amy alison dombroski

2011 Blogs

I am living in Begijnendijk in a flat above a shoe store. It's a narrow twisting staircase from the carpark up to our flat, which is a hassle to bring bikes up but the smell of new leather shoes makes it bearable. Niels Albert isn't my next door neighbor, but he could be as his supporters cafe is just around the corner. And the next town over is Baal where Sven Nys lives and I reckon his supporters cafe trumps all, with his name in big letters beside his victory salute.

My first race of my Belgian-based season was the Ruddevoorde Superprestige. Although I have raced a few times this cross season and it had only been 1 weekend away from racing, it felt all new and weird and wide-eyed. Simon and I drove the 1.5hr drive from Begijnendijk to Ruddevoorde in the rain, and as always seems to be the case, it takes a bit of oomph to get out the car into rain. Following the signs from our soggy field converted into the day's carpark, to "inschriving"  to sign on, I entered the room wide-eyed, holding my license out like a carrot so hopefully someone would recognize the obvious american out of place in the room...the elephant in the room. "Ahh American" said the official, to which i just smiled and refrained from saying with a stupid grin "ich ben amy!" I signed my name in my shaky script and moved down the line to receive my number...clearly I missed the memo that you need to hand over a few euro to receive the number, so in hand language or waving hands and jerking my head in the direction of where I had come, I hoped the money collector would understand I was leaving the room to head back to the car for money.  When pinned up I set off to see the course in a shocking amount of clothes. The temperature was 11C/52F, yet I was pulling on my thermal tights, headband, helmet cover and glacier gloves, while Simon shook his head, muttering something under his breath along the lines of "you've got no idea what you've got yourself into...".  As I reached the course I noticed firetruck commotion and saw thick black smoke billowing from the chimney of a small grey brick cottage.  The house was mildly on fire but the fans, spectators, riders, marshals, mechanics, and course builders carried on like it was nothing.  To avoid being the elephant so too did I, but as I was pedaling 'round the course the smell of burning house was omnipresent. Similar to Scheldecross 2 years ago when there was a bomb threat on-course, in the US the race would be too trivial and canceled, the town would be shut down. But in Belgium the cross-show must go on.  And it did, although clearly the women were just the dress-rehearsal for the bigger show.  We took to the start line at 12:30, after the junior boys, whilst the elite men didn't set off until 5:30. It was a bit of a slap in the face, as the course barely had it's banners and barriers in place, spectators were half of the turn up for the men, the start lights didn't work for our start so we had to listen for a whistle, and any tv crew were clearly still enjoying their Sunday croissants. Nevertheless, this race didn't hold a women's race last year, so it's a step in the right direction. Plus, this meant we could be home, clean, warm, fed, sipping tea sprawled out on the couch while watching the men live on tv.

With how slick the course conditions were, with how twisty & turny & technical it was, I knew it would be a race to just keep focus, keep pedaling as hard as possible and keep looking ahead, not behind. Indeed throughout the race everyone had their struggles; there were pit stops, bobbles & dabs, loss of legs & focus.   I was pleased with my 5th place finish; it's a good place to grow stronger from throughout the season. I got  my brand new long sleeve skin suit well muddy, and when Simon came back to the car with the bikes cleaned he saw me with my Clif bottle squirting water onto my mud-caked legs, trying to wipe off the cement-like substance with a face cloth.  Rolling his eyes, refraining from pointing & laughing, Simon grimaced "erm, you know there are showers right over there...?" And then I saw where all the beautiful people set up camp...on a perfectly manicured and somehow dry soccer field, just to the side of the course, close to the pits and the start/finish were a menagerie of perfect glimmering camper vans, the rider's 'pens' all taped off, and right close to the showers and bathrooms. I felt like a 5th-class citizen, finishing in 5th place, tromping back to our minuscule van in the muddy field where my option for urination was to squat between car doors.
But it's progress right? I mean, last season I'd have been jet-lagged to rubbish, driving around in a hatchback, with only 2 sets of wheels to choose from. 4 down, 30 to go...!!

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