February 2009

By Gavin Mannion
CyclingRevealed Contributor






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A Quick Report from CX Worlds

CR's Introduction:Many of us dream of racing at the highest level. Young Gavin Mannion from Boston’s CCB International racing club is living that dream. Currently Gavin is spending time with the US National Junior Team based in Belgium. In cycling crazy Belgium, cyclo cross (and road) racing gets no tougher. Enjoy Gavin’s “Quick Report from Belgium”:

Training on the course
[Photo ©: Dave McElwaine ]

Gavin sitting in a hard chasing group
[Photo ©: Catherine Cagle]

Fighting for a corner
[Photo ©: Catherine Cagle]

I headed back across the pond for the second time this month for the Cyclocross World Championships in Hoogerheide, Holland. My flight over went exceptionally well, partially making up for my 18 hour stay in Logan before Christmas. I checked in at Logan, got my bike by for free and got moved on to an earlier flight to Newark. It seems all my flights have a layover in Newark. At least it's one of the biggest airports I fly through, which makes it a little easier to kill some time.

The flight to Brussels was pretty routine, I unsuccessfully tried to catch some sleep. Arriving in Brussels I was surprised to see my bike there, it usually ends up in Germany or England.

My first task was figuring out how I was getting to Oudenaarde, where I was staying with Franky Van Haesebrouke for the week before worlds. After finding a pay phone and calling Franky I was told he was not picking me up and that I should take a train. I bought the ticket to Oudenaarde draggng my bike and bags down the broken escalator to catch the train leaving in 3 minutes. After I boarded the train I found someone who was going to Oudenaarde and basically followed them, luckily there was only one transfer. A few hours later I was at Franky's building up my bike with Zak Dempster, an Aussie pro on Franky's team. In order to stay awake Zak and I took a spin in to Oudenaarde center to get a sandwich and some coffee, about a 30km ride round trip.

I raced the next day in Assenede in some muddy Belgian farmlands. It was a national level Belgian race that had us running through an irrigation ditch each lap to keep it interesting. I ended up 6th, and felt pretty good for the first day off the plane.

I spent the most of week recovering at Franky's spending most of the day on my roommate’s laptop as he was on 5 hour training rides. The best ride I did was with Jonathan Page, who lives only a few Km from Franky. We did about 2.5 hours on some of the Tour of Flanders roads including the Kluisberg and some other cobbled climbs. On Thursday I met the National Team in Izegem and drove to our hotel in Rilland, Holland about 10 min from the course. We trained on the course for the next two days to prepare for the big race on Saturday.

When race day rolled around I had been feeling a little bit under the weather for a couple of days but was ready to go nonetheless. I started around the 5th row on the 800 meter long start stretch. I used some road skills to move up as much as possible on the road. I was around 30th position when we hit the grass and after the first few corners the leaders had already gained about 30 seconds. I knew that I was not having one of my better days but I fought for every corner with all the euros because it was the World Championships! I was happy to hear the bell ring and even happier when I crossed the finish line. My cross season was over!

Even though I did not have one of my best races I had a good season and gained some valuable experience in the process. Now it was time to relax and watch Will "The Dragon" Dugan take on the U23's! The next day was the main event, the Elite Men. Before the race Will and I were looking for the full euro experience so we stopped by the huge techno party tent filled with drunken Belgian's and some Dutch as well. After a few minutes in there with Will leading a Congo train it was time to watch the race.

The course was about 5 people deep in most sections so Will, Zach McDonald, and I hopped up on a couple of trash cans at the first corner and enjoyed most of the race. When the race ended we knew the vans were leaving within 5 minutes of the finish so we began hopping barriers to try and get out to the parking area. Zack and I accidentally hopped into the podium area where Niels Albert was giving his interview and were quickly escorted away. We ended up running to the van and barely making the time cut.

The 2009 World Championships were over, we headed to our hotel for dinner and drove to an airport hotel in Brussels for quick drop offs in the morning.

Thanks to all of you who helped and cheered me on this season.  Hopefully I'll turn this experience into a result in the future.

Thanks for reading,


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