We are about to board our flight to the UK, where I will contest the UCI Masters Cyclocross World Championships in the 70-plus age group.
Yesterday was my last "tune-up" race, held at Makara Peak, Wellington, over a wet, slippery, technical course. I felt anxious before this race because the last thing I wanted was a crash the day before boarding the plane! Yes, I crashed but suffered only a few minor grazes and bruises, but that is standard stuff for MTB racing. Phew: I survived!
I finished the MTB series with a clean sweep of the 60-plus age group, which is a good confidence booster for going into the CX Worlds.
I understand nobody from the Southern Hemisphere has won a cyclocross event in any category at this level. I hope to change that, but I have my work cut out. I went to these championships four years ago when it was in Belgium. I came 7th and too far away from the winners to think there could ever be a hope of getting onto the podium, let alone winning. However, I was already planning my return before the race was over: During the race, I discovered what I had to do to be a winner at this level of cyclocross. First, I had to improve my cyclocross skills. Secondly, I had to get much fitter on a bike - these were simple but far from easy tasks, especially as one gets older!
Four years later, I'm ready to have another go.
One additional factor in my favour is that I'm the best in the world in understanding and applying the burgeoning science around ageing and performance; after all, this is how I make my living. The proof of this claim is I am the defending and back-to-back UCI Masters 65+ Mountain Bike World Champion. So, I'm now in the 70+ age group, and while the ones who beat me four years ago are with me again, I think I'm handling the ravages of ageing better than anyone else, so as they slow, I am getting faster than I was when I turned 60.
However, although I have put in the preparation, I have no illusions that this is one hell of an undertaking. I cannot dismiss the total dominance of this sport by the Belgians, Dutch and UK riders. Nor can I ignore that few of these races ever go to plan, and so much can go wrong. For example, I will have only one bike, whereas my competitors will have two, so if my bike gums up with mud or fails for any reason, I have no replacement: My race is over. Furthermore, I'm operating on a small budget and travelling from the other end of the world to compete on their home ground. The travel alone, economy class, is detrimental to performance, but I'm working to counter these negatives.
The entries are starting to come in, and it already looks like a record number of entries for my race. But, while the fields become smaller with advancing age, the task is no easier because the riders at this level are the survivors - the toughest roosters - including the pros who have never properly retired and are all intending to win!
Event Website: https://worldmasterscx.co.uk/
Riders List: https://worldmasterscx.co.uk/rider-list/
I'll be posting updates, so keep an eye out for them. We must go now; we have a plane to catch.