The lessons keep coming in Oudenaarde. In the past week since BPTrophee Lille and Superprestige Hoogstraten, Bruce and I have been hitting up mud drills at the Donk. The Donk, apart from being the sound I make when I miss a remount, is also the name of the small forest in Oudenaarde which has a heap of features useful for CX training: mud, singletrack, stairs, sand and ruts. This past week we've done a couple of great skills sessions. We've videotaped sand work and running mounts and dismounts, practised race starts and off-camber mud descents, and on Thursday I conquered a mud climb that had got the better of me on Tuesday. Skills drills tend to be physically and mentally demanding, so it helps to have good company and to keep the sessions short. Note to self: Make sure you eat your banana BEFORE doing bike shouldering drills, or at least put it in the non-bike side pocket of your jersey.
This week has had many highlights, the best of which has been the rides I've done with friends here. From skills sessions to coffee rides it's been great to hang out with cool people and talk rubbish. Most of the riders I am riding with here I met in China at the Qiansen Trophy in 13/14, and it's been great to catch up on everyone's news. The CX community is rad. Have I said that before?
On Wednesday, Christian from Hof Ter Kammen organised for me to join the Sunweb boys for training on the Superprestige Middlekerke course (home of tomorrow's race). Generally courses are not open to ride before the day of the race, so this was a special treat. It's made me a lot more relaxed to know what I'm in for tomorrow, but it's a challenging course. Lots of brutal pinch climbs that are of either the power sprint or shoulder'n'run variety. And two sandpits. The Sunweb boys were little whippets, and made everything look easy. The team includes recent U23 world champion Michael Vanthourenhout, who rode almost everything on the course.
The weather has been kind to us this week, but rain is forecast tomorrow for Middlekerke. Sunday is another CX race in Eeklo, then on Monday I'm heading to London for a flying visit to see some friends. Then back to the mud!
Let me know if you have any questions or things you'd like to know about racing or training over here, and I'll do my best to answer them next post.
*Main image courtesy of Kurt Van Hout