Where do I start? How do I start? I fear that this racing experience might just simply be too grand for me to capture with words. It was that amazing. That huge. Really there is no race quite like the Cyclo-Cross World Championships. I was pretty confident that I was ready for the spectacle – I’ve done a lot of World Cup this year (all of them except Roubaix) and I’ve raced in front of some big crowds in Belgium.
But, really, nothing compares to the frenzy, emotion, excitement, and noise of a Cyclo-Cross World Championships. Take every racing experience you’ve ever had, multiply it by a billion, and then multiply that by a gazillion. You might come close to the experience I had yesterday.
I do have to say that the World Cup racing experience and my full season in Europe, did at least help me prepare for race day. My pre-race routine worked perfectly. Over this season I’ve worked out a warm-up and pre-race routine that allows me to get to the start line feeling refreshed, focused, and ready to race. I used this same warm-up and routine on Sunday. It worked perfectly.
The race was simply incredible. I had a blast. I tried to smile. Tried to soak it all in. I raced hard. Really hard. I knew I’d have to dig deep to finish on the lead lap. It was close, but I did it. And I know I have the abilities to ensure that next year, there won’t be any doubt of my finishing on the lead lap. I took risks on Sunday. I rode some of the more challenging lines out there. Partly because I struggled with grabbing the posts and pivoting on the ice and partly because at times, the steeper drops or crazy lines through the corners just seem to work better for me. So long as I stay upright, and I get around, I’m happy.
I felt super focused out there. There wasn’t a moment where I had a negative thought. In fact there are parts of the race that I can’t even remember. One of my race goals was to have an “experience of letting go”. I really think I accomplished this. At times it was as though my bike was piloting itself. Perfect! Just what I wanted.
I had a great picture of the course in my head. So as I was racing I could remind myself how to set up for different sections. I remember to stay wide to the left for the off-camber and to take the line along the fence. (Awesome to have the training crew from Floreal Lichtaart there to cheer me on and point me to the fast line!). After the second set of stairs I remembered to really rev it up so I could float over the slippery little climb and to then pedal through the fast and icy down/up. I focused on looking up and pedaling constantly. These were two other race goals. I didn’t do this all the time, but I’d say 75 per cent – so I take this as a success.
Really, when it comes down to it – I can say that I had a good race. This is massive. You know me. I’m very critical of myself. So for me to say I had a good race. This means I actually had a great race.
Favorite moments of the day:
– waking up and seeing the excitement and pride in Marc’s face
– hearing Marc cheer me on every time I went by the pits
– see the Team Canada boys running all over the course and cheering me on
– hanging out with Luc before and after the race
– seeing my cyclo-cross racing friends
– hanging out in the staging area, looking at my racing idol Hanka Kufernagel – knowing that anything is possible
– hearing my name announced over the loud speaker – have to love Richard Fries – no one calls a race like him
– racing and seeing/hearing/feeling the fans
– hearing the bell lap – nothing quite like that for me
– crossing the finish line alone, sitting up, smoothing out my skinsuit, sitting up proud so everyone could see the red maple leaf and the words Team Canada
It was just so amazing. So perfect. I’ve written a race report over here.
After the race I rolled back to the hotel with Connie and talked her ear off. Connie was amazing this whole week. The night before the race I was having a minor panic attack and Connie really helped me out. She reminded me of the hard work I’ve done, how I deserve to be racing at the Cyclo-Cross World Championships, and just gave my confidence a massive boost. Thanks so much Connie!
Marc, Matt, Alex and I walked back to the race course but first we made a detour. We were on a pastry mission. The first bakery was closed. Then I remembered the bakery at the grocery store… It was open. We all loaded up on pastries. Then it was off to the race, where we all got something else – burgers, frites, beer, fanta. It was all consumed! Then it was the elite men’s race. What a blast. We all went our separate ways and watched the race. I met some guys who live in Westerlo (just down the road from Blauberg). I took a bunch of pictures (yes, I’ll post them – tomorrow!). Cheered on my favorites. And then I hung out with the guys from Mongolia. A good day was had. Walked back to the hotel with Marc and Luc. Frantically packed up our hotel room and made it to Prague.
We had a fantastic team dinner last night. Went to an amazing restaurant. There was an incredible salad buffet and then the servers came by with meat that they would slice and serve to you. I stuck to the salad buffet but I watched a lot of tasty looking meat get consumed. Amazing how much the junior boys can eat! Then it was time for walking. Matt, Marc, and Alex and I took in the city. We walked for close to three hours, crossed the Charles Bridge, took in the sights, chatted (okay – I talked everyone’s ears’ off!), laughed, and simply had a great night.
Great way to cap off a fantastic day. Everyone else is on their way home now. Marc is still asleep. But in a little bit we’ll get out and explore the city before driving back to Belgium.
This whole experience has been like a dream. Thanks for being involved. I’m already making plans for next year. I’ve recruited a couple of patient juniors (Karl and Conor) to help me out with my mountain biking skills this summer. I’ve got a loose race schedule taking shape. Looking forward to a solid off-season of training, growing, and learning. I’ll take a couple of weeks off and then get back at it.
The fire has been lit. It is burning hot and bright. Can’t wait to see what next year brings. I am so happy right now.