Providence? Nee...een dag een beetje belgisch.

Hey Velominati guys - came up with some more 'rules' for you

Rule 151:  If you're lucky enough to have a UCI level cross weekend in your home town, you pin a number on, and go to battle.   

No question.  Even if you've been hitting the beer a little too much lately, or put on 10 pounds from your summer form. There's nothing like a good kick in the pants to get the competitive season extension going.

Saturday the sun was out.  Hmmm...sure doesn't feel like cross weather.  The 45+ race was at 11am and it was a warm, kinda gross and humid morning.. heck, I was sweating just walking to registration!

Jay flies along the off camber grass
On the way there, I saw my teammate Jay lined up on the front row of the Cat 4 race.  Jay made an awesome start, almost got the hole shot, and installed himself in the top 5.  Perfect position for this ex-motocrosser.    But one lap, two crashes, and a broken rear derailleur dropout later, the always good-humored Jay was warning Marc T. and I that the grass was pretty slippy in the morning dew.   As he went off to the tech area to seek a fix, I made a mental note:  Lowest possible tire pressure, and respect the off cambers!

I'd ridden the course the afternoon before.  Frankly, it seemed pretty easy.  Only 3 dismounts.  Lots of BMX style tight 180 switchback turns on grass.  Rest was a real fast, power course.  They may have had a big wooden fly over like they have at the Superprestige crosses, but that's where any Belgian comparison ended, for this was clearly Providence!  

Should have been more psyched up, but here's a statement of the obvious:  When you're seeded in the very last row of a 100+ rider field, your chances of a top placing are, well, non-existent.   This new online cross-ranking thing really punishes infrequent racers.  And makes no concessions to long past glory days.

Whatever.  At the start I was more than a little pissed off at being at the very back.  I'm getting sick of being out of contention before the first quarter lap is over!  Started determined to pass as many as possible, as soon as possible.   And the first two laps were going to plan, I was threading my way up, getting by guys on every turn, every obstacle, every hill, felt great.   Figure I must have been about top 50 by the end of the first lap.

Gone in 60 seconds.
Last one.  Promise.
But then I had a few mishaps.  A spectacular front wheel washout full on endo before the run up, and another crash later that lap cost me a lot of spots.   I was chasing hard, but lost some of the earlier juice.   No longer passing guys.  On the contrary, gaps were opening up.    Kept the pulse pegged at 170, my absolute limit, over threshold.   Lots of friends yelling for me, like a shot of adrenaline.  

The top age 55+ guys, who started 2 minutes after us, passed me after 3 laps or so.    Paul Curley and company.   Those guys pulled out 10 meters or more on every turn.  I've really got to work on the technique part - I lose so much in the turns.   The top-end power isn't there either, couldn't get a big gear turning, which meant I was really losing the plot on the two road sections.   The grass and dirt, run ups and twiddling up steep hills I'd come back some....but not enough to make up many more places.

Then came the cruel blow.  It seemed like we were out there for about half the race, and they announced '5 laps to go'.   Oh wanna see grown men cry?   I just shut out reality, and took purgatory one lap at a time.   One section at a time.   Don't think of the end.  Brain off.  Suffer on instinct.

It kinda worked, but by the bell lap there wasn't any juice in the tank.   Several more 55+guys came by.  Demoralizing, but I just couldn't suffer any more or go any harder.  My teammate Marc Tatar was among them on a great ride to 12th place.

Cyclocross?   Tommy and Mike may prefer Lacrosse, but
approved of the flyover, barrier jump and Mexican food.
In the end, we were out there for 59 minutes - in what was supposed to be a 45 minute race... the officials messed up the time/lap estimate.    I was placed 57th...not terrible given my lantern rouge last row starting position, but couldn't quite crack my top 50 goal.

Fun race though, and the rest of the afternoon on a warm shorts and short sleeves day with fellow cafesupporters Dr. Brad, Marc B., Nick, Tom. and Maarten.   Also caught up with a lot of friends like 'Bike Guy' Bill Humphries, Dick Ring, Bill Sykes, Mark McCormack, Joe Thompson, Keith Kelly, Joe Savic and Derek Griggs.  

Despite overnight rain, Sunday was still sunny but a little bit cooler.  But it felt like Groundhog day-esque deja vu.  Depspite some new sections, most of the course was very similar.   I lined up in the same last row starting position.  Made the same big 'move ups' on the first two laps, to about 50th again I reckoned.  

Sunday the Flemish cross-gods opened the heavens.
But that's when the groundhog went back in the hole.  Two guys fell in front of me on a wall run up.  Nowhere to go, stopped and fell.  Losing ten or more spots.   My power was worse, could barely get my pulse over 160... no speed, no strength, just pushing and suffering.   Bike handling was bad too, just couldn't seem to get around the turns at the same rate as the others.   Half way in, at the point furthest from the pits, I got a flat rear.   (By the way, I've totally had it with clinchers for cross, they're flippin useless... time for some tubulars again).    Limped half a lap to the pit, where I couldn't find my wheels because some asswipe decided to claim the spot where I'd placed mine, moving 'em to the other end of the pit.  (If I ever find that guy, I'm going open a can of whoop-ass on him.)  About 3 or more comical minutes looking around up and down every row, drawing pathetic looks and some sympathetic assistance from the pit crews.  Change it myself, and sprint back out there.  No opgave in this old dog.     

