Cyclocross World Championships

Becca: Worlds is a different beast. It is a coveted position to even make the team – only 6 elite American men and women were able to make the team this year. These elite riders, along with a few junior men and U23 men and women descend upon a city, along with the other national teams of the world to pretty much take the place over. We stay as a team, a bunch of strangers, using strange mechanics, eating hotel meals, and kowtowing to the demands of the team as a whole. Except for Kerry who was too good for that and stayed with his family, but I wish I had vlogged from the inside Team USA perspective. 

Kerry: After two weeks of training in Spain I was looking forward to unleashing some of that fitness. However, the first two races back were super heavy and for some reason, no matter how fit I am, I can’t figure those tractor pulls out. Zonnebeke and Hoogerheide were rough but my head was up, looking forward to World Champs. I was also holding out hope that it would be faster but slick AF.

We flew into Copenhagen on Wednesday and rented a car to get to Middelfart (that is not a joke). I spent the week trying to stay mellow and not think about the race too much. The course was frozen when I went to check it out on Thursday, which had me excited that the race wasn’t going to be very heavy and speed and finesse would rule the game. 

Becca: I was very excited for my possible performance at Worlds. My season was coming together after getting a 6th place the Saturday before Worlds and 18th at the final World Cup in Hoogerheide the day after that. And at the World Cup in Bogense in 2017, the course on which worlds was held, I got 17th. Things were looking good! That is, until… I got mud in my eye at Hoogerheide. And that “mud” may or may not have given me pink eye and a head cold that manifested on the Wednesday before the big day. 

Because of my illness I didn’t train leading up to the race, only doing some super easy spins. The only time I was outside was Friday before the race, and I did a short preride on the frozen course. It was similar to the world cup, except frozen and thus faster. The downhills were rideable but the transitions were so hard and abrupt people were flatting just on frozen lumps. I was no longer excited for the race ahead. The course was going to run fast and that is never good for me and with my illness, I didn’t expect much. This may have been my saving grace.

I woke up the morning of the race able to breathe out of my nose for the first time in days. I had been up most of the night coughing, but for me, that just meant the illness was working out of my head and into my chest before it is gone for good. My eye wasn’t even crusty!!!!! I was in good spirits at breakfast – better than I had been all week.

I was on the trainer warming up in the hour before my race, and it started happening. Well, two things happened. My heart rate proved responsive to my efforts, and, it was raining. THANK YOU, GODS OF CYCLOCROSS!!! 

I was grid up in row 4/5, so, let’s just say that at one point I looked over my shoulder to see if I was in dead last. Not dead last. I did some passing. I came through the first lap in 24th I am a little surprised! I mean, there were only 40 starters, but I didn’t think I had passed that many already.

I keep trucking and I find myself in 18th coming in for the next lap. Then 17th the lap after that. I am picking off riders and riding smooth, I have got this!! At this point, I am trading places with Loes Sels and Helen Wyman. I come through in 15th, then, I come through in 14th and I have a good gap on the two behind me and I am closing in on 13th. I am going to get it. I CAN DO IT!!! Holy crap!

Then, they holy crap got the best of me and I dumped it. I went down once in the whole race, and at that moment I was caught and passed and the switch inside of me went from YOU CAN DO IT and you ARE doing it, to, man, you proved you can do it now you should just be safe. 

Gotta admit I am a little disappointed in myself for that. I finished 16th and I was in the hunt for 13th. It hurts the more I think about it, but, I have to flip the race around and remind myself I came in with no expectations and a bit under the weather. I could tell my head was fuzzing when I was digging deep and that is no good way to ride a slippery course. I think the only reason I was able to race the way I did was because I was patient and had no expectations.

I am proud of my result, but I want you all to know that this is not a great result for me, this is the place I belong. I have ridden this way before, I just have never been able to maintain it. But, now, just in time for the season to end, I am getting a grip on it. A few more races left, and hopefully, I can keep it all together and keep getting some results and then build on this for next year. Next year, I am hunting for that top 10 at worlds, not just a top 20 or even top 15.

Kerry: My race just got a little out of reach. With Rebecca finishing 16th I was hard pressed to think I was going to find myself anywhere near the top 20 so Rebecca was, obviously, giving me shit about our season-long placing competition. Unfortunately, for her, there was no clause about worlds having a heavier weight on the outcome than the other races. 

With my head in a good place I got out on course on Sunday morning and was feeling good. I opted for muds while others were going for intermediates. There were a handful of sections of the course where traction was an issue but 90% was good for intermediates. I just didn’t want to make any crucial mistakes when I was blown so I chose the tire which would give me some more cushion. 

After pre-ride hanging out in the USAC team warm up boxes, I was all eyes on the prize until Lance Haidet jumped in the effing ocean! IT WAS 35ºF! The water had to be similar in temp. 

On the trainer, I was bumping a specific playlist catered to getting me jazzed up for worlds. “Fatbottom Girls” made me smile and feel like an American, “Till I Collaps”e by Eminem put me in angry white boy mood, and “Colours” by Marshmello helped solidify my upbeat mood. 

Once the gun went my first priority was not cashing. I was feeling good and trying to move up on the first lap. I may have burned a match or two that was unnecessary to move up a spot and back again but being patient can be hard to come back from as well. I came through the first lap in a huge group that was strung out throughout the whole start-finish straight. 

The next lap our group was more solidified and it was a group of 10 or so fighting for the low twenties. I was feeling good still but getting gaped out of the corners coming into the long straightaways. I eventually spent enough time yo-yoing at the back of the group to get properly separated. 

I was in no man’s land from that point on. On lap two I remember hearing 8 laps to go! The damn race was fast AF! About 4 laps in I was in no man’s land with a solid gap in front and behind me and that was my race. I was in 30th place. 

Towards the end of the race, Stephen Hyde and a Spanish rider were breathing down my neck. The Spanish rider made contact but I dropped him again.

Then he made contact again coming into the last lap and came around me as we neared the start straight, which I was cool with because I didn’t want to pull for that section. As soon as he came around me we rounded and corner and got pulled…. So I got 31st. Damn!

I left it all out there and rode well. I would have liked to be in that group in front of me but my legs said no. It was a race I am not really excited about but I am content with the result. Results wise it would seem like I have made zero improvements over the last three years of racing worlds. I got 33 in my first worlds, 27th last year, and 31st this year. Every year I learn a little more by racing on this side of the Atlantic but being over here for such a prolonged period has really cemented in some critical things I have to work on. 

(Big thanks to Patty Means for coming over to catch the world champs in stills. I love Patrick’s style and having him shoot worlds was great. If only we could have actually had a minute to catch up!)

However, before I call it a season we have a Wednesday mid-week race, Maldegem. Then Lille and Hoogstraten on Saturday Sunday. Just one more push!

Have a look at the vlog to catch all the behinds the scenes!