A month of early season racing

The start of my 2015 campaign was spectacular: XTERRA South Africa, Cross Duathlon Sinnai and Cross Duathlon Berchidda. Three weeks of racing.

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XTERRA South Africa was an amazing experience, but my race was bad. I finished 12th after feeling slow in all 3 disciplines. This was not a real showing of my level, even if it was the first race of the year for me. The reason? I don’t know… I guess it’s a combination of several small things that weren’t perfect: a big travel a few days before the race, the huge difference in temperature between a European winter and an African summer, maybe some mistakes in my nutrition the hours before the race, … I will never know for sure what went wrong. JT Bike

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As bad as my performance was, so amazing was the race. Perfect organization, technical mtb course, it’s no surprise that this is the biggest XTERRA event in the world. The nice people of StillWaterSports sure know how to set up a perfect event.

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The day after the race, while being very disappointed for this missed opportunity, Conrad Stoltz gave me one of the best days of my career. In the morning he took a group of European Pro athletes to his favorite trails around Stellenbosh and Jonkershoek. These are trails build for mountainbiking and some of the best mountainbikers of the world spend their off season training on these trails. It was so much fun. We had a great time!

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In the afternoon Conrad had an even bigger surprise for me. He picked me up at my hotel with his BMW motorbike and we went cruising around Stellenbosch. He showed me the wine fields, some epic views and we ended our ride in the center for a glass of wine and tapas where his amazing pregnant wife Liezel joined us. Conrad is a 7 time off road triathlon world champion. He’s the Ali or the Phelps of our sport. But he’s not just a great athlete, he’s a wonderful person with great values in life.

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Elisabetta couldn’t join me on the trip to South Africa because she can’t miss too many days at the university, but one week after XTERRA South Africa we raced together in Sinnai, Sardegna.

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It was a cross duathlon on a short but technical course. We both won, an amazing experience.

Eliasabetta run

I don’t know if it was the frustration of my bad result at XTERRA South Africa or something else, but I raced very aggressively. After the first run I attacked the bike course and took off alone. I knew I was leading but kept on pushing as hard as I could.

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Nobody gave me splits so I didn’t know if somebody was catching me or not. But I didn’t care, I wanted to test myself, feel the pain and push myself through it. I was in a lot of pain all the time but I was going fast. The complete opposite of what happened in South Africa so I was happy with what was happening.

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Completely exhausted, happy, relieved and with a seven minute lead I crossed the finish line.

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A week later we raced in Berchidda, the same format as in Sinnai but this time we had to race in the Sardinian mountains. Two climbs of 4km made us a little bit nervous because after our wins in Sinnai we wanted to repeat. For the Sardinians this was an important race. The race in Berchidda counted as the Sardinian Cross Duathlon Championships.

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Elisabetta dominated the women’s race and took the title.

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I didn’t feel as good and as aggressive as the week before but I could make the difference on the steepest climbs and the technical single tracks. Another win and another confirmation that I’m fit and ready to race another year at the highest level.

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On March 29 Elisabetta and I will race XTERRA Malta. The first race of the European XTERRA season. The best European athletes will be there, we can’t wait to see where we are after a winter of good training.

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Patrick Gaudy

 

Very very very sad news. Our friend Patrick Gaudy died after a truck hit him while he was training. So sad. To me Patke was a mentor and a friend. But he was a family man, a great athlete and a fantastic person.

We had endless talks about training, mostly discussions about training volume and the long ride. Because he worked full time and has a wife and two kids he never had the time to do a lot of training. Nevertheless, he was one of the best mountainbikers and cyclocross racers in Belgium. In the elite category amongst the professionals.

We talked a lot about XTERRA too, something he wanted to try one day. Before he became a top cyclist he was a swimmer. I don’t remember his exact swimming times, but it was fast. Under one minute for 100m free. He could have been an international triathlete too.

I got to know Pat when I raced for Barracuda, a bike shop in Wavre. He worked there from the start of the shop in the nineties. He was loved and respected by all his colleagues and all the customers.

He did amazing things on and of the bike. He was supported by many and not at least by his parents and his brother. But he would never tell how good or strong he was. He showed at the races that he was a great athlete.

http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/patrick-gaudy-killed-truck-training-crash_362699

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My off season

Here you can read what I did between the XTERRA World Championships in October and XTERRA South Africa next week (22nd of Feb).

