I don’t really know where to begin this. So much has happened so quickly in the past few days and really the past few weeks.
At this moment I sit the villa that my friend Chaun and I have called home located at the sunparksresort in a little town by the name of Viesalm , Belgium. The events of the day/weekend have really yet to soak in but I am starting to come around an felt that I should write something soon in order to capture the real emotion of the recent events.
Just over 3 weeks ago, I won two events in Fort Collins on roads that I used to call home. These events qualified me to compete in the UCI amateur world Championships in Stavelot, Belgium. Today I sit here in awe, after completing one of my best weekends of racing across the ocean in Belgium.
The last two weeks of my life have been plagued by extreme discomfort in my left leg which has led me to a number of massage therapists and a very talented Muscle Activation Techniques specialist. (Thanks to: Lucy Conklin, Mitra Forati, Sky Vanhorn, Scott Strode and of course my right hand man Chaun Sims for hooking me up with the best body workers around) My training going into this race was not up to my standards but I did what I could keeping the intensity slightly lower and trying to simply maintain my fitness. This also consisted of 3 days riding in the mountains around Breckenridge at 10,000+ feet. Thanks to a good friend Doug Hofmeister, Lindsay, the dogs and I got a weekend uninterrupted with nothing but quality altitude training.
The day before leaving to Belgium, my leg was almost the worst its ever been. I sat in the Computrainer room at the Colorado Athletic Club about to throw in the towel. A good friend from the club, Dave Costa, came in and gave me a few words to hold on to. I truly left the gym that night feeling a little more confident and inspired. It’s amazing how the belief from people around you can bring you to new levels. (Thank you Dave)
We boarded the plane on Wednesday morning and arrived in Brussels on Thursday morning. Thank god the bikes and wheels arrived on time and with no damage. I grab 150 euro, a sweet Kia rental car (free upgrade) and we headed down the road to Stavelot. After many twists and turns in our plan, we finally found our hotel (or villa) in a little town about 15k from the race start in a town call Viesalm. Sunparks is a resort type, with lots of villa spread across the side of a hill with a huge central building with a pool, minigolf, bowling, etc.
First order of business was to ride the time trial course. Both Chaun and I were extremely tired and I thank him for putting up with me that first day. We drove back to Stavelot and I previewed the time trial course. The course was flat and fast on a bike back for 8k and then hit the rolling hills. The hills were not hard, but were hard enough to create separation and the wet descents were dangerous. The bike felt terrible with the clip on aerobars and the shifting was jumping all over the place. Basically, the first ride in Belgium left me a little sour.
The next morning I got up and rode for 45 minutes after making a couple small adjustments. I returned to the Villa angry with my equipment as it still insisted on dropping gears and shifting on its own. I had just had the thing tuned up in Boulder before I left. In the end, I was losing sight of how simple it might be, and I ended up making a couple barrel adjustments and it cleaned it right up (thanks Chaun for being level headed in the moment). We also dropped the bars way down, raised the seat and brought it forward and suddenly I felt I might actually be able to make this thing go fast. Shane Niemeyer had min kind enough to let me bring his disc and tri spoke over with me and having those gave me a bit more confidence on the flat start which highly favored a TT bike.
I went off at 1:30 and we all went off in one minute intervals. In the first 8k I passed two riders. In the final 12 take I rode my legs off, only losing time on the downhills which I had not memorized and was a bit timid on. It was also raining the entire time which made the descents very sketchy. In the end I finished up 4th place, only 12 seconds behind 3rd and about 42 seconds off the win. For riding a road bike, and with little knowledge of the course I was more than happy.
My moral was raised and I was ready to take on the road race. After an evening of rest and a night of almost no sleep (damn this time change), I headed out Saturday to preview a good portion of the road course. I rode about 2 hours and did 4 of the 7 climbs. I typically need a lot to open my legs so I rode the climbs hard and set a good tempo on the flatter sections. I felt great and the course was just beautiful. Chaun got a good number of videos and pictures from this training ride which I hope to post when I get back in the U.S.
Sunday morning I was a ball of nerves. Sleep was hard to come as my body just didn’t want to conform to the 8 hour difference. I got up, drank about 4 of these tiny European coffees (which I love by the way), rolled my leg for about 30 minutes, packed and then headed to Stavelot. We went off at 1:30 but lined up at 1 pm. The rain was coming down hard and apparently people were crashing everywhere on the descents in the earlier races. We got delayed 30 minutes so they could get the ambulances back to the start.
I guess I forgot to mention that this area is full of rolling hills that have very short 2-6KM accents and steep curvy descents. In dry conditions they are dangerous and in wet conditions they are treacherous.
When we finally rolled out we were flying about about 40mph down flat roads toward viesalm. As we turned west, we took on a road that reminded me of a rain forest. It was almost completely covered by the canopy of the trees and the road was constantly wet. The pavement here is also chopped up and makes chip seal look good. This to me was the most dangerous part of the whole race. It was a long 5-7 mile section at 35 mph with people jockeying for position. I survived but lost a water bottle on a pothole. I had been smart and brought three bottles just in case the “professional feed zones” were not so professional. My rear bottle holder is worn out and a full bottle fell out so barely into the race, I was down to 1.5 bottles. (mistake #1)
The first climb is long and not very steep which was no problem. I knew I needed to be at the front coming into the second climb but somehow still lost a ton of positions on the descent of the first. As we hit the base of climb number two, I was way way back. It’s a very steep narrow farm road and I spent the entire climb in the gutter making aggressive passes. I was able to just grab onto the front group as we hit the descent. This brought us back onto a familiar rode and towards the 3rd climb of the day. This is where the move happened.
A small group was off the front and on the flat roads to the spineaux climb, I followed a lone attacker which turned into a great move. We integrated with the front group on the climb to Wanne and never looked back. This group of about 10 riders stayed away through the rest of the race. I felt good but was starting to suffer a bit from my lack of hydration. There was only one other guy from my age group in this select group and he was about half my size and called Belgium home. On the penultimate climb of the race, he attacked with another guy from the 30-35 age group. At this point I was hoping the others would chase since they had more numbers and it was a threat to them as well. This never happened and I was so pissed that I hadn’t followed when they were still close (2nd mistake) I took up the chase but it was to late. The last climb is a leg buster averaging around 12 percent the whole way. I was pretty blown from chasing my butt off but I got up it with the rest of the group and slotted into second for my age group.
Some very memorable moments included Chaun screaming at me as I led the break up to Wanne (video to come). The crowds on the climbs were incredible, you felt like you were in the tour. Side by side with so many different nationalities all coming together to put time into our competitors. It really was amazing.
I have much more technical info that I will save for a later blog.
If you could have told me 3 years ago that I would be in Belgium today fighting for an amateur world championship, I would have said you were crazy. So many amazing people in my life have made this possible along with a lot of hard work.
In the past I have heard so much about the intensity of Belgium racing. I have been told that most Americans return home hanging their heads after getting their teeth kicked in. Now I know this was only amateur racing, but the intensity and nature of the racing was exhilarating to me. Maybe my perspective will change if I am ever given the opportunity to race here at the professional level but for now, it will remain a positive memory.
Chaun Sims (my right hand man)
My mom, dad and sister Kaari (undying support)
Lindsay Anderson (best girl ever, you never stop believing)
Kathy and Merrill Anderson (words can’t describe how much your support means),
Sabrina, Milton, Neva Huffaker (As a family you have made my dreams come true),
Doug Hofmiester: (Amazing friend, always a positive influence)
Dave Costa (you always leave me with the most inspirational words of support and undying belief in me),
Mitra Forati (what can I say..you are a true friend)
Scott Strode (Always there in the background doing big things to make me successful, I hope I can one day repay you)
Shane Niemeyer and Mandy McClane (The best training buddies, always lending your equipment and keeping my head in the game)
Trish Thomas & Will Rogers (Two amazing people that have touched my life in so many ways.)
Pearl Izumi stepped up in the final weeks to help me with gear for this trip and I wore it proudly in the races and on the podium. Thank you!
A special thanks to the members of the Rocket Sprockets cycling team in Houston, Texas. Collectively you all made a huge difference in my ability to make this trip happen.
There are so many more people to thank but I am losing battery here…
More to come soon and I will try to spell check this later I know there are probably a ton of errors.