Saturday, December 29, 2012

EXC Cyclingnews Diary Entry

There were sunny Belgian skies overhead as we spun out the legs for an hour today, recovering from the Loenhout race yesterday. Tomorrow is the urban Diegem twilight/urban race. I've watched some of the race from last year, looks like a lot of fun!

Here's my most recent update from camp on Cyclingnews:

The journey & the sponge 

I hope to do a better job of updating post-race. Thanks for following along!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Picture Perfect.

Yesterday after the recovery ride, I decided to ride back into town on one of the cruiser bikes from the house to explore and capture some images. I hope you enjoy.

Church in the countryside.

Flooded fields just outside of Vorselaar.

My friend & Marian roommate, Danny Gerow.
This was on Saturday after finishing our openers for Namur, which was the following day. Left to Right: Danny Gerow, Stephen Bassett, Drew Dillman, Tobin Ortenblad, Jojo.
Bart Wellens support club at a pub in Vorselaar.

A local Belgian re-stocking the bread vending machine.

Belgium. Bikes & Bakeries.

Gnarly Namur

A million different things could be said about the race at Namur. The course, geographic location, riders, fans, conditions, and on and on.... here's a brief summary of not only the race, but also the atmosphere

We were up at 6:15am on Sunday, making breakfast, loading into the cars and on our way to Namur by 7:00am. It was raining steadily as we maneuvered through the narrow streets that led to the motorway, which we were on for the remainder of the drive to the venue. I drifted off to sleep while driving and awoke just in-time to see the mystical mountain where the race is held, looming above the rest of the city; it was an impending sight to see.

Within the daunting nature of the ancient mountain there is a certain beauty that you're captivated by. I began to imagine an earlier time when there nobles fought for the right to lay claim to this ground, and settle atop the mountain. I deduced that those who fought to become conquerors, were the bravest, toughest men in all the land. Abruptly I was brought out of this daze and back to reality as the car stopped and we had to get out to pick-up the numbers for our own battle. This battle would entail young men pushing their physical and mental limits on a muddy battlefield, complete with treacherous chutes, slippery off-camber, and grueling up-hill run-ups.

After doing two laps on-course, I headed back to pin-up my numbers and warm-up on the trainer. My routine was interrupted when I got off the trainer to get another bottle, the interruption was a small group of fans asking if I had any "rider cards". I had them with me and gave them each a few, they also wanted to take my picture... it was strange to have fans at the race and to have them come up and take interest in the American riders.

© Tom Robertson
The race itself was tough. I was pleased with the start and my ability to fight for position and maneuver in traffic, but I struggled in the off-camber and running sections. I have worked to focus on the good, learn from the bad, and MOST importantly prepare for the next race: Zolder. I am confident in my ability to ride with these guys, on these courses, but it's imperative to focus mentally before, during, and after the races here. If you can't stay in the game mentally the courses will eat you alive.

© Tom Robertson
© Tom Robertson
© Tom Robertson
Speaking of eating, I'm off to have Christmas dinner with the rest of the guys. From all of us here in Belgium, Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Biking in Belgium.

The trip started with a nice little flight over the Atlantic, landing in Brussels, Belgium after seven (ish) hours in the over sized bird. The riders were met at the airport by our soigneur, Jim Anderson, along with mechanic Dave Hartman. From there we loaded up the vans and drove an hour to Vorselaar, the town where we'll be staying for the duration of the trip.

After a quick tour of the house, grabbing a quick snack, and building the bikes, I headed out into the rain with a few other guys to spin out the legs from travel. It was great do some exploring in the nearby Belgian countryside! We must've had too much fun exploring, because we ended up getting ourselves a little lost... eventually we found our way back to the house, but not until we had numbed our hands a bit.

The rest of the day was a fight to stay awake and adjust to the six hour time difference. From what others had told me, I just needed to stay awake until early evening, get a good nights rest, and I'd wake up fairly adjusted to the time here. So far that seems to be the case.

