Wednesday, 30 December 2015

World Cups and Superprestige Adventures

Awesome roads everywhere in Belgium
CX World Cup round number 5 of the season in Zolder, Belgium was a full preview of the World Championships course at the end of January….and I have to say that I’m really excited.  The course is has a great mix of everything, some fast straight aways, tight corners, sand, off cambers, roots, steep drops, and some really cool history.  Circuit Zolder is an old F1 racetrack used in the 70s and 80s.

Christmas day was a cold, wet pre-ride of the course.  Wet, sandy muddy conditions made the drivetrain unhappy within a single lap.  There is an interesting combination of sand and clay, enough sand to keep things together and enough clay to make it slick and keep you on your toes.  Though Belgium has been having an unusually warm dry December and Boxing Day (race day) proved to be warm and sunny, drying the course out throughout the day and making it a very fast track.

Moving up to a fourth row call up, I had a solid start, but I still have to learn to be a little more aggressive fighting for spots with these European racers.  Long straight away on the track, and the field bottlenecked in the first hairpin corner after about 200 m.  Second hairpin corner and through the pits, everyone is jockeying back and forth trying to move ahead.  Through a treed section, I hopped off my bike to run a backed up corner and found myself being checked left into USA’s Ellen Noble by a Rabobank rider, things were getting rough!

Through the pits and accelerate hard into a tight, slick uphill hairpin corner.  Two lines here, if you can rail the corner hard enough and take the high line it’s faster and smoother, but really hard to get to; most times I got shot to the bottom and had to ride the mud to the off camber corner up to the pavement. 

First lap I’m sitting in pretty good company and feeling somewhat comfortably uncomfortable.  The long sandy clayey shoot is relatively dry and fast, with a couple good ruts.  Hitting the bottom you have about 100m to regroup then straight up a cliff.  If you’ve watched the past races this is a super steep cliff with steps cut into the side…..this year they decided to move the track over a little and there are no steps cut in, so it’s a free for all.  Literally scrambling up, using my hands to grab whatever I can while the front wheel if hitting the ground and the seat hitting me in the head, throwing me totally off balance the whole way up.  At the top there is another small run then a short flat section to smack the sand out of your pedals, clip in and hump it up the long steep climb….if you can ride you will definitely pass anyone running. 

Photo from William Beerland - going into the steeeeep run up
Loose off camber corner, couple steep little drops and a huge flyover back down onto the track to the finish line.  Lap 2, I managed to move into the top 20, lap 3 I was apparently in 17th position……then just before the long steep shoot I hear the dreaded “psst psst psst psst” of my tire letting out all the air L (turns out to be a half inch cut in the side wall, nothing would have saved that). I definitely let out an audible choice word and limp my way to the pits.  The steep downhills and flyover are so sketchy trying to ride with a front flat and I almost end up on my face 2 or 3 times so I decided running the drops was my best option….gaaaaah!!!!  Loosing about 1 minute in lap 3 and at least 20 secs in lap 4 to just get to the pits, I move back in the high 30s/ low 40s…..and I had my work cut out for me!  Trying to stay calm but make as much time as I can, I slowly pick off a rider here and there and move up to finish in 33 place.  Definitely not how I wanted the day to end, but I am really happy with how my body was feeling.  Loved the IRC tubeless Mud Seracs on my NoTubes rims at 23 psi on this track and was able to rail the technical sections with ease!

Quick recovery and straight into my first Superprestige the next day one of the oldest courses on the circuit, Diegem…aka Cross Vegas of Europe.  This is an interesting course, using some tight cobbled roads, through some back yards and a lot of features around a soccer pitch.  I made the full rookie mistake of putting Mad Alchemy Embro on my legs (yummy) and then my chamois cream on……ouch! 

Men's Race - that's Sven Nys!!
Second row call up here, yippee!!!!  I’m so close to those fast girls on the front J.  I have a good start up the long road climb (though definitely not as good as fellow Canadian Anna Schappert who came from behind to a top 10 before we hit the grass!!!), through the first couple of corners and into the slick off camber that jams everyone up and I find myself in the top 20.  Around the soccer field and past the pits we start to climb, first up and over a fly over, around a corner and through an alleyway, then hitting the cobbles we turn left and climb up a long climb (the TV definitely makes this look flat). 

Short recovery at the top with some fun singletracky corners and let the legs recover enough to hit the thick heavy sand pit.  There is sort of a beat in track in the middle of the pit, the farther you go the less of a track it is, and if you get off of it you sink another inch and stop dead.  This effort really cooks the legs and if you have to dismount and run, good luck getting clipped back in!!  So much sand was jammed into my shoes and pedals when I had to run that once I got in, I also had troubles getting out in time for the barriers….that made it interesting a couple times J

Yaaay for Arcteryx waterproof gear
Fast downhill on cobbles with some good curbs to hop, and into the last couple greasy corners.  I had a really good battle with the girls for 13th place, but plugged my front wheel in one of the final hairpin corners and she got away.  I was able to make up some distance in the final mud put run into the stairs, but I didn’t have the gas to close it on the final straight and finished in 14th.  Pretty cool race with an unbelievable number of people watching!  It’s been said before, but cyclocross is like the hockey of Canada, everyone pays good money to get in and watch, they buy all the supporters gear, and make an evening out of it drinking beer and eating meat on a stick, then they hit the disco tent and things get crazy!  Washing my bike in the pits after the race was an adventure and I didn’t escape the crowd in my little skinsuit without getting groped and kissed by some Belgians… time I’ll leave my bike for Regan J

Couple recovery days, though when I went to watch AzenCross in Loenhout I really wished I had raced!!  Getting ready for the Sven Nys BPost in Baal on Friday (New Years Day) and the Soudal Classic on Leuven on Sunday.  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!!!!

Monday, 21 December 2015

Namur WC - Storming the Citadel

The Namur Citadel is a pretty amazing place to host a World Cup cyclocross race, I had to do a little research after the race to find out a little more information on it.  The original structure was dated back to the year 937 and the current citadel that we see now was finished in the 1600s, though apparently Napoleon had some of the walls dismantled in the 19th century, and is one of the most fortified structures in all of Europe.  I could only imagine the tunnels and hidden rooms in a building like this.

The course has a lot of steep climbing and a lot of steep shoots, some gnarly off camber rutted out sections and usually tonnes of mud.  After pre-riding on Thursday for the first time it had just rained the day before and there was a lot of slick deep mud……I love it!!!!  We’ve had a very uncharacteristically warm, dry and sunny Belgian December (which is apparently the general forecast right to the end of January), so the course tacked up a lot making it really fast.

4th row call up, 37 out of 70, was the best call up I’ve had a world cup, but with the big climb right off the start, we bottlenecked really fast.  At the very top of the first climb it kicks up and there is a covered wood plank on the transition to the road…..after watching videos of previous races I knew this was a problem spot, and sure enough, someone on the right side of the track ended up running into the post at the top and took the whole rest of the group down….all it takes it one.  Not a huge deal, my goal for this race was to not go out too hard, pace myself because all the climbing and running really catches up to you fast.

At the top of the first climb, you have about 50 feet to catch your breath before you dive back down a rough paved section, then hairpin transition onto the track to power back up to the top.  Another small bottle neck here and we were off and running back up to the top.  From the top of this there is some fast, rooty and technical descents, I managed to straight line over the roots and make up two spots here and grab a good wheel headed into the only flat sections through the pits.

