CX Chronicles – The Adventures of Fi Fi
Posted by auscxmag
Posted in News
words & photography: Fiona Morris
It’s been a relatively quiet week here at base camp. Since the Soudal Classic in Leuven we have been holed up in Oudenaarde at “The ChainStay” a homestay for cyclists in the Flanders region. Gregg, who has worked for Garry in the pits, runs the Homestay. He offered us a deal we couldn’t refuse, we could stay here for a few weeks in return for looking after his dog Belle, while he was back in Texas for the US National CX Champs…which we all know is another story on its own! So here we are in Oudenaarde, probably my favourite place we have been to in Belgium.
Why is it my favourite place you ask?! Well for one, it has Økkerennot – a gorgeous Scandinavian inspired café that has delicious coffee and organic food. This place is my kind of heaven, for those who don’t know me that well, I lived in Sweden while I studied Industrial Design so I have an affinity with Scandinavian design and style, and I am also a bit of a health nut. Needless to say we have spent a fair bit of time at this place, I think we are now part shareholders. Another reason I like Oudenaarde, is the house we are staying at – It really is the perfect place for cyclists, it has a huge bike room where all the bikes can go, full workshop set up, turbo trainers…its fully kitted out. Plus it has a big kitchen, so I can slave away over a hot stove for Boy Wonder!
Belgium is a funny little country though, to be honest I’m not really sure why you would come here if it weren’t for the cyclocross. Especially in the winter time…its cold, its dark for 16 hours a day, it rains…a lot and the coffee situation is a little dire. It’s not to say I don’t like it though, because in a weird way I do quite like it. So what are the bonuses of a place like Belgium? There isn’t a tourist in sight, which is quite refreshing when travelling, rather than being one of a million, you are one in a million and it makes the adventure even more fun. The Belgians are super friendly, we have met some really cool people and when you are travelling with a “focused athlete” (read: the silent type) having that fan who comes to say hi at every race, or the mechanic in the pits who always has a chat, it’s really nice to have that familiar face and someone to share a laugh with. The architecture here is also pretty rad, which I think aligns with their lifestyle of living a little more simply than we do in Australia, we were driving through the countryside and in between all these old houses and barns there are these super modern box like houses. These houses are simple, not excessively sized and beautifully understated. It’s probable some Belgians think they are being stalked by a couple in a campervan cause we have driven past a few places a number of times.
And one of the coolest thing about Belgium, it’s the home of Tintin of course. Actually Belgium is considered the kingdom of comics and they have a museum dedicated to preserving the history of comics and nurturing new talent, hopefully I get a chance to go check it out, just have to convince Mr Anti-Museum, that this one will be a little different.
So we are looking after this cute little dog Belle, I mean just look at those eyes, the definition of puppy dog eyes! Oh my aren’t they deceiving, and yes she has deceived me a number of times. I was convinced she couldn’t understand my commands of, come, sit, no because she probably didn’t understand English, so I look it all up in Dutch, nope still doesn’t do what you ask…just stares at me with those gorgeous eyes. So I give up on telling her what to do. A few days pass I tell her to sit, ohhh what do you know she sits, so I try lay down, yep she got that one too…the damn dog even knows how to shake hands, I realise why she suddenly knows how to do it, I’m holding food. Belle 1 Fiona 0. Next up I was convinced she couldn’t jump, because she couldn’t get onto the lounge (Sorry Gregg if she isn’t allowed on the lounge) turns out she is very good at jumping…we learnt the hard way when we left a bag with some voltaren and embrocation cream on the dining table, thankfully we were home and I heard a loud noise in the middle of the night. I run downstairs just in time, 1 minute later and there would have been voltaren cream everywhere and probably a trip to the vet – Disaster avoided. Belle 2 Fiona 0. I also must have left a recovery bar in my back pack because I found the wrapper and a half munched bar. Belle 3 Fiona 0. But look at those eyes…
As per standard after a hard block of training and racing, Millburn has come down with a cold, which he has ever so kindly shared with me. So when Otegem Cyclocross rolled around, we were both a little under the weather. You know those days when you think to yourself “hmm this isn’t going to end well”, well that’s what was running through my head but I didn’t want to instil any doubt into Garry and I didn’t want him to think I doubted his ability. So I kept my mouth shut and off we went to Otegem. The morning went smoothly, if you can call Garry coughing and blowing his nose going smoothly that is. Another race where I had to be at the start line and in the pits, having to be in 2 places at once is not at all stressful. The start line was in a tight street with houses lining the roads, so when the lights turned green the crowds that had been lining the street started to head one way as I tried to head the other way. The scene was similar to a small tuna trying to swim upstream… Minutes ticked by and I was starting to worry I wouldn’t make it to the pit in time, I won’t lie a little tear started to well in my eyes. Eventually I got there, Garry came through and didn’t pit, but looked in a world of hurt and was well off the pace. Next lap, he pulled the pin, not so much because he was off the pace more for the fact he was struggling to actually race, that little thing called breathing is kind of hard when you have a cold and you’re pushing your body to its limits. I sent him off with his clean bike and then washed his dirty bike, cause I’m a good wifey like that.
Apart from the one race and drinking coffee, we have had a chilled week. A few hard turbo sessions, a trip to Ghent and a chat with Coach Jeff for his Cyclocross Down Under Podcast [I have put the link below, if you have some time on your hands]. Kasteelcross Zonnebeke is on this Saturday, and then the following week is the World Cup at Hoogerheide in the Netherlands.
The rest of the Aussie team arrive today, I’m really looking forward to meeting a few new faces, Jack Hogan (U23), Noah Burrow (Jnr) and seeing a few familiar faces Lindsay Gorrell (Elite Women), Nick Smith (Jnr), Tom Green (Jnr) and Mick Hernan (Team Manager).
Well it’s time for me to brave the Beautiful Belgian weather (its grey and windy and looks like it might rain) and actually go for a ride, I had been waiting for some sunshine but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. Garry has convinced me it’s now or never and I managed to buy some long Knicks, that cost over 200€ so I probably should use them at least once or Financial Advisor Garry will have me strung up and beaten…just kidding he won’t beat me but I will never hear the end of it.