Cyclocross Magazine article from the OVCX final here:
Johnson Prepares for U-23 Worlds Bid and Woodring Wins at OVCX Indy Finale

EuroCrossCamp coverage from myself and other riders: 
Missives from the Motherland: EuroCrossCamp Through the Rider’s Eyes

Photos from EXC adventures thus far.
McTubbin & Dizzle-D at breakfast.
A common sight throughout the house.

Found some sweet local trails only a few miles from the house.
Rather nice Belgian day, so we had to shed a few layers.
Cobbled road leading up to a castle.
The castle.
Little grocery store run.
More bikes parked in the rack than cars in the lot. Rad.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

OVCX Finale

Here's a relatively short post with a few photos and some race footage:

Last week I finished up with finals and headed home Wednesday to spend some time with my family, since I will be absent over Christmas due to EXC. Then on Sunday, my girlfriend, family, and I headed back to Indy for the OVCX season finale, which was hosted by Marian at the IndyCycloplex.

The course was slick in spots from some rain earlier in the week, but overall it was tacking up nicely. My start position was further back in the grid, so chose to line up on the side in hopes that I'd be able to shoot around the outside, moving up that way. I was able to get into the top 15-20 when we hit the grass, and on the second straight I sprinted around on the left to get to the front. Once there, I established a gap going into the barriers, which grew after hopping them and keeping a steady pace. Now that I was out in-front my goal was to focus on riding each section of the course well and maintaining smooth, steady power in the flats. This allowed me to grow an advantage over my competitors throughout the race. I went down on the switchback descent in-front of all the spectators, thankfully I had the gap I did, allowing me to patiently make sure my chain was on and continue race.

I dedicated the race win to my friend, Nicole Borem, who is recovering from a recent surgery. Many of you know Nicole and raced in her honor as well - I know that meant the world to her. Thank you for this display of support you all showed, it was awesome to see!

Overall, the local series' and racing has been great! We're very fortunate to have so many people who are committed to the continued growth of the sport and development of young riders. I think having the final race of the series at the Major Taylor Velodrome (IndyCycloplex) gave an opportunity to  show the level of commitment that Marian has for developing cycling in the Midwest. Dean and the rest of the Marian crew have worked to make the IndyCycloplex a place where cycling of all disciplines can be held and flourish.

The unveiling of how the 'JoJoNoFingers' nickname originated

Highlight Reel

My favorite picture from the weekend! Will Johnson & I.
Photo Credit: Kent Baumgardt
Photo Credit: Kent Baumgardt
Thanks for reading - Stay tune for updates from Euro land soon!

Friday, December 7, 2012

EuroCrossCamp & Beyond

As many of you know (and for those of you who don't), I will be traveling to Europe in a couple weeks to attend EuroCrossCamp (EXC). While there, I will be staying in Vorselaar, Belgium, the heart of the cyclocross scene. I will fly out December 19th, returning two weeks later on January 2nd. During the trip, I will have the chance to eat, sleep, and breathe cyclocross, racing 5 times on some of the toughest courses in the world.

I am very grateful for the support that I have received to help make the trip possible. I couldn't do it without so many of you who believe in my cycling and have helped me to continue my growth as an athlete by providing opportunities for me to develop, both physically and mentally. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you all... via updates here, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

2012-13 EXC Roster

Race Schedule

Tentative EuroCrossCamp X Program 2012

Thursday, 21 Dec – Riders begin to arrive in Belgium (fly in to Brussels)
Sunday, 23 Dec Namur WC (Elite; Junior/U23 races not WC)
Wednesday, 26 Dec Zolder WC
Wednesday, 26 Dec Beernem (for those not selected for Zolder WC)
Friday, 28 Dec bpost bank trophee – Loenhout (UCI Junior)
Sunday, 30 Dec Diegem Super Prestige
Tuesday, 1 January bpost bank trophee – Baal/GP Sven Nys
Wednesday 2 Jan – Riders Depart for U.S.

The rest of my season can be broken down into three major goals:
  1. EuroCrossCamp
  2. Nationals
  3. Worlds
These goals build in a progressive order, each one building off the previous. My time at EXC will help to prepare me for Nationals, along with allowing me to compete for a spot on the 2013, U23 Worlds team. I hope to attain these goals by taking it one race at a time, being prepared for each step of the plan, not anxiously skipping ahead.

