dinsdag 15 augustus 2017

Mountainbike van Vlaanderen

From last Friday to Sunday our camper would be heading west this time. We left for the first edition of a Flemish Mountain bike stage race.
In the afternoon there was a mini prologue planned (3,1KM)  next to the lake where the organisation was set for the weekend.
I was the first in the women solo category and Peter would start about 15 minutes after me. It was a flat, fast turning track. Easier than the last prologues we had to conquer in France and Poland.


I finished the track in 8'38", good for a second place in the woman solo category, Peter finished it in 8'05".

Saturday was a very hard day. 4 loops of 37K with a lot of road and short steep mythic climbs known from road races like The Tour of Flanders (De Ronde van Vlaanderen);  Koppenberg (offroad), Taaienberg and a less famous climb but much harder 'Leo Pironpad', an offroad path with cobble stones thrown in all over the track. And all this four times, yes 4 times... 😨 And to make all this an even more mythical stage it was true Belgium weather. Rain, mud and TOO much wind.
For me this became a true Suffer-fest with a Capital S. It was not just an off-day,  I hope this was my worst day of the season. But I reached the finish ... after 148K (2500HM) and more than 7,5 hours in the saddle.


Peter had great legs, but he didn't enjoy the loop, nor the weather so after 2 rounds he went for a shower and cleaned his bike and supported me.

I finished second woman but in a very disappointing time with about 25 minutes behind the first woman.

📷Sven Rooms
Sunday was more my kind of ride, sunny, no wind and 2 loops of 50K with some great single trails in Kluisbos, Koppenberg (on the Cobbles this time) and  Paterberg (off road). I didn't take it to hard at the start, but tried to stay in a group today. After 30K I reached the group with the leading lady. I felt I was stronger on the Koppenberg and my mind started spinning.

Making up 25 min was impossible, but maybe I could take the stage win today. I know I had to keep my head cool and focus, because any little mistake would be a disaster. Peter was in the same group and that eased my mind.

📷Sven Rooms
We crossed the finish line after the first loop together, I passed the feed zone as fast as I possible could and caught up with a small group. All ended up in the same group again so I knew I had to attack before the more technical single trail, if I wanted to make this one mine. Being really careful with my drinking bottles I made sure I didn't had to stop to refuel.

📷Sven Rooms
📷Sven Rooms
It worked, I took the single trail first and it went smooth. I was super focused and remembered every corner and turn from the first loop. I could hear she was not so far behind, so I pushed on without losing my focus. When we reached the end of the single trail I pressed a time trail out of my legs for another 20K's. I was riding all by myself now and I know she wasn't riding alone, so it wasn't going to be easy. I kept going and counted the K's down. Drinking once in a while fueling on my Overstims gels ... It worked ... When I reached the last 5K I looked back and there was no one.
I kept pedaling and finished FIRST 😲
It wasn't enough to make up the lost time from Saturday but I won the last stage 😛

Vojo magazine 📷Jan Geys
Peter reached the finish a few minutes later.

📷Sven Rooms

📷Sven Rooms
The first edition of this event was a success. Already a great number of the better marathon riders were present.
Sure this one will be here to stay, and I invite everybody to go mountain biking in the Flemish Ardens.
Mountainbike Van Vlaanderen, we will be back next year.

Thanks to all the friends, family, partners for being there and encouraging us to keep on doing our thing.


vrijdag 4 augustus 2017

Sudety MTB Challenge

'Cześć', or 'Hello' in Polish. 😋

Two weeks ago we headed East towards Poland for our second mixed stage race this season.
We had a couple of good weeks at home after our French experience made us confident that the physical part was okidoki.
Our bikes were up to date, our driver Bart was once again very enthusiastic about the upcoming.
What could go wrong?

The weather of course was once again not spoiling us. Forecast for the week was not to cold but often rain and wind. On Saturday we had a rather good weather day.

We left on Friday to be there classically a day before the competition.
Prologue on Sunday, followed by 5 stages going around the Sudety area.

Stages were announced not to be very long, but the altitude meters were nevertheless not to be called 'from the pussy'...

The prologue went well and we finished on the third spot in the mixed category.

A good beginning, and so we could measure up against the other couples. Most of them were equipped with pulling systems such as dog leashes and other strings.
Here in Poland apparently still allowed to pull with attachments. (Quite dangerous as you ask me, but 'allowed' is 'allowed'...)
On the technical difficult prologue those ingenious inventions were not quite practical, but we knew there were other stages coming up where the pulling could give them a greater advantage.

The battle of the mixed teams was 'on' and it would be close races this week.

As I mentioned before, the weather was not on our side, but the more difficult it was, the better for our team.

Sara had a great two first days, and I had left my legs at home. Things weren't going for a meter for me.
First two days we lost a spot in the GC, but the difference was not too big yet.
Third day we had the ride of our lives, and we managed to regain the third spot.

On the forth day we were struggling with mechanical problems. Due to the amounts of mud and water our derailleurs were not shifting properly, and we lost a lot of time due to those issues.

We would start the last day with an advantage of 11' on the team behind us.
Numbers 1 & 2 were far gone, so we had to look more behind then in front.
11' is a reassuring advantage, but with 25km's of asphalt and easy shotter roads on the track, we were not convinced it would be in the pocket.

