So Tim and I got up from our sicky slumber and drove 2 hrs into Belgium – Ronse to be exact. Luckily we stopped to fill up Dennis’ Volvo and I could purchase a value sized pack of tissue as I was blowing my nose for the full 2 hrs of the drive.
The course itself was on the side of a hill -similar to a small Alberta foothill you could say. The loop featured a long climb starting way at the bottom near the town and sectioned its way up through the feedzone. It is hard to estimate how long the climb was as it was divided into a small singletrack section, then a pavement section, then a technical steep switchback, then some more pavement, then dirt road thru the feedzone, then some more wide singletrack. Later into the lap also included a steep slippery climb lined w/ crazy Belgium MTB fans. Looking back at my Garmin data I climbed 1317m for the whole race. (8 laps total). The rest of the course was filled in with slippery mud that was just getting tacky enought that you could ride it but still wet enought that one wrong move and you’d have to step off – or take a header.
As we warmed up I noticed this little kid dressed in a full on mini Belgium champion kit – 1/8th the size. I said “look at that!” and Tim told me yeah that’s Sven Nys’ kid. Cool – Sven is racing today too.
So to torture us just a little more, the start of 129 riders was up a steep and long pavement climb that lead into the first wide decent of the course. This was going to hurt.
Since I have not been using the Secret and have been sick for the majority of the week I was unsure as to what to expect for this race…so I didn’t have any stress about the start climb. I just thought to myself to take it easy and go a hard but not blow yourself up pace as that is all I can do. So that’s what I did and to my suprise, I started moving up from my start position of lets say 125. So far so good.
Up the first climb I contiuned to move past guys however during that first lap I bobbled a little in a slick muddy section of the course and lost like ten spots right there but after that point I continued to move up. After the first lap no one other than the leaders came back to me. I was even dropping guys on the climb!
There was this couple watching the race on the long climb and during the first lap they read my name sticker on my top tube and started cheering really excitedly as only Belgiums could. And after that first lap, everytime I came around they were cheering “GO MIKE” really loud with a nice Belgian accent. It was pretty cool. You’ve heard of Sven Nys Supporters (yes there were many at the race w/ their jackets on) well, these two were Mike Sarnecki Supporters!
One cool moment of the race was when I got passed by Filip, Nys, and Rudy Van Houts. I was 1/2 way up the steep muddy climb when they got to the bottom. You could feel the fans excitement as the leaders approached – I looked up the climb and there was no trail – just people. It was a cool experience forsure…they barely moved out of my way as they were anticipating for their favourites to climb by.
So as I continued to pick up and pass guys throughout the race I ended up finishing 88th out of 109 finishers and 20 dnf’rs. One reccuring thought I had while racing was that everytime I started to coast I thought of all the insults Roddi would dish my way if he saw me coasting so I started to pedal hard again.
The classification position is not what is important to me but rather I am very happy with the result because I felt really good during the race and actually had FUN while racing eventhough I was suffering a lot. Plus it was nice to not feel the symptoms of my cold/allergies while riding.
Monday brings another day in Europe and I’m going to make sure to step back and enjoy all Europe has to offer.
Lung Butter (Tim-ism) is not lubricating,
The Start Climb:
Up the technical section of the long climb: