A Great Result at the Cyclocross World Championships!
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
After four years of obsessive preparation, my final weeks of preparation for the Cyclocross worlds did not quite go to plan: I thought I had every contingency in place, but I did not count on the airlines losing our luggage, including our bikes and equipment, for several days! Although the event organisers had offered a replacement bike on the day, it did begin to cross my mind that my attempt to win the championships was over before the gun went.
So, it was not the best of ways to prepare for the most intense competition of my life, stuck in hot and sweaty Dubai, searching for my bike, and getting stressed. This was not how I planned the last few weeks of preparing for the freezing weather of England at this time of the year. I needed to be on my bike! In the end, it all worked out: We were finally reunited with our luggage, and I entered the last week of preparations feeling surprisingly relaxed, as might be evident in the videos below.
This short video gives you an idea of how far I have come over the years in terms of skill:
Four years ago, I finished 7th in my first go at the Cyclocross Worlds, well behind the unbeatable Dave McMullen: the margin was about five minutes. I finished 2nd this time. I'm getting close! This follows a similar pattern for the mountain biking world championships: I came last, then 2nd, first, and first again. While Dave, the rocket, still beat me this time by a healthy margin, it was less than two minutes, and I flew around the course knowing I was setting my personal bests every stroke along the way. I finished strong and thought that winning was only a matter of time. I'm still getting faster with age.
And here is me having some fun the day before the Belgian races in 2018:
As you watch these videos, you will gather that I am very relaxed, even while waiting for the gun to go. This is the benefit of doing lots of domestic racing and knowing that I have done the preparation (lost bikes not included, mind you!).
The course was flat as a pancake, besides a few artificial mounds and bridges. I thrive on hilly, muddy, off-camber courses with many hairpin corners. Unfortunately, there were none, so it would be a drag race that suited the big boys and girls. You could say it was more like a time trial race than anything - tuck down and power out the watts! Still, it did not bother me much - such is racing and the challenges when you live at the other end of the world - it is what it is.
While it is not obvious, I did mess up clipping my pedal in when the whistle blew, but that was good in a way since there was a cold headwind down the long start straight, so I was able to tuck in behind some of the bigger boys and get pulled along until the first corner, thus saving some precious energy.
The clip below is of the only hilly section, and here I am battling it out with the Canadian who came 3rd. You can see the advantage I have on "technical" sections: Even on this easy and short section, I made a few meters on him. You can see this is where I made my break on him, building a healthy buffer before the sprint for the finish.
As the race continued, I got faster relative to the others, going from sixth after the first lap to overtaking all but the remarkable Dave McMullen by the last lap of the 40-minute race. I was delighted with the result. Although gold would have been better, it will have to wait for another time.
I stand to be corrected, but I think silver at this level and in any category of UCI cyclocross is a first for New Zealand or Australia. I'm feeling proud of this achievement. But it took a lot of preparation and cost a bucket of money.
Next year's world championships are in Germany. I don't think we will be going because of the cost and the huge amount of time and energy that has to go into the training for this level of competition. In addition, we don't like the seemingly endless days spent in airport terminals and being crammed into aircraft for up to 17 hours at a time. It is not fun, more like torture sometimes, and neither is the European winter all that pleasant! We prefer our holidays to be warm and dry.
So. unless the event comes down South, silver it will always be.