Mmmmm, summer…

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Our little adventure in New Zealand started in Christchurch. In spite of the devastation wreaked by two huge earthquakes there are loads of cool things happening here and it is still one of my favorite places. Christchurch also has some great riding to offer and this is but a sample…

Worsleys forest is a favourite of mine on the Port Hills and has had a ton of new trails put in since I was last there. Although I find that it isn’t super single speed friendly (well not with a 32×16 gearing anyhow) as it involves a pretty heavy climb followed by some rather fast descending. My adventures this time sent me off on trails that I could see were not dug with a rigid hard tail in mind, but were fun and challenging none the less.

Nice views to be had from Worsleys

Nice views to be had from Worsleys

Macleans island was a new one for me. There has been a bit of money sunken into about 10-14kms of trails out there but unless you are taking your kids out riding or like riding ‘singletrack’ on your road bike you won’t find it very challenging. I would even have trouble squeezing the word ‘fun’ into the description. Boring and monotonous would be better. On the good side it was a short drive from my dads and was very 32×18 friendly. Next time I might pop a 14t on the back though…

There was nothing worth taking a photo of at Macleans Island, so here is a random sign.

There was nothing worth taking a photo of at Macleans Island, so here is a random sign.

Haven Mtb Park, hidden way up a steep dirt road near Gebbies Pass, with almost no sign posting, nor instructions online on how to find it really is a hidden gem. Kelly was the only person I know that even knew it existed and I attribute that to her having had lived on the actual property until not long ago. So having met the guy behind it all at the pub, driven out there thinking I could find it, finding out I was wrong, finding out there is no mobile phone reception within 2km of the place, getting better instructions from two random guys out riding near it, I finally found the place. P.S. if you don’t have a 4WD then don’t even contemplate going all the way up the driveway. After you have passed these first tests then you have earned the right to sample some lovely little trails, 22km in all, that I think few others have tried. There has been done a lot of digging and trails have been carved, allowing you to climb and descend, on some very steep hillsides that would otherwise be impassable. There was good flow and variation in many of the places I went and it was well suited to my single gear. If I had one complaint it would have been that the one serious climb trail that there was had hairpin turns too tight for the longer turning circle of my Travers and it was impossible to ascend without putting a foot down. So if you are in the area then I seriously recommend going to the trouble of checking it out ;)

A lot of work has been put in up here$

A lot of work has been put in up here$

The climb...

The climb…

The Worlds

The real blog post from the Worlds can be found here

A really nice write up and photos by my manager Pieter can be found here (in Dutch)(not the photos though)

This is a collection of some of the photos that didn’t make it to either ;)

When in Tabor

When in Tabor

Camp Team New Zealand

Camp Team New Zealand

Lunch

Lunch (Kiwi ingenuity at it’s best)

Belgian Fans

Belgian Fans

Swiss Fans

Swiss Fans

Early morning fans

Early morning fans

They do it a little differently in the Czech Republic

They do it a little differently in the Czech Republic

A bit of U23 action

A bit of U23 action

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

IMG_8240

Souvenir

Souvenir

The road home...

The road home…

What a day!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It has been a fantastic day of racing today at the Cross Worlds in Tabor. First Simon Andreassen killed it in the Juniors, to quote the American commentator, ‘it was almost a human rights violation’. Then came the most heavily contended women’s race I have ever seen. The crowd was good, not as crazy as I have seen, but maybe they are saving themselves for tomorrow. Then there was the commentator. He was in Hoogerheide last year too. That time I just appreciated being able to understand what was being said during the race and even be able to follow some of the action at the front. But today because I was watching I got to enjoy the barrage of cliches, similes, and metaphors that just streamed out of his mouth. Here are just a few:

‘Her face is looking like the bank just rang’

‘She’s keeping her powder dry’ – in response to a rider shouldering her bike a little earlier

‘He’s sliding all over the place like Jerry Lee Lewis’

‘This is almost a human rights violation’

‘She had a 5lb hammer and now she has gone in the shed for a 7lb hammer’

It was golden! I wish we had more of it in Europe.

Managed to squeeze in next to the Danish team in an overfilled carpark :)

Managed to squeeze in next to the Danish team in an overfilled carpark :)

Team Malteni/Niner reaching new levels of professionalism

Team Malteni/Niner reaching new levels of professionalism

IMG_8234

CX hairs

CX hairs

Tomorrow bids a track with about 1cm of mud covering frozen ground. This means it will be very slidey with frozen ruts telling you where to go all the time. The forecast is for lots of crashes, with me trying to avoid having to change bikes cause I only have one set of mud tyres. If it snows it won’t be enough to change the game, just enough to be really annoying and make you wish you had glasses. If you are looking for predictions of who will win, my money is on someone in light blue or orange kit. The guy wearing black and white will be busy focussing on keeping the two in white with green and yellow stripes behind him ;)

 

But why?

