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Conference in Obergurgl, Austria

Ok, I will keep it short: it was a nice conference (The Modern Era of Helio- and Asteroseismology, 20-25 May) held on a very scenic spot (Ötz Valley), and I gave a talk: Rotation and pulsation in B stars on the main sequence – a case study of the B3 IV CoRoT target HD 43317, and a first look at our Kepler Guest Observer sample (so the presentation of my last paper and a short intro to my next paper). And one extra cool thing: the landing to and the take-off from Innsbruck between the mountains! I love flying :) (Photo from Paul Beck – click and it gets bigger!)

WT Wedstrijd Hoeleden 2012

Although I had a feeling it was not the best idea, I got dragged into a race after coming back from Mallorca by Stan and Tijl… Of course I was curious if I can finally manage to survive a real Flemish koers, because one and a half years ago I already failed once miserably, although I was in an incomparably worse shape back then… Now after months of hard training and a week on Mallorca, with much more experience on the road bike, I was relatively optimistic, so I set the goal of finishing the race for myself, hoping that it was within reach. Tijl drove me to the start in Hoeleden, I was very nervous, but I still felt OK. Then the other competitors started to arrive, mostly with really fancy (expensive, light, and aerodynamic) bikes, some of them came with small teams, so I felt a bit worried and afraid of the competition… Still, I did some good warm up, tried out with Tijl how to take a bottle from his hands while riding with 40 km/h, and then went to the start line, still relatively optimistic, looking forward to one and a half hour of suffering, but hoping that I can finish the race with the main group, without being dropped.

The first lap is always a bit slower, behind the race director’s car, so speed and heart rate-vise it was OK, although I did not feel very good about all the crazy breaking in front of me. Things can get a bit tense when you are surrounded with a 100 other bikers from every side… Then after the first lap, hell broke loose… On the long flat we had a speed constantly above 50 km/h (there was a sleigh tailwind), which was still OK (as for me a heart rate of 180 is still fine, I can take that for more than one and a half hours), but then near the end of the lap, when we got sidewind on a slight uphill section, and the peloton got stretched out into a one biker wide long line, then I could not follow anymore, it was just too much. I was dropped after two laps. But I was far not the first to be dropped. And still, I managed to go another two laps before I was taken out from the race by the director. It could have been much further, if the guys I caught up with would have been more cooperative… But anyway, being dropped from the main group in a criterium race always means it is over. It is just impossible to catch up. Here is the GPS-log of the race.

I was pissed. I was pissed because I really wanted to finish, and even though I felt strong, and I was in a good shape, with a very good fitness level, I did not manage to follow. Ok, I did not do too much interval training this year, but with this much training, I felt very disappointed to drop out like this. And I kind of lost motivation too, I did not feel that I would want to just train more and more and come back next time, I just felt like I do not want this crap anymore. And by crap I mean the racing, not the biking :) I biked home after the race with Stan (who at the end did not participate in the race, although that might have been good for me), which felt good, but I felt hurt inside. It was not physical pain, but mental…

Towards the end of may I still did some proper training, I had a seasonal best (or personal best if you look only at rides without aero wheels) on my standard Leuven-Mechelen-Leuven route, but then I really felt burned out. I need to take a small break, stay off the bike for a while, so by the time I have my cycling holiday on Gran Canaria (starting on the last days of August) I can build up my form again, and enjoy riding again as much as I did in the first 5 months of 2012. I am already at 5130 kilometres this year anyway :)

A week of cycling fun on Mallorca

Yes, I know, I am really lagging behind my life with the blog, but it is not dead yet. So to cut the unnecessary chatter short, I have been on a cycling holiday finally not alone, but with other people! I know, sounds unbelievable, but several photos and videos prove that Tijl and Thomas were my company.

We have spent 7 amazing days on Mallorca from the 29th of April till the 5th of May. Our headquarters were in Port de Pollenca in an amazing seaside villa (where we all had our private bedroom and private bathroom – early season prices are really low…), so every morning we had breakfast on the terrace (which was a bit chilly, but as soon as we managed to get some sun on our skin, everything became better), and every evening we had a stroll along the beach to the ‘city’ to have dinner in our local Pizzeria (where the service got better and better as we kept going back every day – so the last evening it was the chef himself serving us). I have to mention here, that they have the best brownie (warm brownie with nuts and raisins inside served with vanilla ice cream…) on the planet. Period. Then we usually went to the market square after dinner to get our daily internet and upload our rides to Garmin Connect. Then we went to sleep. Which was very well deserved every day…

We made loads of movies with my helmet camera (which was installed on one of our handlebars), which I still have to edit and cut together, but I need a bit more time for that, as there are other things in my life too… But the footage we got is really cool, believe me. The scenery was amazing, the weather was nice, the company was great, so we had loads of fun.