Exiting the pits there is a huge drop in which was getting progressively rougher due to braking bumps, shooting you out on a slick mud road to climb up to the short steep run up with a 6 foot transition at the top to remount and drop back down the cliff.  At the top of this climb I was so out of breathe every lap it I felt a little cross eyed dropping back in, half the time not even clipped in to my pedals yet.  From here we hit the muddy sloggy straight away to a hairpin corner and into the infamous off camber straight away.  It’s funny, if there were no ruts on this it would be totally fine to ride, but with years of racing cutting ruts into this hill, and the ruts being really slick mud, this section is deceptively treacherous.  I had this dialed the first 3 laps, but really struggled the last 2, making some back decision and I really should have run, but racer brain had me slowly struggling with the tripod….though at least I didn’t crash J

Remount for a quick descent, and off the bike for another steep run up.  This section always felt really good until I remounted again for another short downhill, followed by a little power corner climb and slick slog into the bottom of the longest steep run up of the course.  I fumbled this corner and slog pretty bad in the last lap and got passed by two more girls here L.  This last run up was one of the toughest (though Sven did ride it 2 times during the race) and I found that it was all I could do to drag my ass up there the last 2 laps.  Having watched lots of video of this course, I knew it was actually okay to walk this section, a fast walk J.  Back on the bike at the top, short transition and one last big drop and one big rideable (YAAAAY) climb back to the top, through the pits, through the finish and back up the first big climb.

I thought I had done a great job of pacing myself, I felt great coming through the first lap in 20th position.  Second lap felt great, not pushing too hard on the climbs, there was enough elevation in the course to force you to go hard, but by the fourth lap I was really starting to suck wind and make some silly mistakes.  My last two laps were slow, and I lost a lot of spots in the last lap.  But I’m really happy with how I raced and I know I left everything out on the course.  My goal for the race was a top 20, so I’m definitely disappointed with a 31 finish, but what a race to start off my Europe Cross adventure!!!

What’s next??
December 26 – Zolder World Cup
December 27 – Diegem Superprestige
January 1 – Baal – the Sven Nys race
January 3 – Leuven Soudal Classic
January 17 – Ligniere World Cup
January 24 – Hoogerheide World Cup
January 30 – World Championships, Zolder
February 1 – Fly to Canada J

Friday, 6 November 2015

October Cross Racing - Getting a little mud :)

And just like that October is over and we are on to November, and with that Canadian Nationals is done and dusted for another year.  After finishing off a busy start to the season, I came home to Victoria after Providence KMC Fest for the largest Cross on the Rock (COTR) race to date!  Topaz Park in Victoria also proved to be the muddiest race of the season so far and with over 350 people in all categories, it was an amazing day.  I opted to race with the expert men again this day, and had a great battle with the fast dudes, sometimes just battling to stay upright in the slick corners and off camber run up.  Huge thank you from all racers to local WD40-Bike rep Pete Creighton for spending the entire day attached to the power washer cleaning bikes.

The long Horst Spikes in my Giro Empires was the ticket to staying upright here!

With a weekend off in between Topaz Park and Nanaimo, I set about trying to recover and get fast legs.  Flying to Winnipeg for Canadian Nationals, I was dreaming of mud and rain, which we totally got for the Friday pre-ride.  The wet clay was so sketchy and fun to ride on, and this course is so much fun that you could just ride in circles for hours.  The rain stopped Friday evening and although the morning races were a muddy mess, the course dried out significantly for our afternoon start with just a few really slick corners to keep you on your toes.

 I had felt really good pre-riding on Friday, but I like to be cautiously optimistic about how I feel going into a race.  Maghalie Rochette of Luna (was the wheel to watch) got the early holeshot, and after slipping my pedal off the start, I worked hard to get to her.  Through the first half of the course I stayed on her like glue, but it’s interesting when you are feeling good, sometimes things feel a little easy.  Just past the pits for the first time I decided to push the pace up a little, try to spread out the field a little.  Passing Maghalie I accelerated out of a technical corner, looked over my shoulder and realized I had a couple bike lengths gap. 

