Wow, what an incredible weekend of bike racing at the World Championships in Zolder. I'm pretty sure every event had incredible heart-stopping moments, although not all for the right reasons. The women's race was incredibly exciting, with so many lead changes, so many attacks and such a hard fought battle for the win. Cross really is an exciting sport to watch when the level of the riders is so equal. Although to be fair Thalita de Jong's last lap was significantly faster than anyone else's in the race.
As for my Worlds, well it was never going to be my World Championships; it was too fast and too tactical. These are both things I have worked really hard on but I just didn't have the legs on the day. I put myself in the right position at the start, but sadly nothing else happened, the legs weren’t there. Me and Stef have stayed away from the team hotel for a few years now as we like to keep the same routine we have for every race, so this time last year I booked us a hotel. We normally stay in a cute little house on the edge of the Zolder course, but they were already booked. I just found a place on the usual websites I use. On Saturday, tailwind assisted, I rode from the course to the B&B to spin my legs a little.
At this point, I should add that I used to live this side of Belgium and used to drive or ride past establishments called 'Gogo girls', 'motel session' and 'cupido' most days. All stood out with secluded parking areas and neon lights. Anyway, arriving at the hotel, on the corner of two main roads, with neon lights around the 'luxe kamers' sign by the enclosed courtyard I was starting to question what I had done. I couldn't imagine how a brothel could possibly be listed on bookings.com, but I guess you can never really know! I did relax slightly when the lady was discussing if we wanted tea or coffee in the morning. I realise my knowledge of the inner works of such places is based on hear say from young male bike riders. However, none of them ever mentioned breakfast when recanting their tales!!! It turned out to be a lovely little hotel but, funnily, Stef’s initial first impressions had matched mine.
So, back to racing and Saturday saw the first ever women’s under 23 cyclo-cross World Championships, which in itself is a big deal but for me personally it meant a huge amount, as I’d played a role in making it a reality. To put more icing on what was already a very tasty cake was a win by the British rider Evie Richards. Britain has always been successful in elite women's cross, and this just shows me that now and the future for GB is covered. I was sat in my camper, watching the race on my iPhone, cheering her on. I was covered in goosebumps listening to the British national anthem play during the presentation. Young riders inspire me as much as elite champions, and Evie, you have one massive future in cyclocross if you choose that path.
Then, on Saturday evening, the news of the alleged mechanical fraud broke. For all the wrong reasons, women's cross was in the news. I cannot even begin to understand why or how this happened. I love my sport, and I try so hard to progress the women's side to the point where we can be equal to the men. I put my neck on the line to make changes for all the up and coming riders, and certainly to my own detriment at times, and then this. So much has been said and speculated, and confirmed since the weekend, that all I have left to say is I don't think she should be made an extreme example of. I have read a lot on the internet stating how this is worse than doping. To me, personally, it is not, they’re both simply cheating. I won’t dwell on it; my focus is on the other riders in the race. Evie, let’s go bike riding together this summer, you can teach me some tricks.
So then we move on to day two of the championships and that poor Czech u23 who thought the race was a lap shorter than it was and celebrated a win before realizing his mistake. Absolute drama. In the afternoon, the men's race was way more interesting than it had looked set to be, as the MVDP [Mathieu Van der Poel] showdown just didn't quite work out. Obviously not helped by the foot in wheel incident. Instead, we got a thrilling, lead changing, down-to-the-wire race, a fantastic way to end the weekend. Plus, I got a few minutes in the UCI TV channel booth with Anthony and Simon, to see a different way to watch the race, this time from the commentator’s viewpoint. That was a lot of fun and significantly warmer than standing outside! If you heard me, I hope I sounded knowledgeable. Plus, I did call the winner FYI
The season for me isn't quite over yet as here in Belgium we have the final BPost Bank Trofee, two Superprestige races and Oostmalle on the 21st February. More importantly, it's the cross commission meeting at the end of February where everything gets decided for next season. I have plans people. Women's cross will be equal, and this is the time to sort it. No rest for the wicked!!
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