Last weekend I did the Cyclocross World Cup in Denmark and with that I round off my cyclocross adventure for now.
When Denmark was selected to host a round of the Cyclocross World Cup, immediately I thought “Hey, that’s pretty cool, whenever will I get the chance to race a World Cup on Danish ground again?” and so we started to work on a plan to make it happen. Racing world class races in November is not usually on my schedule, so that was one of the biggest challenges, since what’s the point / fun in racing at a time, when I’m usually at the furthest away from top shape throughout the entire year? (Admittedly, I’m a racer by heart and racing “just for the fun/experience of it” is not my strong side. I like going as fast as I possibly can.) Nevertheless, we made a plan that looked like this:
September: Race the two first CX World Cups straight after MTB Worlds in Australia and use whatever shape is still left to collect UCI points and gain experience.
October: Take some time off after my summer season.
End October / Start November: Put in a training block before the CX WC in Denmark.
The plan went quite well. The two first rounds of the CX World Cup were straight after MTB World Champs in Australia and therefore it was quite “easy” to just keep the momentum going. I had a blast of a race at the first WC in Iowa. Having no CX World ranking points at all I was called up dead last as no. 40-50 something. The conditions on the course were quite good: It was very dry = plenty of room for overtaking and the course had a long rideable climb which saw me move forward quite fast. I hadn’t had time to train CX specifically, but on this course my MTB background could take me far. The last third of the race I had moved so far up the ranks, that I was even racing in the group for 3rd place. In the end, a small chain mishap at a crucial point saw me draw the shortest straw and take 7th. Still, I was pretty thrilled, because I had raced my hart out and I left hugely motivated for the following weekend in Madison.
I was soon to realise, that CX WC rules are different than MTB WC in the fact that starting position is always decided by current World Raking and NOT current World Cup ranking. That meant, that the following weekend I would once again start at the very back, since I had no CX World Ranking points due to the fact, that the previous year, I hadn’t done any CX racing (Yes, I know that it is not very professional to not be familiar with that rule, but then again – I’m not a CX pro)
Madison didn’t go as well as Iowa. It was scorching hot and I didn’t have the same powerful punchy legs. Also, I managed to crash and brake my front wheel 30 min before the start, which I had trouble shaking off quickly. In the race I rode as well as I could, but I couldn’t go the pace I did just the week before. But still, valuable experience gained these two races.
Fast forward to mid November. Leading up to the WC in Denmark I had a good month’s training in the books. Here I incorporated more intense and short intervals into my training in order to adapt to the demands of CX racing. I managed to find myself feeling good and strong doing these workouts and felt I was back after a post season break. Only hiccup was a small cold I caught 1,5 weeks before the race, possibly due to a bit forced increase in training. This meant, that I had to take some time off and prioritise recovering over training. (Classic Life of a Cyclist). You win some, you lose some.
It was my very first time being in Bogense (Denmark), where the World Cup was held. The city is placed on the Northern cost of the Island Fyn (Funen) and revealed itself as a beautiful, small city. I went training on the course for Saturday and soon realised, that the metal spikes I had mounted on my cycling shoes would come into good use. The characteristics of the course was pretty much: Flat and very windy grass sections with corners and some short climbs and descends that were so steep, that they became unridable, or at least – running was faster. In other words, not a course that really suited me. Nevertheless I gave it my best and ended up crossing the finishline in 27th position. I had hoped for more, but I just didn’t have more on raceday.
Doing those CX World Cups taught me a bunch of things. Most importantly, in order to do well here, you need to invest a lot of time and energy racing just in order to collect points to get a good starting position. You really need to specialize in cyclocross and plan your season aiming for top shape during the winter. Especially since also in this discipline, the level seems to be increasing, or at least more strong girls commit to cyclocross and thereby the depth of the field is growing (YAY!). Another thing you need is a good setup around you. It takes a lot of equipment and people to help out at races. In cyclocross bike swopping is part of the race and while you race on the one bike, your helper washes the other bike and clean off the mud, which eventually gets you through the race without mechanicals.
Cyclocross World Champs will be held on the same course in Denmark in 2019, but for now that won’t be a goal of mine. Combining a summer season and a winter season isn’t possible for me. If I were to aim at racing CX Worlds in 2019, I would only go for it, if I was able to make good preparations and gain more specific experience with a realistic possibility to make a good result. Racing just for the sake of being in that race isn’t a motivation for me. I feel that if I have to be competetive in January 2019 I will have to collect cyclocross world ranking points this entire season and the next. And doing that will simply be too much for me. I know other people do it but for me it takes a lot of mental and physical energy getting ready for races and I can only do so many in a year.
My main focus still is MTB, so for now CX remains a fun little winter activity. In Copenhagen there are a lot of local cx races during the winter and for me it’s an easy way to get in a fun and intense training. But dapping a bit into CX WC’s left me with a lot of respect for those girls who weekend after weekend battle it out in cold and muddy conditions.