Veronique  brought a bit of Gent.
Raced hard the last few laps, and sprinted in with a few guys.  70th place out 84 starters.   Fun race, crap result.   Think next time they'll move me up to next to last row?

So enough of racing, time for a bier and to enjoy the Elite races.  Went (of course) to the Harpoon beer tent...where any flahute is very much at home.

Had an IPA (diet cheat day) while my son Tommy and his buddy Mike drank cokes and ate burritors and quesedillas, while we commented on the diverse form of Cat 3 and Junior riders over the double barriers, amid cowbell cacaphony.

Diep9:  The new official recovery beverage of Flandria Cafesupporters.
In the tent I ran into an old pal, JR, the owner of the Avery - the best neighborhood bar in Providence, and a favorite spot for many Providence cycling aficionados.   JR was working at a table sampling Diep9 Genever from Belgium but based in Vermont.  The very nice company founder Veronique Beittel (from Gent!) poured me the chocolate version and complemented the lion on our Flandria Cafe jersey.  I tried to converse in'een beetje' of Vlaamse...but was better sticking to English!

As the Genever went down, it was the signal for the Flemish Gods of Veldrijden to decided they'd had enough of this warm weather, BMX turns, fast grass US style racing.  

The skies darkened, the wind pickup up, and it got colder.   Then the skies opened up.   And many of the masses who'd participated in the morning races had made for their cars and the road home, leaving a relative handful of die-hards scrambling for rain jackets and umbrellas.

Rule 152:  If you go to race a cyclocross weekend, you stay to watch the Elite race.  Whether it's raining or not.

The rain didn't dampen the atmosphere at the beer-garden.
Those who left early missed a great race.  First the elite women.  Real cross, like it's supposed to be.  The track turned into a muddy slick skating rink.  The many off camber sections were barely rideable.

Unless, of course, your name was Helen Wyman:  The British champion romped to her second solo win in two days, smoothly riding sections that the majority couldn't, with what looked to me like a perfect line, and perfect form.  She made the near impossible look so easy.  Until you saw the rest slip slide and tumble.

Ex-US National Champ.. now New England Ridley rep Mark McCormack (CLIF BAR)
takes the Flandria Cafe 'working class hero' award.  
Then it was the Elite men's race.   Early on, Ian Field took off, trying to duplicate his fellow Brit.  He was hunted by Zack McDonald and Tim Johnson.   Despite being held on a course that was 80% identical to Saturday, this was a completely different kind of race.  Saturday's 1-2 duo, Powers and Trebon, were soon well down in the deluge.  
Tim Johnson hunts down Field.

As the rain poured down, McDonald took over the lead.  The young gun was in his element, dancing around the slippery mud.  I could have sworn he was smiling.  I think he was having a lot of fun out there.

Ben Berden was on a ride.
TJ was in his element too, only with a war face on... he fought and fought and put in a great surge to pick off Field with 2 to go, and without a look back kept pressing and got to within about 10 seconds of McDonald with about a lap to go.  
I was losing my voice yelling.

But while most of the attention was focused on the top 3, an even more impressive ride was quietly being done by Raleigh's Belgian - Ben Berden.  

Berden had a crap start, down at about 20th place first time by the tech area by my count... but the Flemish gods of veldrijden were giving their favorite son 'Divine Providence', creating 'Sunday in Hell' conditions where Berden was just at home, and flying.  He was picking off guys all race.   I stood on the technical grassy hills, admiring how he floated over the mud, and going... fast.  Berden was gaining big time.  Every lap.  Going faster than everyone else.

No one else in the Photo.   Zack zips up to
celebrate his first UCI pro win.
On the last half lap, Berden caught Field, and then the pair also recaptured Johnson.   Those high energy 50,000 watt announcers, Richie Fries and Paul Nixon were going bonkers, also losing their voices.   It was coming down to the final half lap.

In the end, McDonald held on for a solo win, just seconds before Berden beat TJ in de spurt for second.  But it was a great ride by both of those guys.  

Timmy may have had a mechanical Saturday, but he was a lion Sunday.   And Berden?   Well, he was the real Flemish lion.  He gave the New England faithful a Belgie-style cyclocross tutorial they won't soon forget.
Berden just outsprinted Johnson in the battle for second.

Oxygen Debt + Beer + Genever + Regen +  Modder + Cowbells + Mexican Food.  

That's veldridjen, New England style cafesupporters.


  1. Eddy,
    If you ever need a better photographer.....

  2. HA! Yeah Mike... the I-phone didn't cut it. Actually, it's me, my photoskills this weekend were about on the same level as my cyclocross!

    1. excuses, excuses...
      Hey at least you were there. As Billy M.once said, it takes balls just to be on starting line. CX especially.


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