Canadian Craig Richey (CyclocrossRacing.com p/b Blue) represented his country at the World Cyclocross Championships at St. Wendel. Read on for his words about the experience.
by Craig Richey
Competing at the Cyclocross World Championships in Saint Wendel, Germany, was a truly amazing experience. The atmosphere was distinctively different from any race I have done before. The typical European, drunken cyclocross hoard was out in full force, but it now had a patriotic buzz. Normally the course is surrounded by a sea of gray and black; at Worlds the swarm of spectators was full of color as huge groups of people dressed to support their favorite country – from a Swiss group bearing cowbells after the descent to a line of flag bearing Belgium supporters on the first climb. I felt proud to be representing my country on the World stage.
The course was extremely muddy on Thursday, when we first got to try it out. I thought it was perfect. Unfortunately, temperatures were trending down, causing the course to freeze overnight. The race organizers had the foresight to see that some of the large sections of deep frozen ruts would be unrideable, so they used a tractor to smooth out some of the sections. For the women’s race in the morning, frozen ruts were causing lots of flats despite most riders choosing to run higher tire pressure – 25-28psi was the typical range. By 2:00 in the afternoon when the men’s race started, the course sections in direct sun were thawing out, creating a slippery mix of mud and frozen ruts.
The start of the race was just like any other major race. Lining up in the 2nd to last row you are at the mercy of the field. Sometimes everything goes smoothly, you don’t lose much time to the leaders and are able to move up. Other times, crashes and bottle necks put riders gridded in the rear at a huge disadvantage. Unfortunately this was of the second kind of starts. A minute in, at the first rutted muddy section, a rider slid sideways and went down, taking out the back dozen riders. I got going again quickly but the course was fast and making up any time was a tall order. For the first time since the race in Luxembourg on January 1st, my legs felt decent. They were better than decent, they were good and I started catching riders. Sadly, with the short lap and the liberally enforced 80% rule I ran out of time and was pulled after six laps to finish 46th.
Going into the race I had the goal of finishing in the top forty and this was definitely attainable had I been able to avoid going down at the start. My hamstring has been a major issue for the past few weeks and I was worried that it was going to be a problem. Thankfully it wasn’t a factor so I guess time off the bike combined with stretching and massage did the job.
The World Championships are the only cyclocross race where riders have to come to the race as a national team. So for the biggest race of the year riders turn in the pro team clothing for the colors of their nation. I think it is a great way of distinguishing Worlds from the other races. However, this does create the potential for issues as riders have to use their National team’s accommodation, mechanics and race support. As a smaller and less experienced cylocross nation, Team Canada was not without issue. The Canadian juniors have great potential and there is no reason why Canada cannot become a stronger cyclocross nation like we are in the mountain and road disciplines. Hopefully worlds was a learning experience for the team like it was for me and will bring about positive change so we can come back bigger, stronger and faster next year.
It has been a long season from September to February, with twenty-seven races in seven different countries. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my friends and family as well as my coach, Elliot Bassett and my sponsors: CyclocrossRacing.com, Blue Competition Cycles, Rolf Prima Wheels, Oak Bay Bikes, Schwalbe, Aviawest and Ryders.
Just two more races next weekend and then back to Victoria, BC for some time with friends off the bike before starting it all over again.