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