It has been far too long since I have updated. I recently returned from my two and a half week trip to Belguim and Switzerland with the US National Cycling team. The trip was great! The National Team’s home base is a big house in Izegem, Belgium, which is a small little Belgian town in the Flanders region of Belgium. It is cool that there isa home base because they are able to keep tons of equipment, team vans, and team cars all stationed in one place.
The house is fully staffed with Belgians, half of which do not speak English. The only American on the staff is the head coach of the Junior National team, Ben Sharp. This was nice because we were immediatley immersed into the culture and had a staff that knew how to race in Europe. The sougniers and mechanics took great care of us and treated us to European delights such as oil rub downs before races, massages at stage races, and other advice. Perhaps one of the most Euro feeling moments was going down a downhill in Switzerland at 80k/h in the middle of an 180 person pack and reaching in to the pocket only to small pasteries wrapped in foil rather than “American” Powerbars. The culture in Europe is so much for cycling as well.
Cars driving by us on training rides would roll down the windows and chant USA USA. People were always saying things like, “succcess” to us before races. We would pull of to starts in the USA bus and the Belgians would be motioning to us to park in there driveway, then proceed to take pictures of us as we got ready. At our first race a woman had us go in her house and use the showers after we were done.
The racing itself in Europe is just so fast and furious the whole race. In Belgium the roads were tiny and rough, and the wind was hard. My real welcome to Belgium moment was in our first race. The racing in Belgium is called Kermese, or “Carnivals”. The race comes to town to entertain, and unlike in the US the juniors are the race. There is no adult category afterward it is just us. We also got paid to race in Belgium. You would pay like 3 euro to enter, but get like 7 back for retruning your number. The people make money on the race because they gamble on us. There is a large board where old Belgians put money on riders and try to win the big bicks. In one race I was going as hard as I could on a cobble road (start/finish) through cigarette smoke, past the gambling board, while a Belgian man screamed in Flemish and I thought, “This is where I want to be.” It was great. And I picked up some Dutch along the way. Here are some pics:
Marshal Opel is a good Buddy of mine and made the team as well. He placed 3rd at this year’s Nationals!!!!
way to go Marsh. He is a fellow Nordic racer and together we have traveled all over the place. Last I saw of him was Switzerland. Next time, West Yellowstone. Hotverdoma Marsh!!!