Belgium Part 2!
A little late, but here we go!
Racing in Belgium was highly addictive, and I can’t wait until I get another chance to go back and give it another shot! After the Hoogerheide World Cup cross race, team Canada spent the week training, getting massages (!) and resting up for the big race- the Zolder Cyclocross World Championships! The race took place in, around and over a car race track, which made for some fun fast road sections, and great spectating! I was shocked when I first saw the course- the Zolder races that I had watched online were a great deception, as I thought it was more or less a flat course. But nope. Over half of the course took place on the side of a hill, so there were lots of ups and downs. I found it incredibly fun when I first got to ride it, on one of our pre-ride days, as there were three flyovers, some steep decents and a super steep run up, that made you feel like a monkey as you ran up it, because at points you would be using your hands to help you stay balanced. Once again, I got to pactice more bike changes with our fantastic pit crew, meet the youtubers, Global Cycling Network, guys (I even made it into one of their videos!), and discuss some lines with some pro-women from other countries!
Race day was a totally different story from pre-ride. The two days we pre-rode the course, it was dry and even sunny. But naturally, mother nature preferred race day to bring on the downpour. Besides the run ups getting slick, the course didn’t change that much, and was even better in some ways because there were more ruts to choose from for lines. I went through my warm up routine, picked my way through the crowd of fans walking down team alley, ogling at the pro-riders, and finally lined up with the field of approximately 50 u23 women (at the back, because of my lack of UCI points)! Despite my hours of start practice in training, even with a bob trailer and a piece of a log in it, I had trouble clipping in when the whistle blew. In those situations, you just need to relax, first focus on getting your foot into the pedal, then go hard! I slightly panicked, and once I finally got it in, had some ground to make up. I was able to make up a decent amount of ground around the first couple of corners. As fate has it, when we got to the switchbacks about halfway through first lap, a girl went to dismount beside me and ended up kicking my shoe when she swung her leg over. After remounting, I clipped in, and my foot felt like it was going to come out the shoe, so I reached down to do the buckle back up, assuming it had come undone, and poof! It was gone. It had burst, and my foot was now slipping around in my shoe. I still pushed hard through the wet, exhausting conditions, executing some awesome bike changes and mounts/dismounts (thanks to the help from Aaron Schooler a few days earlier!) and finished my first World Championship race in front of a crowd of 40,000 spectators!
It is unfortunate that practically the only two mechanicals I have ever had happened when I was racing on the world stage, but that’s ‘cross for ya! Post race, I got to watch Canada’s elite women, Mical Dyck, crush the women’s field, and try the famous fries and mayonnaise (which is surprisingly good!). The next day, we got to watch the u23 and elite men’s race, explore the crazy packed drink tents, with bands playing and people singing and dancing, and all the elite riders paraphernalia (t-shirts, scarves, flags and more with riders faces on them!). A highlight was being able to watch the end of the elite men’s race in a rider’s only area, right at the finish line, with British rider, Helen Whyman, then get right up front, to watch Wout Van Aert collect his rainbow jersey!
This was an amazing trip, and I can’t thank Cycling Canada enough for all of the support we got over there, nor my sponsors for all of the support you gave me to get to Belgium for Worlds!