US Masters brought all that is American ’cross to the line at this year’s Masters Cyclocross World Championships. Two-time World Champion Marilyn Ruseckas has returned with the rainbow jersey around her shoulders, and brings us this rider diary of her experiences in the birthplace of cyclocross.
by Marilyn Ruseckas
This year Adam and I returned to Belgium to defend my 2010 championship in Mol at the UCI Cyclocross Masters Worlds. Our small team’s hard work and training paid off and we came home with the 2011 rainbow jersey and gold medal.
We based ourselves out of Mol, renting an A-frame right next to the race course. It was off-season for this lakeside resort, so it was very inexpensive. We took day trips from there. Everything was only an hour drive or so. The accommodations were very nice with a modern bathroom, plenty of hot water, TV, and a fully equipped kitchen including a fridge for tasty Belgian beer.
There were endless opportunities for good riding from our house, too. Bike paths run along every road and there are maps that detail a numbered bike route system. Non-technical single track trails in the woods and back roads were perfect for our ’cross bikes. We found our way around without any trouble.
On Sunday, January 16, we traveled to Bakel, Netherlands to race in a Dutch National event. There was a field of about 30 women. I started in the last row, had a terrible first lap, but managed to pull off a fifth place finish. I caught and passed so many young, blonde Dutch girls, it gave me great confidence for the next weekend’s race. At the start, an official noticed I was wearing a masters worlds skin suit and he asked me about it. When I came through the start-finish every lap, he announced my name and that I was a masters world champion from the United States of America, in Dutch of course!
Despite a last row call up, Adam’s race was going great that day, too. Unfortunately, he got a flat tire towards the end of the race. The pit was pretty far away, so the wheel change came slowly, but he was able to finish and get a good workout.
One day we met with our friend, Hugo, who took us on a very cool ride. We rode through an industrial area near Antwerp. We rode to Doel which is mostly abandoned because they are going to dig up the entire town to make a new harbor for shipping. They will take the rubble from Doel and fill in another harbor that is not being used. It is a very controversial issue. In the meantime, graffiti artists have gone to work painting the town. There is a nuclear power plant very close by, adjacent to an antique windmill. It’s a very surreal setting.
On the way home we rode through a rural section of farmland. It was a great ride.
The race course at Mol was fun and very challenging. There were lots of tricky sand sections, twisty single track, a set of barriers, a couple of run ups, and a paved start-finish section. My race went off early and I did what we set out to do. I got in a good warm-up and won the race.
It was a relief for me when it was over, but Adam still had his race to think about later in the day. He was the only American in his field of 50 guys. Some of the top finishers in his race have won masters national titles all over Europe and masters world titles in other cycling disciplines as well. Adam finished on the lead lap in 30th place.
Thanks to our Belgian friends, Hugo and Paul, for coming to support us at the races!
The next day, we went to watch the elite World Cup in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. It was such a spectacle. We saw lots of friends and racers that we know. The course was very difficult and all our Americans did well.
On our last day there, we went back to the track where we rode with Filip and met Hugo last year, the Vlaams Wielercentrum Eddy Merckx. This year Hugo was able to ride with us instead of instructing from the sidelines. The track was full to the limit of 100 riders that night, 98 guys and 2 women. It was extremely nerve racking when we first arrived and had to move up on to the track in traffic. Thanks to Hugo for coaching us as we went. Before long, Adam and I got used to it and were hammering around with the rest of the field. If we had a velodrome like that nearby, Seven would have to make us a couple of track bikes!
We don’t know when, but we would would like to go back someday.
Thanks to our sponsors, Seven Cycles, NoTubes.com, and Fit Werx, for helping us to achieve our goal!