It’s been a pretty crazy last month of the season. Coming off of the infection I had over Christmas I took a bunch of time off to ensure I was healthy, so when I got back to training, I knew I would be fully healthy and ready to give it a good final push to the finish line, so to speak. I had a few good weeks of normal training with some finally good numbers in the intervals, so I knew I would be ready for the last few races which would require a bit of travel to get to. Little did I know the medical issues were far from over…
Nommay, France then Hoogerheide, Netherlands then Tabor, Czech Republic.
Nommay I rode really steady and technically well. I think I only bobbled once and rode a really clean race passing lots of guys within the hour and finishing steadily on the lead lap. It is always a really heavy and hard course in Nommay as we race in deep grassed mud fields. You can’t ever do more than one lap without fear of busting off a derailleur due to mud clogging. It was really good prep for me also because I seemed to at one point or another been steadily racing the entire French U23 team the whole day, I’d ride with one guy till I dropped him and caught the next guy, then drop him and onto the next. I’m pretty sure I rode with at least 3 or 4 of them before loosing the final sprint to the last guy I caught up to to finish 20th.
Onto Hoogerheide with a short flight to Brussels from home, some frienemy time with Marky Mark and right into more mud. Started off ok and finished really strong. Had one problem midway through after catching a rut awkwardly and it shot me head on into the metal fencing. I ended up breaking a shifter in 2 and only realized later that my Garmin also popped off my arm never to be seen again :(… This sport is rough on the body and the wallet. No holds barred. Got back up and after battling with my good buddy Parbo most the race, I was left to struggle home solo and was pulled way too soon for my liking.
Finally onto Worlds!!!
After I got home from Hoogerheide, I developed a full on runny nose for almost the whole week, so I knew something was up with me, but really just didn’t know what… So I said oh well, and pushed through it, because I only had one weekend left and it was the big one, Worlds!
I was starting to actually get excited about this project even though Worlds is typically a high stress project, this year given my knowledge of how the project was going to be run ahead of time and my trust in the staff, finally, it made for a really seamless weekend of bike racing, fun even! The team was able to pitch in for a custom skinsuit with Focus logos on it so it’s the first year I felt like I was really being taken care of on a professional level. I had the national team organizing things behind the scenes and the Focus CX Team and Roman making sure the bikes were working top notch.
The weather all week was below freezing at night and would barely get into the plus temperatures during the day, just enough to create a peanut buttery like mud on top of a frozen glass like ground. Conditions so adverse that the average cyclocrosser was not having fun. I was loving it. So tricky that it was VERY beneficial to spend as much time on the course ahead of time as possible. I was able to learn from some of the more seasoned vets by watching which ways to take corners faster and which ones to use the sling from the fence or just go with it and ride the rut. By the time race day came around I was ready. So ready I had some time to take a few photos with my skinsuit on and my super awesome Icelandic hand knit sweater Emily just finished for me before leaving… Or maybe not. I figured there would be enough time, but as I got it on and headed out the bus, Roman reminded me how much time I had left and warned me to head to the start. No time for photos? Ok, I’ll ride there with the sweater then! I got some funny looks and after the conversation I had with Thijs Al at the bowling lane at the after party, I thought it was even more funny… “On live Dutch TV” he said, “Wearing a Sweater!”
So my start left a bit to be desired. I know I start slow, but this was quite exceptional. I was almost on the back row to begin with, and from watching the coverage of the race, obviously chose the wrong side to line up on. Also given the crash of the Americans which happened just after the first corner on the same side of the track that I was on, I was really close to the back of the pack by the first couple corners. It took me a while, but I settled in to a grove quite well and after almost being taken down on one of the short up/down sections, the rest seemed to be smooth sailing. I was riding really well and for the first half of the race didn’t fumble or crash at all. I was riding pretty steady and picking guys off left right and centre.
I only started to have a few troubles with about 3 laps to go when I started noticing that my rear wheel might be going a bit flat. At the time I headed by the pits, I wasn’t really sure , but after I skipped the pits and headed onto the pavement, I realized for sure I was delusional thinking a small flat would easily last until the next pits. By the time I headed off the road section, it was full on flat. That’s when Zach MacDonald rode by me and I was left hobbling my way to the pits. After that half lap a lot of umpf was taken out of my legs, which took at least another half lap to get back into a good rhythm. Sure enough after at least 1:05 of racing, they pulled me on the last lap after knowing full well that I would have easily made it through the finish line before MVDP came around the corner. Oh well, dems da rules, right? Little did I know, I cracked the top 40 for the first time ever in a finish at either a World Cup or World Championships, and for the first time ever was in the real points at Worlds after finishing 36th!!!
After I got home from Tabor, is when I knew it could possibly be something to do with the initial infection I had in my leg. I headed back to the doctor and came home with another (this time full week’s worth of) round of antibiotics. This time a different kind and a much higher dose. It was rough for the first few days of it, but I’m almost good as new now. Thankfully I won’t be racing for a while now, so it will give me plenty of time to restart the body and get fully healthy for real this time…
A big shout out to everyone who has made it possible this year, including my wonderful wife and main sponsor without a logo, Emily.
Next up? !Will Pro Cycling Team preparations!!! and a well deserved break from the bike(s)!!!!!