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bender and I have just gotten back from a managers meeting in Tabor. There were a record 24 countries represented and I was proud to be one of them. First we were welcomed by the head of the race committee in Czech, which was then translated. After came a short stint in english and then we went on to the main part of the meeting, in French. French is the language of the UCI apparently and is seems that if you don’t speak it then that is your problem. Now I have been to enough of these meetings for this to not be the first time that I have encountered this problem. I would also say that World Cup manager meetings are quite standard and there is seldom anything new. This isn’t the case at the Worlds. They compensate for the unfortunate few that don’t follow by putting the main points in bullet form on a projector. This is how it goes:

On the projector:

  • Maximum tyre width 33mm
  • No spikes or studs allowed

What the dude says:

No frigging idea but he spoke for a whole minute about tyres alone (I think) He even paused a couple of times and scanned the room to see if everyone understood.

For the start of the race they seem to have strict guidelines for who can be on the start grid and what time they have to leave, but again I am a bit of a blank on that one too.

It is just frustrating and leaves you with a ‘you don’t belong here’ feeling…

Warning!!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The latest news from Tabor!

http://www.cyklokros.cz/cz/wc-tabor-2015/news/330-no-entry-with-alcoholic-beverages

I am not sure how this is going to affect the hard core Belgian fans that are making the pilgrimage from the motherland, but it looks like those schnapps bottles are going to have to be emptied before entering the race area. I hope that this does not dampen their enjoyment of the race. I can personally vouch however for the incredibly cheap beer that can be found over here. Bender and I were pushed at Tesco’s to find anything that cost more than €1. I can also say that things are warming up nicely in Team New Zealand’s preparations for the Worlds, just a few days from now.

 

The word from the pit…

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hi there. This is Anders, Angus’ mechanic. If you’ve followed the blog you’ve seen me mentioned as Bender which was my call name when I worked as a messenger here in Copenhagen and that’s where I met Angus.

Pieter2

That might seem as irrelevant information but being new in the elite world of cyclocross actually reminds both of us of what it was like being a rookie messenger. The guys who have been in the game for a long time have seen rookies come and so you have to prove your worth by coming again and again. There are ways to do things that you only learn by doing them wrong and getting looked at funny or stand in the wrong place at the wrong time and finding out the hard way.

Pieter

For an example for my first world cup in Valkenburg last year our pit box, that had been assigned to us at the managers meeting the night before, got completely taken over by the Dutch mechanics. And when I tried to squish in between them, they just looked at me like I was the one that wasn’t supposed to be there. That taught me three things, one: English is not the Dutch mechanics strong side. Two: why nobody chooses the pit box next to the Dutch  (really, its the last one to go at every WC managers meeting). And three: the big teams with star riders stand in whatever box they like whenever they like.

10492284_10152583782492858_7491001029732425789_n

At every race there is a new thing that I learn, sometimes small, sometimes big. The biggest one had to be tire pressure. If I had to say what is the most important thing on a cross bike, I’d say tire pressure. In the beginning we thought we knew what we were doing but looking back, we had no idea. And its not something that you just go and ask another mechanic for advice on. I’ve asked other mechanics twice what pressure they were running and both times the answer was something like “the right one” followed by a big grin. Like Tyler Durden said “you do not talk about tire pressure!!”.

Dave (2)

On a smaller scale another thing I learned was what’s best to wash first, the wheels or the frame. That is a little thing but it is a thing that matters in the pits. If you wash the frame first you can do it all over again after you’ve washed the wheels. There is more to bike washing then you think, not really but it’s one more thing to geek out on and that’s nice. So that’s what I do, geek out, and youtube is great for that. A couple of weeks ago I saw a video on the web about how to wash your cross bike, thought I could pick up a few tricks. That wasn’t the case but one thing did catch my attention, the guy said that the teams you see on TV/internet washing the bikes with pressure washers can do so because they have chains and cassettes from floor to ceiling, or something like that. I can assure you that that is not the case for all the elite teams. The idea that we use pressure washers because we can always just change the chain, is just wrong. We use pressure washers because we have between four and eight minutes to get the bike clean before the rider comes around and swaps again. Flemish mud is no joke. I’ve tried with a normal hose, it can’t be done.

Last year we went to a few Cat 2 races and the pits were packed with the riders’ friends, family and girlfriends, who where all as clueless as I was. Some of them were more clueless than me so it was nice to feel like the experienced one for an afternoon. But it made me realize that at the elite races those mechanics have been doing what they do for years and years and its second nature to them.

