J-Pow's Journal: Me at Middelkerke
J-Pow’s Journal: Me at Middelkerke

Photo: www.cycling-pics.be / Mario Varrewaere

I’ve been in Europe since nationals, a little over two weeks actually and usually by this point in my trip I’m tired and ready to a break and relax for a couple days. A year wiser and happier makes such a difference. This year I made a tough decision to skip the Nommay World Cup in France when I got to Europe, let myself recover, get settled in my new home away from home and then give it the stick in the hardest races of the year.

It’s paid off with a seventh in the Noordzecross’ in Middlekerke and a 13th Tuesday in Loenhout. I thought this week it’d be cool to go through some key differences in European events versus events that take place state-side and if those differences are valued enough to replicate or not … Obviously there is going to be a difference of opinion on this, but I say let’s not try and re-invent the wheel. Instead, I think we should perfect it!

(Bear with me for a little bit … it’s long)

One of the first things you do at any race in Europe is find the center of the town that’s hosting the race and follow the race organization signs. When you get there, depending on the size of the race, you see car lots full of campers with each racer’s name on the side and their respective team making everything perfect for that rider, cleaning bikes, pumping tires etc.

J-Pow's Journal: Not my truck.
J-Pow’s Journal: Not my truck.

Photo: www.cycling-pics.be / Mario Varrewaere

As the rider, I go and find the registration place; even as a racer in Europe you can’t get on the course without a wristband. So you grab your numbers and a couple wristbands for your mechanics and off you go.

At this point, I’m kitted up, ready to pre-ride the course, I usually head right out with my band prominently showing and check out a couple laps, play with the pressure, tread selection etc.

So far we’re on track: this is pretty similar to back home, but here is where I divert. I’ve pre-rode the course, I come back and pull out my skinsuit, pin it up, hang out for about an hour or so, have a snack, the mechanic sets my race bike up on the trainer and I do a warm up before the race.

J-Pow's Journal: Stationary warm-ups are customary in Europe.
J-Pow’s Journal: Stationary warm-ups are customary in Europe.

Photo: www.cycling-pics.be / Mario Varrewaere

In the States, I probably rode a trainer once, when it was too cold or raining to hard. Here, you can’t warm up on the roads, there are way too many people out there to try and navigate around, it just doesn’t work like back home. And the same goes for after the race — cool down on the trainer.

The mechanics take off early with the bikes to the pits, because it usually takes a long time to get there from the riders’ parking. So meanwhile I finish the warm up, switch the rear wheel out and off I go to the start/finish.

J-Pow's Journal: Looks like frites from here.
J-Pow’s Journal: Looks like frites from here.

Photo: www.cycling-pics.be / Mario Varrewaere

As you ride and look around, a lot people are enjoying themselves, with a couple drinks in usually before noon time, some fried foods, waffles, candy, cigars, etc., are in the hands of most people. It’s a party for the day!

We haven’t really made this happen yet in the States, but we’re close, on the cusp even. But, typically in the States we eat healthier foods at the races, because the people we have at the races are racers! We don’t yet have many people who aren’t racers watching the races. Most of us are athletes. which is good that everyone supports everyone else.

The flip side of that is this is where U.S. ‘cross hurts. Cycling in general isn’t as mainstream in the U.S. and if you think about the carnival style events they promote in Europe, it’s appealing to replicate. But do we need to be exactly like the European races? I don’t think we do and I hope we aren’t exactly like them, but every great thing started with an idea and took off after motivated souls made it their own. Europe does do good ‘cross races and makes them spectacles; I would never take that away from them.

J-Pow's Journal: Belgium's finest hour
J-Pow’s Journal: Belgium’s finest hour

Photo: www.cycling-pics.be / Mario Varrewaere

I think if we in North America bring more to the table than just a bike race, we’d be sitting in the same driver’s seat. We’ve got the athletes, organization, the races are on the calendar, all we need to bring is the party, to show regular Joes we’ve got this cool event, it’s got music, drinks, a bike race, a loopty loo, whatever. Everyone is having a great time, come out, bring your boots because it’s gonna be dirty and fun and we’re flying.

Sure we need TV, big cities and neon lights, but it’s just food for thought at this point and in the next couple years I’m going to try and make this happen.

All in all, Euro ‘cross is awesome, it’s the big show, people come out in the tens of thousands to watch, pack the courses six people deep and scream like banshees. It’s awesome, I love it, but I’ll never turn my back on my roots.

J-Pow's Journal: Lining up for 'cross food
J-Pow’s Journal: Lining up for ‘cross food

Photo: www.cycling-pics.be / Mario Varrewaere

Again, because I think I bored everyone and I’m not really that boring of a guy, I’ve got a lightening round with the world champ, Lars Boom.

I’m lucky I got this before the race. Today is Boom Boom’s birthday; the big Two-Three, and the spirit was high in his mobile home. Unfortunately Boom ended up crashing pretty hard and even though he didn’t break any bones it was a hard fall. Get better quick buddy!

JP: First off, I want to know if you’re getting a lot of ladies rockin’ the rainbows on your back?
Boom Boom: Noooooo, not exactly.

JP: Alright whatever, I don’t believe you. Why do you think the Dutch are better then the Belgians?
Boom Boom: Because we are normal (Long pause)

JP: Alright, Coke or Pepsi
Boom Boom: Coke

JP: Do you remember the first time we locked eyes here at this race (Loenhout) in 2004 I was trying to jump that big ditch? I called you Boom Boom for the first time…
Boom Boom: Yes I thought, he is a cool jumper!

JP: Iphone or Blackberry?
Boom Boom: Iphone

JP: Favorite place to vacation?
Boom Boom: It doesn’t matter where, as long as its relaxing, I want to go to Miami soon!

JP: Bart Wellons or Sven Nys (generally speaking)
Boom Boom: Nys

JP: Let’s get back to the lady’s, Blonde, Brunette, short, tall…? (Lars mom left his trailer for a minute…)
Boom Boom: Around 170cm, just a little shorter then me and brunette (smiling)

JP: Alright, Now the ladies know!

JP: You know I drive a 1990 Caprice Classic. What are you rollin?
Boom Boom: I just got a Range Rover Sport two weeks ago.

JP: Nice.

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