Decision time here, do you keep pushing on hoping to open the gap, or settle back in and save energy for later in the race.  Given the chance, I will almost always choose to push the pace till I blow up…maybe not always the smartest J.  I stayed on the gas and slowly opened up my lead, through the 3 long sand pits and the steep run up I was able to open up my lead considerably so never looked back.  Bike, tires, body, everything felt great on the day, worked perfect, and I had a solid day on a fun course, winning the Canadian National Champion jersey back after a 2 year hiatus on the back of a mountain bike World Champion.  Huge shout out to the Shimano guys for sun tanning with my bike in the pit, thank you for standing there in case I needed you, but totally glad I didn’t need you!

The organizers of Winnipeg CX 2015 did a great job enticing a lot of fast racers from south of the border to come up and race the fun “Wannabe Canadian Race” on Saturday, and then the C2 on Sunday.   Day 2 was on the same course under almost the exact same conditions, corners just slippery enough to keep you on your toes but fast and fun.  Out of the gate, Red Truck’s Natasha Elliot was on a mission and took the holeshot, but with an early bad cornering decision I passed her and put some time into the field through the off camber corners.  Again, faced with the decision to push or race “smart”, I pushed the pace and opened up a lead.  Meredith Miller was close on my heals but I seemed to have just enough pop in my legs left to keep her at about 10 seconds.  Near the end of lap 3 Maghalie, who had some anger watts from the day before, caught up to me and together we were able to extend the gap to Meredith to about 30 seconds.  In lap 4 making a technical error I lost contact with Mags and that was all she needed to attack and pull away.  I managed to keep Meredith off my wheel and finished 2nd on the day.

Stayed a couple days in Winnipeg to catch a Jets game and ride with the volunteer shuttle driver for the event, then headed east to the Cincy CX.  I had never done this race and was really excited to ride here.  Day one at Kings Parks was a flat out dirt crit with a “big” hill in the middle called the Camel.  Rain the day before made the ground soft and watt suckingly spongy, but oddly not muddy.  Corners were fast with tonnes of traction, and this turned out to be a really tactical race.  The start was fast, with some wide sweeping corners and quickly hitting the first hill in the Camel.  I found myself in really good company, sitting in top 10.  Slowly, as KFC slowly opened up the pace (good to see her back to old fastness), the field was strung out a little more in each corner.  Sitting 4th wheel in the chase group the pace was really high, and with little technical to break up the course this was a flat out power and fitness course.  I felt great, but the pace really started to get to me, 3rd lap I lost contact with the chase group through the long deep sand pit and found myself in no mans land for half a lap.  I didn’t have the legs to stay with the power in the second chase group, but managed to hold on to 11th place. 

Day 2 in Cincy was the Pan American Championships in Devou Park, and this was a legit European style cyclocross course……HARD, VERY HARD!!!!  The overnight rain made all the off camber sections and run ups that much more exciting!!  Quick change of the tires in the evening, yay tubeless and I was set.  This kind of really technical course suites my abilities and I love to suffer on this stuff.  Not 500m into the course was the first really hard off camber switch back that had everyone off their bike and slip sliding around.  It turned out that this section would be a major player in most of the races, completely stringing the field out right away.  I had a great start, coming out of this right where I needed to be.  A couple fast slick up and downs, sweeping corners, and off camber climbs, brought us to the Pan Am plunge, which claimed more then a few crashes.  Tight corner at the bottom to a technical climb that bottlenecked, a slick run up, and my heart was in my throat.  There was a short road section to recover and right into the Wall, literally straight up and slipper clay (yaaaay toe spikes again).  Trying to catch your breath and legs at the top in order to survive the steep climb behind the start, only to be faced with slow slippery uphill barriers before the finish straight.  5 laps on this course and everything hurt, but it was awesome!!!!  Had a solid race, finishing in 8th place, and saw some heart rate numbers I haven’t seen in a while J

Thank you again for your continued support and making my season happen J  Last local racing for me this weekend, Tacoma UCI race next weekend and then the much anticipated SingleSpeed Cyclocross Worlds right here in Victoria!  Time to rebuild the engine after that and tickets are booked to head over to Europe in December!!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

September Racing Adventures

Wowzars, the first month of the 2015/2106 cyclocross season season is already over and done with.  What a whirlwind of amazing races every weekend, and even some competitive mid week races.   The Wednesday night underground training races have been getting bigger and bigger every season and my beginner pre-rides are getting upwards or 20 people…..I need to work on a bigger outside voice!  I’ve been so proud to sport my new set up this year at all the events and training, and the sport of cyclocross is blowing up on the west coast. 