 

Dave

One thing that I noticed in a race last year was how the mechanics from one of the bigger teams used the pit in a tactical way. At every UCI race there has to be at least six (pressure) washers in the pits, I’ve never seen more than eight and that has only happened once. So it doesn’t take a whole lot of math to figure out that at the really muddy races a line for each washer will form pretty quickly. The leaders mechanic got to the washer first and saw the mechanic of the rider who was in second or third standing in line, he made sure to take his time to get the bike nice and clean. In most of the races this will never become an actual obstruction for the top ten riders because they’ll have two bikes in the pit. But when it gets really muddy and the rider expects a clean bike every half lap, this can become really annoying, even for us who’s not directly in this little drama but it effects everybody who’s standing in line.

1012559_10151993818182858_348834919_n

And that’s another thing about elite cross in general. There’s the elite and then there’s the elite-elite. We are just elite. Hell, even the UCI calls every country except Belgium and Holland “developing countries” to our faces. It’s the truth so there’s nothing to get offended by but it makes it pretty obvious that we are there as part of the show in this Flemish “national” sport and some people would like it to stay like that, they couldn’t care less. That’s quite alright though. I like that we come to the races in a station car packed to the bursting point, and everybody else has a campervan and a mechanics van. I like that my workstand is the bikerack on the car and I like that Angus has a beer when he gets on the rollers to warm down after a race. I like that we can show them that their national sport is catching on around the world and maybe they should start thinking about that.

15466_10152583781662858_4952611370344062608_n

 

What to do when not riding

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am working on the blog posts for the races following Namur. This Christmas I managed to find a great balance of cozy times between races and quality time with friends. Which was lovely, this did however mean spending less time writing about it all. It is coming though.

As I sit here drinking my morning coffee waiting for a friend there is something else that I would like to share. I listen to podcasts, a lot of them. When commuting, at work, driving to Belgium, they fill the spaces in between. It started with fitness and nutrition, listening to Ben Greenfield, Rich Roll, Abel James and the Bulletproof coffee guy. With time though Ben got a little geeky, Rich became too spiritual, Abel too nice, and so I started looking further afield. It started with Dan Savage and his advice column podcast. There I found hours of entertainment and wisdom on love, sex and relationships, with a little politics thrown in. A must listen for sure, I guarantee your will horizons will be broadened. Next came Radiolab. Wow. They opened my eyes to what was possible with podcasting. It is a little hard to describe what they do because in essence it is a science based program, but really it is much much more. Now I was born into a generation that watched TV in the evenings, radio was kinda dead, and computers, well they hadn’t really made their impact yet. I have nostalgic kinds of pictures, shown to me by the benevolent TV, of what the radio generation must have done with their cold wintery nights, sitting round listening to radio broadcasts. But it wasn’t until I heard the likes of Radiolab that I truly began to appreciate quite what that must have felt like. They brought a quality of journalism and story telling that I had never heard in an audio-only format before. I had trouble though, after I had waded through about 5 years worth of Radiolab podcasts, finding a worthy successor. My hunger was sated a little by On The Media and their spin off TLDR, with their interesting look at current events and the media’s way of spinning them. The TED Radio hour, TED talks put into audio and compiled into themes, again left me inspired. But how could you go wrong there? A TED talk is hard to beat. Well that was until I found This American Life. Speachless. I am not going to try and sum it up, I couldn’t do it justice, listen to it. I promise you if you do your only regret will be that you didn’t start listening to it earlier. Unlike other podcasts This American life only makes this weeks podcast available for download. So there is no ‘going through the archives’. I have started collecting them like prized possessions. Serial is worth mentioning here. The podcast that took the internet by storm. One story told in 12 episodes, Serial quickly rose to being the most downloaded podcast on iTunes. I have also just discovered The Moth. Basically The Moth is everyday people telling stories from their lives on a stage somewhere in the States. Breathtaking. In my 30min commute to work I have both laughed out loud and be brought to tears in the same trip. Before I start to ramble too much in the noteworthy category I will add, Stuff You Should Know, Criminal, and Strangers.

I am truly excited about the podcasting format and what it has to offer. I think it will become more and more prevalent in our society and maybe discussions started by Dan in his weekly episode will begin to compete with the latest gossip from HBO. Download and enjoy…

The days in between

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Don't leave Belgium empty handed!

Don’t leave Belgium empty handed!

Guest bedroom project

Guest bedroom project

IMG_7933 IMG_7934

There is stuff to fix

There is stuff to fix

More stuff...

More stuff…

but wait, there's more!

but wait, there’s more!

Then there are abbeys to visit.

Then there are abbeys to visit.

IMG_7939 IMG_7938

Christmas shopping to be done...

