Friday, January 13, 2006

Chance Noble's Report from Europe

Over the last few years, we in Nor-Cal have been watching Chance Noble develop in the wake of watching Chance's Dad tearing up the Masters. Mark and Chance have become regulars in the Nor-Cal scene, travelling frequently up from So-Cal to attend our races and carry a good amount of prize $ back home. Chance was kind enough to share his recent experience in Europe with us. Don't get discouraged, Chance, we're behind you 100%! Good luck at Worlds!

-Funke

Chance Noble's European Cyclocross Campaign: a sorry existence

After 13 full days, 6 days of racing, temperatures hovering around freezing and mud up to my eye-balls, its nice to be back home in sunny California for awhile to re-coup before my second round of overseas racing. I was staying in Izegem, a small town about 70 kilometers north west of Brussels in the Flemish region of Belgium. There wasn't much action happening on days when we weren't racing. There were four people to a room, all 4 juniors (including me) were in the same room. Typically I would go to sleep much earlier, but because some of my fellow roommates seemed to have a chronic obsession with JIM, the European version of MTV, the T.V. would stay on until about midnight nearly every night. We would then wake up around 10 or 11am. We quickly became known as the laziest room in the house.

The first race I did was a Super Prestige in Diegem. As at almost every other race we did, the "random" style call-ups successfully put all the U.S. juniors at the back of the field of about 60 riders. The course was in the middle of town so the crowds were huge, but contrary to popular belief, the Belgian crowds are disappointingly quiet. I was not having the best of days, fighting for about 50th, which was far worse than I had anticipated I would do. After all but the last race, the team managers whisked us juniors away right after the race back to Izegem to stay out of the cold and recover. On our way home we could hear the Elite race being broadcasted on radio which, unfortunately, was not very useful as it was spoken in Flemish. Once we arrived back in Izegem we could watch the race on T.V.

The next day I raced In Wachtebeke. The course was pan-flat. The only elevation gains were bridges going over where the course intersected itself. This was just a semi-local race so there were only about 35 starters in the junior category. This was by far the slowest race I have ever done. The whole course was deep mud that was slightly more watery than peanut butter. After this race I came to the conclusion that Belgium has "Permamud." Similar to permafrost that is found in the arctic regions, permamud is a permanently muddy layer on the earth.
Midweek we raced a "GVA" at Loenhout. GVA is a newspaper that sponsors this series and is considered to be the second most prestigious series next to the World Cups. It was the coldest race I have ever done. This was the course that sparked USA cycling's ingenious idea to merge BMX and Cyclocross together. Along with the five or six foot high rollers and tabletops, there was a "Whoops" section consisting of what I remember as about 10 or 12 humps at about a foot and a half high (although I didn't count). In addition to this, a large portion of the mud on the course had frozen solid and there was a ditch that was so wide only the likes of Sven Nys in the elite race jumped it. I had a decent race finishing in the upper half of the field in 29th. Beating all the Swiss riders, a handful of Belgians, Slovakians, British, Germans and more, I was pretty happy with this ride. A few days later, a photographer from the Gazet van Antwerpen came and took a picture of us for an article in their newspaper! The headline reads "Mijn ouders waren niet blij." I don't know what this means but I assume it's a positive article.

The One World Cup we did came next and it was hideous. It was on permamud with hard ruts underneath (similar to nationals this year but with slightly deeper and thicker mud). Since it was a World Cup, riders were assigned starting positions so Bjorn Selander was first or second row, Danny Summerhill in about third row, Alex Howes somewhere in the middle and I managed to miss my call up so I found myself last row in a field of about 65 riders (Uggg...) Alex Howes was caught in a crash in the mud and found a Slovak sitting in his main triangle unstraping his helmet and shouting. Keep in mind that this was only about 45 seconds after the start. Alex was trying to get his bike when the Slovak began to hit him. A swift kick to the ribs and a euro squeal later, Howes was back on his bike. At about the same point this was happening, I was feeling somebody’s elbow and hand pushing me slightly off the good line at almost every corner. I didn't think much of it because there was about 4 racers side-by-side throughout the first half lap of the race. About six minutes into the first lap, I hooked bars with a Belgian going through a right turn before a sand pit and came to a complete stop. As we were untangling bars, I received a back hand to the face. I was then was forced to make the decision to either get off my bike and finish what he started or race my bike. I figured I would just keep racing. I stayed with him for a little while longer and verbally threatened him, but he probably didn't understand what I said because 1) He probably couldn't speak English, 2) I was wheezing like such a little girl because I was going so hard, most likely nobody could have understood what I was saying. Bjorn and Danny both had great rides, duking it out with the top riders including the World Cup leader. Alex was on the first page of results and I had a somewhat pathetic ride in 44th. The U-23 and Elite race did not go too good for the U.S. guys either. Along with the false start in the elite race in which they had to stop everybody after at least a minute into the untimely race, Barry Wicks managed to break his pinky, Ryan Trebon messed up his shoulder pretty good, Adam McGrath suffered a concussion and Jesse Anthony was back handed as well. On the drive home, I was not too enthusiastic. I just kept thinking "Uggg, Bitch slapped by a Belgian and at the back of the pack. At this point of the camp, I was really unsure of my form. Some days I would come home feeling really confident about the coming races and others I didn't even know why I race.

The next few races went really well. Baal was the second to last race and was a GVA. I finished 12th, a few seconds behind Alex in 11th, Danny finished 5th, one place behind Bjorn. As the official camp was over at this point, a few of the riders went home. I stayed for a race in Surheisterveen, Holland. Again, the course was dead flat. It seemed as though the field split in two and I was caught in the middle. Almost right from the start I was by myself. I finished 9th, one place behind Alex who was the only other U.S. junior that stayed for the camp. Although the crowds are quiet, they are very supportive. As I came back from my cool-down ride, I counted over 20 spectators that were just standing around our tents watching the U-23's and Elites getting ready for their race. They would inspect our bikes to see what we were riding. It was really cool. In Conclusion, my first Euro trip has been a huge learning experience. I’m looking forward to going back to Europe for one more World Cup and the World Championships in Holland. I'd like to thank everyone that has supported me via funds, equipment, clothing, organization and encouragement. Special thanks to my family, Jerry Jayne and the good folks of Amgen, Alan Coates, Jesse Gascon of Shimano and Dorothy Wong.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dave Carr said...

great report, LOL. good luck on the second trip, I am sure it will be a lot better. If not you can just take up BMX. --DC

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chance,

Great report, extremely well written, made the reader get a real good picture of your experience. We hope you write a report on Worlds.

We followed your race today (in Zeddam), congrats to you for a really good finish. You're gonna do great in the future. You have a couple years left, U18, I think.

Betty Jordan/Gary Noe

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Richard Lancaster said...

Hi Chance -

An excellent, well-written report, with just one missed apostrophe near the top, on "it's". Don't be afraid to use a few creative, interesting adjectives to liven up your descriptions. 9 out of 10.

You must have had an excellent English Teacher!

Seriously, it's great to hear you living such adventures and doing so well. Good work!

Richard Lancaster.

11:18 AM  

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