Headed to Love Gap near Wintergreen this weekend for two days of mountain biking, including the much talked about Super Bowl Sunday ride with a bunch of Tripower teammates. Saturday we’ll ride Sherando. Remains to be seen whether my K2 will be ready or I’ll be scrambling for a bike tomorrow.
I read recently that cyclocross is now the most watched sport on television in Belgium, ahead of even soccer. Belgians love the sport and their stars de Clerq, Wellens, Vervecken, Nys and others have dominated it in recent years, and no country has come close to unseating them. Last year, American Jonathan Page scored a silver behind Vervecken, but the two only got away after misfortune struck front runners Nys and Wellens.
This year, at the championships, Belgium was turned on its head. Lars Boom of the Netherlands broke Belgium’s seven-year hold on the rainbow jersey, attacking Sven Nys of Belgium and Czech Zdenek Stybar early in the final lap. Stybar then outsprinted the usually dominant Nys. Meanwhile, Page didn’t have the legs and trailed in 23rd, just a few places ahead of the other Americans. Still he was only 41 seconds down. As a side note, Brit Rob Jebb of Three Peaks fame (and winner of Ironcross this year) came in 51st.
In the women’s race, Katie Compton withdrew in the first lap citing a muscle injury, but American Rachel Lloyd did manage 9th just behind Canadian Wendy Simms in 7th.
There’s always next year.
Today ended up being a Belgian kind of day.
I consider nasty weather days to be Belgian for some reason. Belgian bike races are known for difficult weather and Belgium produces tough bike riders. This morning started bitter cold. Before the morning ride I checked weather.com, saw it was 20 degrees out at the Beach and opted to skip the first loop. My gear is not sufficiently PRO. It was in the high 20s when I got out there about 8 for a quick warm-up and 34 by the time we were rolling up First Colonial for the next two loops. It was actually somewhat pleasant in the group and we rolled along pretty fast. Work harder, stay warmer.
When I got home, I checked the results from the cyclocross world championships in Treviso, Italy. No big surprises in the juniors or U-23. Young Belgian stud Niels Albert took the U-23 rainbow jersey by a wide enough margin that he celebrated as he crossed the live (above). He’ll be a force in the years to come. Tomorrow brings the mens and womens championships. It remains to be seen whether Katie Compton is even going to race, let alone be able to improve on her silver from last year. I do hope whatever is ailing her passes and she can take on her German, Dutch and French rivals. And maybe in the mens, Jonathan Page will surprise like he did last year, but I think this is a race between Belgian Sven Nys and the Dutchman Lars Boom.
Finally I enjoyed one of the best beers I’ve ever been privileged enough to drink tonight. This was another find at Grape & Gourmet. It was one of two that I saw that had scores of 100 from ratebeer.com. In other words, according to the critics, beer doesn’t get any better. If so, it must be worth the shock-inducing price tag of $3.99 an 11.2-ounce bottle, so I bought a Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru.
Yum. My palate and knowledge of beer isn’t adequate to describing this Belgian Special Brown Ale. I detected raisin and cherry in the mouth. It offered a subtle sweetness, not as cloying as the Gouden Carolus Classic I sipped a few days ago. The Brasserie des Rocs fairly exploded across my tongue then slithered through the rest of my mouth revealing complexity wherever it landed. At 9.5 percent alcohol, this one also carries a kick. I’ll want to have one again, when I figure out how to afford it.
Pull for Americans Compton and Page tomorrow.
Just finished watching my Patriots go 18-0, beating San Diego to advance to the Super Bowl. I’m sporting a happy little buzz too since I enjoyed a new discovery during the game.
After the Mud in You Eye cross-country 5K on Sunday, Kevin, Marco (who was the bike lead) and I hit Starbucks for a snack and a jolt. Then Kevin and I went to check out Grape & Gourmet, a wine and beer store in Loehmann’s Plaza that Link photographer and beer reviewer Bill Manley told me about. Wow, what a selection of beers – Belgians, American microbrews, stouts, etc. Nothing ordinary and many extraordinary. Advised helpfully by Kevin, the knowledgable owner, I bought a four-pack of Belgians, a Double Bastard and a Green Flash Brewing West Coast IPA from San Diego.