Christmas shopping to be done…

And now we drive to Zolder…

Namur

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I like Namur. It is a crazy course, pushes you to the technical limits of your riding, and always makes for some jaw dropping close calls. I thought too that I could get an ok placing (relatively) because I like the technical scary stuff.

Leading into the race I was without a mechanic :( but I did have the worlds best soigneur. My friend Rie made sure that there was order, that things were in place, and that sore muscles and stiff joints were quickly dealt with. Regardless of how I saw the actual race unfolding my body has never felt more ready. Our team car had shrunken a little too.

IMG_7902

The race itself was unlike any other I have ever done. I have ridden the course and raced it before but what actually happened was, well, quite unique. To begin with there were almost 70 of us on the start list, which (maybe) I don’t think the UCI had accounted for when we were called up to the grid. I think those last 10 extra riders or so drew the process out a little. By the time we were on the grid, I had taken my zip-off pants off, we were still chatting and joking when suddenly the air was filled with the sound of shoes clipping in and I was filled with a sinking feeling. The start had gone. I just rode, Rie never got to finish her sentence, and I crossed the start/finish line riding without hands as I peeled off my jacket. The neck warmer and hat under my helmet would have to stay on for the rest of the race. But it was ok I caught the rest heading up the hill as you can see here

 

At the bottom of the next hill though I lost my chain, and badly, so I had to jump off and fix it. By this stage even the very back of the field was starting to disappear. Luckily after a couple more laps I started to haul in some of the riders in front of me and had gained a couple of places. Then my front tyre blew out. It didn’t just go ‘pffffffffff’ like they usually do, it went ‘BANG!!’. Again it could have been worse, it wasn’t super long from the pits so I just had to run for a bit ant then ride the last 100m on the flat before I got a new bike. Again time to start working on those places again. I had two guys with beards and an Australian in front of me so something had to be done.

There were good fights to be had at the back :)

There were good fights to be had at the back :) Photo – Martine Adam

Here is when things were under control

1602190_10205784444829857_1757667337951241879_o

Photo – Tom Prenen 

And here is when they weren’t

1497982_10205784444909859_9059371257701617053_o

Photo – Tom Prenen

I had a discussion with Rie on the way down from Denmark about how I quite often finish races with ‘a little bit left in the tank’. That is to say, not completely dead. I find in cross it is important to keep your shit together as mistakes often cost you more than that little bit of extra speed ever gained you. So as I started to reel Garry, my Australian counterpart, in I decided that today was the day to empty the tank. I caught him on what would be our last run up the steepest hill, and I was confident that I had closed that door soundly until I could hear him gaining on, and actually passing me, on the last climb leading to the pits and what would be our ‘finishing line’, the 80% zone. Somehow I managed to catch and pass him once more before we hit the flat and proceeded to try and put as much space between us before the ‘line’. With about 30m to go my bike made a crunching sound and the rear wheel locked up, my derailleur now snugly wedged in my spokes. I threw the bike on my shoulder and gave it everything I had left for the last few meters. The UCI commissars looking at me funny and telling me to take it easy, the race was over. I don’t think that they understood the epic battle that had just taken place. I was left drooped over one of the barriers, gasping for air, as they removed the chip from my race number. As I turned around I saw Garry lying on his bars, spit hanging from his lips, I decided that we could discuss events later.

I <3 Namur (seriously)

I <3 Namur (seriously) Photo – Fabienne Vanheste

Without the problems I encountered then a top 50 place should have been achievable, but then again that is the nature of the game. I was just glad that I got to finish, albeit with no working bikes left. It was a great race and a good fight at the back of the field. It is really nice to have a few more new faces there, like Mark, Robert, Garry, and the Spanish riders, Augstin and Ramon. Now the preparations for the big one begin, Zolder, if I am going to get to finish a race in Belgium then it will be that one!

This is what happens when you bring Dutch people to cross races...

This is what happens when you bring Dutch people to cross races…

 

 

Spreading the Niner love

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We ran in to some logistical difficulties over the Christmas period regarding cars and getting to the last races. There was just a few days where we fell short and couldn’t seem to find a solution. Pieter jumped into action and went as far as sending mails to the likes of Skoda (hey, they like cycling) to see if they had a car we could borrow for a few days. We ran into a bunch of dead ends until finally, after a little Facebooking and mailing Pieter got a reply back from Seb from Niner Benelux asking if this would do?

Riding in style

Riding in style

Definitely feeling the Niner love now! So if you are coming to either Diegem, Loenhout, or Baal then it is the Niner van and the GripGrab tent that you need to keep an eye out for after the race where we will be sipping cold Maltenis ;)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,230 other followers