Thursday, 28 January 2016

More Mud at Hoogerheide WC

Hoogerheide mud is definitely the mudder of all mudder races, it’s so hard physically and technically due to the mud, and yet somehow ….fun?  From what I can remember last year was really wet, having snowed the night before pre-ride, and then melted.  But this year, I think was muddier, with a good amount of rain on and off all week, there were some good soupy sections.  The majority of the course was the exact same, however there had been a lot of construction along the start straight, making the start a long sweeping uphill with a hard right into some gnarly mud and ruts after about 500m. 

3rd row call again, love not having to start all the way at the back anymore J  I had a great start, elbows were definitely out in that first corner, but I managed to come through unscathed and upright.  Past the pits, a couple of fast corners and into a fast descent with a bermed (or maybe rutted) right hand corner at the bottom.  You could definitely catch a lot of speed here, and if you played the rut at the bottom wrong, you could easily end up in the trees.  Popping out of the trees into a long flat grass straight away past the busy VIP tent, I found a great line out of the corner carrying momentum along and moved up most laps along here.
Photo from Marc Deceuninck

Sharp right hand hairpin at the end of the VIP tent and the mud started to get thicker.  A couple more flat corners and with each passing corner the mud would get thicker and thicker.  This was the section that I seemed to struggle the most with this year, not being able to find that balance point on my bike to get enough traction to move forward efficiently in a straight line.  Give me all the greasy corners and off camber, I rocked those, but muddy straight sections were my kryptonite.  Once clear of the worst of the mud, sharp little power uphill back into the trees, short downhill with a 180 at the bottom and up the greasy climb.  This one 9 times out of 10 due to the mud is a runner, for me anyways J.  Up the first pitch, the course turns left out of the trees and into a flattish very muddy section….so you just keep running.  Hairpin corner at the top and you can finally hop back on your bike, hopefully getting clipped in just in time to hit the first of 2 deeply rutted, very muddy and very slick left hand corners.  I proudly rocked the big rut safely and somewhat quickly most laps, having to hop off and run up the small incline the lap I messed the rut up and almost ended up on my face.  The second left hand corner had a lot more options for lines and the main rut had a good “jog” in it half way through the corner making for trying to stay in the rut an interesting exercise.  Up a small slick incline and back through the pits.

Photo by Luc Hermans 
This short section seemed to be the least muddy and you could catch your breath a little going through the fast corners.  Picking up speed, the mud got thicker and deeper as you neared the next hairpin.  This corner in particular is one that you always see on video, for me it really stands out in my memory from watching races, and it’s easily distinguishable with a huge tree and a giant running rut around it.  Flying what feels like break neck speed into the corner, trying to get off in the uneven mud, and trying not to fall flat on your face because you’ve just jumped off your bike while it’s moving faster then your legs can move, makes for some great facial photos at this corner!!  Going into this corner with anyone nearby spiced it up even more, having to look out for bikes and feet flying you way.
Photo from Bart Raeymaekers

Around the corner and running back up the hill with your bike, hairpin at the top and try to get clipped in again before the slightly off camber downhill with the right hand corner at the bottom.  A couple more flat really muddy straights with rutted corners and the course popped out a road climb.  Old course had a fun series of really steep and rutted shoots with steep run ups, but new course took us up past the start and into a really hard off camber soggy sand section.  There were two paths that were about a tire width, and if you got off those you were essentially riding in what felt like wet concrete.  Power through that section, tight right hand corner and a huge 44 set of concrete steps that were built specifically for this race, OUCH!!!!  And at the top, just when you were weak in the knees and out of breathe, there was about a 100m of what again felt like wet concrete to power through.  Making it about ¾ of the way through each lap I found it faster to get off and run at a certain point.  Pop out on the pavement and you have about a 100m to stretch your legs out and get ready to do the lap all over again!!!  I got my new blue Giro Empires so dirty L

Photo from Luc Hermans
I’ve know for a while that I need to work on pacing, but this race yet again has reinforced the fact that I love to go out too hard…..but I do have a good start J I battled with a solid group of 4 or 5 girls for a large chunk of the race, and finished happily with a 24th.

One more week of rest and the last race of the season back at Zolder!!!