I have already ‘killed myself’ on the first ride of the first day, racing to the lighthouse, which did not feel too good (I was somewhere in between throwing up and fainting, luckily neither of these happened), but my form quickly shoved, so all the hard training of the first four months was proven to be very useful. Although Tijl and Thomas had much less training and they are also a bit older (sorry… :P), it still felt good to be the strongest of the three. Still, Thomas was a great climber (who always managed to stick with me so I could only ‘win’ the climbs with a sprint at the end – thanks to my fitness level), and Tijl is just crazy amazing on the descents (so technically impossible to follow for people with no suicidal tendencies :D). Also, Tijl’s English breakfast was first class. We should have had it on every morning ;)

Here are the links for all the rides on Garmin Connect: Day 1 morning (to the lighthouse) and Day 1 afternoon (small flat circle), Day 2 (long flat ride), Day 3 (Sa Calobra – big competitive climb), Day 4 (small flat rest day circle), Day 5 (extreme stage), Day 6 (long flat till the climb of Cura), Day 7 (morning good bye ride to the lighthouse). Total of 645 km with 8200 metre of elevation gain, 18 000 Cal burned. It was an extremely nice holiday, and it was extremely crappy to arrive back to the rainy Charleroi in 6°C… :D I could write pages of this holiday, but this was really something you have to experience as a cyclist (all the discussions about bike parts, following ‘The Rules‘, passionate bike cleaning, etc.), and not read about it. I will be back somewhen with the videos too! Update: here it is (set it to 720p).

Visiting Amsterdam with my parents

Again, I have to apologise for not keeping the blog up to date, but – for some months now – I really do not feel like spending time on writing down all the stuff what happened to me. So I will be very short. In the first half of April I still had a high training load on the racing bike, I was already over 700 km before the half of the month, so I did not feel so bad when I basically stopped for two weeks because the weather sucked, big time… Then I went to Amsterdam to have a nice long weekend with my parents. It was really great, we visited all the places and museums we could, maybe even more, and walked through every part of the city. I liked the fun science museum the most, with huge soap bubbles to play with :D Here is a short selection of the pictures I took, for more, have a look at my Flickr set!

Downtown Amsterdam

Oude Kerk


And a ship just in front of the museum

Iconic flowers of the Netherlands

Magere Brug

Random people ;) in the garden of the Museum Van Loon

New bike stuff for this season

On Wednesday evening (from 11 PM to 2 AM… – the latter was not part of the plan…) I finally put on the new Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels I bought a couple of months ago, along with a new chain (I started the whole night session with destroying a chain tool, by the way…), fresh brake pads, and I also cleaned the bike for ‘her’ annual portrait picture.

When comparing it with the photo from last year, you can see that now (already since my holidays in France last year) I have a nicer white bar-tape (matching the saddle), new wheels (the front one of the Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL aero wheels from last year was broken in an accident, and I decided to go with a different type/style this year), and I will also very soon have a pair of sexy carbon pedals, but those are not yet on. Thanks to the weight reduction of the new wheel set (the aero wheels were a total of 1740 g, these are 1550 g – and here there is no need for rim tape, as the inner wall is not drilled through, so the difference is even bigger than that), the total weight of the bike (with the to be installed carbon pedals) is now ~7.95 kg :) By the way the wheels are great, they roll like a dream, smooth and noise-free (when you stop pedalling and just roll, there is no clicking noise coming from the hub, it is amazing), feel very responsive and rigid, so it is a very easily noticeable difference when compared to the default wheel set (Mavic Aksium, 1735 g). Of course these are not too aero (they are as aero as a house…), but for climbing on the Canary Islands, Mallorca, or the Alps, they will be much better suited.

Last week I also bough a helmet cam (Contour ROAM) to be able to record our upcoming adventures on Mallorca in high definition, and now that I have already given it a test ride last weekend with Tijl (whom you can see a lot on the video itself), I can say that we will have loads of fun with it :)