Sunday, April 27, 2008

pics from Offenburg

Offenburg, Germany

This is a really cool venue. Its in a beautiful part of southwest Germany not very far from both France and Switzerland. It is a bonafide fruit basket. The apple and cherry trees are blooming. The strawberries are starting to fruit. This is a very famous area for German wines as well. The town of Durbach just a couple kms away is all vineyards. And once again, there are bike paths and nordic walking(??) paths everywhere. There are even some mountainbike trails.

The race went much better than last week. I got swarmed pretty bad at the start and was in the 40s or so. My legs were more alive this week and spunky. I felt like I was racing. I made it up to 24th and was feeling good about that. Then I had a bad shift and my chain went into the spokes. I had to take my wheel out to make it right. Its strange because I was doing that shift all race. After the race Bork figured out the hanger was bent. I must of hit it or something. Once I got going again, I realize that I was dying. Its funny how sometimes mishaps give you a ton of adreneline, but in this case it just took the wind out of my sails because it was so late in the effort. And then I crashed! Ouch. I was really hurting that last 3km. The course was only 5.1 km!

So I got 31st. Better than last week and 3rd american. (Georgia 13, Mary 16, Willow 46, Heather DNF) More importantly, I felt better. Again the level here is so high. I wathced the men's race with the other 15,000 beer drinking, brautwurst eating fans. Until you watch a world cup on European soil, you haven't witnessed racing at its pinnacle. It was so awesome seeing 230 riders come down the dual speed section. Then it was awesome seeing Adam Craig in the lead group. Then is was unbelievable seeing Julian Absolan make his move and go on the win, yet again. Adam ended up 7th, Todd 22nd, JHK 61,Broderick 90th? JB 90th?.

Its just so cool to have so many people coming out to watch XC races. It makes me feel like I'm not a geek. The promoters did an incredible job making spectator access very easy and making it a party atmosphere.

Tonite, the american teams of Luna, Gary Fisher and Trek are all getting together to go out to eat. We are eating at an Italian restaurant that Waldek says is the best that he has ever eaten at. And he has been around the world. I'm hoping next week isn't too awful boring. Zack is going home and Bork is going for a short trip by Ryan Air to Dulbin. We fly to Madrid on friday for the last world cup of this round.

Auf weidesen

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Where the heart is

I wouldn't say that I'm home sick. But I would say that I'm really missing Tim and Ruby. Its been one month since I saw them and still have two weeks(two world cups) until I see them. Its going to be very fun when I do.

Last day in Maarssen

Today is my last day in Maarssen with the Roelse family. Mary took me on a nice bike ride. We went past the prostitutes on boats outside of Utrech. When the curtains are closed, they are busy and when open they are free. The weather was warm today and the geese were hitting the streets showing off their newbies.

My legs have been sore crazy sore the last two days. Yesterday, I felt like my legs were going to buckle anytime that I took a weird step. The steep dutch stairs were brutal going down. I don't know if I have ever had this intense of pain in my legs after a cross country race. My quads and IT bands are worked. I know that I gave it a lot in the race, but I'm still a little baffled at the intensity of my soreness. Could it be as I get a little older the recovery time is longer for more intense efforts? It makes me feel a little soft. But, it also occured to me that I just might still be tired from the Cape Epic. My coach says that it might take up to four weeks to feel the benefit of that race. We'll see.

Tommorrow I take the train to Offenburg, Germany. I haven't been on an international train in quite a while and I am looking forward to it. Last weekend it was only 2 1/2 hours drive to a world cup and this weekend, five hours on the train. Its not a bad way to go for such suffering.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Houffalize World Cup #1

Wow...these girls are fast, fast, fast. I got 36th place today in the race. Not stellar by any means, but slightly better than last year. My best ever being 15th place in 2004. I didn't feel bad, though. I wouldn't say I felt powerful, but I felt slightly better than 36th place. Of course, these girls are very tough and have all brought their top level for Olympic selection. The american ride of the day goes to amazing Georgia who was less than three minute out of a world cup win. I was 4th place american. I need to be in the top two for a better chance of making the Olympic team. The downhills were really fun. I didn't have any crashes and didn't do anything stupid for a change. And of course the crowds were amazing. Lots and lots of people cheering for a bike race, gotta love it. Mary was a great cheerleader for me, so was Zack and Bork had the bike perfect. I'm not sure how JB did, yet, but Todd Wells was 11th!

