Monday, November 15, 2010

In France, T'is the Season for Cyclo Cross

Roan's back before he had even raced!

The Cyclo Cross season is in full swing here in France and all three Flanagan boys are in on the action. Cyclo cross in France is a crazy sport. Fall marks the time of year when basically all of the training and racing of the Ecoles de Cyclisme here in France, take to the fields and forests around the country. We have been training in the forest twice a week and racing on most weekends since the beginning of October. These forest or "bois" sessions are a lot like the movie Rambo, only played out in the woods on skinny-tired road bikes. The first time we went to practice I thought "you have got to be joking!" Get twenty kids on road bikes and turn them lose on rocky forest trails? I'm sure there is a method to this French Cyclo cross madness. The words "teaching les enfants agility" comes up a lot, but man, at first I thought they were all crazy!

Liam in Action

Crazy Sport on skinny tires

We had our first Cyclo Cross race the weekend before heading to California for Levi's Granfondo. The race was on a multi-looped course up in Chateauneuf de Dadagne which is a small town up near Avignon. The event took place on what looked like a rocky goat field. It was tough! The only one of the Flanagan boys who really did well was Roan (the youngest at 6 years old) who was second in his race. Liam was on the deck several times, and, at other times, he was catching big air in places you didn't really want to be catching big air. Halfway through I told him to back off and just get through the race safely. He had 103 miles to ride in California the next weekend!

Le Petit Champion - Roan is a serious force on the bike!

As soon as we returned from California we got right back into the fields, rocks and mud. Everyone told me that the kids didn't need special dedicated Cyclo Cross bikes. I soon noticed, however, that the kids who were winning the races (kids, by the way, that Liam was putting the hurt on in road races just a few weeks earlier), all had specialized proper Cyclo Cross bikes. Liam doesn't get intimidated, but this cyclo cross thing on skinny tires was knocking him around a bit. Liam had saved up some money, and I pitched in a bit and we were able to find a cyclo cross bike that would work. What a huge difference tires make. Also a little trick is to run the tires at about half pressure. We were clearly cyclo cross rookies! The first few races we were running skinny tires with 100 psi! It is amazing Liam was able to finish at all...

Roan (6 yrs old) in Action

Aidan (8 yrs old) in Action

It all goes back to the saying "that which does not kill us, makes us stronger." All three boys are getting incredibly strong on their bikes. Roan, the youngest, has been in the top 3 in all his races, winning several. Aidan is getting stronger and more agile every week. He had his first top 5 cyclo cross finish at the last race. Liam has been struggling to get into the top five, but if anything it has only given him more motivation to train harder and refocus a bit.

Some of the crew from the Aubagne team

Our most recent race in Vitrolles - which took place after three days of serious rain - was a complete mudfest. The boys had a blast! We are definitely starting to have some serious fun in the mud in France. Whether this translates to improved performance on the roads this Spring remains to be seen. Somehow, however, I think the French have a method to their madness - and we are hoping to see a pay off for all the hours in the dirt, rocks and mud later in the year.

The Battle Field (aka The Mudfest)

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!

This is Bill, Liam, Aidan, and Roan signing out!