December 25, 2011
The first thing I noticed as we pulled into Balagem was how many people had decided to spend their Christmas Day at the cyclocross races. I saw families with young kids. I saw old men by themselves. I even saw two older women helping each other wash a bike for an Elite rider after doing a pre-race preview of the course. It was actually hard to tell that it was even a holiday, not even one Santa Clause suit. For me, Christmas it typically about spending time with loved ones, and I have never chosen to race my bike on Christmas day. However, since this trip to Belgium is the best gift a cyclocross fanatic like myself could ever ask for I was very happy to strap on the trusty Northwave’s for a Christmas Day race.
The course in Balegem was technical in spots with a couple of big drops in and out of a ravine, mixed with three inches of soggy sod and a few technical sections in and out of the woods. My pit crew was phenomenal, magnified by the fact that there were no power washers in the pits and I was changing bikes every lap. That’s a lot of bucket washing, folks.
I started mid pack with over 50 of my new found Belgian buddies. I was happy to have some fight in my belly and some fire in my legs. A couple of laps in I misjudged how much mud my bike was accumulating and bypassed the pit. I lost a couple of spots but I was happy that I was able to remain aggressive and keep fighting. I felt a huge sense of relief when I came around and realized I was getting the bell lap. I was able to hold off a hard charing GB rider to finish 24th out of 52 starters. I was less than two minutes down from the leader. One thing that I have learned in my short time racing in Belgium is it’s about attaining those intermediate goals. These are small victories, but victories all the same. This gives me some confidence going into the final week of EuroCross Camp. Only two or three more races left and I want to make the most of them.