Yesterday our fourth race in five days took us to Bredene, a town northwest of Izegem, right on the coast. Sylvester Cross isn't quite as big of a race as the World Cups, Superprestiges, or GVA's from the previous week, but it's still a UCI C2 with Nys, Stybar and Albert on the startlist. Although we woke up to a typical Belgian morning with a foggy drizzle in the air, the course in Bredene wasn't as muddy as I'd imagined it might be. The soil was more sandy, as opposed to the greasy mud of Loenhout the day before, with only a parts of the course being rutted and muddy. The course featured the typical long start/finish straight and a barriers that were bunny hop-able.
The Elites and U-23s were racing together in Bredene, so we had a bigger American crew lining up. We made or way to inschriptjion, which required navigating through a smokey bar full of fans staring each rider down as they passed. That's the thing about Belgium and their cyclocross fans, they have no issue staring you down, and watching you watch them stare you down. They don't smile or or say anything, they just look at you like you're a race horse or greyhound at the dog track almost checking to see if you look fit, or pro enough, to put a wager on. After the sea of stares, we paid our 3 Euro and got our numbers. I may, or may not, have been right in front of the Belgian Champ himself in line, and may have asked for a picture. So sue me.
We ripped a few laps of the course and I decided on Rhinos, even though it was probably dry enough for Typhoons, the Rhinos gave a little extra security on the greasy corners. I was actually called up in the second row, right behind the big boys. I got a good start and moved up well the first few tight corners and eventually found myself inside the top 10 going through the pits near the end of lap 1. Once we hit the long road section, a few Belgies jumped around me and absolutely dropped me. The power of some of these guys is unbelieveable. They were going 5 mph faster than me on the road sections. I lost a few spots here and there, but settled into a group in the top 20. There were some quality guys in the group, guys who were finishing inside the top 30 in the World Cups. I was actually feeling relatively comfortable, then early in the 4th lap I crashed on a slippery transition from grass to pavement and my front wheel was messed up and I couldn't get it sorted so I started running to the pit. I probably ran for a good 4 minutes and lost all of the good work I'd done leading up to the crash. I got my pit bike and remounted, trying to at least avoid a DNF in my last race. I quickly realized I'd hurt my arm in the fall and hadnt notice until I tried to hold the bars. It became apparent that I wasn't going to be able to finish, so I rode one-handed to the other pit entrance and pulled the plug. My last position check had me in 16th place...
I was afraid I may have broken my arm considering where it was hurting and the fact I'd used it to brace my fall. Once I got undressed and could get a better look I could see that I looked like I'd hit it on something during the fall, rather than jammed it in a way that would typically lead to a break. It still doesnt feel very well, but I'm going to give it a few days and if it's still in bad shape, get it checked out stateside.
I'm really disappointed to end my trip with a race like that, but such is cycling. I was actually having a positive race experience and still turns out badly. That's how it goes, just enough good to keep you coming back. It was definitely nice to race near the front and a glimmer of hope for future races in Belgium.
Now, It's officially my "offy". My bikes and wheels have already been packed and taken away by the shipping company, so I won't be doing any more rides before I leave. I'm planning at least two, maybe three weeks of down time before I start thinking about 2011. This trip was unbelieveable and I have so many people to thank for making it possible, but I'm going to save all of that for another post. I've also got a ton of pictures and post worthy material from my trip to the Tour of Flanders museum and my trip up the Koppenburg, so stay tuned.
I don't leave until Sunday morning, so I'm going to ring in the New Year with a few Belgian beverages and then watch the GP Sven Nys on the TV tomorrow. I've also got a huge jar of Nutella to finish before I go. Back to work!