Rider Diary: Vaughn Veenendaal from Europe Cyclocross Trip 2021 (Part 1)
(December 22, 2021)
Filled with anticipation and excitement, my teammate Magnus White and I headed to Denver airport on the 15th of December. We’re both excited to be part of Euro Cross Academy, and have two weeks to test ourselves in the motherland of ‘cross.
We barely stepped foot into the airport when we were notified our flight was canceled due to a heavy Colorado windstorm. We felt overcome with panic and stress, but with the help of our parents we found another flight to get us there. Our new flight was at 7:15 in the morning the next day. We would land in Brussels on the 17th, one day late but still in time to race on the weekend.
We rode as soon as we got there in hopes of waking our legs after the grueling travel day. Following our ride, we struggled to stay awake until a normal bedtime in hopes of adjusting quickly to the 8 hour time change. But when 8:30 finally rolled around I passed out despite the chatter coming from the other four boys that are staying in the room with us. Even though I slept the best I ever have, I woke up tired and stressed thinking of how I will race the hardest veldrijden (cyclocross) World Cup there is, Namur. We went to the pre-ride Saturday afternoon filled with nervous energy. I headed onto the course struggling to remember my usual system. The course was nothing like I had ever seen before, and watching it on TV does it no justice. I have never been scared of a feature before at a cross race, but when I rolled to the edge of a straight down and rutted out hill that dumps you onto chunky cobblestones, my flimsy cyclocross bike did not feel adequate.
On race day, our 4:45am wake up time felt brutal, but with the two hour drive and 9am start time, it was necessary. I did my usual warm up and rolled up to the start very intimidated by the very fast and surprisingly small Euro athletes. Lining up on the 6th row, I had some ground to make up. Actually, I wouldn’t really consider them rows and I think I saw someone who was called up next to me squeeze into the 3rd row. When the green light flashed, I shoved up no problem focusing on being aggressive and controlling my space. It wasn’t until after the brutal starting climb that I fell back, I was unprepared for the second kick and after the first turn I was passed by about 20 riders. I entered the technical and turny stuff with more riders punching through spaces that didn’t exist. I turned my focus to racing my own race and moving forward. Next thing I knew I was finishing, absolutely destroyed and dumbstruck from what just happened. I was amazed that I had finished 49th after how hard I just pushed myself. Mentally and physically more drained than ever, I could finally rest. I slept the whole car ride home then at least nine hours that night.
Traveling to Europe to race bikes teaches you to adapt and overcome. This applies not only to the race course, but to the logistics of travel with the challenges surrounding the coronavirus. But I feel ready for the challenge, and psyched for the next chance to get between the tape.
I want to say thank you to Euro Cross Academy for helping me get to Belgium and to Boulder Junior Cycling for supporting me all season!