My season started off with a win at the first V-CX-C ( in Fort Langley, with a hot dusty day of a good mix of totally not UCI legal singletrack and strategically placed hub deep mud pits.  This series has grown rapidly over the past couple years and it was amazing to see over 300 people at this event. 

Next off to one of my favorite venues, the COTR ( series always starts off with the Cumberland Coal Cross.  Having had a morning shift of work I made it just in time to heckle for the Waverly cross on the Saturday night, which is possibly the only bike race in the world that takes you right through the middle of a pub……yes, that’s right!  I took the win in one of the largest women’s field to date on the Island in Sundays race through the campground in a course that sported a lot of tight turns, gnarly loose gravel descents, a long beach section and a nasty run up. 

Quick turn around, driving home and packing up both my Naked Bicycles ( and flying out to Vegas for the first World Cup ( of the year.  Gaaaah, so early!!!!  I felt strong and excited heading into this event, and had some big but realistic goals of a top 15, but the pace and the changes to the course ate me up and spit me out.  Having raced this race four times before, I knew that if I went out too hard I was really going to pay for it…..but you know when you’re right up there with the big hitters and you get all excited and keep pushing above your limit….yup, totally rookied that race.  After really suffering for the middle 2 laps, I was able to find a second wind and make up 4 spots in the last lap and finish 28th (which is my best CX World Cup finish).  The events that push your limits, both physically and mentally, are the events that you learn the most from, and there was a lot to take away from this race.

To finish off a west coast holy cross of cyclocross, I made the very exciting 8 hour drive north to Reno for the first CX Reno (  Being a non UCI course, Teal Stetson Lee was able to put in some really interesting features on course that reminded me why we love this goofy sport so much!  Nothing like a hay pit and a gnarly loose off camber downhill to spice things up.  Due to a long run up I opted to pull my bottle cage off, but this proved to be a mistake….you know when the little flapper at the back your mouth sticks to the top of your mouth it’s too hot and dry… is the desert Mical!  After a blistering start tagging along behind the Luna girls I went down in a corner after following too close to a Rock Lobster racer that went down.   Jumping up to find my hanger bent, handlebar and shifters rotated, I went for my first pit of the season.  After a comedy of errors I ended up having to run a half lap with my pit bike to grab my start bike again (thank you to the pit angel that straightened everything out for me), and charged back hard to finish well off the pace in 11th place.  The highlight of this weekend was the beautiful post race ride up at Lake Tahoe with a big group of cyclocrossers and mountain bikers.

Next weekend brought us to another COTR at the Tugboat cross in Ladysmith (the birthplace of Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson for some UFI  Easily the biggest cyclocross race in BC, possibly in Western Canada, and maybe even in Canada??  There was a huge turn out of over 360 people!!!  I opted to raced with the Expert Men this race, and it ended up being a really fun and hard race battling back and forth with a group of about 6 dudes through the tight grass corners and long sand pit, finishing in 16th place making a pass in the sand pit with 2 guys took themselves out.