I enjoyed the IPA last night visiting my brother and his family at my Mom’s. It was delicious and sharp, cutting across the palate.
But it was the Unibroue Trois Pistoles that left me all warm on this bitterly cold day. Trois Pistoles, a Belgian-style strong dark ale, is an easy-sipping, long-lasting drinker with 9 percent alcohol. It’s rich with a big taste of cocoa. It comes from a Quebec brewery that Grape & Grain’s Kevin said lured a brewmaster from Duvel to run. At $2.49 a bottle, I’ll surely be enjoying this one again
Joined Kevin and Meaghann early Saturday morning to contest the first in Kale Running‘s winter Mud in Your Eye cross country race series. The conditions lived up to the name with a light misting rain before the start and just enough slippery mud on the course at Mount Trashmore. Most challenging was the mud puddle at the bottom of the downhill by the stairs we used to run for Trashmore Cyclocross.
Unlike the Hair of the Dog 5K race, where I ran the first mile in 6:00 flat with Kevin, I tried to go out easy and went through the mile mark a bit behind Kevin in about 6:35. Kevin and I traded back and forth a while. I’d pass him, he’d hit the gas and come by me quickly. After coming off the last hill, I came by him again and juiced it a little and that was enough somehow.
I finished in 21:22, 3rd in my age group and 51st overall. Kevin and Meaghann finished right behind me with Meaghann taking first in her age group. My training may be paying off, but I expect K-Dawg will be back with more bite for the 6K No. 2 on Feb. 9 at Bells Mill Park in Chesapeake. More importantly, it’s a fun alternative to the bike in this cold.
A few years ago, Chad, the owner of my original bike shop sponsor, took my base model K2 Razorback and rebuilt it with parts salvaged from his then-wife’s pro-racing bike, which had been damaged in an accident. I had no idea what he’d done, but I walked into Port Norfolk Bikes one day to find my inexpensive MTB suddenly tarted up in a great way with a RockShox SID World Cup fork, Mavic Crossmax tubeless wheels, Hayes disc brakes and a carbon rear triangle. Talk about ultra slimfast. It went from about 30 pounds to about 25.
The K2 has been a great little bike for me as I worked my way from beginner through sport vet to racing in expert vet fields last year (and getting my head handed to me). A few weeks ago I pulled the K2 out for a Sunday romp, pumped up the shocks and rode. When I went to check the shocks again the following Sunday, the RockShox had no negative air pressure. Zip. I pumped it again and rode anyway.
But I was sufficiently concerned that I then dropped it off at Conte’s to have the fork shipped out for a rebuild. Clovis called with the bad news Thursday. Water had somehow gotten into the fork’s interior and the inner stanchions were rusted beyond repair. The $150 rebuild would now be $500, more than a new if lesser fork might cost.
He suggested a RockShox SID Race for a little less that would offer me the same weight savings, but reviews suggest it is awfully flexy, especially for large riders like myself. The World Cup used to flex a lot too, so I tried not to look at it when I was bombing a downhill. I’d rather something stiffer if I’m buying new. The new 2008 SID Race will address the flexiness, but won’t be available until February at the earliest and probably for more money.
So I’m leaning toward a new Fox 32 F80, if I can find one for a decent price. They retail around $750, which to me is indecent, so I’m crossing my fingers.
I’ll miss that SID World Cup though. It’s carried me far, but there’s more mountains to climb.
American cyclocross hope Jonathan Page, silver medalist at last year’s world championships, is rounding into shape for another run this year. He got second Dec. 29 at Middelkerke in Belgium and then was fifth Wednesday at Centrumcross Surhuisterveen in the Netherlands. Above, he leads the sport’s superstar, Sven Nys of Belgium, through the sand in a photo from CyclingNews. Nys went on to win the race.