Wow! My mind just got blown away last weekend at the 2016 Cyclocross World Championship in Belgium. I did not think a bike race could be that big & that impressive; it felt like I was in a movie or something.
Important rain falls the week leading up to the race, cold conditions, a very challenging and slippery racecourse held around the very iconic Heusden-Zolder F1 racetrack were the perfect settings for a day to remember. Oh yeah... add up 80 000 (not-so-sober) fans and you'll end up with one of the biggest bike race you could imagine. 80 000 people is approximately five full NHL's hockey stadium. Heck YES, it is something I will remember for the rest of my life.
GO TIME was at 3PM. We showed up just before lunch in order to make it in time and be able to get one last feel of the course. After navigating through massive traffic jams and a horde of people walking towards the stadium, I went on course and started smiling when I realised it would be very sloppy, slippery and technically challenging.
After a short warm down on the rollers, I ate my very yummy pre race meal for one last time this season. White rice, hard-boiled eggs and soy sauce. Not super gastronomic but it works for me! Despite the atmosphere being overwhelming, I was surprisingly calm and focused on my routine and what I had to do. I was confident in myself, my equipment (thanks to Cyclcing Canada Cyclocorss staff) and the training I had done to get here (thanks to DG Endurance Coaching). I felt ready for this and could not wait to hear the whistle.
After missing World Championships last year due to injury, I was very happy to represent my country again. People in general love Canadians, and we're often 'crowd favourites’, which makes it even more special. While finishing my warm-up routine on the start/finish stretch, I felt somewhat ready, but very excited and a bit nervous. It had been a while since I felt that way. I was truly happy to be there, no matter what the outcome would be at the end of the day.
Hearing the voice of Richard Fries (well known US commentator) calling up the racers to the line felt comfortable, it made me feel like racing in the US. But the Dutch co-commentator & the roaring crowd quickly reminded me that this was serious business; I was racing against the best cyclists from around the World.
As I mentioned in a previous post (Racing in Europe), the first few minutes are always very fast & hectic when racing in Europe. I felt like I had a decent start, nothing great, but respectable. After navigating through traffic I got going and started to feel good and solid in the 'punchy efforts'; very useful on a track full of steep ups and downs. When mid-race came, I was riding mid/high 30s and starting to feel better every lap. But racing isn't just about sensations, a big part of it is being smart and staying rubber side down.
As I was trying to ride away from my group to solidify ~35th place, I had a little mishap where I ended up losing quite a bit of ground after stoping to get my bike working again and getting back into rhythm.
This is when I went deep into the hurt locker trying to make it back to that group and using my strengths to bridge the gap. I ended up bridging after 1.5 lap of chasing, but the effort was very intense and I started to make a bunch of silly mistakes and eventually finished in 42nd place. Although I was a bit bummed of not finishing where I felt capable of, I'm still satisfied with how I rode. Don't worry Mom, I know I can be happy with this race, being my first Elite World Championship.
January 31st 2016 was a great day and will remember this one for a long, long time.Thank you Zolder. I can't wait to be back next year.