Words by Adam Rachubinski, Team Director / Head Mechanic
Photos by Bill Schieken of CXHairs.com
What many might describe as the trip of a lifetime, our team is using as a stepping stone of opportunities focused on gaining experience in unfamiliar territory.
For Turner, this trip is designed to push her boundaries and find a level of comfort in Europe. Much like driving a car. You can be quite an accomplished driver stateside but navigating a new country for the first time can feel quite staggering. With every experience, you realize it’s just another bike race. It gets easier every time.
On the flipside, Brannan is using this trip to measure his preparation and maturation against the World’s best. His performances including multiple finishes inside the top 20 and on the lead lap show he’s on the right path. However, it may be years before we realize the impact of this experience or even his full potential.
Everything is different here. From race day parking, to registration, to course design to the crowds. There were over 8000 spectators lining the course at a “smaller” C2 level race in Gullegem.
We did our homework and it paid off in spades. Having a proper van, a comfortable place to call home, and local logistical support made all the difference. Racing in the motherland of cyclocross is hard enough. Having the right support structure makes it easier to focus on the task at hand.
The biggest adaptation between the tape is that race courses are both faster and more technical. Where in North America, courses are often described as one or the other. Increased speed makes slightly technical features much more so, while truly difficult sections can become overwhelming or downright dangerous.
After the first weekend of racing, we had 7 days of “downtime” so to speak. We filled the days with route finding, training and learning just how day to day life is done in a new place.
A mid-week trip to Antwerp offered the chance to take a grand tour of Lazer Headquarters, practice our navigation skills and sample the best Mediterranean food we’ve ever had!
We took some of our time to sample what makes Belgium such a special place in cycling. Taking in the history, training on the cobbles of the classics, and an afternoon spectating Belgian National Championships. Getting an up-close view of the best in the World is a critical piece of the puzzle in development.
Our final race was in Otegem. Enormous crowds welcome many of Europe’s newly crowned National Champions adorning their new threads. On a Monday in the middle of January, this race turns a small town in to a cyclocross party zone that goes well into the night.
But for Brannan and Turner, it offered one more chance to leave it all out there. Mission accomplished.