The season is coming to a close but the races are still fast, however there is an air of relaxation, unwind and freedom similar to that of the final week of school. I enjoy it; there is more laughter, smiles and chatter in the car park but the racing is still gritty. It remained quite chilly through this weekend with a pretty and light snow last night which turned to rain throughout the morning. This week’s weather shows rain every day so I suppose it is only apropos that the final two races may be a mud bath.
Saturday we drove to Middelkerke, very close to Koksijde, which has become a familiar drive this season! Directly on the coast I had heard Middelkerke in February is the coldest place on the earth and the wind whips you to pieces. Fortunately it warmed to a balmy -7 C and the sun was strong. As we approached the venue I thought to myself that it would probably be a fairly flat and dull course, given the small area they had to work with and a seemingly impossible chance of any elevation change. I was so happy with how wrong I was. The circuit was in a very small circumference plot of land with one tiny berm, but somehow they sucked this area for every grain of sand it was worth. There was so much to the course: a couple fly-overs, sharp dips which you could easily fold your wheel into, two sand sections, fast barriers, off-camber, steep & short climbs and descents, lots of tight corners and even a brief cobble section. It was reminiscent of playing in a bike park and perhaps one of the most fun courses I have ridden.
Sunday’s race was the Heerlen Grote Prijs Heuts in Holland where there was a bit more snow making for quite a snowy and icy track. This course offered the challenging slippy conditions, in addition to a couple steep descents, a massive staircase, and two steep run ups which were more like icy foot-holds. Another fun course, made more exciting because of the snow. So long as I’m warm enough I really dig these cold and icy conditions!
Both races were solid. I had a good start each day; Saturday that start followed with one very good lap and Sunday followed with two very good laps. It seems I have about five minutes more in my endurance/strength/power tank in each race. I am happy to feel a bit more form and it is rewarding to feel the improvements in each race and even each training session. I think it was just too much time away from the racing and training with my sickies…maybe I’ll be good to go for the final races…oh, wait, that’s next week! At any rate I’ve learned heaps about myself, my body’s limits and what makes it tick versus flip.
This coming Saturday is Cauberg Cylocross, based around the Cauberg “hill” in Valkenburg aan de Geul in Holland. The hill reaches a maximum grade of 12% and was the finish of the Amstel Gold Race. The 2012 Road World Championships will also include the Cauberg. Sunday will be one to go, onetogoonetogo in Oostmalle. Anyone who likes or knows their Belgian beers would be familiar with the Westmalle trappist beer. If we’re lucky, maybe the circuit will be in and around the brewery.