Mid-season reflections

When I crossed the finish line in La Bresse I was relieved and very exhausted as I looked up on the screen on the finish line arch I saw a “15” in front of my name. I was feeling spend, beaten up, weak, no way in harmony with my bike and mentally a bit broken. Had you asked me one week earlier, this was no way near the result I expected. Coming into La Bresse with already two world cup wins this season.

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Making my way through the World Cup in La Bresse (photo: Michal Cerveny)

On the Tuesday before La Bresse I slowly felt a cold creeping up on me and instead of quickly wearing off and disappearing it only accelerated during the week. On the friday I decided to still make my way to La Bresse with a “damage control” strategy. I wanted to do the race and collect as many points for the WC overall. And as it turned out, I just made it and kept the jersey. This might sound like a pretty easy weekend, but it was anything but. Despite reminding myself of the “damage control” strategy I lost myself many times to the “want to perform” thoughts.

I took almost another week of rest and when I got back on my bike it didn’t take many days before I felt the return of my power. Also, with time the bad feelings of the race in La Bresse disappeared and I started to seeing things clearer. Taking my state into account, it was quite impressive what I still managed to squeeze out of my body on that day.

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Soaking up the beatyful view of my birth area

Ahead of me were now two weeks before the next block of four races. The first race would be nationals in my hometown of Silkeborg. At the beginning of the season, I was frustrated with our federation moving nationals away from the official date (mid of July) and placing it just the weekend before three consecutive weekends of important races (Marathon Worlds, XCO Worlds and WC Lenzerheide). If I would do our nationals, we needed to make a very good plan in order to still get in the needed amount of training, combined with travelling and not sleeping in your own bed. Possible? Yes. But not ideal.

The first training week we stayed here in our base in South Germany, while the second week would be split up between living at Thomas’ parents in Copenhagen and my parents in Silkeborg. In Germany I managed to put in a solid training week. We took the night train to Denmark, simply to not skip a nights sleep, while at the same time still bringing the car with everything we needed for training and racing. In Denmark I pulled off another solid training week, fuelled by the joy of riding my old training routes that I hadn’t seen for half a year. Also, seeing family and friends again was pure refilling of my mental account. When I lined up for our race at nationals it was at the last day of 2 weeks of each 25 hours of training. A scenario I would never ever thought possible when I first started training a bit more structured around 2009. But nowadays the races I target are of a somewhat different level and the current arrangement of our lifes allows me to get the needed recovery, which is necessary to pull off a 25 hour training week.

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Crossing the finish line at Marathon Worlds

XCM Worlds for sure was a big goal of mine. The fact that my shape looked very good this season so far and the fact, that I won this title already three times made me confident, that I was just in the right place to go for my fourth title.

In fact I was so keen to grab that title, that I could open up a gap on the rest already on the first climb and relatively easy pull away. Maybe I was too keen, since I happened to take the wrong way in a right hand turn with two roads leading out. Luckily I was still able to compete for the victory despite loosing huge amounts of time at this critical point. When I had worked my way back to second position and knowing I was very close to the leader I had a flat tire. Luckily I could ride it to the next tech zone and when I got a new wheel I once again started my chase back to the front. But I didn’t get far before my rear wheel started causing me trouble and I had to stop for a long time to get it fixed. When I finally could go again, I was somewhere around dead last and had now burned way to many matches to be able to make it back to the front.

The race left me with a bitter-sweet feeling. Of course I was disappointed, but not heart broken. I had got the confirmation that my shape was spot on, and that gave me a lot of  self confidence. The rest was “just” three times of bad luck.

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Podium champaign at world champs (photo: Michal Cerveny)

Becoming an XCO world champion for the first time is forever going to be on of the greatest high lights of my career. I’m super proud of what I accomplished and enjoy pulling the rainbow jersey over my head every day. I am aware that you earn that jersey by winning that specific race on that specific day, but to be honest there’s so much more to it. This season so far I had a consistent high level ever since the Cape Epic in march. More consistent and high than any other season, and that is actually what means the most to me.

