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Almost 2 weeks have passed since the World Cup in Zolder and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what happened there. Demoralizing and disappointing are understatements. I’d had a great week of training with Katie and Mark and more massage/body work with Paul. Ben had been there for a couple days – he had flown over so we could be together for Christmas and my birthday. Troy Laffey was also there to make sure everything was dialed mechanically and it was. My body was feeling good and I wanted so badly to have a good race in Zolder…but things don’t always go according to plan.

During the pre-ride on Christmas day, it was painfully obvious that being successful on this course would require a lot of nerve and grit because it was thick with snow and ice. Being loose and relaxed on the bike was going to be key. But….there were 2 sketchy downhills that I didn’t feel comfortable riding so right off the bat I had lost some confidence. There were also a couple steep run-ups that were so steep it would have been easier to chuck the bike to the top and then claw my way up the “wall”. No joke. Those weren’t a concern but more like “really?”. There was another tough section that included a tight and icy 180 degree turn that was no doubt easier to run. I definitely felt anxious, nervous and way out of my element. After a few laps around the course, working on the more difficult sections, my anxiety dropped a notch or two but I wasn’t exactly full of confidence.

The next day, my birthday, I woke up feeling a little less nervous. I kept telling myself everyone was in the same boat. No one would have an easy day out there. For some it would be easier than for others, but nothing was a gimme (unless you’re Katie Compton). The Juniors and U23’s also raced that day so by the time I got out for a few warm-up laps the course had changed a lot. There were a few more lines here and there but it also had become more slick in places from the snow being tamped down. But, after watching others struggle with the course just as much as I did, I decided that it was ok to run the sections I was uncomfortable with – when in doubt, run it out. Ride, run, just get the job done. I finished my warm up on the rollers, had my shoes set up with some serious toe spikes to help me on the run-ups and icy sections and rolled to the start feeling more at ease about the course then I did the day before. I also noticed that Hanka was a DNS so at least I had the nerve to start.

The anxiety shows...

I was called up number 14 again so another 2nd row start. The light turned green and the race was on. We all knew that once we hit the snow all hell would break loose. Sure enough, chaos. Bikes and people flying everywhere. I was taken down but grabbed my bike quickly and started running along with everyone else. Without the ability to find a line to ride in and still packed in like sardines, it meant that we had to run for what seemed like an eternity. Luckily I had good running legs that day and was able to pass a handful of people. Once space started to open up I jumped back on my bike but struggled getting clipped in – just like everyone else – and started to lose some of the spots that I had made up because it’s hard enough to pedal through snow with 2 legs, much less one. For most of the lap I was unable to ever get both feet clipped in, therefore making it extremely difficult to made any headway through the snow and all the little ups and downs. I was frustrated. And then, after coming off the ramp onto the pavement, I stood up to pick up speed and both feet came off the pedals. I landed on the top tube with both feel skidding along the pavement like the Flintstones but completely out of control. I thought I was either going to hit the pavement, hard, or run smack into the metal fencing lining the pavement. About 200m later I came to a halt after I had skimmed the fence with my knee. Little damage was done but that freakish episode scared the shit out of me. Ryan Trebon saw the whole thing and was impressed I held it up. Shaken up and pissed off I made my way to the pit, got a bike change and tried to keep going. A minute later I pulled myself off the course. I was DFL and had lost all my focus. There was no way to ride that course without total focus and determination. For the first time this year, after all the mishaps that I’ve had and kept going, this one got to me. I was done. No mas. My result from the previous weekend was disappointing. This performance was exasperating, demoralizing, disappointing, crushing. I went to the RV and had a total meltdown. Yup, I can admit that. Twenty minutes later, after letting all my frustrations out from the entire season, I felt better. Better is relative here, but better nonetheless. To make it even better, though, was watching Katie completely own that race. She killed it once again. And Sue and Mo both had top 20 finishes so it was a good day for the American women.

There was still some birthday celebrating to do so Ben and I went out for a nice dinner and drinks in Hasselt that night. It was quiet, peaceful and just what I needed.

Besides the fact that I didn’t get the results I wanted from the races, the trip was worth it. It’s not easy going to Europe and being comfortable in such a different environment, especially during the holidays, but being surrounded by good company made the day to day life easier. It was fortunate that Ben was able to be there with me and that we had such a large American contingent to keep the spirits high.

And a huge thanks again to Anthony, Cal Giant, Specialized for making the trip happen and to Ben for always being there along the way.

Now, I’m twiddling my thumbs, drumming my fingers and hitting USA Cycling’s refresh button every 5 minutes waiting for the World’s selection announcement to come out…..

January 7th, 2011. Written by meredith

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