To finish off a busy month of racing I flew back out east to catch the tail end of the true Holy Week and one of my favorite US races at Providence and the KMC Crossfest (, and the first double header of the year.  Watching the forecast all week I was really excited with the imminent rain and nasty weather…..there was a hurricane scheduled to hit….and packed my mud tires and wet weather gear.  I think I’d like to be a meteorologist in my next life, you can be wrong 90% of the time and still have a job!!!  The ground dried up and it turned out to be hero dirt for the weekend….file treads were the tire of choice on Saturday….not mud tires :$  With pro women’s fields of 65 racers, the atmosphere and energy of this weekend is amazing.  Fast downhill road start, hard left and right into a steep loose run up, lap one if you weren’t in the top 3 up the run up, I was at a stand still with the bike in front of me hitting me in the head and the racers behind me pushing me and yelling.  This bottleneck ended up stretching the field out well and the rest of the race was a game of chase.  I had a decent start and had some great battles on this fun course, finishing in 16th place on Day 1.  Struggling with my recovery after the hard effort, Day 2 was a not a pretty race…..on a positive note, I did manage to outsprint the super strong Crystal Anthony for a 22nd place finish. 

Thank you so much for the all of the support this season, you have no idea how much this means to me!  Getting ready for some lactate acid and VO2 Max testing today, gaaaah, and the final touches on my prep for Nationals in 2 weeks! 

Here’s what’s left for the race season, So much fun!
Oct 24,25 - Winnipeg, Manitoba (CN/C2)
Oct 31, Nov 1 - Pan American Continental Cyclocross Championships – Cincinnati, Ohio (CC/C2)
Nov 7 – Beban Park (local)
Nov 8 – Arbutus Meadows (local)
Nov 14,15 – Tacoma, Washington (C2/C2)
Nov 21, 22 - SingleSpeed Cyclocross World Championships – Victoria, BC
Dec 4,5,6 – Jingle Cross, Iowa (C1/C2/C2)
Dec 20  CX World Cup – Namur, Belgium (CDM)
Dec 26  CX World Cup – Zolder, Belgium (CDM)
Christmas Cross races
Jan 17  CX World Cup – Lignières-en-Berry, France (CDM)
Jan 24  CX World Cup – Hoogerheide, Belgium (CDM)
Jan 30   CX World Championships – Zolder, Belgium (Worlds)

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Horst Engineering

And of course every cyclocross racer NEEDS an array of the best toe spikes available for their shoes!!!  Huge thank you again to Horst Engineering for giving me traction again this year!  My first experience with these spikes was at World Championships last year in Tabor.....enough said!!

 Available in Canada very soon!!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Naked Factory Racing

As some of you may know, my plans for the cyclocross season were sidetracked earlier this year and I was forced to look for a new plan.  I'm really disappointed that I won't be rocking the Stan's No Tubes carbon Valors this CX season, I've been racing with Stan's for the majority of my CX career, and it's like being a part of a family.

So when the infamous and really rad Sam Whittingham of Naked Bikes came to me a program, I was blown away and so over the top excited to be riding these beautiful handcrafted bikes for the 2015/2016 Cyclocross season!!  I mean, these bikes are truly a work of art!!

Let me introduce my team!

My Naked Bikes are going to be fully builds with Shimano Ultergra Di2 and Pro cockpit.  Pearl Izumi is making the really cool kit that Sam designed (and will match my bike :) , and Giro is going to protect my head, and cover my feet and hands.  Wd40-Bike is going to take care of me and my bikes while travelling, and I'm really excited about the amazing local Nourish Kitchen and Cafe  are going to be taking care of some local Victoria hunger (this place is soooooooo good!!!!)

Super excited to stay on board with Oakley Canada and another local company Rumble Supershake (can't wait to try the new Coffee Bean flavour) again!!  Thank you to my local bike shop Pro City Cycles, especially Regan Pringle (repechage wheel works) for keeping everything running smooth!

I'm so excited and proud to be working with all of my sponsors this season, and can't believe that Vegas is less then a month away (gulp).  Going to be a busy year :)

Summer Loving

It's been a wild and crazy and amazing summer and I don't want it to end.

After a quick recovery from CX Worlds, we kicked the summer off with a really cool SuperPro Racing gravel grinder race, Menso's Slo Ride from Hell.....aptly named, but when you get to eat pancakes and sausages and peanut butter pretzels and other great food during a race it's a great day.

