That just happened. What an unbelieveable experience. I was literally fighting back a smile as we raced down the start chute on the first lap. Considering I get goosebumps when I watch the start of a World Cup from my desk chair at home on weekend mornings, I'm unable to relay to you what it felt for me to be hearing the sound off all the fans banging on the boards that line the start/finish straight. It sounds the same as on the Internet, only louder. It was honestly surreal. I felt like I was watching it happen from outside my body. The taste of the salt from the freshly salted road, and the sound of those boards. I will, honestly, never be able to put that out of my head. Or ever want to.
I started between Joachim Parbo and John Gadret. I knew a surprisingly large number of guys at the start, it felt just like coming home... Well not really, but it was nice to know a few. Trebon and Page gave me the time of day. Matter and Marko were nice as usual. The 3 Canadians, Mike Garrigan, Craig Ritchey and Shaun Adamson, seemed pleased to see some more English speakers. And Babcock and I were feeling it all out. Once the light turned green (they use a stoplight looking thing to start you here) it was game on. There was an 180 degree turn on wet pavement at the end of the start chute that was fairly sketchy, but then the poor start position started to take it's toll. With the snow and slick conditions, there was really only one line and everyone wanted it. I ran a lot of the first technical section until things stretched out to a rideable state. From there I found myself in group with a bunch of familiar faces, guys I might ride with in the US. I rode in that group for a few laps before taking a good spill and losing contact. I got shot awkwardly out of a frozen rut and towards the barriers at the edge of the course, where I hooked my shifter and my bike came to an abrupt stop. I didn't. I was slung down the course and a bit shaken. The Belgians made fun of me, or so I guess.
In conditions like I was facing, confidence and aggressiveness in the corners is a key component to driving you bike fast. My confidence had
been shaken and I just couldn't get recomposed. I tentatively rode the remainder of the race, taking bad lines and botching the technical stuff. It was all a mental thing, but none the less, I wasn't going fast enough in that state.
I was bummed with the end result, but I'm not crushed by it. I really don't know that level is so unobtainable, but I think that being composed and under control will be a huge component if I'm to have any success here.
With all the snow that fell during and after the race, it turned our 1.5 hour trip into one that took over 3 hours.
I could probably write a novel of a blog post about the PRO-ness of Sven Nijs. I kid you not. You have never seen anything "PRO", until you have seen Sven Nijs and his entourage and his race day cars, trucks, vans, trailers etc. Sven makes everyone else look like the Ryan Knapp who used to wear long sleeve T-shirts for base layers in winter.
I've got some photos for You, but they'll be in the next post.
Thanks for following me in this journey. I really appreciate all of the positive emails, and message, and general support I've been getting. Please bear with me, I'll represent the Midwest better before this trip is over.