Kerry: The 7-hour drive south from Oudenaarde to Dubendorf Switzerland went by uneventfully. We arrived on Wednesday evening then Emily, Spencer, and Kerm dropped Becca and me off into the open arms of USA Cycling and the host hotel just 5k south of the world’s venue.
Thursday was track inspection day. The forecast was looking grim all week but somehow every day we managed to avoid getting any rain and the sun came out most of the time. 50-55ºF and Sunny in February in Switzerland didn’t seem right but it felt oh so good.
With pristine lakes peppering the valleys around our hotel it was easy to get away from the course and experience some beautiful riding, a nice distraction from the surmounting pressure of the upcoming big show. Since we arrived in the dark on Wednesday night, Thursday I woke up and looked out my window to find the jagged snow-capped peaks of the Swiss alps looming over the clay shingled roofs of our neighbors. I immediately envied all the people racing on Saturday because I knew that if I would be I’d head to the mountains and try to touch snow on Sunday.
Beck: Worlds. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it is always a strange event. Nationals is weird because it is a one day race that we pour a ton of time and resources in to, but it is our own familiar resources. Worlds? It’s a mix of our stuff with national team stuff. It’s a hotel with weird people and strange food and a timeline dictated by other people. Even the field is strange, because for the world championships U23 women, and this year for the first time ever Jr Women, have their own field, so there were only 35 women in the race.
My parents and Barry Wicks and many other USA friends and fans came to Switzerland to watch the race!!! Amazing, but also a little stressful. Because if people make an investment like that, you expect to give something in return. Hell, I feel that way even if someone sets an alarm to wake up in time to find a feed to watch the race. And this course didn’t have enough features to promise making the crash-cam, so yea, I wanted to have a great result.
After a strong first block of racing over here, I had pretty high expectations coming into the last block of the season. I knew I could get a top 5 at Nommay. Was aiming for top 10 at Hoogerheide and worlds. But, it seems that I am not the type to have a breakthrough and stay on top, but instead the type to ride the waves of success, taking the crests with the falls. (Apparently, the constant crest-riders go to see Belgian pharmacists, so if that is what it takes, I will accept the natural ebbs and flows.) At the World Cup in Nommay, France, I experienced a broken shoe followed by poor judgment keeping me just out of the top 10. At Hoogerheide I fell ill the night before (I woke up at midnight with a scratchy throat and laid in bed crying realizing I was getting a cold)- my dead legs and soggy mind could only carry me to 30th on the fast course (but still only less than 2 minutes down, which is showing of the speed on the day). This left worlds to be my redeeming experience, but, alas, the illness kept me off of my Super Jake for most of the week. Not exactly priming the pumps if you know what I mean.
The forecast for the week had hinted at rain. Actually, I read it as if it promised rain each and every day, hopefully turning that flat field of a course into a muddy mess that would see us running and slipping and sliding: the epic slow motion muddy battles that the media and public crave for cyclocross. Instead, we saw sunny skies and temperatures that had the Canadians in shorts and short sleeves. 60 and sunny at worlds? Come the heck on. The ground was virgin and the thick, heavy grass kept the clay-rich soil heavy and slick at the same time. The steep embankments we had to traverse were on the brink of rideable only for the strongest and smoothest of riders. The course wasn’t hard from features but it would be physical from the ground up. A race of fruition and smoothness for sure.
On pre-ride, Pete Webber took a few laps with me and helped me smooth out some of my lines and dismounts. I was most worried about the transitions from the steep flyovers to the ground, largely when we were existing on to muddy pavement. I hate the hard transitions with low tire pressure as it makes the front wheel a bit squirrely. I chose my recovery spots to be on top of the flyovers down, until I ran out of momentum. Beyond that, the entire course was pedaling.
Kerry: Upon checking out the course the overarching attitude was that it was unimpressive. This venue had never hosted a race before let alone a UCI race, let alone a World Cup, let alone Worlds! It was located on a military airbase and the only elevation was achieved by tapping the track up these 10-15 foot tall embankments on the northeast side of the course that flanked the runways.
I quickly found some fun when I realized the stairs on one of the flyovers were spaced perfectly so that you could hop them. I was determined to make it happen in the race, a last lap trick up my sleeve.
Friday we awoke to the threat of rain again. But sunny skies prevailed. Curtis White, Stephen Hyde, and myself used Friday as a day to stay away from the course and not bury our legs in the heavy effort it took to pedal around it. We stuck to the bike paths and pavement and headed to Zurich to check out the historical spires, Lake Zurich, and indulge in some primo coffee.
