Crossing the finishline with tears in my eyes and heart floating with pure emotion is such a high
It’s hard to put words on something, that is indescribable. This race and victory is more than I ever dreamt about and thought possible. Every cell in my body is still twitching and I feel lightning striking, whenever the thoughts and imaginations from sunday run through my head.
To be able to make such a comeback from a season, which I think has been hard was unbelievable. I honestly had few expectations for the race. I thought; “might as well be realistic, defendeing my title will be pretty difficult. My competitors in this race have made results this year, that I haven’t been able to match. (Top results at the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cups etc.)” In that way, I went into the race with no expectations at all, besides having a great time on my Fuji bike and close down the season with this race.
What I did focus on, was beeing able to be with my boyfriend, Thomas, who currently works in Zürich. This was a great opportunity to be together. Friday afternoon he was off from work, so we could make the roadtrip to Ornans in France just in time to check out the last few km of the race course (which later turned out to be the men’s course and not the women’s course.. ). Luckily we hooked up with the other Danish girls saturday, who then showed us the first and the last part of the course. At least I got a good impression of the ground and the environment.
In the evening before the race skies started crowding up above the mountaintops and the whole night it was pouring down! When the alarm clock woke me up at 6 a.m. three hours before the startgun, I wasn’t actually jumping out of bed, but some great breakfast and coffee got me in the right gear. I always find the last few hours before racestart quite exciting and sometimes difficult to deal with. Well, on the other side, all the preparations that we could make, was already done, so the only thing left was just going out there and execute.
I rode my Fuji 26″ hardtail, which I was supposed to ride for the Olympic Games. Grabbing a world champion title with it instead is an awesome compensation 😉
The rain was still pouring down, when we waited for the call up. Normally the defending world champion would be called up as the first rider, but in this race it wasn’t the case. Instead I was called up around 40’th spot. I knew, that the start of the course offered good posibilities for overtaking, so it didn’t matter that much.
When the startgun went off, I just focused on working my way toward the front of the field. That went pretty easy and we were on our way. My vision soon got really blurry, since mud constantly got spayed from the ground. The atmosphere in the field soon intensified, and I heard a great crash taking down many riders and the sound of carbon being smashed mercilessly into wet asphalt. The first 7 km was pretty flat, so I just kept my position and the front, knowing that the field would be torn apart as soon we hit the first climb. And all the sudden we turned sharp to the left, forcing us into to single file, everyone eager to go first! The ground was filled with big loose stones, so timing the overtaking of riders had to be choosen carefully to succeed. I did a great job, and all the sudden I was on the wheel of Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (NOR), who was leading the race at a solid pace. I was feeling strong, calm and focused. From here it would all just be an adventure, a long journey up and down the mountainsides for the next many hours. I was motivated by the possibilities ahead of me. I knew that soon we would hit the first feed / tech zone where familiar faces would be waiting for me, handing bottles and encouraging words.
The best thing about this race was, that I already from the beginning hit the race-mode, in which anything is possible. I was riding on instinct rather on consciousness. The further we got into the race, the greater the feeling of being in the moment grew inside me. I was filled with posotive feeling, because already I had accomplished more, than I expected. I was at the front of the field, feeling strong and calm. Gunn-Rita and I rode together or within eyesight of eachother for the first half of the race. Sometimes she was leading, sometimes I was leading. All the sudden on a climb I looked back, and she wasn’t with me anymore. The thought stroke me: being alone at the front halfway through the race would be a little early, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, I didn’t feel, that I had forced the pace, only maintaining my rythm, so why not just continue that way?.. And so I did! I was clear in my mind, having the chorus of a song running over and over and embracing every obstacle that popped up in front of me; long climbs, stairs to run, roots, rocks, riders (the men started 25 min before we did) and huge masses of mud!
All the sudden, I had passed the last feedzone, and signs along the course started to countdown each kilometer with 10km to go. I was thrilled, knowing that most of the remaining part would just be downhill. All the sudden my rear wheel started to feel floaty under me. “OH NO!” I thought. I continued riding with the tire slowly leaking, since I didn’t know how far behind me Gunn-Rita was. I started an inner dialog with myself, what to do. With the semiflat tire, my pace had decreased. I had an innertube and a CO2 cartridge with me. Should I take the chance, just filling the wheel with air and hoping the the tiresealant would repair the leak or should I go for the safer, but more timeconsuming option, to place the inner tube in the tire and then fill it with the cartridge. I went for option no. 1, which turned out to be a good option! Soon I was back on my bike. My boyfriend was standing just before entering into the forest of the last downhill section and was cheering like an insane and advicing me to ride safely to secure the victory.. Victory?!.. Oh my God, I could actually win this race! I pulled out the last power of my body, riding as powerful and controlled as possible.
The last part of the course I already knew from the previous day. My journey would soon come to an end. When I exited the forest, I could see the first houses of Ornans and could almost smell the finishline. I looked over my shoulder, all the sudden goosebumps invaded my entire skin. Noone behind me!.. The last 500m tears pushed their way through the mud in my eyes and crossing the finishline as the winner was so great!
Shortly after Gunn-Rita crossed the line in 2nd position and Esther Süss (SUI) came in third.
The best thing was just to having Thomas waiting for me there. Now I could let go and return to the real world.
There’s absolutely no better way to end the season. Going through so much frustation, despair and dissapointment really got outweighed this sunday. This victory is not only a world champion title, but more important it’s a personal lesson in really appreciating the good things that happen in life.. and then you might even catch the rainbow in the transition from rain to sun.