Zach McDonald in the first lap at World Championships in Hoogerheide. © Pim Nijland / Peloton Photos
Zach McDonald has had, by his own account, kind of a crappy season. Sure, a crappy season for McDonald still involves a decent amount of race wins and podiums (a second in Rochester, for example, when he told us he was “bleeding UCI points” and then a win in Tennessee). A DNF at Nationals—couldn’t breathe, got crashed—and a DNF at Worlds—didn’t crash, hurt knee—weren’t the best ways for our Issue 22 cover boy McDonald to end the season, and luckily, he doesn’t have to.
When trying to set up a time to interview him, it seemed simple—he’d come back to the US before heading to Tokyo. But then, he emailed: “I’ll be around tomorrow from 4pm to 4am my time (PST). I switched straight over to Tokyo time before I fly over Thursday.”
So when we spoke at 5PM PST yesterday, it was really 11AM for McDonald, who is trying like hell to avoid the effects of jet lag as he heads to Tokyo today, along with Tim Johnson (depending on the state of his arm, stay tuned for that interview next!), Katie Compton and Jeremy Powers, to race his last ’cross race of the season.
“Home is good. For now,” he laughed, referencing the fact that he got home from Worlds late Monday, and leaves again today—two days home before a nine hour flight to Tokyo.
“It’s a good way to end the season, something after Worlds,” he says in explanation of why he’s flying halfway around the world for a ’cross race in mid-February. “Worlds as your last race of the season, especially when you have a crappy race and don’t finish… It’s nice to have something after.”
So what did happen at Worlds? “I ended up, in one of the corners in the process of not crashing, banging my knee super hard on the top tube, giving myself the equivalent of a dead leg to my knee.” The same knee that’s plagued McDonald all season? “Nope, it was the other one! But it’s fine. I was already pretty far back, and lost another 30 seconds due to that because I couldn’t really pedal.”
But he’s all recovered for the next race. “I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t done the Tokyo race. I went over to do the three races in November, ended up doing one of them because I got super sick.”
It’s his first Worlds as an Elite racer versus U23, but he says it’s not that different. That said, “I’ve never been in the top 20 in an Elite Men’s race yet, I’ve only done Zolder and Worlds so far.”
“It’s been a terrible season,” he chuckled. “The fitness is coming back, and it’s not the best time for it, but at least we’re ending the season on a positive note.”