The race itself at worlds was incredible. I felt very strong and was able to pull away already at the end of the first lap. I did not have a specific plan on when, where or how to get away. I just kept the pace high, when it seemed the rest started to fade a bit. Being out there in front alone for such a long time takes a huge amount of mental energy. You have to stay so focused. On this specific day I was very ready for it and being fuelled by the possibility of winning a world champ title helped a lot. I could not have done this without my huge support team. The road was paved for me all the way, I just had to go out there and push the pedals.

Gold and silver for the Specialized girls (photo: Michal Cerveny)

Gold and silver for the Specialized girls (photo: Michal Cerveny)

The first time I wore the world champ jersey in Lenzerheide was quite special. I felt like I had gotten a new identity. I could not go anywhere without turning a lot of heads and being congratulated and taking photos with. Of course all this attention was very cool, but I must admit that handling this new situation was a little difficult the first day. Only after the race, I allowed myself to soak up all the attention and comments and then I could enjoy it big time. The race itself in Lenzerheide I was very satisfied with. After being in the lead for a long time, I ended up coming second after a strong ride by Jenny Rissveds. I simply didn’t have that little extra on the day to take the win. I had given it my everything the week before, which in turn gave me the rainbow jersey.

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Rainbow theme at the start line of the World Cup in Lenzerheide (photo: Michal Cerveny)

As for now, I have the final two world cup races and the Olympics ahead of me. I’ve decided to still do the world cup races, instead of putting everything aside for that one race in Rio. I’ve come to learn, that this is how I work the best.

At the Olympic Games in London I did make the qualification and was selected to go. At that time I had to put in a lot of work in order to even secure the spot. That meant, that an ideal and relaxed time to train and prepare well was sacrificed. Also, I managed to break my ribs at three different occasions within the year leading up to the race and had to do races in deep pain and completely out of energy. The final time I broke my ribs was only three weeks before the event. My federation and I decided that there was no point in me going, since I was injured, worn out and far from able to be at my best. To me this was a good decision. Unlike other athletes the Olympics was never a big dream of mine. I started my sport relatively late and Olympics was not something that I strived to obtain. I just hadn’t gotten to that point yet. To me it was much more about the process as an athlete, the constant feeling of improvement. The mental side had to keep up with my physical side and at that point I was not ready for the Games.

This time it’s different though. I still only have the experiences of the Olympics from last time, which were not very positive. Since 2012 I’ve gained a HUGE amount of experience which allows me to see the Games in a different light. Last time I was carried away by the big hype and attention that came along with the event. This time, I’ve been much better prepared for handling everything and much better at making choices and priorities. Some part of me still doesn’t get why this race is such a big thing. When it comes down to it, this event is pure politics more than anything else. Even our race does not have the same depth as at a World Cup (as it is limited to only 30 riders). On top of that it always seems to be a struggle for the organisers to get facilities ready and this year there’s the whole doping question regarding the russian athletes.

Well, this time I will be going to the Olympics. It gives me the opportunity to return with new impressions from the Olympic Games. Who knows, maybe I’ll gain some new perspectives once again.

3 Responses to “Mid-season reflections”

  1. Sofia says:

    Hi Anneka!! Im so happy because you are now the #1 favorite to win the Gold Medal in The Olimpics Games at Rio. Im your fan since you won whom i considered the stronger female mtb cyclist on the eart, in the world Championship rise. .. It was a landslide victory and you really impressed me. Really you’re now the #1 and I’m sure you will do very well in Rio so keep with the willpower to achieve your goals and Thank you for being such a fresh, enthusiastic and so beautiful smile girl… and super cool mtb girl ?. I speak Spanish but a translator can do everything ?. Greetings from America !! Hugs.

  2. Congratulations for your successes, Annika! It was the first time I read your blog and I enjoyed it very much. I also like how you look both strong and cool while riding among the best MTB athletes out there. Keep it up!

  3. Luciano Coelho says:

    Hello Annika,

    I’m from Brazil and I’m cheering for you in RIO 2016 !!!

    Go Annika #

Leave a Reply for Sofia