After winning the US National Title in the elite junior category, Zach McDonald headed overseas to test his mettle against the best that the world had to offer. McDonald seems to be finding his form at exactly the right time, after taking home the biggest achievement of his young career over the weekend at the World Cup junior event in Roubaix, France, by placing third against some of the stiffest competition he has seen to date. Cyclocross Magazine contributor Joe Sales caught up with the young star while he was still basking in the afterglow of his performance.
Joe: Congratulations on your third place at Roubaix – you seemed really stoked to make the podium and judging by your podium attire maybe a little surprised to find yourself up there?
Zach: I wasn’t quite expecting to finish that far up. All through the week my legs were dead, so I was happy – especially after the start.
Joe: You rode from about 30th at the first corner to maybe 10th at the end of the first lap up to finishing 3rd, were you aware of the progress you were making?
Zach: I didn’t know where I was until about 4 to go. I knew I was towards the front but after sbeing so far back o the opening lap I noticed I was with Van Der Haar who has had good results (Dutch rider Lars Van Der Haar) and we rode together up through the field. With 4 to go I realized the two of us were racing for 3rd.
Joe: Tell me about the final 300 meters? (the 300 meter to go sign is adjacent to the pits before you enter to the velodrome, and when the riders turn on to the track there are only 200 meters to go)
Zach: It was weird, at 300 to go I had a gap of maybe 30 feet (over Vander Haar) an unintentional gap. I had been trying to drop him for the whole final lap and I couldn’t. I made a couple of mistakes and then I got a gap at the barriers and I worked really hard to maintain it past the pits and to the track. Going around the track (200 to go) I went at a pace where I could still sprint if I needed to. At 75 meters to go I looked back and saw Van Der Haar and the Italian had almost caught me and I started my sprint. Was it the best plan? Probably not, but I got lucky.
Joe: Are you a fan of Paris-Roubaix, for many cycling fans the Velodrome is a mythic place?
Zach: I’ve never seen Roubaix before.
Joe: Gasp. Heading towards Worlds in a week you are ranked 6th in the World, you’re the National Champion, you just cracked the podium at a World Cup course that is very similar to the course at Hoogerheide, what are your ambitions next week?
Zach: Hoogerheide has less corners, more long straightaways, that’s kind of worrisome. It is supposed to be muddy. Roubaix was a perfect course for me, pretty much. As far as cross courses go it was technical. It will take a bit of luck, some bad weather. A win would be nice, a win would be awesome. I really want to hit the podium but anything can happen and I’m going to do my best.