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!