From the start line on, the mixed teams were all gathered in front.  Start was killing fast, but we managed both not to let them bike away this time.
The technical parts were so heavy, we stayed confident.
Derailleur problems once again. (This time on my bike, because I had changed Sara's on my bike). I know, I'm a gentleman... ☝

At 3/4 of the race, nothing shifted on my bike. I thought we were losing it after all. We hadn't been able to catch up the couple in the muddy technical parts of the track.

At the finish we were both as well mentally as physically exhausted.
We were not sure about how much time we had lost, but Sara went straight to the timing truck, and she came back with a big smile.

37" we had left. 

BAM for the second time in a row we would be together on a podium.

Still a great feeling.

A good week it was, a part from the tremendous amounts of rain and mud we had to conquer.

Thanks to our driver Bart Kirkels for the support.

Thanks to Erik Dekker and Ilse de Rouw for the company.

Thanks to the organiser for the work they've put in this well organised stage race.  We will be back.


zaterdag 15 juli 2017

AlpsEpic Your Epic Experience...

Friday 30/06 we left for the French alps... it's been a while and we haven't been biking there yet. So looking forward to what the French mountains had to offer this week :) 

Weapons loaded
Saturday late in the afternoon we arrived in Montgenévre the starting place of the prologue, and the two first stages. 

View from the campersite

Luckily the sun was out all the time

On Sunday we could sleep in and went for a recon of the course of the 11KM long prologue. Not a huge distance but  more than 300 altitude meters and reasonably technical. Only the directions on the track were not there yet. So afterwards we found out we did some parts of the track in the opposite direction 😏...

'Hautes' Alpes you said?

Lost the track here...
Afterwards we checked in and got our numbers.
A bunch of Belgian riders would also be riding this week at the Alps Epic.

Trying out 'the shirt' at the accreditation (made by ENDURA)
Monday was race day. Start of the prologue would be given at 1600hrs. Perfect to get super nervous for just 11KM. 
The start was given each 30", and we were almost last couple to start. We managed to finish 3th, not bad but we were not super happy either.  

Prologue finish
Tuesday: Montgenèvre- Montgenèvre first real race day, not long (61KM - 2750M+ ) but the organisation already repeatedly said it was technical. We first thought they were scaring us, but after the first climb, we were passing a few teams, everything went smooth and in the first real downhill it seamed they were so right. It wasn't just technical it was very hard, we had to get off and on the bike more than ones. Sliding on rocky parts, not getting our bike in to the tight curves. While other teams were just flying down like nut cases. After a little under 6 hours of suffering we arrived back in Montgenèvre. What a ride...

Where's that f*ck*ng trail?
Wednesday: Montgenèvre - Puy Saint Vincent (58KM - 2850M+) Another hard day at the office. The first climb was going great, the descents were harder, but today was all about the second climb... A monster climb, 9 KM straight to heaven. We have done it before; climbing a ski slope, but not this long. It was never ending... A lot of riders had to get off the bike, and walk up. We were doing great, although Peter wasn't really enjoying this and the downhill following wasn't a treat either. Riding in second position all day kept us going but at the last part of the ride the bad luck struck in... First a flat for me and in the last climb I got stuck on a rocky obstacle and fell. Not really good for the bike. We lost about an hour in time and finished 4th. 

I said: 'Where's that f*ck*ng traiiiilllllll....'
Thursday : Puy Saint Vincent - Arvieux (58KM - 2850M+). Going strong with in our mind that the bad day yesterday was long gone already. Also knowing what to expect when the organisation announced some parts would be hard we found the right flow. Technical parts were starting to go a little smoother and climbing was our game.

'No' nerves at he start
Friday : Arvieux - Risoul (63KM - 2800M+) Our best day of the week. Peter was getting better each day, I started off with sore legs. Strong climbing and fast flowy downhills. Riding hard until the end. Finishing with a long hard climb up to the skiing station of Risoul in steaming hot weather. We managed to pass the first ladies team and finish as second mixed team. Great day...

'Yes' nerves at the start 😄

Saturday: Risoul - Plan d'eau d'Embrun (70KM - 2950M+) Focus was on the third spot in the GC, the second team was about 50 minutes in front of us due to our time loss in the second stage. The team in 4th place was 40 minutes behind us, but we suspected one last attempt to attack from them. It became a long suffer fest, especially the last ascent. We knew there would be a walking part, but this was about 1500M of crawling straight up with our bikes on our shoulders. Hard to walk, impossible to ride and feeling like it would never end. The last descent was funny but we had to keep your hands on the brakes. After 10KM of braking we almost had cramps in our arms and hands. 
After almost 7 hours in the saddle we were very happy to finish the hardest stage race we have entered yet... 

For the last time. Where's that f*ck*ng trail!!!!!!😡
3th Mixed team Whoop Whoop!!    
All results here


It was a long, hard and hot week... 
And a great crew, fantastic food, a very personal approach and stunning views! 

Alps  Epic you were more than Epic to us... Maybe we'll see you all again 😘 next year...?

Now preparing (resting also 😇) for our next big goal this season. Sudety MTB Challenge in Poland.

Due to our enormous good partners, our bikes, our gear and our nutrition will also be up to the challenge.

Also we have to recommend this beautiful organisation. The organizers worked their butts off to make it for everybody an incredible, and unforgettable week.