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Jonathan Page: Living and Racing in Belgium

My name is Jonathan Page. I am an American, but for much of the last 11 years, I’ve lived and raced in Belgium. I came here because I wanted to one day be the World Champion of cyclocross. So far, I’ve made it to the 2nd step on the podium of Worlds, but I haven’t stood on the top!

Most weeks, from September to February, I have two races, but I can have as many as five during the tough “Christmas Series races.” Once in a while, though, I’ll have a week with none. This weekend I have quite an interesting combination. On Saturday is a World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium, which is about one hour from my house in Oudenaarde, Belgium. It’s in the sand, and by the sea. It’s also on my wife’s birthday. Right after that race is over, we’ll quickly pack up our family van and make the long drive down to Switzerland, where I’ll race in what’s likely to be deep, thick mud on Sunday. I’ve been busy gluing up my Challenge tires this week, as I’ll need to have a lot of options for the weekend. I imagine that the back of my van will make a really great photo when I get it all packed in tomorrow.

I like both of these races. Koksijde always reminds me of riding in snow. It’s the closest that I usually get to it over here. It’s the same feeling, and you need the same sort of skills to ride in the sand dunes as you do to ride in the snow. Hittnau, Switzerland is a race that I used to do when I lived in Germany and Switzerland, and even the first years that I lived in Belgium. The Swiss ‘cross fans make it a lot of fun. There’s always a party tent with raclette and sausages, and they still mostly give out the awards like they used to back in the day—calling each person up from the last paid place, all the way to the winner. I like it, and I have great memories from when we lived there. Plus, we have a good friend, our kids’ godfather, who lives outside of Zurich, and we see him every time that we’re down there.

The weekend after that is one of those rare no-race-weekends. After thinking it over for a few weeks now, we finally booked a few nights in a ski region not so far from where I’ll race on Sunday called Saas Fee. We’re taking the kids out of school for a couple of days to ski while I train some long hard hours in the inspiring mountain scenery. I’m always motivated when I train there. The hours seem to fly by. We decided that we should do this after seeing the kids’ reaction to the tiny amount of snow we got overnight. While my oldest daughter headed off to school, begging me to find one of the sleds so she could take it with her, the other two kids got dressed in the snow gear and we headed to the soccer fields across the street where a very thin layer of snow had accumulated.

In this case, I couldn’t help but think back to when I was a kid. Sledding was one of those awesome simple pleasures, and unfortunately here, it’s one of the things that the kids are missing out on. My wife didn’t want to take the kids out of too much school, and I didn’t want to go on a training trip alone. So, we made a compromise. After a few days in the snow, we’ll come back and I’ll resume with a solid training block with an old friend that’s also my mentor and former coach. I’m happy for the motivation, as the last weeks have been a little rough for me over here, and that’s been reflected in my results. It’s easy to get off track with all of the intense racing, especially when you have an illness or an injury, and I’ve had both in the last few weeks.

I’ll report back with some scenes from the races and my training in the next week or two. Thanks for reading.
JP