The second race of the Superprestige series was Sunday in Zonhoven, just a 30km drive from Begijnendijk. Temperatures have been balmy and I’m looking forward to colder temperatures just so these nagging mosquitoes go away. That zzzzzz in my ear as I’m trying to fall asleep is like nails on a chalkboard. The Zonhoven circuit was in a sand quarry, reminiscent of sand pits at Burke where we used to do our dryland training for ski racing. The ski coaches would set up break-away gates on the sand hill and we would run down the course emulating a slalom course. But I’ve never ridden my bike down a steep sand bed descent! My first lap of recon I’ll admit was a bit nerve-racking as both descents had a 90-degree turn straight into the drop and I didn’t know what was on the other side or what the sandy descent would feel like and where it would toss me. After that first lap though, getting the jitters out I quickly had a handle on the course and I’d best describe the feeling of surfing down the sand hill as similar to water-skiing. Be willy-nilly, let the bike steer itself (for the most part) and be in the backseat.
The race was going well once I recovered from a crummy start and a crash in front of me. I made it into the 8 strong front group, but half-way through the race on the descent after the second sand run up I noticed I had no rear brake at all; turned out the straddle had simply unhooked but I went into the pit to switch bikes and as I did I saw the group disappear and a small chase group whizzed passed just as I exited. The course was dry and wicked fast and really, a rear brake wasn’t pivotal. If I could have a re-do I don’t think I would have swapped bikes. Along with losing the front group and a lot of time, I also lost my head and rode that next lap like a turd. I felt like I was trying really hard and going nowhere. The last lap I reeled my head back on and finished the race strong but never regained my spot in that front group, finishing frustrated in 9th place. But really, with a 30+ race calendar and with the uncertainties that are certain in cyclocross, one cannot expect a “good” finish out of every start. I learned a lot in this race and that is the most important part. When I was foddering along on my own I had the space to look ahead, take more chances and try different lines which maybe weren’t so obvious in my warm-up. I realized new, cleaner lines and was able to ride a lot of what I had accepted to be runs. Our race was early at 10:45 while the men were at 3pm so we were able to get home to watch the men live on TV. For anyone watching online back home in the states…there was a bit of discrepancy in the amount of spectators at our morning race versus the headlining elite men. Anyways, watching the men in a near-World Cup caliber field I felt pretty good about myself to see where they were riding versus running. On the final lap of my race I had found and was able to ride those lines; a little more time studying the course and I think my race would have unfolded differently.
I have not ridden it but I have heard about the sandiness of Koksijde, the home of the 3rd World Cup and also the 2012 World Championships. After my sand 101 course yesterday, I am optimistic about these upcoming races – I know a bit more of what to expect and look forward to meeting the course later this November! Today is a massive recovery day before the prized Koppenberg cyclocross tomorrow afternoon.