Every night the whole USAC crew congregated in the hotel restaurant for a team dinner (Our hotel housed the elites. There weren’t any hotels in the area big enough for the whole USAC crew so elites and a handful of staff were located in one and Junior, u23’s, and remained staff were located in another). It was nice to actually spend time with people you see all year, though only in passing, under the stress of making it to the start line on time or on your way to meet your course pre-ride window. Trade teams didn’t matter we were all there, together, for one goal, to bring out the best in each other and smash worlds as a team.
Saturday was Beckster’s race. Us boys got out on the road for some intervals, again to keep our legs fresh and not get bogged down on the heavy course. Though we did head to the course to see how things were shaping up. Rain threatened again though lost the fight against the sun. However, a more imminent threat of precipitation was looming for the hours following the women’s elite race and overnight into the morning.
After course pre-ride it was back to the hotel to clean up and watch the elite women get after it. What an exciting race to watch. Stephen and I were sitting in bed next to each other (two twin beds pushed together aka the euro double) hearts pounding trying to predict who would throw each successive blow. It came down to a sprint that was unbelievably close and too suspenseful to consider watching the race rest.
Beck: The race
I was a second-row call-up. I chose to grid up towards the left because that is where the front row filled in first, and they must know what’s up, right? The sun and wind had dried up the course a lot from our pre-ride, making it heavy but less squishy. Barely any mud was coming up onto the bikes. But, the forecast showed a chance for rain right at our start and the skies were being coy, showing grey but not yet opening up. I chose tires, toe spikes and clothing based on the chance of rain. Because when in doubt, plan for the shittier event. Better to be a bit overdressed and aggressively treaded and not need it than the other way around.
The light changed and we went. I got my pedal and started hard, as everyone else did. I am sure I lost a little ground but then there were brakes and tires and someone coming into me – I wasn’t sure what was happening so I sit up and lean into what was coming over to me. Nearly stopped now. Does she crash? Something happens. But I put it behind me. Shit, HUGE gap to the front of the race and we aren’t even off the pavement. Wow. This is not ideal. Compton comes from behind me, and Clara is ahead of me. Everything about this is weird. We are off the pavement and these ladies are going coocoo, swerving EVERYWHERE. I should have dug a little harder here, but there was a crash to my right, I look over because I’m a rubbernecker if nothing else. I see Clara and Caroline Mani in the bottom of a bike pile. People are swerving in front of me to get out of that. Do I come off the bike? Put a foot down? I don’t know it’s all a blur, but at the first little bump feature, I look up onto the first flyover and see the gap from me to the front. But I also see Sanne Cant and Compton with me so I know there is still a chance. I stick to Compton’s wheel but she is letting a gap open up. I burn a match trying to pass only to be blocked by her setting up for a turn. Then, the gap closes because she is a magician. She starts passing and I try but for some reason I just can’t. I was told to not bury myself in the first lap which was bad advice because I have never in my life blown up and gone backwards but that advice just tells me to sit the frick up while everyone else is charging hard ahead of me. And my body is like “whoa what are you doing? We were just on the couch for a week now we are for some reason running for our life? No fire. Let’s slow down”. So, here I was back in the deep teens, aiming for a top 10 and Compton, with the grace of a spawning salmon, has ridden upstream into the fight for top 5.
Shit. I hate writing these blogs because it just feeds into my deep-seeded regrets.
Was it mental or physical? Where was my fight? People were there for me and honestly, I felt I let them down. Hoogerheide’s result was physical. I had nothing in the tank. But, for worlds? Come on. I was healthy, I had slept. And the last two laps I really feel I came around, mentally and physically. But what about the first two laps? It wasn’t until I was in a back and forth battle with Christine Marjerus (Luxembourg National champ) that I started to feel like I was racing. I was happy to go back and forth because it meant I was not giving up. I was able to pedal passed her on the flats, but she flew passed me up the flyovers and run-ups. Eventually, I put her behind me and had Sanne Cant in my sights. I wasn’t making errors and I buried my head when I could and eventually caught her and a French girl and was able to pass them both. It was the last lap, and after realizing I had settled and become complacent, I reminded myself to charge hard. I sprinted out of the turns, and charged up the stairs. Whoops. Charged too hard. I caught a toe spike on the edge of a stair and tripped, falling to my knees on the metal stairs which despite the thin layer of carpeting were still like cheese graters due to their cleating. In an attempt to catch myself, I snagged my front brake-line which pulled out the di2 cable for my battery. My knees were bloody, my front brakeline was rubbing along my tire, and my bike was deemed a single-speed. I was in my 44/15 or so. Luckily everything functioned, but I lost time making sure it did. I also lost time trying to plug that di2 cable back in. And sadly, the trip happened immediately after Pit 1, and Pit 2 was just before the finish. I almost gave up. But, I thought to myself, I have mashed before I can mash now. I can still move forward so I should charge on! And I did. With a group of four or more riders coming up fast behind me, I put my head down. The only person to pass me was Sanne Cant. Could I have passed her back with a bike exchange 400 meters from the finish? I don’t know. But maybe then at least I could have gotten up the flyover! I barely crested the top. And then I rolled in for 13th place, spinning on the pavement hoping the closing group behind me didn’t nip me at the line.