Right now I'm back in Holland drinking a real Heineken. It tastes so good here. Piet is making a tasty dinner and we are having a rice cake for dessert(a belgium tart baked with rice pudding in the middle)

Big Shout out to Little Lefty Lamb Chop(LLLC) for opening up the big 64oz can of whoop ass at Sea Otter. I don't know if you have ever noticed Lea's arms, but they are not skinny...they are powerful!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Going Dutch

I've spent the past week in the lowland country of the Netherlands. More people ride here than anywhere else that I have ever been. Its awesome. We were in Amsterdam yesterday and I was shocked at how fast people ride their town bikes there. Its bordering on chaotic,but I didn't see any wrecks or accidents. Its a good thing that the bikes here make so much noise because if you are a pedestrian, you are constantly on the lookout for whizzing bikes.

I got to do a race in Oldenzaal. It was pretty fun. I didn't do very well. I once again couldn't find the cleat on my very stiff shoes and then didn't have killer instict to cut everyone else off before we quickly hit the sand sections. My legs felt pretty good on the flat fast course, but only managed a measly 7th place. It is a little tough to make the switch from high tempo riding of the mountainbike stage races, to the VO2 efforts needed for cross country racing. It was great to get a race in, regardless of how much sand was in it. I then got to watch my nephew Alex play a waterpolo game. He is really good and its a popular activity here.

Its really nice staying with family. Europe isn't all that different than the states, but something about here makes me sleepy and extra nervous for bike racing. Being with family relaxes me. And of course the availablilty of good chocolate is very soothing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Its what I like

I know that sometimes it doesn't seem like I like all this brutal , epic, knarly stuff...but I do. Its just like Jenny said, "I signed up for this". There were some parts of the Cape Epic that were less than enjoyable and certainly very hard, but its the stuff that I love and that makes me feel alive. Taking things to the limits is what helps us to know what our limits are.

It also gets a bit addicting. For example, this week the only thing on the agenda is rest and recovery. This involves sleeping a bit more, eating good food and easy 1-1:30 rides. And some souvenir shopping. This sound great, huh? It is for sure, but its hard to go from a week like last week to this week. In some ways, I crave the hard and exciting days. I'm not getting an endorphines or adreneline so it can be a bit of a letdown. Its crazy. I sometimes wonder how I will handle that when I retire from racing.

Actually, I have gotten a little adreneline spike riding through downtown capetown in the afternoons. Its not a big city, but it has some mad drivers and strange traffic patterns. And they drive on the left side!

I am here until Friday with Jenny and Jeremiah. They are both staying on after I leave. They are heading to Stellenbosch to resume training. I am headed to the Netherlands to stay with my sister Mary, brother in law, Pieter, niece, Susan and my nephew, Alex. Nothing beats being able to stay with family while in another country. They are taking me to my next two races as well.

I got a bunch of Rooibos tea today. It is one of the very unique products that South Afica produces. Wine is another, but I won't be taking any of that back home. The food here is really good quality. The citrus is amazing and the apples are being harvested now.

Sorry, still no pics. I forgot my camera cable and hope to get one in the airport or maybe my sister has a matching one.

I'm bummed to be missing the Harrisonburg dinner party at chrisscottistan and the famous Harris-Roubaix. At least I'll be racing in near the real Roubaix. Big hi to all the burgers!

Friday, April 4, 2008

One day to go

Today's stage was pretty nice. We started out on this amazing paved climb. We climbed up to get the view of the lagoon that we crossed when the tide was out and then today the tide was in. It was really spectacular. There was some dirt roads of course, but today wasn't essential for making a fast ticket. There was actually some nice singletrack. It was through the pine trees and had a lot of switchbacks. Its funny because its all about perspective. When you have to ride a lot of roads and gravel roads, then any singletrack is magnificent.

