First I need to set the scene prior to the race, prior to the start line and before I had even entered the venue.
For the first time ever I was going to be traveling to a major race on my own. All I would have to guide me there was a hand full of printed directions, a notepad and my phone. This time I was on my own. Travel is something that I really enjoy, it’s about the journey you take and the roads that lead you to the final destination. In this case it was 42hrs of Planes, trains, taxis and lifts with people I had never met before.
A short run down on how I found myself at the start line and the 48hrs prior.
Thursday – With 24hrs to my flight I found out that the current plans of staying with a contact in France for the world cup and week to follow had fallen through leaving me with no accommodation car or way of getting 250km down south of Paris airport. Luckily arrangements were quickly made and I was able to get a lift from the airport to one of the major train stations in Paris were my adventure really started.
Once arriving at the train station I struggled my way through the crowd carrying two bikes, three sets of wheels, a suitcase and a rather overly packed backpack to the counter. Using broken French booked a ticket to Bourges well at least that’s what I was hoping I did. 3 hours of waiting around in the station before getting on the train showed me some interesting humans that live in Paris. Another 3 hours later I arrived in Bourges and made my way to the Taxi rank were there was no taxis. Another 30mins passed and finally a taxi pulled up. The driver looked at my bag and said what I think wa s“I will get a bigger car” or something along those lines. Another 15 minutes passed and I was starting to feel the -1 temperature right to the bone. It was a big shift from training in 42 degrees just 24 hours ago. Once I got in the taxi I headed off to my hotel that I had booked on the morning of my flight departure. It was a nice clean hotel and on the outskirts of the town leaving me very isolated from any shops. As I arrived and checked into my hotel I walked into the room and collapsed exhausted on the bed. 7 hours later I woke at 10:30pm ready to go get dinner but because I had slept for so long all the restraunts were now closed and I would have to wait until 6am were I could go down to the breakfast buffet.
Friday – I woke at 5:55am and raced down stairs and started to eat anything and everything in sight. I must have looked like I hadn’t eaten in 24hrs, that’s probably because I hadn’t. After an hour of continually stuffing my face with food I headed back up to my room and built my bikes while waiting for the sun to rise. 8am and the sun was just starting to light the sky, I headed out on a 4km walk to what I thought was the local supermarket. As it turns out the supermarket that I walked into was actually the supermarkets national customer call center. Quickly I realized that these people in suits and ties didn’t have much food for me I headed in the direction of the next nearest supermarket that was another 6km away.
A very long time later I managed to get some food for the weekend and headed home. Just my luck on the way home it started to snow, because it wasn’t already cold enough and I hadn’t already run and walked enough for the morning. In the end it was a 15km round trip just to get a few items so I didn’t starve while I was out at the race venue. I don’t normally go for a 15km Jog two days before a world cup, I don’t normally jog at all.
Saturday – I woke early and had breakfast as per normal. I put on all my warm bike clothes and stuffed all my hire car paperwork into my back pack. I jumped on my bike and rode the 10km to the hire car office where I could finally get my own transport for the weekend.
I was a bit stressed that I might not be able to hire a car as I was under 25 and also on my green P plates back home but I presume if you show up and have money and some form of drivers license they will give you a car. I got the car no worries and headed back to the Hotel where I picked up all my gear and left for the race site.
Upon arriving at the course I meet fellow Aussies Lisa Jacobs, Garry Millburn and Noah Barrow who were just about to complete a few laps. After a few laps and bike adjustments I packed the car and headed home before it got dark and very cold.
Sunday – Another early breakfast and I was on my way for the day. I had packed the car in the dark and headed for to course that was 45mins away. It was pretty fun driving a manual car on the wrong side of the road especially in the narrow streets were your mirrors nearly touch the walls.
I arrived at the venue and found the rider parking setting up my practice bike to go do a few laps with the new adjustments of seat height and handlebar angle. I completed a short warmup on the road before doing two practice laps to check my setup and tire pressure. It was all spot on. After practice I washed my bike and got into my race kit with multiple layers on top trying to keep warm in the 2’C temperatures. I set up my race bike and headed off to Lisa Jacobs mechanics who had offered to be in the pits with my spare bike for me. Originally I was just going to leave my spare in the pits like we do back home but Lisa informed me that it’s ‘’a bit’’ bigger over here and I would be using here mechanics of my race. I honestly didn’t know about mechanics, I was just on an adventure going to race my bike.
I checked my tire pressures and headed off for a warm up on the road as I didn’t have a wind trainer or rollers to use. It was not my best warm up as I was a little pushed for time due to everything taking longer to set up with the freezing conditions. After a few efforts my legs starting to feel looser I headed for the staging area not wanting to miss the start. With 10 minutes till the start the commisare started to call all the riders up in UCI ranking. I was towards the back as I only had points from our nation championships last year and had not done any U23 World Cup races before, but that was okay because this race was going to be a big learning curve.
3 minutes before the start and I undone my longs and gave them toLisa’s mechanic. I also had leg warmers on and decided that I would keep them on as I was not yet accustomed to the cold temperatures due to the vast difference from back home to here
I looked up at the lights as they were about to go. I was on my way at my first ever CX World Cup.
The lights change to Green just like a race car start. We were all off flying down the straight and into the first few turns. It was crowded with people pushing everywhere. I tried to keep my cool and not make anymistakes. Along the first off camber section and up the stairs before going straight into a soft sand and mud section were everyone was running. I threw my bike on my shoulder and started to run as fast as I could. The course was fast just like back home and it was a little bit slippery in some sections but not like the complete mud bath that I was expecting. The first lap passed and I was still hanging onto the back of a group just inside the top 30 but I was starting to feel the pinch in my legs from all that running on Friday.
For the Second and third lap I lost a few places making some stupid mistakes. It was very simple stuff that normally I could do but I wasn’t feeling quite right on my bike it was like I had no balance. This might have been due to the time zone difference and the lack of sleep from travel or dehydration. I’m not sure what it was but usually your first race is always the toughest. I struggled on for the next few laps trying not to lose contact with the Spanish rider that was just ahead. I focused on trying to get the little sections right and then working on linking those little sections together to create a more consistent lap.
I was really starting to struggle on the second last lap making a lot of mistakes and having all my technique and skill go out the window. My legs were dead and I was struggling just to stay awake making for some very close calls with the fences. I battled on just wanting to finish not worrying about what place I came. As I made my way down the straight I realized that I wasn’t going to be pulled from the race and I was still within the 80% rule and this gave me a little bit of energy to make it through the tough muddy off camber section just after the start/finish.
As I was on my last lap all of a sudden things started to click and it was like I was a complete different rider. I could finally ride in the ruts and let the bike slide around the corners underneath me. Swinging back onto the finish straight I was happy to see the line and be able to end the pain my legs were in. I don’t know if it was from the running or the race but my legs felt like concrete.
I was happy to finish my first CX World Cup race in Europe in 34th and on the lead lap. It is a lot faster over here compared to back home as everyone is quick and will fight for every position. Now I have a week before the next World Cup so I will get some solid training in and hopefully get a better result.