American Meredith Miller (Cal Giant Berry Farms) is entering her second cyclo-cross world championships a lot more positive than last year. Based on results alone - especially her recent performance in the Kalmthout and Zolder World Cups, it would seem she'd be a little more unsure of her potential but results don't always tell the whole story.
"My season has definitely had its ups and downs. [In many of the races] there was some sort of mishap right in the beginning, whether it was a bad start, a crash or course tape taking me out, where I had to fight my way back. In the US, it's easier to get back up to the front, so I was able to do that several times. But coming over here to Europe during the Christmas break for those two World Cups was disappointing. In Kalmthout, I had a bad start, then a bad crash in the last lap where there was nothing I could do to make up spots. And in Zolder it was a mechanical that took me out of that," said Miller.
A part of the sole of her shoe came off due to a loosened toe spike in the first lap. It covered her cleat, making it impossible to clip in. She found that out the hard way, on the finishing straight when she attempted to stand up with full force on the pedals only to end up sitting, legs spread, on the top tube of her bike. Once the problem was fixed in the pit, it was too hard to fight back from last place on such a technical course.
After that race, she awarded herself a proper pity party before getting back on the job. "I went into the RV and had a good cry. I will admit that I had a good breakdown, just let it all out from an entire season. Then I took a couple of days off to rejuvenate, recuperate, recover, rest."
What got her motivated again was watching a few of the World Cups on video. "Katie was just out killing everybody, and I thought - damn it! I know I am a better rider than this and I don't want to finish the season that way. I was hoping at that point I was still going to be selected for the Worlds team so I could come back over and redeem myself. I am really glad to get that opportunity - and then to have a good race at Hoogerheide World Cup [a week before the world championships] has definitely helped the confidence."
In addition to a renewed confidence, another factor in Miller's favor is the course conditions. "Since the course is super heavy with lots of little hills and mud you gotta have good legs. Hopefully that will play to my advantage where I can use my power and go for it. As long as I ride strong and relaxed in the mud sections then I think I should do ok. "
As for her specific goal for the big day, Miller takes a calculating approach. "I am still trying to figure things out here in Europe, and where I fit in. I have done five World Cups although I'm going to forget the two earlier this season," she said, joking.
"But last year, I finished 12th at Roubaix, 20th in Hoogerheide and 12th at Worlds - then 12th again this season in Hoogerheide. So 12th seems to be where I'm at. If I could go to Worlds and finish better than 12th, somewhere in the top 10 - that would be fantastic ."
But no matter the result, Miller will continue to count her blessings that she had this opportunity. "I am incredibly thankful to Cal Giant and Specialized as well as SRAM and Zipp for being so supportive of all our goals. It's because of them that we have been able to get over here to Europe and travel so much in the US. We are very lucky."