Thursday, 23 February 2012

Nice to be home

I've been back now for 2 weeks. I loved Belgium but at the same time, it's nice to be home. There's nothing too exciting to say so I'll sum it up with some pictures.

Belgium was beautiful in its own way.

 But in my final weeks the weather dropped to about -12, and it soon looked a lot more like this:

Beautiful? Yes. Training weather? No.

Once I got home, I took some time off to relax with my girlfriend down at the beach.

And before long I was back on the bike, with a much greater appreciation of how good it is to ride in Melbourne.

Got out on the MTB on Tuesday, and the skills are beyond a little rusty. I had entered MTB Nationals, but I'm glad I'm giving it a miss, it would have been a little embarrassing!
Also had a belt round the Hawthorn Criteriums on Wednesday, nothing outrageous, just rode with the bunch, gave it a couple of go's off the front, and rolled through the finish. Training will formally start once uni starts, next week! Uni's only 3 days so I have plenty of time to train/work.

Team Manager Roeland is planning a comeback at the Mt Buller Road Race, here's his new blog.


Tuesday, 7 February 2012


 The rest of my trip here will be relatively uneventful, and I've decided to finish up with the blog till I get home. I'll continue to update it with my racing back in Australia, but the Belgian adventure has come to an end.

Here is a brief summary of my trip:
-Raced 3 World Cups
-Represented my country at the World Champs in front of the biggest ever crowd at a CX race; 61,000
-Raced 2 GVA Trophee Races
-Got 2nd at the VWF race. (I looked up the guy who beat me, he won 15 races this season!)
-Got paid to race the Otegem C2 race
-Won a meat platter
-Made plenty of new friends and some handy contacts.
-I only came last once!
-I finished every race I entered
-I am now ranked 288th in the World for CX
-I have hopefully inspired some more Australians to start racing CX locally, and hopefully also head overseas.

Again I would like to thank everyone who has made my trip possible. Roeland, Rose and their friends and family, the people at home and the Belgians who have supported me and all my sponsors for their generous support, in particular, Giant Bicycles, who have helped subsidise my trip. If you are in the market for a bike, tyres, sports supplements (in Belgium), or a bike service, please consider helping my sponsors out as they did for me, and mention my site brought you there! If you haven't already, please visit my thank you post to see how everyone has helped make the trip such a success.

I've also done another interview on a friend's blog:

I have had a heap of people sending me their photos from my various races over here, and have certainly appreciated them all. I met Tanaka Sonoko whilst staying with the Japanese team in Koksijde, and she emailed me some superb photos which you can see below. As with any photographer on my blog, please contact them before you use their photography. Some are amateurs doing it for fun, and others are trying to make a living out of it.

This has been the most amazing trip I've ever been on. Thanks for following my blog, and please check back every now and then to see what I've been up to.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Final Race! GVA Trophee Lille

I was hoping to find a race similar to the Vlaamse Weiler Federatie race I got 2nd at, to try and pull off a win before I came home. Unfortunately, the smaller competitions have all finished up now, so it was another tough race for me. The GVA Trophee, for those who don't know, is the highest level of CX race (together with the Superprestige) apart from the World Cup and World Champs. Belgium finally had the weather I was expecting in the last week, when we recieved a dump of snow on Thursday. Driving out to the race, I was skeptical of whether I could really be bothered. The temperature was saying -12 degrees, surely I'm better off leaving on a high with the amazing World Championships, than giving myself frostbite on a freezing Saturday morning. Arriving at the course there was a decent turn out of specators and racers, considering the weather, but it was certainly beautiful.

Pine forests surrounding a frozen lake, all covered in snow, with a blue sky. Very picturesque. Thankfully due to the cold, the course was actually very dry, and superfast. I rugged up to the max for the race, wearing long knicks, thermal undershirt, jersey, long sleeve lined jersey and a balaclava.
After one practice lap before the start, I was actually ready to throw the towel in. My hands were beyond numb, they just bloody well hurt! Thankfully I was able to warm them up before the start. There were still all of the big guns at the start line, but most of the tailenders had gone back to their respective homes following the WC's. I was thinking my chances of finishing last were pretty high. The gun went off, and I hung out the back but stuck with the bunch for the first km. In a pile up round a corner I found a sneaky inside line and jumped infront of about 6 people, but as I jumped on my bike, I couldnt move, there was deep sand under the snow which I hadnt seen! Everyone came past me again and I was back in last. During the lap I rode back up to one other rider, and proceeded to pass him before the end of the lap. The crowd took a while to get behind me but thanks to some people who recognised me from the week before, I was getting some of the loudest cheers (apparently) whenever I would pass them.

I rode 5 laps before being pulled, and got about 40 mins riding time. I beat one finisher, a Belgian, and was apparently consistently 30 secs behind the person in front. Not half bad, but nothing amazing. Still, it was nice to be able to race in the snow, and it certainly was a pleasant way to wrap up my racing. Ellen took some great photos of the race, and Jeroen and his friend Joni were on hand in the pit lane. Whilst I didnt end up changing bikes, I certainly appreciated their help.
And that's all! I will post up some of those photos before I leave, together with a run down of the trip, but for now it's time to relax!

