(photo credit: Richard Nemec)
Finally! Finally, I got the top ten at a World Cup that I have been wanting, craving, coveting for so long. And it wasn’t like I just snuck inside the top ten – I scored a solid sixth place. But, before I get to the nitty gritty of the race, I’m going to rewind to the week leading up to Tábor.
As you know from my previous blog, the Valkenburg World Cup was a total disappointment. It was the worst result ever (ever!) for me at a World Cup in five years of racing in Europe. It took a couple days to clear my head after that one.
During the week in Sittard, I had some of the best rest I’ve had in months. Since July, Johs and I have been remodeling our house, which has required constant attention and labor. In Sittard I had nothing to do but eat, sleep, relax and ride. Although I was hovering on the edge of boredom, the downtime was much appreciated…it felt good to be bored for a change.
Also at USA Cycling’s HQ’s last week was the women’s track pursuit team (Cari Higgins, Ruth Winder, Beth Newell, Kim Geist and Jade Wilcoxson) who are in Holland preparing for the first track World Cup coming up this weekend. The best part of having them at Fitland was that for once the women outnumbered the guys at the dinner table! And, they brought a nice change of scenery and humor to the group. Riding with them on the road was fun, too, as we all felt more at home and ease within a big group of loud, obnoxious Americans. You should have seen us take over the all-you-can-eat sushi joint in town!
So, the week leading up to Tábor couldn’t have been more ideal. However, the travel day to Czech was a little bit on the stressful side as we jumped from train, plane to automobile to get to our destination. Add on that we were hauling a massive amount of equipment and luggage, and getting from A to B was even more challenging. But, we made it with everything and everyone intact so that was a positive.
I was excited to get to the course for a pre-ride on Friday. Tábor holds a special place in my heart as it was the venue for my first Worlds experience (where I finished 12th) in 2010. I went back in 2011 for the World Cup and was suppose to go back last year but missed it because of my broken hand.
The course this year was very similar to the previous years, so I was pretty familiar with the layout. Basically, it’s low on the technical scale and high on the power scale. This year the course was essentially dry and heavy because of the abundant amount of grass. And it’s wide open around the entire course, which provided ample passing room.
The two most challenging sections are right after the stairs and the barriers. The run-in to the stairs is slightly uphill and then the stairs themselves are steep. At the top of the stairs the climb keeps going, so you have to remount, get in the pedals and start pedaling quickly before losing any momentum (otherwise you’re off the bike and running). Same goes right after the barriers – the barriers are set on a climb and it keeps going once you’re back on your bike. Going from pedaling to running then to hard, uphill pedaling is brutal.
The rest of the course is either up or down, and the up is what suits me well. On Friday I felt good. I was hammering out the laps with ease. I knew that if I felt good on race day, a top ten was within reach.
On race day, I woke up feeling confident and ready. My head was good. My legs were good. I rolled over to the course in time to get in some warm-up laps just after the U23 race. The course was in prime condition, almost like it had been tailor made for me.
After the Valkenburg World Cup, I moved up the UCI rankings from 35th to 25th, so my start position was much better. I was second row with my handlebars butting up against the riders on the front row (there is no subtlety in the staging area in Europe). I lined up behind Lucie Chainel-Lefevre from France. The light turned green (no whistle) and….Lucie missed her pedal. I had to hesitate behind Lucie before getting up to speed leading into the hole shot.
By the time we hit the grass I was probably 15th wheel. Not ideal but on this course it wasn’t something to fret about. I settled into my rhythm and made passes lap after lap on the tough uphill sections. With some big efforts, I found myself sitting inside the top ten.
(photo credit: Patricia Cristens)
I kept on the gas as riders were fading in front of me. With two laps to go I was riding with another Frenchie, Christel Ferrier-Bruneau, in fifth and sixth place. She and I traded turns on the front as Sanna Cant (Belgium) came within striking distance. Shortly after starting the last lap we made contact with Sanne. The race was on for fourth!
On the top portion of the course, there are several places where we go slightly down, make a u-turn and then go back up again. This is where I wanted to make a move, but my plan was derailed. Just before entering the u-turn, I tried to shift into my big chain ring but the chain fell to the outside. As we rode through the u-turn, I was breaking and pedaling at the same time to get my chain back on. Before I could get my chain back on, Sanne put in a big effort and she and Christel opened a gap on me.
(photo credit: Richard Nemec)
With a half lap to go, I wasn’t able to close the gap. I came across the line with a big smile on my face for sixth. It’s the best result I’ve had at a World Cup by far – my previous best was 11th at Namur last year. Sure, fourth was close but I am ecstatic with sixth! A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
Tábor turned out to be a big day for the American women. Katie Compton won in typical fashion, Kaitie Anntoneau was ninth and Arley Kemmerer was 15th. Four riders in the top fifteen is quite outstanding!
Thank you to everyone who sent me messages on Facebook and Twitter congratulating my effort. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – having so much support makes all the difference in the world (quite literally)!
It’s also worth mentioning that Tábor was my last race in pink. October is always a special month as I ride in support of breast cancer awareness month. The moment when I put away my pink kit is a sad one. Thank you to everyone who has supported Pretty in Pink in 2013!