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I spend most of this period with my girlfriend Elisabetta in Villacidro, Sardegna. We did 90% of our training together and we supported each other where we can. GOPR0795

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A lot of my free time was used to create the best possible mountainbike for me. This is the result. Spark 2015

One of the many benefits of spending the off-season in the mountains is the possibility to do a lot of equipment testing. These test didn’t only result in better equipment choices, but my mountainbike skills improved a lot. Here you have a video of me doing some testing at the Villacidro Downhill track.

Living close to nature is something I’ve always been attracted to. Heating the house with real fire, working in the olive fields to produce our own olive oil, drinking water from the mountains, … All these changes have a big impact on the quality of my life. I’m feeling happy, strong, healthy and extremely lucky. I haven’t touched a nutritional supplement in a looooong time and my blood levels are perfect. There must be something good about the Italian kitchen as well. It’s no surprise to me that Sardegna has the oldest people in the world.

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Training has been going great. I continued working like I did last year with some small changes. In an average training week I swim 4 times, ride 5 times and run 3 times. Like the past years, all is done without heart rate monitor or powermeter.

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This positive attitude, and a little push in the back from Elisabetta, made me decide to race XTERRA South Africa just 2 weeks before the event. Without a real preparation, but this doesn’t scare me. I know I’m really fit. That fact that I haven’t raced since October would have caused me a lot of stress in the past, but I’m confident I can deliver a good race in South Africa after a Sardinian off season.

!BELIEVE!

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Thijs is Thijs / Season 4 / Episode 4

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XTERRA World Championships Maui

10732367_783128298411158_2061936817_oFor this year I had two major goals. Racing well at the European Championships and at the XTERRA World Championships. Taking the bronze medal at the Europeans in May was amazing but on that course in Orosei it has naturally always been easier for me to perform than doing well in Maui. Ever since they changed the course in Maui in 2011 I’ve been struggling to race well. If I failed for the 4th time in a row, I would seriously consider not to do that race again. For some reasons, it felt different this year and I stopped fearing that course. A course with brutal long climbs and non-technical fast downhills is the opposite of what I need to be successful. But as a professional athlete I have to be prepared for everything. Definitely if they decide to hold the XTERRA World Champs on this course, every year.

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My preparation went flawless. Elisabetta adjusted her training so she could join me on all my sessions in the weeks prior to Maui. I felt strong, happy, powerful and confident. It’s the best way to travel to the other side of the world to race against the best of the best.
Aside from having Elisabetta on my side I had another secret. With BOOOM nutrition I finally figured out how to fuel right for this long and hot event. Their apple-cinnamon gels are so delicious that it’s impossible to not eat enough of them. Even at high intensities. But it wasn’t just Elisabetta and BOOOM who helped me. There are so many peolpe involved in my life, with my career. I feel honored and very lucky to be surrounded with fantastic people who’re helping me just because they want to. It’s because of them that I can do this races at this level and I can never thank them enough for this opportunities. Even the smallest contributions, a helping hand when I need it, means the world to me.

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During the 1500m ocean swim I had some bad luck, but I felt strong and that’s a great feeling to start a race. I lost some time with stupid things. If all went right I would have exited the water 30sec earlier and a few spots better. But I have to be honest, it wouldn’t have affected my overall result. 10745076_783128348411153_913417145_n

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JT Swim Maui 3

I really struggled with the waves when we had to exit the ocean.10578424_783128378411150_1874899996_o

10746733_783128368411151_736288753_oMy sensations on the bike were completely different compared to all the other attempts on this course. Instead of getting dropped all the time, it was now me who was passing people. Even on the long climbs. A sign that the adjustments I made to my training were really working. Feeling strong and happy on the bike during this race means a lot to me. I’ve been putting a lot of energy and thoughts over many years to try to figure out what I have to do to be strong on this course.JT

Once I started running these happy and strong feelings never disappeared and I passed 4 guys. I think this is the first time ever that I pulled this of. My friend Rob Woestenborghs from Belgium passed me while stetting one of the best running splits. Keeping up with him was impossible so for some time I thought I was running slow. Eventually he would finish 12th and I ended as the 13th best off-road triathlete of the world. Not the result I was hoping for after delivering such a good race. I’m really satisfied with how I handled this race and I will be back for many more times. It’s a big relieve to know I can race well on this course. I can’t wait to prepare the World Championships again knowing I have it in me to race against and with the best.

!BELIEVE!

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