After the weekend in France, we loaded up the cars and headed for Sittard where we spent four days leading up to our next transfer to Hoogerheide. These last few days were definitely an exercise in patience in the lead up to the big day. The game of hurry up and wait can drive oneself to near insanity. Only two more days to go now.
As we pulled up to the venue, my excitement levels peaked and my adrenaline began to flow. As we unloaded the bikes, I naturally became my giddy, grinning ear-to-ear self. As I said hello to friends from around the world, my grin got bigger and bigger.
Today was the first official pre-ride session. The course was open for two hours in the afternoon. There weren’t a ton of people out today as the guys racing on Sunday aren’t too keen to spend too much time on the course just yet. It was mostly just the juniors and the women – the two groups racing on Saturday. It was nice having a clear, open course as I familiarized myself with its ebbs and flows.
When I saw Marianne Vos, the woman who dominates the world on any bike, arrive at the venue, I think that’s when it hit me. This is real. This is it. It’s nearly race day. The one we’ve been waiting for all season.
I definitely had a giant smile plastered to my face during my brief warm-up on the road. From there, I hit the course where I did a few laps with the exclusive goal of getting a feel for all the various elements. I wasn’t overly concerned with the lines I would choose. Given the forecast (rain!), I know the course will change quite a bit between my pre-ride today and my race on Saturday. I’ll start to pay attention to lines tomorrow and really focus on them during warm-up on Saturday.
Today the course was dry – by Dutch standards, anyway. There were a handful of thick muddy sections. None of them were too long (40 metres at most) or too technical. I suspect the mud factor to increase by the time it’s my turn to race.
There’s a forested section of the course that is pretty sandy. Even with rain, this section shouldn’t get too muddy, but a couple sections could get rutted. If it’s not rutted for the elite women’s race on Saturday, it will definitely be rutted by the time the men race the following day as rider after rider digs out the sand.
The course itself is similar to what I’ve seen from past World Cups hosted here. A lot of the same features used in past races are included in the World Championships course, although the approaches to these features vary.
My favorite features are the two flyovers that sit side-by-side but flow in opposing directions. You ride over the first one, make a short loop around and then hit the second in the opposite direction. The first flyover has a difficult approach. A muddy section with thick, deep ruts sits ahead of it. If you don’t get a good line and maintain good speed, you might end up running up the flyover. I can imagine this will happen to quite a few people on lap one.
The start section of the course is far longer than most. We probably spend a good 300 meters on pavement. The hole shot is a sharp left hand turn with a drop into a grassy field. This section may get super muddy, and if that’s the case, I predict total chaos on race day. People will be off their bikes and running straightway. Today, it wasn’t muddy and it was a completely benign section.
Overall, I rate the course as fun and exciting. It’s no doubt a World Championships quality course. Like every other European course I’ve encountered, it’s also hard, heavy and includes a bit of everything. I hope everyone can tune in to watch because it will undeniably be a good show.
My goal is a top ten. That’s always the objective at this point. It’s my standard response when it comes to European racing. There have been times in the past when this would have been a stretch or a hope. This year, I honestly expect it of myself. I know it’s possible. I also know that I need to change the way my first lap looks in order to achieve it.
It’s an exciting group of American women representing the red, white and blue on Saturday. Katie Compton will line-up as one of two favorites. Marianne is obviously the other major contender. Katie has shown that she can beat Marianne this year, and I am, along with countless others, rooting for Katie to finally pull on that coveted rainbow jersey.
Katie’s not the only American rider to watch on Saturday. The American squad has great depth. Between Katie, Kaitie, Elle Anderson, Crystal Anthony, Arley Kemmerer and myself, it’s possible to see us with two or three riders (or more!) in the top ten. I think we’re capable of a huge showing.
I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about how to watch Worlds from the States. Here’s the most comprehensive answer I’ve found (and includes information for viewers worldwide): How to Watch the World Championships Live. Check it out, tune in and cheer us on. We may be separated by an ocean on Saturday, but we’ll still hear you! Every shout goes a long, long way!