Jaarmarktcross Niel

I remember watching this one on the internet in years past. Off camber, sand, mud, it looked like it was a cyclocross dream playground on the video. Sven Nys and others made things look easy here, so I figured that I would have to run maybe once or twice more than those guys. I’ve never learned that dreams can turn into hell so quickly….okay, thats a bit dramatic, but as I was pre riding the course I was in a bit of disbelief on how to actually stay on my bike for most of the features. The only thing that I could really relate to with my experience was the pin-wheel (once a midwestern cyclocross favorite in our local scene) and unfortunately that is not going to make me up any time today.

Ideally I would have all week to preride the course and get used to the technical terrain, but in Belgium the races and course features are so tough that rest is essential in order to perform at an extreme intensity on race day. To account for this, my warm up consists of as much on-course time as possible. If I can find some sort of flow on each course, then I can focus on staying with the competition rather than how to ride the technical parts in the race. With an hour on the course during warm up at Jaarmarktcross, I managed to ride the first part of rutted, muddy, slippery off camber just one time. Leaving the course and preride with disbelief about the course and about 75% of all other features we would be “riding”, I told myself that running and positivity will be my friend today in order to keep momentum.

Podium/ stage rider sign-in, the call to staging, 2nd to last call up, and I was at the line. Frank was there to take my clothes and give me some confidence with a final high five before I claimed my spot on the start line. Once the gun went off I gave it everything to try and move up before we hit the dirt. The start was long but extremely fast on paved town streets and then came to a very tight, man-made ramp feature that caused a major log jam. My claim to fame today was moving up 4 or 5 spots here by dismounting and running around the congestion. Fighting for every spot is essential in cyclocross, something that has been cemented in with my experience racing here so far. After managing to make it around the course in one way or another about 6 times, I was pulled with 3 to go.

Today there wasn’t really any feeling of success or accomplishment when I finished. I managed, I wasn’t last, but I was proud that I got in there and gave it everything. If nothing else, I have experienced some more of the extremes of racing here and that can only make me better. If I had the chance, I would go back one more time and do it all over again just to apply what I learned in those short 40 minutes that I was on course. When to run, how to ride, when to rest, and when to apply all the power humanly possible just to make it through part of the course on the bike.

Due to trying to adapt so much during the morning of race day at the venue, I haven’t been able to take many photos. Below are just a few to get by for the meantime as I get more accustomed to the race day schedule, enjoy!

I’ve been putting my equipment through the ultimate test here in Belgium with no failure. There’s always some luck involved, but the majority of it is having sponsors that put out some amazing product that can withstand anything Belgian CX can throw at it.

The Challenge Limus tire on some Hed Stinger 3’s was the combination today. I needed all the grip I could get on the extreme off camber of Jaarmarktcross. 19lbs of pressure in the front, 20 lbs in the rear for a 185lb rider. Belgium has turned my tire pressure game on its head.

Christian in yellow, and Frank in red, these two guys are the reason I am able to give every race my all with no issues. They are always one step ahead, relentless, hard working, precise, and are very quick to adapt to any situation. We have made a great team so far and I am very fortunate to have these guys on my side.

To not be near some of the worlds best riders at these races would be uncommon. It’s amazing to see how the teams work, and the accommodations they have. Let’s just say campers are a norm here for most all racers.

Things I learned today:

    • Turn (negative) surprise into excitement.
    • Turn disbelief into confidence.
    • Turn misunderstanding into determination.
    • However you get into your race mindset doesn’t matter. Just get there.
    • If you can’t ride, run like hell.
    • When you can ride again, ride harder than before
    • If you line up with anything but confidence and the will to succeed, don’t line up.
    • If you can’t run as fast as the dog can….well….wait, there was a dog on course?
    • There was also a cat on course that I passed, apparently even the animals are cx fans here.
    • Recap post race, learn from the live feed that was filmed, and relate experience of racing that day to how it was really done by the winner.

Watch the full video recap of this years race here.

Thanks for reading!

-E

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