Front end heavy cross country season, racing some super fun local Island Cup Series races including the 12 hours of Cumberland I had the privilege of racing with a rad group of girls on Team No Nuts (thank you Emilly Johnson for setting that up), the annual and in my opinion not very fun Sea Otter Classic (though I was smarter this year and only raced the short track and cross country, no quadruple header for me), and the cool and high altitude Whiskey 50 (which saw me detonate and whimper on the long climb out of Skull Valley.

Had a wicked adventure taking a Harbour Air flight over to the Sunshine Coast for a Marathon race.  Super sad to miss the Nimby 50, but was really excited to finally get the opportunity to race the 7 day Transylvania Epic in Pennsylvania with fellow Stan's NoTubes elite women's racers Sue Haywood, Vicky Barclay and Emily Shields.  This was a whole different style of riding then I am used to and I was really impressed with how challenging the trails were.

Oh, can't forget about my token annul road event, the Russ Hayes / Accent Inns Grand Prix!!

My plan was to do a lot of Enduro racing this season, but with not being able to ride my bike until June, I missed a ton of early season events and the time to get comfortable on a 160mm travel bike.  And in my typical arrive late, no pre-ride I had a lot of fun riding with some rad girls at the Dry Hill enduro in Port Angeles and the all women's Hot on Your Heels enduro in Squamish.  Pretty disappointed that I didn't get the chance to go back and challenge the Whistler Enduro again, but after dislocating my shoulder last year and not being able to pre-ride at all, I opted the smarter route and stayed home to do some epic riding with Regan.

Lots of camping, a kayak adventure, buying a van #vanlife, lots of sun and a relaxing summer job....I love not growing up up.

Monday, 2 February 2015

European Cyclocross Adventure

You ever regret a trip before you have even gotten on the plane?  I was regretting the decision to go to Europe for CX Worlds the whole month leading up to the project with dealing with the CCA….but that’s a separate story.  Once we got on the plane in Victoria, there was nothing else to do or worry about.  Take a sleeping pill that never works and watch 3 movies as you cross the pond.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Europe, and this was my first trip for cyclocross.  After watching hundreds of European cyclocross races I was really excited to get the opportunity to be a part of the circus.

My first Cyclocross World Cup ever in Hooderheide, Nederland, an hour and a half north of our Canadian base in Tielt-Winge.  Pre-riding the course after a night of snow made me super thank full that it’s been a wet season with a lot of muddy races.  Also made me really happy that I am running Shimano Di2 with hydraulic brakes that actually work!!!

There wasn’t a lot of elevation on the course, but there was a lot of mud and deep European ruts!  What’s a European rut you ask?  It’s about ½ a foot deep and scary when you get stuck in it at speed.  Watch any of the races on the front and I can tell you first hand that it’s definitely a lot harder then they make it look!  Back row call up, my fate after struggling most of the season to get any UCI points.  After a 100m fast start straight there was a hard left and down into knee deep mud had everyone but Vos off and running.  I had a great start, and moved through more than half of the field within the first lap, actually working my way up to the top 20 when I found myself riding with Katie Compton for two laps.  The pure sustained horsepower required to keep the bike moving through the thick mud and around hairpin corners, and the long mud run up, quickly caught up with me.  Laps 4 and 5, I struggled to keep the pedals turning, loosing 3-4 spots a lap.  The last steep run up, steep downhill and little surgy climb to the finish straight had me battling with a small Italian girl.  I was in the lead as we hit the pavement and with another position only 20 m away I wasn’t going to sit up to play games.  At the end, she had more pop than me and I finished my first world cup with a 29th.   Always wanting to have gone faster, I was still really happy with the day.  My bike exchanges went really smoothly, and it was a great way to blow out the legs for Worlds after not having raced in almost 2 months.

