Plzen World Cup

Sunday was the Plzen World Cup. World Cup number two in the World Cup circuit. This race in Plzen was a new race for me – there wasn’t a women’s World Cup in Plzen last year.

As you know from reading my blog, we arrived in Plzen on Thursday and I’d ridden the course many time before race day. I liked the course a lot – fast, some challenging steep climbs, a fast and twisty descent, subtle elevation changes with tight turns that kept you thinking, barriers, a fly-over, and over course the 23 stairs… All this made for a fast day on the cyclo-cross bike.

Did the usual pre-race routine – got out for a lap with Gabby and Nikoline and then back to the RV to chill out and try to relax. I’ll admit, I was very nervous before this race. I think actually that the nerves set in last night. I could feel myself becoming more and more anxious about the race and this morning I had a bad case of the nerves. When I get very nervous, I cry. Yep, this is what I do. I become overwhelmed with emotion and I end up crying. Silly I know but this is what happens. Thank goodness for cell phones and very supportive and understanding husband – talking to Marc this morning before leaving for the race and then again less than an hour before the race did help a lot. But I still ended up rolling into the staging area with watery eyes….

Many thanks to Luc for brining the trainer and trainer wheel for me. This made my pre-race warm-up so much more simple. There are very good bike paths by the race course but they involve a lot of climbing – not something I wanted to do before the race.

Got called up to the last row of an uphill start with a headwind… Well, I had a typically start. I managed to stay just in contact with the group – frustrating that I can’t accelerate from a stop. (Something Marc is going to help me with this week…) Anyway got through the tight corners and onto the descent – was just off the back of a couple of riders and I felt I was gaining on them. And then I made a mistake. After the stair run-up there is a very steep climb. In warm-up I had been making it up the steep climb by the skin of my teeth… Well, I didn’t make it up – my bike fell to the side. I rolled down the hill, had to grab the course tape, get clipped out and drag the bike up the hill. By now the other two girls were gone and I was simply focused on trying to minimize the damage I had created. Good news is I feel like I generally rode the course well technically. I know this is where I have the most to learn and to improve on but I feel like I rode it better technically than I would have last year.

I remembered to shift before the corners, to ease off on the brake and to trust my tires in the corners, and then to accelerate after the corners. I was pretty good at maintaining speed through the tight twisty little climbs. I caught some air on the bumps before the pits – this was exciting. I made it up the steep climb on the back side 2 out of 3 times. And I learned from my mistake in the first lap and dismounted part way up the steep climb after the stairs and ran up the rest. So these are pluses.

Really my problem lies with acceleration. Accelerating from a dead stop (such as a start). Re-accelerating the bike after dismounting for something like a long run. Accelerating to get up and over steep climbs that I don’t have a long run-in for. I can accelerate decently if I’m moving – still not that great for the power numbers I have. So this is something that when I get it sorted will make a big difference in my riding.

Many many thanks to Pete and Julie Harris for helping us out so much with the RV. They arrived at the race course before us and saved us a spot close to the exit so we could make a speedy get away after the race. Pete was also super helpful in getting the little RV quirks sorted out. Also many thanks to the cheering during the race and the kind and encouraging words after the race.

Big shout out to Nikki Harris for her fine ride today. Also thanks to Nikki for reminding me that I need to approach the races as just another day on the bike. She pointed out that I make myself too nervous before the races and that this could be affecting my performance. Thanks Nikki – see you in Niel in a couple of weeks.

Massive words to Gabby Day for being a great pal these past two races. We hung out quite a bit together – stayed at the same hotels, rode together, etc. Big help to have someone as experienced as Gabby to ride with before the races and just to hang out with before the races. Thanks Gabby for everything – looking forward to catching up with you in Niel in a few weeks.

Also thanks to Greg, Jacob, Nikoline, Nancy, Andy, Rudy, Joyce, Nicole, Luc, Kelly, Christine, the Canadians from Winnipeg, Simon and basically everyone else who cheered me on, encouraged me, took photos, and just generally made this racing experience so worthwhile.

Of course this trip wouldn’t have been possible without my dad. He is now a pro at helping out at cyclo-cross races. He was really thrown into the deep end with his first World Cup in Aigle. He survived that one in fine form – learning the ropes in the pits from Greg. He was top notch at the Plzen race – had the pre-race routine down perfectly – cleaned my bikes, cheered me on in the pits, helped pack up the bikes, and basically just did anything and everything that I needed to do. I could really focus on riding and not worry about the little things that come along with such big races.

And even though the wasn’t here in Europe, Marc was an ever constant help. He seemed to always know just what to say – to keep me fired up, to calm me down, to help me with the races, and to just really be my number one fan. Thanks Marc – couldn’t do this without you. See you on Tuesday.

So there you have it, first two World Cups in the books. I admit, I’m not happy with how I did. I always want to do better. I really would have liked to have finished on the lead lap. It will come. I just need to keep digging, keep learning and stay focused on the goals I’ve set out. I’m further ahead than I was last year, and this is all I can ask for.

Doing the tourist thing in Frankfurt on Monday and then flying home on Tuesday. I’ve got Nationals on Nov. 6 and then I’m racing in Niel, Belgium on Nov. 11. I’m really looking forward to getting to Belgium and getting settled for the winter. Looking forward to hooking up with the gang at Kasterlee for some riding in the woods, to some group riding on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to some long on-road/off-road rides in and around Averbode, and to just being able to race and learn as much as I can.

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