Yesterday was round three of the Superprestige series at Hamme-Zogge. With super fast conditions the start was going to be cruical, with speeds so high moving up once the race was underway was going to be tough.
I got an awful start thanks to Niels Albert who in his own words ‘completely missed his start’. I was left in the early 30′s just sat in line desperately trying to move forward given an opportunity, a series of crashes ahead of me didn’t help my progress but I dug in to hold my group which was racing for 21st position, however over the last couple of laps as the group splintered and I was left having to jump round people and close gaps I didn’t have anything left for the final lap burn up which ensued. I ended the race in 26th position once again less than 3mins of the winner Sven Nys. I have said it a lot this season but once again another race shows how close things are this season and valuable seconds here and there are proving to be crucial in deciding the overall result and on this occasion it proved my downfall.
On a plus note I felt fast and strong and I am really looking forward to two more races next weekend, Saturday is the next round of the GVA series in Hasselt followed by Gavere Superprestige where in the past I have ridden really well to a couple of top 20 placings, I will obviously be looking for more of the same on my sort of course.
Zonhoven has been on the Superprestige calendar now for 3years and it is a crowd favourite with the ‘stadium’ sand pit section where the atmosphere created is electric. You drop into the natural bowl areana from the top of a sandy descent, its steep the sand is deep and this leads to the quite frequent over the bars face plant type of crash the crowd crave.
People ask me the technique to dealing with such a unique feature… in all honesty there isn’t too much technique needed, carry speed over the top, aim for the rut, keep your weight back, hands on the drops and look to your exit point while trying to remain in the said rut. There easy.
Zonhoven is a cracker of a course but the start is awful for anyone not on the front row or even someone on the front row who misses their pedal. This lends itself to one of those races which is just going to be a battle royale for myself gridded on the third row. After the first lap I was way down in the mid 20′s a long way off the pace of the chase groups I need to be with let alone the front runners. However with my training and preparation actually based around this week of racing my legs really allowed me to move through over the next few laps 25th, 23rd, 20th, 19th were the calls from the pit crew. I was literally spitting distance off the bag of the group racing for 14th I was flying!
Just 15mins to go I thought, just as I could sense a top 20 in the bag boom the group ahead splintered into 1′s and 2′s and the pace really went up. I was left dangling for the remainder of the race hoping someone would come back to me. They never did and to add insult to injury the French Champ caught me with Thijs Al on his wheel on the last lap. I had nothing left having given all I had to give. 21st.
Another frustrating finishing position but a happier day as I know I rode well and given a fairer start I would have been right in the game. Having said that from reaction from pit crew and journo’s after the race they felt I had been very much in the race and the chase for a top 15. It’s nice when a ride gets noticed like that.
Next up is the Superprestige in Hamme.
The Koppenberg is an absolutely iconic race held every year on the 1st November. Sven Nys described it yesterday as his tour of Flanders, that’s what it means to every true Cross rider out there.
Being so close to where I live in Belgium makes it even more special, the fact many Brits have decided year on year to come over to watch the event really adds more for me on another level as the support for me here is one of the best events of the year. It seemed almost all the way round the course there was the odd British shout for me. The support was very much needed with heavy rain in the previous few weeks leading up to the event left the already savage course really tough. It’s almost as hard getting back down the hill in those conditions as it is dragging body and machine to the top every lap.
I got a distinctly average start but managed to work from this on such a selective course, I was battling for a top 20 position against high quality riders which is where I want to be. I was on for that top 20 finish when with just 1 lap remaining and closing in on riders ahead I punctured just before the finish line. This left me riding a flat all the way along the road up the infamous cobbled climb and desperately trying to not lose time on the off camber descents. I lost 4 spots in total and I hate to think how much time. I got a fresh bike at the top pit and made the descent of my life I made up 3 spots and nearly got back to the position I had fallen from.
I finished the race knowing I had ridden well but the finishing position didn’t suggest this. I’m just waiting for a bit of lady luck at the start of a race and I promise you I will grab the opportunity with both hands and get a result I am proud of…
Next up is the race in Dottignies on Saturday and then the Superprestige in Zonhoven on Sunday.
