!!
Literally in the middle of this cobble stone street was a table set up with this. I suspected like a large rat trap so I only gingerly went around it without touching.
And then, we found it....

The "Wall" of beer.

We found AND purchases exactly 3 Westvleteren Yellow Caps (e.g. their dark Trappist). This beer is INCREDIBLY hard to get and voted the BEST Trappist beer in the world. Yes, 7 Euros a piece....

We finished up our biz in Brussels then jetted back to Leuven. Home to Stella Artois brewery. We could NOT believe how beautiful this city is. 500+ years and everywhere the eye could see, the streets were lined with the most immaculately old buildings. Leuven is a university town so it seemed alive with kids and BIKES. 1000's and 1000's of bikes. Amazing. We did our tourist thing again, grabbed pios and a beer then high tailed it back to Blauberg for some rest before tomorrow.

Tommeke is everywhere....even Leuven.
The architecture in Leuven is stunning.... is its art.

So tomorrow is Mol training. I'm hearing the course is super fun even with its sand. It will ALL be about the start positioning....which means luck as it is a lottery start.

I miss you my beautiful family and every day when I hear this kids playing at the school directly next door to our house in Blauberg, I smile an intense smile to myself.

Living the dream. You will too in exactly 365 days from this post.


Za Trip: Monday January 14th - A Walloonian Day

Place: Braine-Le-Comte, Waloonia Belgium

Dubba, KP and I made our way to Walloon, home to the French speaking part of Belgium, and home to Eddy Merckx (although the Flandrians would probably brawl me on this topic). Today's plan was to ride before the rains came on a medium paced ride to keep the legs turning and enjoy the stunning country side. Our tour guide having been born and raised in this region: Michel Bajorek, long time friend of Dubba, master mechanic, movie star, and bike racer but most importantly like an insta-brother to us. As you'll hear about in a moment, this is a guy who's been raised right by a mom whom we spent time with today whom I feel is the re-incarnation of my own mom, Elizabeth.

We got on the road for our hour trip from East Flanders to the Walloon region about noon for a 1:30 ride. The countryside is as you see it in pictures: rolling, vast, church strewn and beautiful. The wind was howling Belgie style on this beautifully sunny morning. Destination: Michel’s beautiful house. We BOMBED through little villages that had one-laned roads. We knew we were in Walloon when the signs become French….so you see less of ‘Duisbergstraat’ and more ‘Rue du Fromage’.

Pulling in to Michel’s house, the garage door is open and a man is feverishly working on bikes. It’s Stu Thorne from CyclocrossWorld Dot Com dialing in a gaggle of Ridley’s, Cannondale’s, Mavic wheels, et al. Michel is the wrench for Lyne, Tim and Jeremy whom are all staying at Chez Elizabeth et Michel. We come in and say our hellos and all are having some lunch lovingly prepared by Elizabeth. We chat with Stu, Lyne, Tim and Jeremy for a bit as they are taking a WELL needed rest day after yesterday. If you haven’t met Tim Johnson, you need to. He less interested in us asking him about his time over here but more of him and his wide open eyes asking us how OUR time has been. “How were the races??” “How are you guys going??” “What was the Holland race like??”. Tim, you are a human Labrador retriever with your tail always waggin’. Props.

So we say adios to the folks and wish them the best on their trip to Brussels for the day. For us: the Eddy Merckx tour of Walloon. Holy crap on a stick. I am a cyclist reborn. Michel takes us on one of his favorite loops that took us on a 2 hour tour of the region that was the ‘fo shizzel. Belgie to the core. Envision all your World Cycling DVD’s and put it on steroids. Rolling hills, narrowed cobbled streets, 12th century castles and churches. Like buttah. Michel and I got our tempo on in the wind all the while talking of FMB’s, his pit and mechanic antics, racing, family….you name it. As I said: Insta-brother and I am indebted to your hospitality today, Michel.

I’ll show you what the ride was like below in film and video, but here’s the talk of the day: Michel’s Mom. Mom, I know you read this crappy blog of mine, but I met you today. Born in Poland and fluent in French, Dutch and her native Polish, she is CRUSHING her English skills which have gone from zero to better than most NATIVE English speakers in 2.0 years. After our ride, Elizabeth had:

· Towels and shower stuff prepared for us

· Hot and delicious tea

· Delicious home made soup and crepes with NUTELLA (my first time having that devil’s food)

· The warmth that only a mother can provide to her boys that have been out training.

“What do you think of the cyclocross here in Europe, Greg? Hard? The Americans need to train some more, no? 2 hours training today? I think you do 4.Now have this soup and get warm.”

You are the best Elizabeth and I know my own mom 2000 miles away when she reads this will know that at angel was met today. You will never be forgotten. Ever.

So the adventure continues, my peeps. Today, the biking was epic, but the bonding with family was exponentially more present in all of us.

And now the digital video and celluloid:

Elizabeth: The Belgian version of my mom.
EVERY house it seemed had this Sankt Niklaas prop...
Yo, I knows where a buncha like cool bikes are. You want one?
Interesting chain guide on Jeremy's bike.

Tim, sorry kid, Had to shoot the shoes. So money. OK Sports fans: KP and I will be testing a setr of Michel built FMB 34 Tubulars built up on old (but brand new) Mavic R26 rims for Mol this Saturday. We are HONORED. Reports coming....
A look at the FMP tread patterns we'll be using: Mimo (a yet unreleased Maxxis tread pattern) on the left and their traditional pattern on the right.
The war is ever present here with monuments peppered across the landscape.
One of the countless churches we saw but stopped at this one for a Gu.

The obligatory shot of the Rock Lobster B bike with the Walloonian backdrop.

Dubba and Michel and a 12the century castle.
KP and Michel and the countryside
Za boys on za trip

Lastly, as a side note, if you have time, read the Pez article on British Cycling Tim Harris. It is his house we are staying at here in Blauberg. Cool read.

Living the dream here in Belgie, my friends.

You WILL be here next year. Write that down, pin it up and see it once a day through next year. You, me, all our buds. We've seen the 'pro' movies about the pro lifestyle. You, me...we are the ones who need to experience this as well. It is not a PRO thing. It is special if you consider yourself a cyclist. It must be experienced. Start planning now....


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