Tuesday, 22 January 2013


 Well Hoogeheide didn't go as well as I'd hoped. The temperature was hovering around -5, and the course was covered in snow and extremely slippery on the corners. I probably haven't really been riding outside enough in these conditions to be familiar with it, and it really took me by surpise.

  There was one tricky descent which thankfully had inflatable padding at the bottom, but this turned out to be the least of my troubles. The corners on the flat is where I had the most issues and I managed to crash three times during my time on the course! Knowing that there wouldn't be much to gain by taking any unnecessary risks, I decided to tone it back a bit and just play it safe, enjoy myself, entertain the crowd and relish the oppurtunity to race a World Cup in the snow. I didn't want to break anything with only two weeks until worlds!

 I got a mention from the TV commentators for being the only male rider without leg warmers on. Truth is, I put some Extra Hot Qoleum Embrocation on about an hour before the start, so by the time I left to the start line my legs were on fire!

 It was a little bit frustrating to not be able to finish on a high, but I can take some comfort in the fact that my legs and chest felt great, it was just my cornering on the icy sections. I'm working on it this week, to try and familiarise myself with it. Fingers crossed we don't get any ice in Louisville. Judging by the long term forecast, it could go either way.

 This run up was a nightmare. Perhaps it was because my studs were worn out, but I couldn't get any grip going up here! So icy and slippery!

Despite the poor result, I enjoyed myself out there, and it was quite amazing to be able to race in so much snow. The crowd were supportive, and I think I gave them something to cheer for on my final few laps. It was also fantastic to see a relative outsider, Martin Bina take his first World Cup win, and the first non Belgian podium since 2001. I'm a fan of underdogs!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Otegem C2 and Champion Systems

This race is always held the day after the National Championships, on a Monday. I raced here last year, and whilst it's low key when compared to Superprestige or B Post Bank races, the local fans really get behind the event. It's typically held as an event for the newly crowned National Champion to show off his new kit.

The Japanese soigneur knew a family who have a house right next to the course, meaning we could stay warm indoors right up until race start. This was particularly handy given the temperature was -3 and snow had been falling all night.

Signing autographs for Lance

Compared to the slog through the mud of last year,  the snow hardened up most of the ground to make for relatively fast racing, with just a few slippery corners and patches of thick mud. The snow on the ground and the sun in the sky made for picturesque racing.

The course is pretty flat, with the main features being a few roll overs, and probably the nicest set of stairs I've climbed in a cross race. The structure flexes when you step on it, giving back a bit of momentum to propel you up the next step. I doubt this was done on purpose, but it made climbing them a whole lot easier.

I was off to my usual slow start, but managed to pick off a few positions to settle into 30th place. The cold air seems to trigger my asthma over here, but thankfully there weren't any troubles during the race. I was lapped by Klaas Vantornout with 2 laps to go, however I was told the commissaires made a mistake and ended up giving us an extra lap, meaning I should have been only 1 lap down. I'm pretty happy with the result and it was a fun day out on the bike.

We were able to shower and clean back at Ranjit's friends house, where they had brought a bunch of friends over and continued drinking after the race, which was entertaining, as most of them were fairly frothed and very keen to have photos with both Ayako and myself.

Champion Systems 
Champion Systems have provided me with a full wardrobe full of custom cycling gear to race, train and warm up in. It's pretty damn cool when I think about it, I've got my very own unique cycling kit, with all my personal sponsors on it! 
I've got a standard skinsuit, fleece lined skinsuit (a godsend over here), neoprene water and wind resistant jacket, thermoshield jacket, and plenty of jerseys and knicks. They've even whipped up some custom zip off leg warmers, which everyone uses over here, you keep them on until a minute to go before the start. I'm exceptionally grateful for their support, I look a whole lot more professional than last year when I was racing in either a jersey and knicks (no go for CX) or a track skinsuit, which left me freezing cold!
New gear, with two Belgian "jongens" who joined me for a training ride. Easy to see why Belgium is so good at cyclocross! These two absolutely fly!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Luxembourg and Diegem - Creux Velowear

After a few lazy days after New Years, we decided to head to a Luxembourg for a few days. It’s been really nice to mix up the scenery a bit and finally ride up some proper hills again. I’ve strung together some really tough training days which should hopefully put me in good form for the Hoogeheide World Cup on the 20th

It can be difficult to really push yourself when it’s 2 degrees, windy and dead flat. Hill climbing is probably my favourite aspect of riding a bike, so I’ve been loving the opportunity to put myself through some pain. 

Luxembourg reminds me a lot of New Zealand. The forests are bright green with moss covering the space between giant pine trees. There were some amazing views from the many dirt and tarmac roads we explored on. 
Whilst the highest point wasn’t much more than 400m above sea level, the climbs were bloody steep, with plenty lasting around 10 minutes. We did a few longer rides, both on little single lane roads, fire roads and the occasional single track (old walking trails).
There were some ruins of an old castle in the next town along the river from us.

Apart from a few elderly people, there was barely anyone out and about. Although apparently Luxembourg is packed with Belgian and Dutch tourists in summer. 
Here are some shots from the lovely Sonoko Tanaka at Diegem Superprestige. You can read about the race and the Kerst Periode as a whole on a guest post for Cycling Tips. It was bloody hard work! But I also got a drawing from a young fan which was very cool.

We’re back in home now, and I’m feeling fairly wrecked. Only a few races to go before I head off to the USA for Worlds!

I first came across Creux clothing when working at St Kilda Cycles. Casual cycling clothing isn’t anything new, but their gear grabbed my attention because it actually looks like clothing I would normally wear. I now own 4 t shirts, a hoodie, the bomber jacket and a pair of shorts of theirs. The gear is made to be functional on the bike, but wearable out and about. I’m being completely honest when I say this stuff is awesome. I’ve worn their gear to uni pretty much every day during semester. The t shirts and hoodie wick sweat away after my commute, and don’t leave me smelling like body odour in class. The bomber jacket is probably the highlight. Good looks aside, its wind and water proof and even has a mud flap to prevent your bum from getting wet when riding in the rain. Their shorts look just like normal shorts, but have a light and subtle chamois sown into the bum to give some extra comfort for longer commutes. 
I've used this photo before, but it's a nice one...

Creux have just released a new line of merino t shirts as well as new shorts and jeans and apparently they’re even better than their old stuff (including water resistant stretch denim!). I’ll be stocking up before I take off to Berlin next year. 
The new merino t shirt
You can buy them online at http://www.creuxcycling.com/ or in stockists world wide. Pop down to St Kilda Cycles to check them out.

I'm tossing up racing a Club World Champs on Sunday, but either way I'll be racing in Otegem UCI C2 on Monday.