Plzen has been a World Cup for Elite men for 3 seasons now and becoming a regular on the circuit, in my personal opinion I don’t know why. Normally a dirt crit style race with a few banks and the infamous stair case offers little to sort the best from the rest with small time gaps being the name of the game. I Have never pulled off a great ride here which is probably why I feel this way but a top 30 is always within my grasp on this sort of course. This year couldn’t have been any more different!! With 24hrs of snow leading up to the event the course was left saturated and could only be described as a mud fest. With such heavy conditions and slippy corners a lot of the course had been transformed into such a state that the quickest way around was with the bike on your shoulder running. By my quick calculations after the race I performed approx. 75 dis/remounts of the bike to say you couldn’t get into a rhythm was an understatement, I’m not the World’s fastest runner but can usually hold my own and not feel the effects too badly once back on the bike. After a mediocre start once again I couldn’t really move forward and ended the epic race in 35th position. I rode with my head and was well aware that a good paced ride would get me the best result. I could get down about another average weekend but I will move forward from this, these races were not a goal for myself and I got a heavy weeks training in-between the two World Cups in so when I do get to a Goal event I will be prepared and hopefully the results will follow.
Tabor was the chosen venue for the opening round of the World Cup season this year, a proven course which has hosted World and European Championships in the past. It is a parkland based course which offers very little in terms of a technical challenge but what it lacks in that it certainly makes up for with its long strength sapping drags and numerous hard remount sections which force gaps between the riders.
With such dry conditions a bunch racing form of racing was inevitable from the off making a good start to follow the fast wheels early on was particularly important. I got a good start but lost out through the first series of corners, for anyone who hasn’t ridden a World Cup it’s as chaotic as it looks! Especially at the first race of any series, everyone wants to make their mark on proceedings even if it’s to only be a one lap wonder. I have to wait until the first pit to really gauge how I have come off of the first quarter lap, 26th, not a disaster I can usually move forward from here. I settled into a good working group for the majority of the race I tried to work things out for the closing lap racing for a respectable 26th position however plain and simple I got out raced. I had to come in for a disappointing 32nd place wondering what might have been given a bit of luck through the first few corners. However what I will say is this ‘luck’ tends to work itself out over the course of a season so I am looking forward to my chance, possibly next week in the second round of the series again here in the Czech Republic this time in Plzen.
Read here all about why Ian competes at the level he does and how it compares to the UK scene.
Check out some videos taken from the training day Ian did for a group of young London based Cyclocross racers here.
33 races done, 500UCI points scored, 1 British Title Won.
Sat here now it feels like it was a long season, which left me both physically and mentally drained but on the other hand it doesn’t seem all that long ago I was sat at the top of a French mountain at the end of 2 week training camp itching to get on the plane to America to start racing another Cross season.
That 2 week training camp really set me up well for the first half of the season, I got off to a flying start in the U.S picking up the much needed UCI points and maybe more importantly I picked up the craft of being able to win a bike race again. I managed to win 2 UCI races while there and also a mid- week night cross, my worst result was actually one of my best a 3rd place in the higher category C1 race at the final weekend in Gloucester bagged me a load of points for the return to Europe but in the process I raced with strong legs and confidence in high quality international field.
On returning to Europe it was a bit like back to reality for me and straight in at the deep end with the first round of the Superprestige series. In hindsight I actually did a pretty good ride here all things considered but at the time I was really disappointed with 22nd position. I was always expecting to struggle with the first few races as jet lag and a bit of fatigue from the training I was doing to make to make sure I carried form further into the season this year held me back slightly. However by the Second round of the World Cup series in the Czech Republic I was starting to feel good and should have bagged myself a top 25 position but I lacked that killer instinct when I needed it.
A goal of mine most years is the Koppenberg Cross, it’s close to my house in Belgium and on the right day the course suits me down to the ground, ever since I first rode it 3 seasons ago now I have always thought I could do well here. It’s one of the toughest Crosses on the calendar and involves a good amount of climbing plus technical skills are needed for the infamous zigzag descent. This seasons conditions were perfect for me, fast but a little slippy to make it a bit more technical on the descent. I had built it up in my head and was ready come race day. It was one of those days where it felt like I was playing a computer game; if I wanted to accelerate round someone I did it just felt easy. I was in 12th moving forward with Bart Wellens who had suffered a bad start; I held his wheel all the way up the climb after 40mins of racing. Then on the descent I slid out on a corner and when it gripped again BAM. My tub had rolled, it’s the first time I have ever rolled a tub. I was more than gutted; it hurt so bad walking back to the van knowing I was pretty much guaranteed a top 12 at the legendary race.