There were some cute kids asking us for chocolate, so I threw them a gel. There were also these amazing plants called Protea. It is the national plant of South Africa. Its has a big flower and is kind of prehistoric looking.

We were second again today. Its kind of like we are not racing anymore. We are just riding. The last two days have been pretty easy for me in terms of effort. Again that might just be perspective because the first two days were very, very hard for me. I don't know if I wasn't opened, too rested and still stiff from the travel. Of course, also Jenny has been pretty sick the last two stages. She is tough to pedal through it and not complain. And tomorrow is only 63Km.

We talked to Pia Sundstedt(Team Rocky Mountain) after the race today and she said that it was too hard for her and she really wasn't enjoying herself that much. I guess thats good to hear, but she is on the winning team and winning is always fun, isn't it?

So thanks for reading. There are actually two more stages...the party and then the trip back to Cape Town in the RV.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bredasdorp to Hermanus

We started today in the town of Bredasdorp. This town is the southern most point of Africa. Today the finish was in Hermanus where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. The town claims that fame, but it acutally happens out a ways where the currents come together. Apparently, there are a lot of whales offshore. This town looks a bit like California again. Bredasdorp looked more like Africa.

There were so many fans and spectators out on the course today. It was really nice to see. It really feels like we are getting to the finish in Lourensford. There are more wineries, wealthier communities and of course the ocean.

Jenny woke up with a bit of a sinus infection. Its not too hard to know why....miles of dust, comprimised immune system and lots of germs. So, we decided the best thing to do was take it as easy as we could. We want to finish the race, so its better to take a chill day, then push it and not be able to podium at the end.

Of course, an easy day at the Epic is 130 km. Actually, today's terrain was the easiest I thought. There wasn't much climbing. Actually the climbs were really nice. They were extremely scenic and real mountainbiking. The coolest thing was when the helicopter was hovering over us down the big downhill. It was crazy when I hit a little jump and the wind from the helicopter almost blew me sideways. But hey that is the price you pay for being a big superstar.

I heard a guy in our group say that the end of the race had a lot of corrugated road on it. I said what does that mean. He says, you know, bumpy. Well most of the gravel roads here are bumpy. Remember the last day of La Ruta when we had to ride like 15 miles on the train tracks. This was like that.

This was 15Km on severe braking bumps into a headwind, with long sandy stretches. So you had to stay on the wheel, go light on the front end, be in a big gear and have lightning reactions in case some one in front of you messed up. This was really intense mentally. Plus, the body is pretty tenderized, so it hurts the hands.

To get a better idea of the race, check out Chris Eatough's blog on He is one tough guy and he thinks this is a very hard race. He is looking pretty worked, but he is always so nice and gentleman like. Plus, those other 24Hour guys better watch out for this year. He is getting in some serious speed work. The same for Jenny's X-terra compitition. She has reached a new, superior level this year.

Also, for people who don't like to sleep, you have to check out the live coverage on Laura's boyfriend has been an addict with it. He texts her from the states to tell her how we are all doing because the helicopters and motos show it.

Also, don't think that we are roughing it too bad. We are staying in an RV that the air conditioning now works in. We are getting massaged everyday. Laura has been washing our bottles and taking our laundry to the service. Bork has been giving our bikes the pro treatment. I've already gotten a new tire, chain and rear derailleur. There was a tiny pebble in my shifter that he removed. And of course the bikes look so shiny clean. And we are going out to dinner tonite!

So, its tough, but I can't help but thinking how tough those upcoming World Cups are going to be and it makes this seem not so bad.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Givin it horns

People have been saying 'give it horns'. I guess that means give it all you got. Or be the bull or something. Well, we did give it a big effort today and won the stage. It was a massive amount of good fortune for us that a massive amount of bad fortune fell upon the Rocky girls in the form of three flat tires. They caught back on two out of three times. We beat them in by two minutes. So we are still in second by about an hour. I think they might want to unload a can of you know what. But tomorrow looks like its all about finding a 'fast ticket'...that means a good bunch of guys to draft on.

also the we saw Spring boks and giant beetles today.

