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.
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.
Here is when things were under control
And here is when they weren’t
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.
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!
What really did happen that day?
Well to begin with Loke had had enough of the pits so he opted to hang out with Marja on cowbell and cheering duty. Dirk and Luc jumped in the pits to help out and get screamed at by me, and Pieter used his cover as team manager to hang out at the start grid and talk to famous people and ignore my needs.
The course had dried out a bit more but the swiss traverse section of the course was still mostly unrideable and would in fact prove to be a good spot to gain some places for the wise.
The weather was stunning and ended up being one of those days where you wished for once that you had a short-sleeved skin suit, my first ever race at this level where feeding was allowed in the pits. I found a short section of course where I could warm up a little, test my lines down the steep rutted descent, and get the blood flowing to my legs. Unfortunately I got a little sideways on the last round and almost ripped my front tyre off. Now because we have had a little sponsor difficulty here at the start of the season I only have 2 wheel sets and this now put me down to 1.5. No problem, still time, go to the pits, swap and then head to the start.
I had a good start. It would have been even better if Jonathan Page’s mechanics could tighten a quick release properly and he didn’t come grinding to a halt just a few riders in front of me. Still, no problem, I am used to working from the back. First turn a couple of places gained, second a couple more, by the time we hit the traverse then I was sneaking my way to more places than I had ever known in a WC before. By this stage I was rubbing shoulders with Yu from Japan and had almost the entire Italian team behind me. This was of course not going to last, but boy did I enjoy it while it did.
Unfortunately a few of the guys behind me proved to be in better shape than me and quietly made their way forwards, but I stuck it with Yu, Joachim and an Italian rider for a bit. But I had a few chain dropping problems which resulted in the derailleur being pulled out of alignment. This sent me screaming (literally) into the pit for the spare bike (with the dodgy front tyre). No problem, we just change the front wheels. This was done with much loudness from me, confusion from Luc and Dirk as to why I wanted the dodgy wheel, and then utter amazement as I managed to shoot out of the pit on the bike with no gears AND a bad front wheel on it. A couple of turns later I realized what I had done and with a little persuasion I re-aligned the derailleur again and rode carefully another half lap so that I could hit the pit again, get the good bike and wobble off for more pain and suffering on Cauberg hill.
As mixed a race as I had it was still an amazing weekend!! Luc and Marja treated us like family the whole time we were there and on the last we all went out for an incredible and unforgettable dinner at their favorite restaurant in Sittard, Pretzels. Which if you are into whisky should without a doubt be on your bucket list (please don’t let the website put you off). Thanks to Luc, Marja, Pieter, Joost, and Kris for the high point of the weekend!! If the first day in Valkenburg left me wondering what I was doing there, the last day most certainly reminded me why I come back. I hope to see you all at the Hellcross!
Normally when I put on my New Zealand kit I feel pretty invincible. Today the weather was amazing (24 degrees) we got there in good time, there was no reason for things not to just fall in to place. That was until I started riding…
I felt like I had a good start to the season, feeling pretty confident, some nice Danish races under my belt. But I had forgotten what races at this level are like. Not necessarily the level of competition but the actual courses, and Valkenburg is no exception. That shit is fucked up. After my first half lap I got to the ‘swiss traverse’ part of the course, where you zigzag across a pretty steep hillside. I stopped after the first zig and walked back to the pits for a more serious set of tyres. I couldn’t keep the bike underneath me to even try and make some attempt at actually riding it. It left me pausing for a moment wondering what I was even doing there. I am just hoping after a good nights sleep and another look at it tomorrow then things will click a little better. Sometimes when courses are this committing then it is hard to just ride them half, you have to go all out, that will be tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be crazy.
On the bright side I do think that I participated in cyclocross history today. On behalf on New Zealand I got to actually select a pit at the managers meeting. Normally we are just given what is left or mushed together with another small nation, but today I was asked. I hope the Germans and the Swiss, out pit neighbors, prove to be nice.
The car was booked 2 weeks ago, bikes have been organised, a place to stay, you name it. Well almost… Friday after work while I was getting changed I suddenly thought, ‘Have I told BikeNZ that I want to race?’
2.4 minutes later mails were sent off to every email address I had with the subject line ‘PANIC!!’ Monday morning I get a mail telling me that they had registered me and this morning I was greeted by a mail with this in it:
We confirm you that the following rider has been registered for : Coupe du Monde Cyclo-cross / Cyclo-cross World Cup – Valkenburg (NED).
UCI Code : NZL19760203
Family Name : EDMOND
Given Name : Angus
Category : Men Elite – ME
Race Type : Cyclo-cross – CRO (new)
Now time to relax with a nice little video from last weekends most excellent race…
I have wanted for a while to be able to show what a World Cup course in Belgium looks like from the riders perspective, so I strapped on a GoPro, filmed my warm up before the race and then quickly threw something together. It is kinda shakey and isn’t the most exciting of footage, but you get the idea 😉
I was naive when I first started riding at this level. I came to Koksijde a year ago and had this novel idea that cyclocross courses were made to be ridden in their entirety. I learned after I saw the footage on the tv later that evening that even the pros were running sections. In fact I had been foolish to have even tried staying on my bike for as long as I had, I lacked the experience to know when I should just hop off and go. I learned already in Valkenburg this year that courses here are made to be evil. Hard, extremely challenging, and often downright unpleasant. Cyclocross at it’s best!
