After I pinched (another!!) nerve back in December and got ill before the national cross championships I did not get selected for the world championships in Valkenburg. With only a few other races in January, I wasn’t sure where to go from there. Even though I wasn’t in good shape I did not feel like ending my season. So together with my partner, I thought up the perfect plan to end the 2017/18 season on a positive note and hungry for a summer of hard work.
After a short visit to my family in Denmark, the plan was that I would fly to Spain for a training camp, coming home just in time to drive to Belgium to race the Worlds rematch in Maldegem on the 7th of February. We would then stay until the end of the cyclocross season doing most of the races available which meant racing twice a week. It sounded good to me!
One slight concern…. it wasn’t the cheapest plan on the planet. To solve that I could have stayed at home to train or done only 1 or 2 weekends of racing in Belgium. But for some reason, this was the only plan I trusted to make things work! I had to get creative. The training camp was easy to arrange, a few cheap flights to Barcelona and renting accommodation from friends who were out of town (Thanks again for letting me stay boys!). The Belgium trip was a little bit trickier. Finding cheap cyclist friendly accommodation wasn’t easy. We were struggling to find anywhere under a 1000 euro. When I jokingly looked at the prices for campsites, the idea of staying in our campervan for the whole trip suddenly seemed very attractive – to me at least (my partner wasn’t as convinced!). However, after we looked at finances we decided that although it might not be ideal, and we would have to live with a lot of things, it was the one way to make it all happen. Who doesn’t like a challenge!
So off I went to Girona and ticked off all my sessions, every day. It turned into a bit of a social media hiatus, but a break from it can be very healthy sometimes. Being alone and getting things done was somehow very satisfying and my mood changed from being very insecure and not knowing where to go or what to do next back to being focused. When I got back to the UK I was nervous but excited and looking forward to racing.
As it turned out even getting to the first race wasn’t going to be easy. We share our campervan with my parents in law and when they took it out for a short trip just before we were due to leave out of the blue all the electrics stopped working. No electrics means, no lights, no water pump and, very important in February, no heating! For a while, I thought we were not going to get to Belgium and that all the hard work had been for nothing. After a home visit from an electrician, we could start the travel to Belgium a day later than planned. Leaving late meant staying in a random petrol station carpark along the motorway for the night before the first race, but we were going to Belgium and I was going to race.
After the race in Maldegem, we travelled to our home for the trip, Camping Zilvermeer near the, in cyclocross very famous, town of Mol. Even though I am normally not a big fan of big campsites, this was a lovely place with fantastic facilities that made our stay a lot easier. Without it, our stay would have definitely been cut short!
After only a day or two in Mol, we suddenly noticed the light dimming during the evening and while I wasn’t really paying attention James noticed it clearly and tried to figure out what was going, keeping the issues from before we left in mind. We couldn’t figure out what was going on, but with the leisure battery being really hot we were sure something was up. After consulting dads, brothers and electricians we decided that it would probably be the safest for us to disconnect the leisure battery. Leaving us without a water pump, lighting or heating. Rather interesting with 3 weeks left of our trip. But safety before everything. Luckily the campsite provided us with mains electricity and we had 3 sockets in the van working directly of that.
From a previous trip to Switzerland we had a little electric heater in the van already, but after a day without lighting in the van we decided that we probably needed to go and buy a lamp if we wanted to see something after 6pm at night. I mean I like to go to bed early, but that is even too early for me. So off to the shop we went, but what to buy… we ended up with a security lamp that really was designed to be installed outside and directly on the mains, but with a little help from the man in the shop we connected it to a plug and we had a campervan bathing in light. Oh. and we bought 3 hanging lamps! We still haven’t got lighting in our new house and this was exactly what we were looking for! And a bargain! We have got loads of space in the camper right!?
As the campsite in Mol is surrounded by dry and sandy forests we spend a lot of our rides on the local trails. Being able to ride 3-4 hours endurance on trails is just great, it’s the best alternative for a road ride when it is cold and windy. You just must make sure you don’t get too excited playing around and stay in that endurance zone!
If you thought we were the only people crazy enough to think that staying at a campsite with temperatures being around zero degrees Celsius was a good idea, think again. When we came back from our first ride a couple of massive campervans had turned up! Mol is apparently very popular with British motocross riders. Every year when the cyclocross season starts it’s a bit of a competition about who has the biggest campers and we thought we had done pretty well with ours. But these guys have taken it to the next level! We were the smallest camper around for the whole trip!
We knew that staying in Belgium in the campervan and racing in itself was going to be a challenge. Daily jobs as laundry, showering and washing up take just a little longer than normal. Shopping trips must be planned well as you need to take the camper and on top of that, we still had to keep up with work. With all the other stuff going on and being without electrics in the van for most of the trip definitely made this one of those trips that we will talk about for many years to come. It was a fun experience and I am so happy I got to finish the season with a good feeling about my races and with a good adventure! Bring on the 2018-19 season!
If you want to read more about the races I did in Belgium, head over to margrietkloppenburg.dk.
Oh! And to top it all off this is how our trip to Belgium ended… I think it is time for a well-earned holiday!