**Unfortunately, due to the snow, we were unable to go to the beer festival! Devastating, but better than ending up in a ditch on the side of the frozen road. I'll get you next time Prime.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

World Champ Report and Interviews

Sorry for another late report, popped over to Paris to see my sister off, who came and watched my race.

The team on the day consisted of my sister, Mat Gray (a fellow Dirty Deeds racer from Melbourne), Jeroen and Tom the mechanics, Roeland was team manger and Rose was taking my jacket and pants from the start.
Whilst in the team carpark, we had a few people come up and say hi, plenty of people recognised me from earlier races, and came to say hello, and there were even some Aussies from London came over to say g'day. Always nice to hear some Australian accents amongst the Flemish whilst I'm racing.
The Bosschaert's and a Van Boxel

It was ridiculously cold (negative something), so we spent most of the time in the car staying warm. Sure enough, 2:15pm rolled by and I started to freak out about warming up and getting my numbers pinned. This usually isn't a problem, but I think I was more nervous than I realised and I pinned my numbers so they popped out when I pulled my suit on. Only enough time for a short warm up with the Japanese guys, and then I took off to the start line. Thankfully there was a road clear where I could ride around the crowds to get to the start/finish area. The start came about quickly and in no time I was lining up watching the lights turn from red to green.
The race was always going to be extremely difficult. One of the spanish guys came down hard on the tarmac at the start, but thankfully I was on the other side of the road and managed to avoid him. I moved up into a pretty decent position at one point, and was riding well, maybe around 52nd for the first part of the first lap. Exactly where I wanted to be. Throughout my numerous practice laps combined I was able to link up and ride almost all of the course, however once the gun went it was a completely different story. Unfortunately a dropped chain up the climb I was reciveing cheers on meant I had to stop and put it back on, losing all the positions I gained. I slowly managed to move back up, catching David the Norwegian, and we rode together for some of that lap.
Tom Prenan

The sandy sections that I was able to ride occaisionally in practice became completely unrideable, partially due to my vision blurring from pushing way too hard, and partially from the lines all changing due to the mayham of the first lap. My dismounts were sloppy and I was an absolute mess. The running in the sand was simply destroying me, Im sure I would've hit max HR out there had I been wearing a monitor. My throat was on fire. And imagine amongst all of this, there are 61,000 people screaming and yelling as you struggle through the sand.
Tom Prenen

I finally managed to compose myself somewhat, and settled back into a good rhythm. Whenever I passed the sandpit or the sandy climb, the crowd would erupt, especially if I ended up making it through smoothly. Thanks to a much cleaner second lap, I was able to catch and pass an Austrian rider, and put some time into him.
Danny Zelck

I had another Austrian in sight after nearing the finish of my third lap, and I heard a roar behind me and saw something blue. There's a bloody Belgian behind me! Surely he got a flat and is just catching up! But no, it was Niels Albert and he was riding like an absolute mad man. I finished in 26 mins of riding time, -7 laps and 57th from 59 finishers. I beat two finishers, which was the initial aim. I was a little disappointed with the result, and certainly upset that I couldn't spend more time riding infront of that amazing crowd, but I would put it down to the nature of the course, as opposed to me having a poor race. Everyone looked bad on the results sheet. 24 riders finished without being lapped, and the riders I wanted to finish on the same lap as were 6 laps down. And these guys are very good riders. The exhilaration from riding in front of a crowd like that was something I'm likely to never experience again, but I will never ever forget it, such an amazing way to finish the trip.

I now have 2 weeks left in Belgium. There is a GVA Trofee in Lille this weekend which I may do, but I'm also wondering if I should just finish my season on a high, and just relax for a while. We'll see. The Bruges Beer Festival is on Saturday night, so regardless of whether I end up racing, I will certainly be enjoying myself that evening. 250 beers from 65 breweries. You buy a glass and they simply fill you up! Proost! (Cheers)

Again thanks to everyone for their support out on the course, on facebook and in the comments section on this blog. It's a great feeling knowing people are following you whilst you're racing. Thanks to my team for their help on the day, it wouldn't have been possible otherwise. Thank you to my primary sponsor Giant Australia, and associated sponsors Schwalbe, Sports2, Qoleum and St Kilda Cycles.
Regardless of whether I race this weekend or not, I'll have a post with Sonoko's photos and the Bruges beer festival next week.
Right now its time to shave off this ridiculous 'mo' and get a haircut.
Thank you!

I've also had a couple of interviews following the race, and I wrote a journal for CX Magazine.

Most of the content on here you will have seen before, but it's cool that I can get it out to a bigger audience:

I was interviewed by Wade from CyclingTips that night over Skype, it came up really well! There are some new photos on there too...

This was an interview for a German CX website.
(There are pop up ads which you just need to close first)