Euro Cross Academy: Training with Dutch National Team coach Gerben de Knegt

Vida Lopez de San Roman learns some lessons that extend far beyond cyclocross.

Photo: @cyclocrosss

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During the next two weeks, riders from the Euro Cross Academy will be writing exclusive blogs for VeloNews as they race in Europe.

ECA Journal #2
26 October 2022
Rider: Vida Lopez de San Roman
Hometown: Sonoma County, CA
Photos: @cyclocrosss

Today all of the riders with Euro Cross Academy and I had the amazing opportunity to train with Dutch National Team coach Gerben de Knegt in the famous Alphen Forest. This is the place where many of the best cyclocross racers in the world have been practicing for years and, significantly, where most of the current best-in-the-world Dutch women train every Wednesday.

The training started off with a cone slalom warm-up, followed by several easy laps around a wide-open field of grass located at the edge of a small lake. Then Gerben demonstrated a drill called the shuffle where you had to dismount and run in a full circle around your bike while moving and remount as quickly as possible every time he would blow his whistle. I had never done or heard of this drill in my life, but I could see how it could be a race-changing maneuver that you might encounter in an unexpected moment of a race. The warm-up ended with a series of short sprints at full speed accelerating out of a tight corner.

Training with Dutch National Team coach Gerben de Knegt (Photo: @cyclocrosss)

Gerben then took us down to the shores of the small lake where we performed a series of starts through heavy sand, from the shore all the way to the grassy field. After short seconds of recovery, he then took us through a recon of the mini hot lap we were preparing to do at race pace. Technical sharp corners and fast flat sections. As we sped through the trees, Gerben explained to us that the massive hole we had just been riding through was actually a bomb crater from World War II. 

Also read: Euro Cross Academy: Keeping the fun in racing

After doing several recon laps, we then did a 15-minute segment of hot laps. 

Then we proceeded to the most technical part of the training: the sand. The first time, as I accelerated out of the off-camber rut, I was thrown out of rut, almost falling into the sand. My next several attempts were the same, ending in much frustration. Gerben motioned for me to slow down and told me I needed to take it slower in order to get through the rut cleanly. So, I took his advice and entered the rut at a slow controlled speed and was amazed by how much easier it was to make it through the first half of the rut. By calming my mind and my body as I approached the rut, I was then able to accelerate through the second half of the corner and clean the rut. 

Sand presented the most technical training of the day. (Photo: @cyclocrosss)

It was in this moment that Gerben taught me that in order to complete frustrating things, you have to take a step back and look at it from a different perspective, sometimes meaning you need to slow down to go faster. Just like how in your life, there are challenging obstacles you have to overcome and the only way you can complete them is, first, by slowing down and looking at things from a different perspective instead of going full speed into everything in front of you.

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