After a week of recovery, scouting out old footage of the Tabor course and last minute prep and I was really excited to race World Championships.   The course was really well suited to my technical skills, a lot of really muddy and slippery corners, with some short hard straightaways.  The ruts here were ten times worse than anything I have ever seen, half a wheel deep in most places and frozen rock hard.  Race day was overcast, even snowing, and just around freezing.  Fourth last call up again, all my nerves kind of left as I was standing on that start line….can only go up from here.  The start was hairy, at the end of the long straightaway, the pavement started curving right and downhill, so everyone was cooking.  I’m really happy that I didn’t panic with not being able to take advantage of my good starts and just sat in through the first couple corners.  Not 20 m on to the first dirt/mud section was the first carnage.  Bodies and bikes laid out all over the mud, and I found myself getting run into the side barriers….but stayed upright.   The announcer put it best as being as slippery as butter on glass, with the thin lay of slick mud on top of froze ground, it was so unpredictable and racers were going down on corners, hills, straightaways, everywhere.  Somehow keeping calm and dialing the corners I kept the bike upright, smooth was fast here, up the stair run up, remount on a muddy uphill, down the off camber rutted corners, and found myself sitting in good company coming through the pits for the first half lap.  Out of the pits, up the slow, awkward uphill barriers, remount again on a slippery, muddy uphill to hammer the long straightaways with hairpin corners.  Recover slightly over the top, drop down the steep short shoot, up short technical and punchy climb  (which was mild madness on the first lap), survive the fast downhill straight away into icy off camber corner, one last rough, rutted corner past the pits and a hairpin corner onto the pavement and that’s a lap.  My tactic was to put a lot of energy into the uphill straightaways, and recover as much as possible on the technical corners.

Coming through the 3rd lap, sitting on Caroline Mani’s wheel (who I love racing against…..every time she passes me she says “Come On Mical Dyck! Stay with me Mical Dyck! …..makes me smile), I cautioned a glance at the leader board and saw I was sitting around 16th!!  WHAT!! I had some really good battles with a couple of girls, but I love the feeling of passing people….not getting passed!  Last lap I had Kaitliean Antonneau in my sites, with Mani just ahead of her.  I caught Kaitliean shortly after the uphill barriers and put in a big effort up and over the top.  Smooth through the last half of the course, I came by the pits for the last time to hear my awesome pit crew yelling at me, and a big smile on my face. 

Finishing 12th! about 30 seconds out of the top 10, was a great way to end a long hard season.  I want to send out a huge thank you to everyone that helped to get me here, I definitely could not have even gotten to the start line without you!  I had so many financial and emotional supporters from such an amazing community, and it feels so good to have such a great race for everyone watching and cheering back home!

Also a huge thanks you to my many sponsors.  Stan’s NoTube Carbon Valor wheels and Iron Cross Alloy wheels, run with Kenda Tires Kwickers at 23 psi was amazing!!  I honestly think I had better traction then many people with uber expensive tubulars and sub 20 psi.  My Shimano Di2 and hydraulic disk brakes worked absolutely flawless the entire trip!  It’s really amazing in the mud and freezing conditions not having to worry about the cables getting gummed up, and not have to worry about my brakes failing…. interesting to note: I ran the same brake pads all year in a very, very muddy season, couldn’t do that the last 2 years J  Crankbrothers eggbeaters pedals were the ticket in the thick European mud with my Horst Engineering toe spikes.  Lazer Helmets Z1 helmets were so comfortable with my faithful and favorite Oakley Canada Radar glasses with photochromatic lenses.  Mad Alchemy hot balm keeping my legs toasty warm.  And of course, my Ridley X-Night frame and fork are easily the best bikes out there!

One final shout out to the awesome mechanical crew we had, Scotty Kelly, Adam Trotter, Derrick Chipping and my very own Regan Pringle for keeping my bikes feeling brand new every time I grabbed my bikes!!!

Now home to my puppy and back to work J