World Championships report, September 30, 2006
At the end of the 2005 racing season, when the future of the T-Mobile women's team was still up in the air, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to race at least one more year. So when the sponsorship came through and our team moved it's headquarters to Germany, it was like a dream come true. But all season long, I knew this would be my final season of racing. I love racing in Europe and, honestly, I would love to live in Europe. But I've reached a point in my life where I feel I need to accomplish new goals in a new realm and attain success in a different field. And with my husband racing on a top domestic squad, I get too lonely with us living on separate continents. I love to ride my bike. That will never change. And knowing all year that this would be my last racing season really gave me a chance to look at the bigger picture and appreciate all that the cycling life has offered me.
One of the greatest things I will take from cycling is the friends that I've made throughout the world. I've met so many people through this sport - most very cool but some not. All my best friends in the world, including my husband, all came to me through sports. University cross-country, triathlon, duathlon and cycling all provided me with the gift of life-long friendships. This past August, at the French World Cup, I came down to breakfast and sitting there at the next table was a great friend that I hadn't seen in over two years. Anke Erlank, a great South African cyclist and triathlete, was my teammate on both Autotrader.com and Saturn. We'd travelled and raced together all over the States, Bermuda, Australia, and Europe. The past few years our paths had crossed randomly and when we did meet up, we'd start chatting like we'd never been apart, which is exactly what we did there in Plouay. We got to see each other again briefly at the World Championships and although I have no idea when I may see Anke again, I know that I will.
My final races of the season consisted of three world cups, Tour of Toscana, and the World Championships. We went to Toscana to use the stage race as final preparation for the worlds. Judith, Ina, Magali, and Amy had already been named to their respective Worlds' squads, but Kim and I were still waiting to hear from our federation. I was so relieved when I finally heard Kim and I had been chosen for the U.S. team because I really didn't want my career to end with Toscana. We were hit with so much rain during that race. The roads were so dirty and greasy that we were absolutely covered in filth by the end of the rainy stages. Our team was dwindling fast, too. Amy had to drop out after the first stage as her body was just so tired from a season of racing. Magali left about two stages later as the rain really got to her. Judith crashed on a wet descent on the longest day and although she started the stage the next day, she called it quits soon after. By the penultimate stage, it was just Kim, Ina, and I. Kim and I knew we weren't racing the next day since our flight to the worlds was before the stage was even scheduled to start. This was going to be my final stage ever! Unfortunately, about a third of the way into the stage, it started to pour rain again. I just couldn't take it. Thank God I was going to the worlds so I wouldn't have to end my career on this note. I pulled out early and was later grateful that I did. Ina and Kim finished the stage in the rain but both woke up sick the next morning. And we were on to Austria!
The venue for the world championships in Salzburg was absolutely beautiful. Definitely the best world championships I've ever been to. Having my husband on the team as well was icing on the cake. I hadn't seen Chris since July 11th so I practically tackled him when he came in from his ride after Kim and I first arrived. The U.S. team was staying in this incredible guest house about 10km outside of Salzburg, run by an incredible man named Fritz. Fritz took such good care of everyone and we ate like kings.
The U.S. team this year was top notch. I knew our three women in the time trial would do well, and it was nerve-racking watching the race on Eurosport. But when Kristin crossed the line with the best time, I knew she could not be beaten. A world champion! Watching the medal ceremony on TV, with Christine earning the bronze, and then seeing Kristin in her world champion jersey was surreal. I've ridden with Kristin since she made the switch from triathlon, and her progress in the sport has been incredible. She is a true champion. That night Fritz threw a big party for the whole U.S. team and we drank cake and champagne in Kristin and Christine's honor. It was such positive energy. It was so motivating.
The next day I was able to ride in the follow-car during Chris' time trial. I was so proud of him yet so nervous, and I couldn't even look up when he was going through the technical corners at top speed. But honestly, how cool to be watching my husband race the world championships. I know he was really disappointed with his race, and in my heart I know, if the circumstances had been a little different, he would have had a hell of a ride and result. It was a great experience for him though, and I hope he'll aim for Stuttgart next year.
Dave Zabriskie carried on the American medal momentum with his silver medal and Fritz threw us another party. He also gave Dave a very special gift - a brand new pair of lederhosen. I hope he wore those while he was at Interbike. Those things are cool, even if you are never supposed to wash them.
Our U.S women's road-race team was the best it's been in years; Amber Neben, Tina Pic, Kristin, Christine, Kim, and myself. I was honored to be a part of it. We really enjoyed each other's company too, laughing together at meals, training and getting lost together in the hills around Salzburg, singing Sound of Music tunes. THIS is what I'll really miss. And having the chance to watch the men's race on Sunday, cheering for my husband as I rode around to different spots on the course, well how cool is that?
Now Chris and I are finally back home, together, and it's a great feeling. I'm not sad. I'm quite excited, actually. I've just about completed my studies for my real estate license in Colorado and hope to start working in the field later this fall. With my teammate Mari Holden working real estate in CO Springs and me in Boulder, we hope to take over the Front Range one day! I have a lot of irons in the fire too as far as something to keep me within the cycling realm. Hopefully something will come through.
So thank you to all my teams, my sponsors, my family and friends, and especially my husband, for supporting me these past eight years of cycling. And thank you to all the people that read my diary on Cyclingnews.com and told me they enjoyed reading. That's a great feeling. It's been an incredible ride and I hope to see you all down the road.
Kimberly (Bruckner) Baldwin
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