It felt good returning here. More experience under my belt, a bit more power in my legs. I had forgotten however how unforgiving the sand is here though. A single mistake and you are dead in the water. At one point I watched Van Der Haar disappear off effortlessly through it in front of me but was still left feeling positive about tomorrow. Although after we received the start list for the race I discovered that there will be 54 riders lining up at the start. I will need to finish in the top 50 to have any chance of winning prize money, so the pressure will be on. I am kind of looking forward to that bit though. Another good thing is the drive to the race in the morning. We are staying in Bram’s parents-in-laws apartment, 200m from the beach and a 5-10min drive from the course. A lay-in and late breakfast for us tomorrow!
It was a long and eventful trip to Holland (plus Belgium and France) and a lot of things were discovered and learned, but most importantly a ton of fun was had! We started with the World Cup in Valkenburg. This was the third World Cup I had been to but only the 2nd I had ever raced. My goals this time were, to not crash, keep it ‘under control’, and stay in the race longer than last time (27min). Because I felt more experienced this time my chances of reaching these goals were greatly increased. Plus I had a whole team behind me. Luc stepped up as National Coach, Marja was our soigneur, and Bjorn jumped in the pits with Bender who was trying the whole thing out for the first time too. This all came together to create an atmosphere where I could just relax and concentrate on the things that I needed to focus on while all the right things happened at the right times around me. Dirk came with our new pavillion from Krekels which meant I warmed up out of the light rain which came and went. Bender had the bikes ready, checked and re-checked. I couldn’t ask for anything more 🙂
Then came the race. The start at the back is an easy one, especially if you have accepted that there is a really good chance that you will be back there for the rest of the race. A couple of positive things happened here already right after the light went green. I kept things under control, got to ‘play’ a little, that is I passed a couple of riders at the start like Joachim Parbo that are actually better than me (and they established that again shortly after), plus I didn’t crash. I also retained visual contact with the back of the field for a lot longer than ever before. I even got to put the Japanese National Champion, Yu Takenouchi, behind me a couple of times too. Technically I was on the limit of what I felt I could push myself to, but physically I never ran it in the red for so long that I started to lose it. When I was finishing what was to be my 2nd to last lap I noticed the German rider, Christoph Ambroziak, getting pulled as he came through the 80% zone just after me. He and I had a good battle for the last 35 min or so of the race and I am looking forward to crossing paths with him again throughout the season. This was a sign that my number was up next. So I did a couple of things differently this lap. I did two bike changes so that at the very least Bender and Bjorn would have something to do and we would gain some practical experience there. Also on one of the scaffolding structures that are built up where the track crosses itself, I had been jumping over it for fun and to try and reduce the serious tone that you otherwise get at these events. During the course of the race a small group of kids had collected up there and had now begun to chant ‘Jump! Jump! Jump!’ every time that I came by. So on my last journey past I decided to give it a little more. The jump went well and I almost landed on the transitionon the far side but it resulted in me coming down the backside too fast and crashing at the foot of one of the camera towers. If I was wanting media attention then I couldn’t have timed it better! I am not sure if I agree with what the commentator back at Eurosport made up in the following 30 seconds, but I was flattered at the attention. When I finally got waved in it was not a surprise and I was very happy with my result. The days racing was promptly rounded off with some frites (thanks Bjorn and Marja) a protein shake and a beer…
Today we got to see the race course in Valkenburg. Home to Cauberg hill and the Amstel Gold race. Holy shit! It is the most technical course I have ever seen and now that there is a little rain when it gets muddy will be insane! During the day however it was a balmy 19 degrees and I rode in shorts and short sleeves. I am looking forward to watching the Juniors and U23’s race tomorrow and see how they tackle it. Steep, steep hills, riding across them, down them, running up them. I am not sure what even to expect of myself. I have not been 100% for almost a week now, so my energy levels are not fantastic, but that aside there are so many difficult sections on the course I am not sure what to be most worried about and what tactics to employ. I think in the end that I will be happy if I keep a lid on things a little, don’t crash, and get to ride all the laps that I am now allowed to ride. I have tried to be a bit relaxed about things, not worry too much about what I do/eat etc. and just enjoy being here. I have found that beer helps with this…
If you are wanting to see the actual race (I won’t be in it, they don’t film the back) then you can stream it from here – procyclinglive.com it should make for some good viewing otherwise 🙂
An amazing start to our Valkenburg World Cup trip! Well, the start start wasn’t so good. I managed to hire a car with limited kilometers on it so that is gonna hurt the wallet when we get home, and it took us about 2.5 hours longer to get out of Copenhagen than planned. But leaving Copenhagen did involve some good things like visiting our friend Peter and getting hooked up on energy products for the drive south 🙂
Among other things on the drive to Holland Bender and I discussed his diet…
We have been treated like royalty since arriving in in the Limburg Province of Holland (Limburg is famous for it’s hills) at Luc and Marja’s. It started with dinner and whiskey (a passion of Luc’s) last night and continued on this morning with us getting up to this!
They had asked us the night before if we liked the sound of an English Breakfast. It has been a long time since I last had one of those that included blood sausages 🙂 And now while I am sitting fatly on the sofa writing this my dedicated mechanic Bender is standing in the back yard testing how long it takes for him to lose the feeling in his fingers.
Last night while trying to figure out the schedule for the next couple of days I went on the official website for the race to check the program. It said that yesterday was the course practice and team managers meeting and today the racing started with the juniors and women. My heart just sank. We were fucked. There would be no way that they would let me race on Sunday if we had missed the managers meeting. I started thinking of back up plans, finding some local races maybe that we could do, email addresses for the organizers that I could write to and beg to let me race anyway. That was until we discovered that I had clicked on the program for the World Championships in Hoogerheide in February I would like to note here in my defense that to get a schedule for tomorrow I had to write to the organizers and ask for it. It is nowhere to be found online. For the Worlds in 3 months it is but the race this weekend, no…