Worlds was a good event. I was happy to have a good day when it counted. I had a fourth row start right next to Zdenek Stybar. You couldn't ask for a better World Champion. He is normal, approachable, and an all around nice guy. He is a good role model for professionals here in Europe. Here are the kinds of things a champion does. He helps fix Ryan Trebon's number on the start line. He greets my wife and kids by name every time he sees them. He ignores the boos of the crowd as he rides to his third world championship. The best man won, and since he crossed the line first it doesn't matter what his detractors say. Stybar is the World Champion.
This event was one of the easiest races of my career. The Dutch did a great job organizing and USA Cycling helped fill in the gaps. I was able to drive in without credentials for warm-up, do my thing, get changed, pick up my kit and papers, and head back to the hotel where I met Cori and the kids for dinner. We chowed down on some Annies Mac & Cheese in the trailer before calling it a night. The hotel breakfast was expensive so we grabbed some of the baguettes that were available in the hotel, Cori picked up some maple syrup bacon, and we cooked it up for a perfect pre-race meal. I was able to catch up with Tim and Ryan for a bit, and then it was race time.
I knew Stybar would get a good start, and coming off the pavement I was close to the front. Everybody was pumped full of adrenaline and the deep ruts were throwing people all over the place. Near a fast corner before the bridge they had put sand into some of the worst ruts, but they were still causing havoc. On the bridge somebody missed a gear and started coming back on me. I was almost clear when the rider in front fell backwards, and then I was hit 3-4 times from behind. It was like a rugby scrum, there were people piled all around me, including on my head. There was nowhere to go and I had to wait for the mess to clear before re-starting.
From that point on it was damage control, and I used whatever people I could find to jump from group to group. It was crazy because we were only two minutes into the race when the mess on the bridge happened. When I passed Cori she was yelling strong "encouragement", which wouldn't be appropriate to print here. Later she told me she stopped counting where I was in the field after 30 riders went by. She was worried I might have messed up the start, which I told her I would not do under any circumstances.
I knew from the beginning that the ruts would cause havoc. I saw one guy in front of me hit a rut and do a face plant. Still, I was going faster than most and it's nice to pass people instead of being passed. Somebody sent me my lap times after the race, and if not for the bridge incident, I might have been able to turn a respectable result into a great one. Regardless of the outcome, it was a fun race. I feel like I have finally hit a good stride and I'm looking forward to the next few weekends.
The tribute to Amy Dombroski on the American kit was a touching memorial to a wonderful person. Amy and I would talk at races and exchange jokes about life overseas. I remember her as a smiling, genuine soul, and her passing is a tragic loss for both her family and the cyclo-cross community. The kit had a band on the arm with her name, the inside collar had a memorial for Amy, and we all wore the Amy D. socks with her trademark lightning bolt. I am auctioning off the kit to help support the Amy D. Foundation.
I have five races over the next three weeks, including Hoogstraten this coming weekend, so it will be pretty busy here this February. After that it will be time to hit the slopes in Switzerland!