I had to move on quickly and looked forward to my next goal which was the Koksijde round of the World Cup series. It was a dress rehearsal for the World Championships, same course same riders and hopefully a really good opportunity to get everything dialled in for the big day in late January. It went really well and I got my best World Cup result of the year 22nd. I felt super strong and technically really good on the course. It meant I could go away to Spain for 2 weeks at the beginning of December in a positive mood knowing I was at a good level to move forward from for the final part of the season where my main goal of the season was, the British Championships.
The 2 weeks in Spain went really well and I couldn’t have done any more training even if I had wanted to. They were really tough roads, steep long climbs and perfect tarmac made the 5hr rides there hard but enjoyable.
I came straight back to racing in Belgium which is when my back issue’s first arose, I had obviously pushed my body hard in the training camp then on a super tough course at Namen just a few days later was just too much and my back packed up for the first time during the World Cup. From this point on my season was always on a knife edge between having form and having a bad back. I struggled through the Christmas period of racing and got some speed into my legs and technical skills back up to speed just perfect for the British Champs.
The championship races are always a strange one, with so much pressure put on myself by no one else but myself in the past I have always got it wrong. Whether it be getting ill at the wrong time, organisers moving the race due to a bit of snow or simply getting it wrong on the day myself with tactics and managing nerves I had never even been on the senior podium. According to some this made me an outsider, I found this pretty disrespectful and went about the race like any other this season to try and keep things as normal as possible. I was so relaxed compared to previous years and managed to somehow get through the weekend in the right frame of mind and I finally got the senior title I had wanted for sooooooo long.
Having based my whole season from November onwards around the British Champs even the next day I found it hard to get motivated even with the new jersey on my shoulders at a race in Belgium. This was the story of the rest of my season almost; having worked so hard for something for so long I was drained for the remainder of the season. I dug in to pull something out of the bag at the final round of the World cup and the final round of the Superprestige went well but apart from that there really wasn’t much to talk about apart from the UCI ruining my World Champs.
Fair enough I wasn’t having a great ride in 36th place but I was pulled on the 80% rule when I was 1min 30 off being at 80% while just off the back of a group of 6 I had been catching. It seems at some races in Belgium that the organisers don’t care about anyone outside of the top 10 but to be denied racing for a top 30 position at the World Champs due to maths error by a commisaire I was hacked off to say the least.
With the season now behind me I’m glad to be sat here with a free weekend. Getting up and not having to think about going out on my bike if I don’t want to is a nice feeling…. I know this will not last as it never does last long as I will be itching to get out training hard again long before my scheduled break is up! I have so many things to work on for next season to make that next step forward towards being a regular top10-15 rider but I can’t wait for the challenge. I will go into next season a refreshed rider and will wear the National Champs jersey with pride at every race.
My final race of the 2011-12 season was here. The cauberg cross is one of the toughest on the cross calendar and I had been looking forward to it since Worlds. 11th here last year I was hoping for another good ride this year. However during the week I had come down with a cold and come race day on such a tough course I was really struggling. I was still with ex French Champion Mourey FDJ big mat so I wasnt going too bad but felt awful and once again after beginning to cough during the race thought it was in my best interest and for the sake of my health I stopped once again. I hadn’t quit a race at the beginning of the season but since Nationals it seems its all I have been able to do. It’s left me dissapointed, but looking back this season I had two goals. One to move up the UCI ranking and improve my starting position which I achieved scoring 500UCI pts and ending the season ranked 29th in the World. Second goal was to win my first ever British Cross title which I finally did.
Season over and out.
Following yesterdays dissapointment I wanted to put things right on a tough old school kind of course which suits me a lot more. I got a front row gridding and took full advantage of this 3rd place going off the road and 11th after a lap, i felt good and settled into a good group. However over the next two laps my legs gradually gave in from the previous days efforts. To do two hard races back to back you need form and at this time of year for me its something I am really struggling to find. Having peaked for Nationals its really hard to pick things up again before the end of the season. Having had a couple of crashes while trying to push things when I was totally on the edge I called it a day and went home to recover.