Belgium Baby 5/20 - By Tommy Schubert

What else can I say but wow. This place is one-hundred times better than I thought. No exaggeration. The people, food, racing, roads, and cow-shit are all excellent. Most of the racing here starts at 15:00 so there is never a rush in the morning also.

When I woke up I had to do some work on the bike to get it dialed in since I'm borrowing a bike over here. A tape measure and elbow grease quickly fixed everything. Afterwards my Marine pal (Kyle) took me on a spin around town to help with the finishing touches on the position. Well 5k into the ride we got the great Idea that we should do the famed Koppenberg climb (Flanders). One thing is for sure. This climb is not as easy as on TV. The climb itself isn't too difficult being 1k long and 15% gradient. The cobbles are what will rock your world. Literally. There was a little curb on both sides of the road about 4 inches wide and I quickly learned how to hop on a curb and ride on it. I have done very difficult climbs but the feeling I got when I got to the top was different than any other climb I done. At the top of the Koppenberg it is relatively flat and has roads which branch off it. Instead of making a loop of it we decided to turn around and ride down the Koppenberg. That I will not do again. All I can say is wow that hurt. I stayed upright but nobody should have to have their body jolted at 1,000 RATES PER SECOND. While descending it people going up it were just nodding their heads and chuckling. On the way back we stopped at one of the million cafes littered about Oudenaarde. We chose the right café because the waitress was absolutely gorgeous. Whoever told me Belgian women were ugly is a liar. We got back to the house with 3.5 hours until race time. It seems like every race is close to our house. Also there are usually 3-4 possible races to day almost daily near the house.

We decided to ride to the race nice and easy for the warm-up since the race was 20k away. We got there paid the 5 Euros to race and numbered up. As I was registering for the race some men next to me were talking about placing bets on me but as soon as I said sprecht du engels they quickly decided not to. Today's race was a 75mile kermis with a solid 100 racers. I started the race in the last row and within the first ¾ of a lap I was in the top 10. At one point I got swarmed and went from the front to 70 back. The race went very smoothly but Belgians tend to slam their brakes before every turn. That is something to get used to. Also there is this crack in the middle of the road that is just a trap. This crack (forget proper term) is throughout most of Belgian roads. In the field there is always a gap of riders between the crack like the split seas. Every second there are riders jumping over the crack. The racing is more hectic but is tremendously safer than American racing. People are constantly bumping each other and leaning on one another through turns. But everybody is much more experienced so it works out great. As the race went on I stayed top half of the pack just trying to save energy. As we passed the halfway point of our race I crossed the middle of the road where the crack was. I did not jump or jerk over it and my rear tire drug in it and made my bike jump real well. I was so happy I didn't get a flat. Simultaneously as I thought that my rear tire punctures. There was no wheel truck so I was out of the race. There is always another race. I am going to be racing 4-5 days a week so there is always another day.

A few others and I rode back into town and on the way back we stopped at a local pub and had some tasty Belgian recovery bear. Bottom line after today I don't want to leave.