Whenever there is a long gap between me writing blogs it usually means I have been really busy training and racing hard. This time is no different! Writes Ian Field
I ended the last blog on the disappointment of the Koppenberg Cross and as I mentioned next up would be the Superprestige at Hamme. I got a really good weeks training in between the two races and morale was high as my girlfriend was able to come and visit for just over a week.
Being away from friends and family the majority of the year is hard so when you do get to see them it really makes a difference.
Even the five mins before the start of the world cup at Koksijde with my Brother, sister-in-law, best mate from school and my little Nephew really gave me a boost before the race.
Hamme went ok; it was the fastest ‘cross of the year averaged nearly 30kph which is pretty outrageous when you take into consideration the dead turns and the fact you were off and running up steps twice a lap.
I managed to slot comfortably into the second group and was moving through the group nicely into the top 20 when there was a crash in the group and I was heavily baulked. I chased hard for the remainder of the race but ended up a slightly disappointed 22nd.
My minimum goal in this these races remains’ top 20 (on the results list at the end of the coverage on TV).
Another hard week’s training in the tank between Hamme and the local classic Gavere was really good and the weather was still holding.
Mid-November and I was training without gloves and no thermal jacket needed. It makes those longer rides so much more enjoyable not having to dress so you look like the Michelin man just to stop yourself freezing to death on a three hour ride.
Gavere is a super tough course with plenty of technical descents and hard climbing each lap, right up my street.
I felt really good warming up on the course and got a really good start riding into the top 20 on the first lap then on a small steep bank there was a crash ahead of me, I went to go round it and one of the riders pushed their bike straight into my front wheel ripping out a spoke and leaving the front wheel rather buckled. I limped to the pits and changed bikes. I was back in the low 30’s feeling hard-done by.
I could have given up and spat my dummy but I put my head down and tried to see what I could do. Like always with an extra bit of adrenaline inside, I went deep trying to catch up – a little too deep. It left me struggling towards the end of the race and I ended up 18th.
I was so frustrated, once again a bit of bad luck had put pay to a top 15 at another big race.
I have a rule with racing though, I allow myself to be grumpy for the remainder of that day then when I wake up in the morning it’s behind me and a new week is ahead where I can make a difference for the next race.
This next race just so happened to be Koksijde World Cup, and with no WC in the UK this is the closest it gets.
Only 45mins from the Eurotunnel plenty of Brits make the journey every year. It makes it really special for me and all the British riders competing there.
Along with the fact the course is legendary with huge sand sections which were even deeper this year due to the lack of rain. In parts of Belgium it hadn’t rained for an amazing 51 days… Belgium, no rain, 51 days!
I left nothing to chance though, the Wednesday before the race I went up to the course and did three: hours of practice. I hate to think how many laps I totalled but it would have been a lot. I started off struggling then hit a golden patch of being able to ride the majority of sand sections finally as I tired I moved back to the struggling phase!
When this happened I called it a day and drove home, content no one had done more than me that day. With the World Champs being on exactly the same course as the World Cup it had even more riding on it than usual, it’s not often you get a dress rehearsal for the world champs just two months before.
I got a really good start and my training in the week really paid off, for the first time on the Koksijde course I felt good. With so many people shouting my name it felt good to repay them with a top 25 finish (my goal at this year’s World Cups).
I actually finished 22nd one of my best world cup results ever. I was so pleased and this leaves me in a really positive frame of mind for the world champs come January. I finished the race absolutely knackered. A very long wait in dope control ensued as I sat there downing bottle after bottle of water. Eventually I was able to leave and start the long journey north to the following day’s Superprestige, which was in northern Holland, at Gieten.
Sometimes I really do wonder about the ‘cross calendar in Europe and think it is designed with no thought whatsoever.
4.5 hrs sat in a van straight after a race isn’t the best way to recover from an hour of full on cross racing especially as I didn’t get to warm down after the Koksijde race. I reached the hotel in Holland just before midnight, showered and jumped into bed legs still twitching from that last lap in the sand dunes.
The following day’s Superprestige was super slippy and tough going. All morning my back felt a bit dodgy. Come the race it totally locked up and anyone who knows about bad backs will know once this happens you have no power coming out of your legs. I called it a day with two laps to go. I hate pulling out of races but sometimes as a Pro you have to keep the bigger picture in mind.
The following morning I flew early to Malaga, Spain.
Two weeks of unbelievable weather and great training on tough roads began. I went there in good form and looked to build upon that hopefully making another step up the ladder. I felt good for two weeks and did some really good riding completing some really tough days out which just wouldn’t have been possible staying in Belgium especially as soon as we left the weather began to turn cold and wet.
I returned a few days before the World cup round in Namen, Belgium. Another course which is usually right up my street. I was well up for it! I started well and settled in, looking to move forward over the first few laps but suddenly the back pain was back, really hurting when I got off the bike and tried to run.
With three steep run ups a lap I was really struggling.
Not wanting to pull out I eased off the pedals and cruised a full lap dropping into the late 40’s finally my back began to ease and I could start racing again. I put in some top 25 lap times towards the end and got back to 37th. Once again I can sum the day up as frustrating. When I could actually use my legs they were good!
With so much racing coming up over the Christmas period it was my first priority to get things sorted a deep tissue trigger point massage and a Chiro appointment later I’m sat here on the day of the Superprestige in Diegem unable to race.
However I’m allowed to train hard tomorrow and race the next round of the world cup in Zolder, Belgium on Monday. Yep that’s right – I spend Christmas day pre-riding a world cup course then the evening in a random hotel. Hopefully my body will allow me to race full on at the world cup and another top 25 is on the cards.
“Tough times are there so you can have a good time later on – and really appreciate it!”
Until next time, Fieldy.