n so many ways, it’s the perfect learning environment. There is no external pressure to perform but, at the same time, I’m repeatedly thrown into situations that challenge my entire skill set. Sometimes that means blowing up, sometimes is means crashing, but just as often it allows me to redefine my technical, tactical, and physical limits. With that in mind, my last three races were a success; in each race I felt I was getting more comfortable on my Steeple-X, more confident, and able to race in a faster group than the race prior.
Of course, we often get dry and fast bunch races in North America, but they certainly don’t turn into the The difference is that, while in North America there are a handful of riders that are within a few percentage points of each other when it comes to bike handling and power, in a European World Cup almost the entire field can be found within that small range. That means that on a fast course like Hoogerheide, no one can drop anyone else, splits happen because of crashes, and we see the tactical battle that unfolded on Sunday.
Rapencross in Lokeren. It was up there with the hardest courses I’ve raced: filthy muddy, filled with tricky technical bits, and had a field of pretty top notch competitors to boot. And it wasn’t even a UCI race. Technically it’s classified as a Belgian ‘B’ race which basically means it’s the highest level of amateur racing in the country. Not to diminish all the great UCI racing we have in North America, but in Belgian the amateur racing is on par with anything that we’d see in all but the best produced C1 races on our side of the ocean.
As I write this I’m sitting on an airplane on route to Belgium. Heading to Europe is always a daunting prospect. On top of the logistical challenges, the travel, the cost, there’s also the knowledge that you need to be riding at your absolute best to make an impact on the races. Racing in Europe takes everything from you. You can go from challenging for the podium in North America to struggling to finish on the lead lap overseas. Not only are the courses more challenging, but the level of competition is so much greater.
Whether from your own mouth or from the mouth of others, it’s a story we’ve all heard before. The rider crosses the line, shakes a fist at the sky, and utters something along the lines of “I would have been in top-3/5/15/20 if I hadn’t had that flat/crash/poor start. At the moment, I feel like I know that story all too well.