Yea, 13 is my best world’s performance yet; however, I was hoping for more and could have done it. On the day I think I had a top 10 in me if I had known how to better open up despite my illness – this is my first true cold in over 3 years (last year’s pink eye never went into my legs, just a stuffy head) and I have never had to learn in what ways I can push my body through. If I hadn’t had a cold I am more than sure I could have cracked the top 5 in those conditions. I’m sure if anyone in the top 5 read this they would say “no way she would beat me”, but I have to keep feeling these things within myself if I am ever going to see them realized.
I have a few sand-skills to work on if I stand a chance at next year’s worlds, but, worlds 2022 in the US is a new goal for me, so I have another season to work through some structure kinks. Next season’s schedule and focus is still TBD.
Kerry: Sunday at team dinner the mood was light as half of World Champs was done. It was our turn and I was warming up to the idea of some rain. The course was very tacky, like suction cup mud. Some women raced on intermediates and some even started on file treads! There was lots of traction and thus the race would be less about bike driving and more about pedal pushing. I figured the rain would at least make some of the corners a bit more interesting.
We woke up to some precipitation but not much. I stuffed some heavenly bread inside of me and washed it down with coffee some amazing people brought across the pond for me. I ran out of my stash a week ago and put out a call for any Americans coming to worlds to bring me a resupply. Two people answered the call and brought two bags each. Above and beyond what I hoped for. I was now coffee rich and elated! One of my favorite kinds of rich. Probably second only to the smiles for miles kind of rich you get after you do an epic ride or have a top-notch race.
We got to the course for a quick pre-ride. The rain had made some significant changes, as it continued to fall throughout the afternoon. Mostly, it made everything super heavy and a lot of the short punchy bumps unrideable.
The Junior men and u23 women went first then it was our time to shine at 2:30pm. I was anxious and tired of waiting around for the red light to turn green!
There were only 39 starters but it was worlds!
We got off to an uneventful start then somehow I got pinched in one of the first few corners. Videos later revealed there were only 3 people behind me not more than 2min into the first lap. My plan was to take the first couple laps conservatively and rally throughout the middle and end of the race, though I didn’t intend on this level of conservancy…
We were running some of the corners we were riding yesterday and humping our bikes on the straightaways to get every ounce of power and traction out of each pedal stroke. I put my head down and didn’t look at the lap count/ positioning until about 5 to go, 3 laps in. I was 28 with two guys in my sights. I kind of dropped the ball on those first couple laps by holding back as much as I did but I figured I could move up to 26th so I kept going and eventually got to overtake them.
I told Spencer to warn me if I was going to get pulled, I was seeing him once a lap in the pit and it was slow going, enough for a few words of conversation. Going into 3 laps to go he let me know that “You should probably hop the stairs”. I was still battling with a Spanish guy for that 26th spot and I thought it was more important to get that spot than to mess up and not.
I got the spot but after the race, my only regret was not sending the stairs! I would have likely gotten a replay on the live stream, which would have been worth the potential loss of a spot. Haha. Maybe he would have seen me do that in front of him and just threw his hands up in surrender?
I was pulled 2 laps down. A bit disappointed but it was all I had. If I played the start better I may have been able to hang it out there for another lap but I wouldn’t have lasted the whole race. The heavy conditions do not play to my favor and MVDP was putting on a clinic!
I got cleaned up and breathed a sigh of relief. While I wasn’t stoked with the result, these big races are huge learning experiences and this year was no exception. It was also my best world Champs by 2 spots, so I got some UCI points, which was nice.
With World done there are 5 more races for the Kona Maxxis Shimano Crew. We have a Wednesday midweek race, the traditional first race after worlds, in Maldegem, BE. Then Lille and Merkplaas on Sat/Sun. Followed by one more weekend, one that I have never done before, Middelkerke and Hulst.
Two more weeks before we call it a season and while we are all ready to go home these last few races are easy going. Less pressure, more fun, and crossing our fingers for better weather! Last year Beck got to wear a short sleeve skinsuit on the Middelkerke/Hulst weekend.
To catch up on all the action in video format have a look at my vlog. It’s a goodie!