Towards the end of the race, I asked Jenny how she felt and she said don't ask me that now. I took that as not very good.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Africa Hot!!!

Hakuna Matata from Swellendom! The big news is that we won another stage today. We rode all day with the women's GC leaders, Alison and Pia. They are two amazing women...very pro and very classy. They didn't sprint us to the line and conceded no time on the GC. Jenny and I rode really well on the climbs today. Well, Jenny rides all the climbs really well actually. She is basically outclimbing me and I am sucking wheels and making some snap decisions. But we are getting better at balancing out our strengths and weaknesses.

The other news is that is Africa hot here. It is 40 degrees right now. That is like 100 or more. Its sweltering. I hope I don't look five years older after these nine days from so much sun.

Between our two stage wins have been some pretty hard days. Stage 1 was a big shock to the system. It was all big hills and lots of pushing on the pedals. I had so many little aches and pains that I didn't know how I was going to ride the next day. It was so weird. I guess it was just the body getting adjusted. My arms were dying, I guess they weren't conditioned enough. We got one flat that stage and ended up about 20 minutes back of 1st and 10 of second.

Stage 2 was another tough one especially because of the heat. And there was a really hard mountainbike climb for 6km. It took a lot of effort and it was Africa hot. The downhill was a knarly ripper with wild paved lanes and water ditches. Everyone's brakes were burning so bad. We got with a great group of guys and made up the time on the Trek/Dolpin girls(the dutch based team- Katrin is German and Fabiana is Swiss) We all ran out of water. I thought we were going to die out there, but we were actually 500 meters from the finish line, but I had no idea.

Stage 3 was much better in some ways. We were riding really well, but couldn't seem to stay in any groups. We rode alone a lot. I flatted and had a bad change. I thought that I could just air up and the stans would seal it. But it was a slice down the middle of the tread. We put a tube in and then the tube was bad. So another tube and 5 minutes later we were back trying to make up some ground. Again we rode without much of a group. This can really make or break you day, basically. We rode into a headwind and then into the most viscious head, cross wind that I have ever experienced. It was soul crushing. We got fourth on the day.

Our days are like this: We wake up at 5 am. Believe it or not, I put on my Chamios right away. It is just one thing to get out of the way. I go the bathroom, wash my hands really good. I eat breakfast in the RV. Usually, a bowl of cereal, cup of coffee and a piece of bread with almond butter and jelly. We pick up our bikes at the bike lock-up and then Bork checks them over. Bathroom again. Then we have to line up at 6:45 and the race starts at 7 sharp. We race for 6 hours. Its hard racing...pee stops are rare. We are blown at the finish. Then we go to the podium circle and they have hanging hoses in there that you can shower and sponge all the sweat and dust off. Laura has cold drinks, recovery and pringles. Then we find the RVs. We eat a sandwhich and more chips. Then we shower at the shower trucks. And then we got back to the RV and Sweat and Sweat because the power always goes out for most of the afternoon. The sun is brutal and it can be hard to find shade. Then we get massages and watch Bork work on bikes. The girls chatter. Chris goes to the media room to email his family. Jeremiah calls Erin. Sometimes I shower again before dinner. There is a lot of sweat and dust, so its nice.

Dinner is in a massive tent with round tables and creative centerpieces. Its nice. the food has been good. There is a nice mix of stuff. I haven't eaten any of the dark meat yet, but the chicken is a zillion times better than in the US. It tastes hormone free. Then each town puts on a little show with kids. Sometimes its dancing or singing or a flag show. Its contemperary, not traditional. Then awards ceremony, course description for the next day and then a picture show of the days race. Then back to the RV to get ready for next day. We have been going to bed around 9:30.

Its a hard race because of the speeds and pack riding. Its a beautiful race because of the amazing mountain scenery. At times it looks like the American west and then it can look like a sunny Scotland and the African Alps. There are hardly any houses were were ride. Its all open space, protected lands and farmers fields.

Hope this entry isn't too long and boring. No pics, nothing funny. But I am having an really awesome experience and hopefully killer training for the race season. Please check out Trek's website for lots of pics by Sven Martin. Also has our diaries. And of course has live coverage.