America, I like America. Actually North-America to be a bit more specific. The past 1.5 month I’ve been living the ‘American Dream’ by staying in the USA and Canada. Not only for racing the Tour of Utah, the Tour of Colorado and the GP Quebec and Montreal, but also for training, staying with friends, sightseeing and to enjoy living American Style.
My trip started on the 1st of August, the day we left with the team for the Tour of Utah. A seven days stage race through the state of Utah. Since most of Utah is on altitude, all the ingredients were there to make it a hard one. The first day we went out for lunch we saw two guys at the Subway; one carrying a gun, one carrying a knife. Welcome to the USA!
Utah is a very religious state with stunning nature, high mountains and the for the Dutchies famous Ice-skating rink in Salt-Lake City. The race was for me the first stage race since my injury and my first race ever on altitude. With a young team, directed by ‘the Captain’ Maarten Wynants we headed towards the fight in Utah! The first stage we climbed straight towards 3200m. I went in the break and on the second climb I went all in, trying to go for the climbing jersey and the stage victory. I passed the top with an advantage of 2.5 minutes on the peloton. I thought I could make it with the final kilometers only going downhill. With my optimistic thoughts, I had not taken the factor of headwind into account. I eventually got caught just before the end of the downhill, disappointed and empty. But after all the shit I went through, with two fractures on both my left, and right leg this year, it felt so good to be a bike racer again. The climber jersey was a nice consolation price.
The next day Sepp showed everyone that he was one of the big favourites to win the Tour of Utah. He won the stage after an incredible solo and took yellow. Afterwards he would only extend his advantage. With the team controlling the race and Sepp being very strong we brought his yellow home!
After a good afterparty at the parking lot and some easy days, the Tour of Colorado was waiting for us. A four days stage race with two stages in Vail and two in Denver. Personally, I was very excited to see Colorado back after my Boulder debacle earlier this year. Sadly the Tour of Colorado wasn’t like the Tour of Utah with many mountain stages. In my opinion they could have done so much more with the Rocky’s as hinterland. I felt very well during the first stage, but afterwards the fatigue of the Tour of Utah took over. But we won the queen stage with Pascal!
After the Tour of Colorado, I decided to stay in the USA till the Canadian races. This meant that I was able to visit Todd and Debbie Hofert again, two good friends of me were I stayed earlier this year during my first altitude camp in Boulder. It was very good seeing them back, to see Boulder back and to make some rides through the Rocky’s again. The area around Boulder is one of the nicest areas I’ve ever been. In Boulder they say: “Once you’re in the Boulder Bubble, it’s very, very hard to get out!”. I’m definitely caught by the Boulder Bubble.
Leaving the Boulder Bubble and Todd and Debb wasn’t easy, but Canada was waiting for me! A friend of me (Connor) invited me to come over towards Ottawa, to make some rides there before heading towards the Canadian WorldTour races. After I had survived the tornado alarm during the landing (actually I wasn’t even aware that there was one, but Connor told me), I could start exploring the capital of Canada. I stayed with a friend of Connor, David and his wife Elle. Two very friendly people who took care of me very well! The area around Ottawa is very different, compared to the Rocky’s. It’s flat, although there are some hills, and it’s on see level so there was plenty of oxygen. After spending a week in Ottawa, I traveled in style towards Quebec for the Canadian races (see picture).
By driving to Quebec I was able to see a bit of the Canadian landscape. It’s unbelievable how much space and nature there is in Canada, and I haven’t even been in the north of the country. The city of Quebec always makes me think about a European city. It has some old architecture, built by the French a long time ago. I’ve done the race once before, in 2014, so I knew what was waiting for us. With Timo becoming 4th, we did a good race with the team. I was happy to be up there in the final again, it went well for me and it feels like I’m making steps forward towards my old level again.
The next day we traveled by bus towards the city of Montreal for the next race, called the GP Montreal. Montreal is, compared to Quebec, more like a modern metropol for me, although it has a nice historic centre too. Funny fact is that Montreal has a huge Underground City, with shops, banks and much more! The race is very hard, but normally it suits me better than the GP Quebec. Sadly enough the race didn’t went the way I was hoping for . With three laps to go I cramped on the climb and got dropped way to early. I wasn’t recovered yet after the GP Quebec, probably because I haven’t raced that much yet. Timo did a great job again by finishing 5th!
Being back in Europe makes me realise how much I like the continent of North-America. Don’t get me wrong, I like Europe too, but North-America has something special for me. Maybe I’ll be living there one day!