At the 'cross races: Matt Brammeier writes

Two days back in Europe and I was already feeling over the jet-lag and stresses of the TDU. I was expecting at least a week of sleepless nights and feeling a bit sluggish. Happy days. I was happy with the race, I got what I needed there and returned home feeling good and, most important of all, 100% healthy.

So I adjusted to the time difference pretty well; the next challenge was the temperature difference. Around 40 degrees C in fact. I think I’ve been wearing more clothes each day this week than I did for my whole time in Oz. I can’t say I have enjoyed it but it could have been a lot worse. As long as it’s dry I can normally squeeze enough clothes on to stay warm and feel ok on the bike.

Along with my daily ‘RedCord” sessions, I fitted in a few easy rides for three days after I returned. I really wanted to freshen up well after TDU and then hit one big block full-on before leaving for my next race in Qatar. So after three days of easy riding for 2-3 hours I took two days totally off the bike and enjoyed some rare time with my family and my girlfriend, Nikki.

The latter had her World Championships in Koksijde last weekend. This was something I wasn’t going to miss. I planned this into my time off and made the trip over to Belgium’s west coast. As you may know, I’m a bit of a cyclo-cross fan and the “World’s” in Belgium excited me no end. I expected it to be crowded and pretty mad but the day itself totally overwhelmed me. 61,000 people were packed into a 3km circuit, all crazy cycling fanatics supporting their favourite rider with more passion than I’ve ever seen.

I was one of them! Nikki Harris’s biggest fan! She rode an incredible race, probably the best of her life, and finished in 6th place. She made a few mistakes on the first lap that cost her a bit of time that she couldn’t quite make up quick enough. She finished just 20 seconds off a podium place! Every now and then you get these days on the bike where you feel fantastic, like you can do anything. The only thing is, 99% of the time it’s not when you expect or when you need to feel good. This day she got it right. Next year, podium? Why not…?

The men’s race was a slight anticlimax. The Belgians smashed the rest and showed their true class at riding in the sand. Our local rider, Niels Alberts, was fantastic; he led from the start and never looked back!

I was pretty dead after that day out. I think it took more out of me than if I had raced. Me + Walking + Standing = Kaput! I took one day riding easy and was ready and raring to train again. The next morning, I woke to a blanket of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Great! So one day on the trainer and two MTB days followed. Again, not ideal preparation for the style of racing in Qatar but it could be worse, at least I was riding my bike. I actually really enjoy riding my MTB every now and then. I found myself tearing round a local forest today with my iPod in and with not a care in the world. No cars, no stress, just me and my bike; at times like this I realise how lucky us bike riders are. We get paid to play about on our bikes! It’s a hard life!

Playtime is over now. It’s time to freshen up and get ready for the chaos that beckons in the Tour of Qatar. It was last year’s hardest race as far as numbers go! We have a super-strong team and we will be going with one aim. To win, of course!

I’ll be sure to be in touch with another blog and daily updates via Twitter!

Wish us luck!


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