Wednesday, February 08, 2006


My trip to the Cyclocross World Championships was truly an adventure. I will try to capture some of the fun here in words and photos. I took a lot of notes in a journal on the train between Amsterdam and Zeddam each morning...I mean A LOT of notes. My hand was cramping as I tried to puke out all of my memories of each day onto the page. I was having so many cool experiences and I didn't want the memories to fade away.

The flight over was a breeze with a 20 minute hop from BWI to Philly and a 7-ish hour overnighter to Amsterdam Schipol. I had a drink in the Philly airport with fellow MAC killer B Wade Hess and learned that he would be staying over an extra week to do a couple of races, including a friggin' Superprestige in Belgium! Another drink and a Tylenol PM on the flight and I slept for most of the flight.

Exiting Amsterdam Centraal Station the first thing I saw were thousands of bikes parked outside the beautiful, old station. Any city where there are more bikes than people (let alone cars!) is ok with me. I immediately felt comfortable and in tune with the city. Even though I was pulling a suitcase I decided to forgo the city train and walk to my hotel in order soak up the vibe.


Bikes are the new cars in Amsterdam. Here's the latest minivan model.
The soccer (football) mom pilots the rig while the kids sit in the front and rear seats, sans helmets.


As I continued to stroll, a few flurries fell from the sky and people on bikes glided past me. Further along the canal I noticed familiar places...Hotel Estherea, Broodje Bert, Dutch Flowers, the floating flower market, Sampurna...good times. The Waterfront Hotel was right there too, adjacent to the Koningsplein. I checked in, brushed my teeth, and sorted out my stuff for the next morning's early train to Zeddam.



Then it was back out on the streets to wander and explore. I was really hungry from the flight so I stopped at Vlaam's for frites. This is a little frite stand off the Spui that has been around forever. It's in a busy shopping district and there's always. I ordered my frites with ketchup and housed them lickety-split...mmm good.

I did some window shopping as I walked and amazingly ran into Dieter & Zayne doing the same. We had a quick chat, made plans to find each other for a beer at the next day's races, and then went our separate ways.

After emailing home it was time for more food. The frites had just whet my appetite.
At Broodje Bert I grabbed a delicious toasted ham, cheese, & tomato sandwich. This hit the spot and fueled me up to explore.


I strolled over to the Jordaan, a groovy neighborhood a few canals over from Singel. I love Amsterdam. The city has a very funky layout with all of the canals, curving streets, and distinctive architecture that just seems to work. Most of the buildings are tall and narrow with very steep staircases.


The Jordaan is a residential neighborhood that has a good number of non-touristy restaurants and cafes. It's a good ways away from the red light district and sketchy parts of town so it's a good place to get a feel for real life in the city. I stopped in the Rokerij for some tea. The atmosphere was nice and the music was an interesting mix of styles so I sat down for a while. One of the cool things about being in an international city is to listen to the different languages mixing around you. I enjoyed being a spectator to the interactions of the locals as they came and went. The speech, intonations, & gestures seem familiar, but nary a word is recognizable.

After a cinammon tea and a chai I stepped back outside into the peaceful buzz of the Amsterdam afternoon. I stopped into an Albert Hein grocery store to check out the situation. I really like immersing myself in different cultures and walking through a grocery store is a neat way to learn about a place. Aside from a bigger selection of meats and cheeses the aisles were very similar to a store in the US. I grabbed a big bottle of water for my room and an Amsterdam t-shirt for Thor before continuing my walk.

The vibrancy of the city really strikes a chord with me. People are an integral part of the city. In many US cities people drive into town to work and then drive back out at the end of the day, rendering the cities a souless collection of buildings. In Amsterdam people are truly part of the fabric of the place. There are walkers, bikes, and trains everywhere all the time. It's very easy to get around town and there's always something going on.


After much walking I found myself very thirsty so I stopped in a bar near Koningsplein for a beer. Being a fan of Belgian beer I ordered a La Chouffe. It was fantastic. I sat in the window, enjoyed the beer, and continued to observe the pulse of the city.

La Chouffe, a seriously good beer.

Leaving the Arnhem station on the way to Doetinchem.

The early morning train to Zeddam was a breeze. The Dutch (and most of Europe) really have the train thing figured out. They are on time, clean, and plentiful. I bought a coffee, oj, and chocolate croissant to eat on the ride. Once in Zeddam it was an easy stroll up this cobbled street to the race venue.


The quintessential Dutch windmill gave the course a visual centerpiece.

The Swiss Guard was patrolling the venue with monster cowbells and a backpack-style canister of some strong alcoholic concoction. We need to book these boys for some MAC races.

The most technical part of the track was the downhill leading to the big set of stairs.
The descent was a twisty, off-camber corkscrew with a surface of frozen ruts. The organizers covered it with sawdust to provide some traction. Even so, there were quite a few crashes in each of the races.



Steep, Off-camber, and sketchy I was leaning up against a haybale when I took this shot.
Many riders were hanging a leg out to keep it upright as they made this turn.

At the bottom of the downhill there were a few tight turns leading to this mother of a set of stairs. They weren't particularly steep, but there were 40 of them. The really hard part was the long-ish paved climb after the stairs. That must have hurt.


Zdnek Stybar, Niels Albert, & Lars Boom coming up the stairs leading the U23 race.
These guys got an immediate gap and then took turns attacking each other.


Here Lars Boom is trying to get a gap on the faaaaaaaaaaast & twisty section up top, just before bombing down the farm road back to the start/finish road section.


There were probably a dozen beer tents and at least as many frite stands. Generally I don't like mayonaise, but I tried some on the frites and it was damn good.


On Sunday Dieter, Zayne, and I spent a solid 2 hours camped out at the base of the big stairs waiting for the elite men's race. We drank a ton of beer and apple schnaaps as we made friends with a group of Belgians. One of the things that I always notice in Europe is the hospitality. Don't believe any of the bullshit about Americans getting harrassed in euro-land. In my experience Europeans are incredibly warm and welcoming.

One of the guys even gave me his sweet Jupiler beer Belgian freak hat and emailed some photos to me a couple of days later. Here's Marnick, after quite a few beers wearing the ubiquitous Jupiler hat.


I will proudly wear this hat, Belgian style, at 'cross races this Fall.

Here's Bart Wellens warming up. The dude was unbelievably strong in the race. He seemed to be the guy that was always on the front driving it and keeping the pace super fast.


During warm-up's we got a chance to check out everyone's technique. Nearly all of the euro's eschew the step-through and go with the back step when dismounting. And I saw very few riders grabbing the down tube for the lift. Most everyone did an underhand grab of the top tube before flipping the bike up to the shoulder.


Capt. Caveman (aka Eric Tonkin) rode gamely even though this wasn't his type of course. In this photo he's putting his bike back on the ground after cresting the top of the small stairs.


J. Page was on top of his game right up in mix of the first 15 riders. Look how closely these guys were riding. With the high speed and all of the tight turns it was bad news if you let a gap open.


My man, Sven NYS, was part of the final selection on the last lap, but didn't look to be on top form. Normally a stellar bike handler and descender he clipped a tree on the downhill trying to stay on the pace being set by Vervecken. As we watched on the big screen set up on the course he took a long time getting up. Game over for him. Vervecken put in the winning attack right in front of us after the small stairs. Coming out of the u-turn he looked back and saw a 10 meter gap to Mourey and Wellens. At that moment he stomped on the pedals with a huge acceleration and held the gap all the way to the finish.


After the race Zayne, Dieter, and myself were feeling no pain and we were very stoked from watching some world class cyclocross up close. We needed to vent some of that energy so we rocked the post-race beer tent and brought the party up a couple of notches.


There were many Belgies in bear suits (some of whom were trying to hump each other), but this guy was part of the Portland Cross Crusade crew. Those people are a lot of fun. We formed a temporary MAC/Cross Crusade alliance and showed the euro's how to get down.


This dude from Czech was ready to sound the alarm if things didn't get out of hand, but the party had plenty of energy so he didn't have to intervene.


Dieter still had his post-Natz form and gave the Belgians a taste of what to expect next season.


After the party we gorged ourselves on olibolen to soak up some of the booze. Things were tranquil until Zayne decided to jump down into a field to chase a herd of antelope and offer them our last olibolen. Though Zayne had good speed he was no match for the fleet antelope. When the bus arrived he had to scramble back over the wall. Like a good teammate Dieter hauled his ass over the wall and away from the now angry antelope.


Leaving Zeddam we were awarded keys to the city and the honorary title of...


On Monday morning I grabbed breakfast and wandered around Amsterdam for a while before training it back to Schipol for the flight home. Another adventure was over, but many more await.


Anonymous said...

ahhh...the best: on the train, looking over at that dudes coat that read 'masters of hardcore'. one of us said to you "dude-get a picture of that" without batting an eyelid, you turned to the dude and said "can i take a picture of your Masters of Hardcore coat?"

nice report. dieter

Anonymous said...

nicely done! almost as nice as my sprinting. what about my post cross running form? it seems to be rather good if i maybe i'm not recalling it all.


Chris said...

Wasn't chasing the antelopes the extent of your running training for the year???

I'm looking forward to hearing a report on Chamonix.

I've got your broken cyclocross sign. it just fit in my suitcase. i'll get it back to you at some point. it's being held together by a piece of paper and some tape, but it's still pretty sweet.

good times...good times.

megA said...

Soooooo glad you went chris and really bummed that i pussed out. school is not as important as cross--i must get my priorities straight!

photo of thor in his new shirt, please!