Our solo European based GrassMoots racer Dan Seaton writes in about riding the ground as much as his bike at times during a nasty spell of Belgium Fall weather. Dan is an astrophysicist based in Brussels, Belgium, he has a passion for Cyclocross and also writes for Velonews during the field riding season. He writes…….
It’s been a tough couple of weeks of Cyclocross here in Belgium. I did back to back races in pouring rain, gusting winds, and cold weather. Of course these are the conditions that make Belgian Cyclocross truly Belgian Cyclocross, the kind of conditions where the true Belgian hard men, guys like Sven Nys, excel. So I’ve been doing my best Sven impression, suiting up and getting muddy and testing myself in fields that included both the Masters 30+ World Champion, Belgian 30+ National Champion, and a host of guys who, until a year or two ago, were racing with some success in Superprestige and the Trofee series. Needless to say, despite my best efforts, I’ve been a little bit outgunned the past couple of weekends.
Two weeks ago we went to Meerhout, which is a beautiful, rural village not too far from Antwerp. The course was mostly smooth, but twisting and undulating singletrack through what must usually be a peaceful little forest, with a few sandy stretches and a few stretches in a cow pasture thrown in for good measure. On a dry day it would have been fast and technical, but in the pouring rain it was slick, sloppy mud that I doubt anybody escaped without falling at least once. I’m without a pit bike for the moment, and after a couple of laps my front derailleur broke and my rear derailleur was so clogged with mud that I was more or less riding a single speed. I did my best, fell about 10 times, and tried to have fun.
Unfortunately, the results got messed up, presumably because everybody’s race numbers were so muddy that the officials couldn’t quite tell who was who, so I don’t have any idea of how I did.
Then last weekend we went the other direction, to Serskamp, another tiny, rural village not far from Gent. The race there was folded into a little apple orchard, and contained what seemed like about 50 turns, of which all but about four were 180 degrees. Again it was pouring rain, and I switch-backed my way around track, racing many of the same, very fast guys.
In tackier conditions, I think my pretty-good fitness would have helped me pass a lot of people, but again I spent about as much time on the ground as I did on the bike, so I did more chasing and less passing that I might have liked. But I did manage to get around a few people for a not altogether terrible result — enough that I’m not just outside the top ten in the overall season standings. That’s sure to change as the season picks up and I get busy writing about the Pros over here in my VeloNews.com column, but it feels good that perseverance and determination have paid off for the moment, even if that’s pretty much all I’ve had going for me in two miserably, muddy races.
Now I’m starting to get ready for the real heart of the season, which includes a bunch of my favorite races and a lot of tough, physical courses.
So I’m getting very exciting about the coming weeks. First, though, we head to a classic Flemish race: in a trailer park just off the beach near the North Sea.
So stay tuned for more!
GrassMoots racer Andrew Carney writes in with his end-of-season race and a look into what stokes us to ride and what he has on the map for 2013….he writes:
I ended the season with the Crested Butte Classic at the end of September. It is an event I’ve always wanted to do and a great way to end the season as for the past 5 years I’ve either ended with 24 hours of Moab Solo or 24 Hour Nationals Solo which means I always ended the year with a empty tank and a healthy limp. The CB classic was the opposite of that as I finished tired certainly so, but mentally stoked to still be on the bike. Again, it’s been a great year flying the Moots colors even though I didn’t race as much as years past. However, it’s all part of a plan to try and give the Tour Divide a go next year and hopefully a slight step back this summer will allow me to fully step up my game next spring. Here’s a brief write up from my blog about the CB classic.
Hope all is well up at the Moots mothership!
There are moments in a bike race or even in a hard effort when the world seems to close in around you and your whole world shrinks to the screaming of your legs, the burn of your lungs, and the lactic acid filling your body. For some that focused pin-hole view of the world is what they crave. Sure, it feels good to strip down to that primal level now and again, it allows for focus. However, all too often as racers we live in that small world too often. We forget to look around and really take it all in.
My last race of the season was the Crested Butte Classic this past weekend and I spent the first of the three laps trying to get my racing legs underneath me. However the hard truth was that my legs were like the engine in a Honda Civic trying to tow a trailer over Independence Pass. I would stomp on the gas, but nothing would happen. Some days you’re the statue, some days you’re the pigeon.
Leaving for the second lap was a hard choice as I knew I wasn’t really racing, but rather out riding. The ego is a tough egg to crack sometimes. At the base of Slate Du-Huez (mile 40 or so) I made a deal with myself. The scenery was stunning, the Aspen leaves were peaking, and all I could think about was how the simple experience of being in an Aspen grove can make me smile from ear to ear. It really was that simple. I quit looking at my stem, expanded my world from the ache in my legs, took a big deep breath, and looked around. The deal I made with myself is that I would ride the rest of the route with a giant smile plastered on my face. If that smile ever started to fade to a grimace I would slow down until the smile returned. Simple.
For the next ~60 miles I grinned from ear to ear and even let out whoops of joy as I carved through Aspen groves along a thin yellow ribbon. It was intoxicating.
For the past past 5 years I’ve ended the season with either 24 Hours of Moab or 24 Hour Nationals and put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well. That pressure took its toll on me, the enjoyment I took from a simple ride in the woods, and those close to me. It was a tough way to end each year. As much as I enjoy trying to ride as fast as my body and mind allows I need to take a step back and remember that I ride bikes because I love the feeling of floating along through the woods, not because I take home a paycheck. The motivation needs to come from the feeling of riding not from standing on a podium. I can’t think of a better way to end this seasons racing than to remember what it feels like to smile so hard for so long that your face is just as tired as your legs. All from the simple action of going for a ride in the woods