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USAC CX Devo blog: Tearing it up in Zolder

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Cooper Willsey competes in Zolder World Cup.

Cooper Willsey competes in Zolder World Cup. (Image credit: USAC CX Devo)
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The start-finish in Zolder.

The start-finish in Zolder. (Image credit: USAC CX Devo)
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The run-up in Zolder.

The run-up in Zolder. (Image credit: USAC CX Devo)
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The course in Zolder incorporated an F1 track.

The course in Zolder incorporated an F1 track. (Image credit: USAC CX Devo)
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Cooper Willsey competes in Zolder World Cup.

Cooper Willsey competes in Zolder World Cup. (Image credit: USAC CX Devo)

December 26, where many are sleeping in and relaxing after celebrating Christmas. For those of us staying in Vorselaar, Belgium, with the USAC Cx Devo Block #3, there is no sleeping in or relaxing today.

Cameron, Lance, Spencer, Gage and I woke up at 5:30 to begin our race day for World Cup Zolder. We ate, gathered our bags and departed at 6:30 in a Team USA Sprinter bus filled with bikes, gear and droopy-eyed juniors. After a quick 40-minute drive we arrived at the venue – an F1 track. This is a very special track in itself. With a good mix of climbs, drops, pavement, mud and sand, this track has a little bit of everything. Along with a World Cup for cyclo-cross, the venue will be hosting the 2015 BMX World Championships in July.

Having pre-ridden on Christmas day, we all had a good idea of what the course would look like. We had dialed in our lines the day before and left our Sprinter van confident. We hopped onto the course as the sun rose behind us, obscured by the thick fog and cloud cover. It had rained yesterday and there were puddles scattered about. Many of the spots that were wet yesterday were now drier, and the dry spots from yesterday were slippery. Many of the lines we had dialed Thursday were now overridden and rutted.

After taking two laps in the early light that shone through the low clouds, we washed our bikes and put on our race uniforms. We vigorously warmed up on our trainers before we rode off to the start line.

Last year, when I raced at Zolder I got the holeshot, so I knew where I wanted to be in the grid and when to move up. I lined up fourth row on the right side of the grid and pushed my way up into second row. When the lights turned green, I clipped in and immediately moved onto Gage’s wheel. I knew it was a long holeshot, so I waited to jump. When the straightaway shifted to the left about 400 meters after the start I made my move up the outside right of the field into the inside of the switchback right-hand turn. I was off to a good start near the top 10 coming out of the first turn with my USA teammates right behind me.

Last year, I learned that on these harder European courses I needed to conserve more energy in the early laps if I still wanted to be competitive in the end of the race. So I settled into a group that was riding in the top 20 for the majority of the first two laps. The group began to deteriorate as the laps ticked away and I found myself coming into the last ronde with two other riders. I felt strong and was confident I could beat them.

At the end of the race I had trouble clipping back in after the very steep run-up (pictured) and a gap opened to the riders ahead of me. I chased as hard as I could but had to settle for 16th. The result was one spot off my goal, but I cannot complain with my best-ever finish in a World Cup!

I hope to get faster with every race I do, and I cannot thank USA Cycling, Mark Gullickson, Geoff Proctor and Jim Miller enough for this opportunity to race against the best in the world. I would also like to thank Jake Hollenbach, Stu Thorne, Chandler Delinks and all who have supported me this season!

In its 12th year, Geoff Proctor's EuroCrossCamp has now been made part of the official USA Cycling Cyclo-cross Development Program. Designed to develop the next generation of American cyclo-cross talent in the categories of under-26 women, under-23 men and junior me, its primary focus is on international competition including World Cups and the World Championships. The program now supports three blocks of racing overseas for the development riders. The third block is based in Vorselaar, Belgium and includes the Bpost Bank Trofee series event in Essa, the World Cups in Namur and Zolder, Superprestige Diegem, and Bpost Bank Trofee events in Loenhout and Baal.