Euro Photo Journal
In lieu of writing a reflection or story from my most recent travels to Europe for the Koksijde and Milton Keynes World Cup races, I've decided to compile a photo journal of sorts. First of all, Europe is full of lovely things to look at, and if there were such a thing as architecture porn, it would certainly come from Europe. However, the other reason is that so far this year feels more like a series of photos than a story; there have been many rich moments but not a discernable plot. As I sort through a number of changes this year, I am savoring these moments as they come.
The first order of business upon landing in Brussels was to procure coffee, and to procure a suitable vehicle. As you can see, by suitable I mean the largest thing that Enterprise rents in Europe because we had 4 bike boxes, a large suitcase, 3 roller bags, and 3 backpacks.
We drove straight to my friends Glenn and Tatjana's bike shop, Bike and Cycle Oudenaarde, to build bikes and head for a spin around the lovely town of Oudenaarde, home to many of the famous cobbled climbs as well as the finish of the Tour of Flanders. After 5 trips to Belgium for racing, I felt like a seasoned 'crosser being able to navigate a little tour of the area for Maghalie. Here we are at the top of the Koppenburg.
Tatjana and Glenn have been my adoptive family in Belgium for the last couple of years. This year, Tatjana's grandmother was generous enough to let us stay with her in Bredene, a town a bit north from Koksijde also on the coast. Friday we went to pre-ride at the course. Above is a view from the pits to the longest sand section, a double sided stretch of several hundred yards.
Glenn and Tatjana set us up with a tent and trainers for the warm-up!
Thanks to Kris Claeyé, Willem Beerland, Kevin Buyssens, Kevin Remmerie, and Patricia Cristens for the great pics!
Koksijde is the hardest, most epic of the World Cups. The streches of sand guarantee that you are racing at your absolute limit at all times, whether you're pedaling through it, running through it, or scrambling up a sand climb. The Europeans are sand ninjas!
The above are views from watching the men's race.
On the way back from Koksijde, we encountered a terrible traffic jam. In an attempt to skirt around it, we got all clever and took this side road...which turned into a cow path. #tourists
3 Belgians, 2 Canadians, and an American walket into a friteur... That night it was time to indulge in lasagne and ice cream sundaes!
Sunday, we decided to ride bikes into Brugge, the Venice of Belgium, for breakfast. Per usual, I searched Strava for segments between the two areas then plotted a route on Google Maps.
Somehow, we missed that route entirely on the way there, but stumbled upon the proper canal path on the way back!
The canal path between Bredene and Brugge.
Waffles and cappuccino. For me this wasn't just falling off the wagon, it was crashing off of it! With my obsessive nature in regards to health food, it was the best possible thing in the world that could have happened! For a control freak, sometimes the healthiest thing is to savor something rich, delicious, and indulgent.
Brugge Center already prepped for Christmas with it's outdoor market.
That night, Tatjana and Glenn treated us to the 6 Days of Gent track race. It was my first time watching track racing, and it was fascinating. It was like crit racing, only even more harrowing, which I didn't think possible! It's faster, off camber, riders cross wheels and change lines, they slingshot each other, and the bikes have no brakes!
Photos from around Gent at night.
The traditional candies of Gent.
The Red Light District, where I apparently already have a little niche.
Monday morning we packed up and headed to the UK via the ferry in Calais, France.
Views on the way over the Channel, and as we approached the Cliffs of Dover, England.
The castle at Dover.
Our first order of business upon arriving in Milton Keynes was to head out for an easy spin. There's a huge network of bike paths spiderwebbing the city, and we set off in the direction of Campbell Park. We had barely arrived there when the sun began to set, around 3:30pm! Hence our jaunt was very brief!
What a World Cup course looks like before it's set up! With my teaching job in the past, I'd never arrived to a WC so early!
Various views from my ride on Tuesday. It took me 40 minutes to extricate myself and my Steilacoom from the highways and crowded paths, but I finally spotted a sign with a bike symbol and the word "Rural" and following it led me to countryside, sheep, and rain. Finally, it felt like England!
Wednesday night, Maghalie had found a cooking class called Bake with Maria in London, and the three of us headed in to the big city to learn about making Italian desserts. There were 6 of us in the class, led by a super nice woman named Marianne. We made tiramisu, semifreddo, pannacotta, and lemon rosemary polenta cakes.
Thursday was Thanksgiving, totally uneventful since that holiday is not celebrated in the UK for obvious reasons. Arley and I entertained ourselves with Youtube and various social medias.
Speaking of social media, Milton Keynes was all over the Twitter. They initiated a chain of "Are You Ready?" selfie tweets that generated responses from the very mundane to the questionably elaborate.
The whole cross family heading over to the course! So fun to share racing moments and memories with these ladies all year.
Friday was pre-ride day, and the initially swoopy green grassy track became a swath of goopy mud winding around the park. The bike showers helped us clean up without too much trouble.
Saturday morning, several of us headed over to the "hole shot," a right 90 degree turn from fast pavement onto an off camber muddy hillside. We watched the juniors' race turn to mayhem as they hit the slip and slide!
Caroline Stewart responded on the Twitter and saved me last minute by filling in for an absentee pit person! She brought a trainer and kept my Steilacooms in tip top shape. There was no way to race Milton Keynes without pitting every lap due to the thick mud!
The start line.
The start, JUST before the hole shot...
And just after...!
It was all about bouncing back up as quickly as possible, and running...
And running and running...
I managed to enter the first pits after the first half lap in 7th.
I couldn't hold 7th, but apparently, I had fun!
Most of the race, I battled in a group for 13-16th places. A crash in the last lap however relegated me to 17th.
The fans were absolutely super! The cheers and noise were incredible, and so many folks came up after to encourage about the race.
Goodbye Milton Keynes! Off to Warwick, RI for a home race weekend, and then back to Europe for the Christmas week.