Amy Dombroski reports after the Hoogerheide World Cup, her much improved acceleration out of the gates and her stellar, top-ten result. She continues her ramp-up to the World Championships in Tabor next weekend and looks to be getting progressively more comfortable in the intense Euro ‘cross ranks. In case you missed it, check out her last report from the Roubaix Cup and the Cyclocross Magazine coverage of Hoogerheide.
I am curled up in a cubby of the backseat, two duffel bags looming above, an espresso machine threatens to tumble onto my lap and wheels keep sliding onto my head as we drive some number of hours from Holland to Prague. You know it’s going to be a long trip when Waldek won’t even tell you how long it will be. It’s dark, it’s snowing, I have race gut, my legs are knackered and sore from a good race and a coupla crashes. But it was a race I’m happy with, and I am happy to be headed to Prague to go to a coffee shop tomorrow, and I am happy to head to Poland afterwards…to my -owski roots.
From England, Simon [Burney] and I flew to Brussels Friday night. Joscelin picked me up from the airport and we headed back to my Belgium home in Westmeerbeek. On Saturday I felt like I could have slept all day, but after a lovely cuppa tea and porridge, Jos dragged me onto my bike. We went on a great little spin, and I was able to see the roads of Belgium without snow! Later we headed to Holland to recon the course. I raced Hoogerheide two years ago, when I came over for the World Championships in Treviso. Then it was impossible conditions–just enough rain to turn the track into sticky marmite. I remember pedaling downhill in my 26, barely getting the pedals to turn over, and hardly moving anywhere in the sticky mud. This year, not only did the course run in the opposite direction, but it was also opposite conditions. The first recon laps were FAST, but finally some rain moved in toward the end of my practice, and it continued through the night.
We woke Sunday to some spits and sparks of rain and the course was a bit more slick, but still pretty fast and wicked flipping fun. The course began with about 250m of straight pavement, then turned hard left into a quick drop onto a 100m stretch of zapping slog mud, right u-turn, left onto sand, straight back onto pavement, a hard right into peanut butter, u-turn to the first time through the pits, railing and tacky turns for a bit which led us into the woods for some single-track-ish dirt. Out of the woods, quick and rough drop, a u-turn then back into the woods and out onto a wicked uphill slog, turn, back into woods with a slick downhill u-turn, then a loose climb out of the woods and onto a flyover which brought us back through the pits. Then my favorite part of the course, a quick right, left, right that felt like chasing gates, a fast 100m straight into a quick downhill u-turn, and a balls-to-the-wall slog pitch up, then back down, slick turn, 100m straight, s’more gate chasing turns and into a wicked steep run-up (which was a hairy descent 2 years ago). Then a fast and straightish 300m section with a bit of mud before a hard right u-turn onto the 150m finishing straight.
My starts have been ming the passed few races, so when I was inspecting the course I came up with a game plan for a grid spot and where to move up. I hugged the barrier on the right side of the start. As we approached the left-hand drop, I stayed wide down and through the mud bog. Out of the corner of my eye I saw carnage on the left and moved clear of it. Off of the second pavement section, more carnage on the right. This time, unfortunately I saw Katerina Nash’s bike sailing in the air, and narrowly avoided girls flailing in the mud as I kissed the barriers on the left. I steadily worked my way to the front of the race and found myself sitting fourth place by the time I hit the second lap. Unfortunately I didn’t hold onto this, though I rode a solid race. My pre-race routine went smoothly, my technical riding was there, the legs were good, my head was in it, bikes were dialed…I love races like that. I had one crash, which pushed me into 10th or 11th, but I kept my head and was able to pick a couple spots back, ultimately finishing ninth.
With it being the final countdown to Worlds, more familiar faces have arrived, and I realize that familiarity makes me race better. It was refreshing to arrive to a venue I recognized, just as it is to see the faces of all those who have been a part of my cycling.