Here are a couple links regarding EXC & Worlds selection:
Young US riders selected for Euro 'cross camp
Analysis: U.S. worlds team takes shape ahead of key qualifying period

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A few video highlights from Sunday's race. Thanks to John Wheeler for the great OVCX coverage throughout the season!
Watch more videos on CyclingDirt 
Post-race interview

Watch more videos on CyclingDirt
OVCX #11 Brookside Cup Elite Men Highlights

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wicked Nice Weather in December?

Saturday the Marian crew headed to Purdue for the MWCCC regional cyclocross race, the final collegiate race before nationals in January. We were greeted with exceptionally warm weather, which is awesome when considering it's December! Going into the race Wisconsin's Joe Maloney and I were tied in conference points, followed by fellow Marian rider Drew Dillman. Beforehand we talked some race strategy, but it ultimately came down to one of us winning the race.
The race started out with Maloney gaining an early lead, with Dillman, Gerow, I working through traffic to bridge to the front. I was able to bridge up to Maloney first, sitting on his wheel waiting for Dillman and Gerow to join. Once there, Dillman took over at the front, towing us up and down the infamous sledding hill, turned regional 'cross course.
After a lap on the front, Dillman lost traction, sliding out in a corner, Maloney who had been on Dillman's wheel got hung up too. I came around both of them and put in an effort, which immediately opened a gap. At this point I knew I needed to fully commit to make this the race winning move. I was able to steadily increase the adavantage over Maloney, riding to the win and claiming the MWCCC individual conference title, as well earning a front row start spot come January.
I'm proud to a part of the what the Marian University cycling team is accomplishing, as we fight to defend our overall team national championship title in Madison.

 Photo Credit: Sarah Lukas
Sunday we were again blessed to have great weather! Danny Gerow (my roomate) and I headed to Brookside Park for OVCX race #11. I rode to the race, meeting Danny there and heading out on course for a quick preview.
In pre-ride I focused in on making sure tire pressure was dialed, using Rhyno mud tires, I also was able to get a good feel of preferred line choice. My start position was near the back, because of this, I knew it would be important to smoothly work my way through the field, avoiding any early crashes caused by the mud.
As I worked my way into the top 15, I flatted my rear tire. Once I realized it was completely flat, I had already been riding it for a bit, so I decided to continue to ride to the pit where super-pro mechanic, Matt McKinney kept me rolling smoothly with a fresh bike.
During this time only one rider passed me, making it easier for me to continue the charge to the front, where my competitor and friend (Marian teammate), Drew Dillman was already riding in the lead. I was able to work my way through the remainder of the field, closing the gap to Dillman on an off-camber section, leading into a stair run-up. I sat for most of the lap to recover from the effort it took to ride the flat to the pit and catch him.
After regaining some composure, I decided to test the waters, putting in an attack on the straight leading into the same off-camber and stair section that I initially caught Dillman on. I was able to open up a gap over him, but it was short lived; I saw he was closing it down and sat up to save energy. Later in the lap he countered my move, gaining and advantage, but I was able to close it back down.
We were both a little gassed from these attacks and the energy we spent working through the field. Dillman led at a relatively calm, tempo pace as we both recovered. He went wide in a corner, allowing room for me to come on the inside and take over at the front. I decided to again put in an attack, but this time is was a more sustainable effort so I would have something in the tank in case I wasn't able to get away.
This effort gave me a slight advantage going into the off-camber and stair sections, which I had been able to ride consistently with confidence throughout the race. My goal was to now ride the rest of the race as clean and smooth as possible. I was able to do just that, allowing me to further grow my advantage.
Really thankful for the opportunity to race such a great course with excellent staffing, and battle it out for the win with my buddy, Drew.
Check back soon for an interview, along with more details on EuroCrossCamp!
Click HERE to read the "official" write-up.
 Photo Credit: Kent Baumgardt
Only a little over a week of school left before Christmas break, and 16 days til I fly over to Euro-land for 'Cross camp. Time to hit the books - Later!