by Molly Hurford
Amy Dombroski (Crankbrothers) has spent almost the entirety of the cyclocross season in Europe, racing with the likes of Marianne Vos and Daphny van den Brand on an almost weekly basis. And she still has a month of racing before she comes home! However, this American racer is still, well, an American racer first and foremost, so we wanted to catch up with someone who, since she’s spent the season there, might have some insight into the Euro scene. We mainly wanted to know about Worlds of course, where Marianne Vos ran away with the race, but we also wanted to know Dombroski’s plans for the rest of the season, and what will come next.
Cyclocross Magazine: How are you handling being away from home for so long? Do you have any friends/family who traveled with you?
Amy Dombroski: It has been a long time; I packed my apartment up in Boulder on September 11th and I don’t return until February 28th. It is starting to wear on me! Living over here is really great, I have learned a ton, met a lot of new people and challenged myself, but we all know the human likes his/her comfort zone, and there is something to be said for a familiar hug or familiar pillow to lay your head on. I think the first few months, everything was new and exciting – I was caught up in racing well, enjoying different foods, living in a new part of the world, meeting new people, driving to all my races and seeing the countryside. Since December, I’ve been struggling a bit, the majority of which has been spurred by not feeling well. Those slumps are when it is most important to have your support network – your friends, family, massage therapist, doctor, favorite hang-out spots and comfort factors. In a little less than a month, I am looking forward to returning to those. That being said, I wouldn’t change this season – I need to remember the highs, a sixth place finish at a World Cup, consistent top-10 finishes at the Superprestige and GVAs … when it was good, it was very good.
CXM: What did you think of the Worlds course?
AD: I was lucky to ride Koksijde at the World Cup back in November. I hated it then because I didn’t know how to ride the sand, how to approach it, my legs were toasted and I wasn’t feeling well. I finished 17th there and was determined to change my ‘opinion’ of the course around prior to the Worlds. The course remained set up from the World Cup through to Worlds so I returned a few times to ride and re-ride and re-re-ride sections. Like all things practice makes perfect and I think these sessions were critical. I began to like the course more as I rode more laps on it. By the time Worlds week approached I loved the course. I knew it was going to be hard for everyone, there’s no rest and it tests you the whole lap through; but I reckon that is how a World Championship course should be!
CXM: How did you feel on race day?
AD: I felt good enough. I was excited to race and I was focused, though I believe standing on the start line with 45 seconds counting down, I was the most nervous I have ever been for a race.
CXM: What was it like, racing with that kind of huge crowd?
AD: The most eye-opening was pre-riding on the Saturday between the Junior and U23 races. I wasn’t in race focus where external stuff gets blocked out. I had a difficult time riding what I was riding days prior because I couldn’t focus with the Swiss horns blowing in my ear or the random familiar American cheers. I saw the highest heart rate I have ever seen and I deduced this as, “wow, I am fresh” or “oh $hit, I’m ridiculously overwhelmed and nervous”! After one recon lap, I had to take a step back, have a deep breath to reel my focus back in and my head back on my shoulders. Once I accepted the spectacle and how it made me feel, on race day I was able to block it out to an extent; when the light turned green I didn’t notice the crowds or the noise.
CXM: How did the race go for you? Did it go how you expected?
AD: To be honest, I had zero expectation going into this race. I had almost a month off of racing and quality training because of being sick, Zolder World Cup on December 26th being my last race before this time off. I raced Hoogerheide the weekend prior to Worlds to get a race in my legs and also to assess whether I should even race the Worlds. Unfortunately, I was involved in the massive pile-up within the first 200m. Come Worlds, I felt technically strong, but I didn’t have much strength in my legs from so much time off; that much I expected. Considering that even racing Worlds was in question and my preparation (or lack thereof) for the big day was minimal at best, I’m pleased with my race.
CXM: What was the hardest part?
AD: To quote Driscoll from Nationals: “the pedalling part”
CXM: Anything happen off camera (since most Americans only got to watch the feed) that we should know about?
AD: Of course there were crashes – but everyone had crashes, perhaps Marianne even had the most! I am very proud of honing in the skills to ride the entire X-Dune (now the Albert Dune). That proves to me that my sand skills dramatically improved.
CXM: How did you feel after?
AD: Of course there’s always the what-ifs, but I knew I didn’t have much to race with and I feel I put all of what I had out there. I think the rest of the day I was still running on fumes of adrenaline because my body didn’t feel the crash until the next day when my legs felt like warped pieces of driftwood.
CXM: Plans for the off-season?
AD: The only plan is to actually have an off-season.
CXM: Did you talk to any Euro racers about how it’ll be next year, with Worlds in the US?
AD: Have not talked to many racers but I’ve talked to some fans. One question I’ve been asked multiple times is, “Oh, you’re from America, how many kilometers do you live away?” When I say I can’t count that high they look at me strange. The other side of the country has a different meaning in Belgium than it does in America!
CXM: Thoughts on the season overall?
AD: The highs were very high and the lows were very low. I learned a lot about myself, about racing, courses, conditions, competition, training, and I reckon next season I can keep the lows at a “high low” and more importantly, make the highs higher more often.
CXM: Looking back, you were in Europe most of the season- would you do it again?
AD: I definitely want to give it a shot again but I would do it differently and incorporate more US racing. Missing Nationals was a pissah and it was a shame to miss all the USGPs.
CXM: What about next year, with Worlds in the US? Will you still spend a lot of the season in Europe?
AD: I hope to, but currently I’m without a sponsor, so I may need to tame the calendar down. Some day I hope to focus on the World Cup calendar. But for next year Nationals and Worlds are the target.
CXM: Thoughts on Marianne Vos and her domination of this season?
AD: Vedette. She’s fast – she has everything: skills, speed, smarts, power, drive, motivation, mentality, strength, form, timing. She is an entirely complete bike racer. In addition to walking the walk, she can talk the talk in multiple languages. She’s friendly and sociable, humble, professional, a spokesperson for the sport and looks good in white. I feel for her though – if she were a guy she’d be set money-wise for life and then some. She’s unstoppable and World-Class in any event she starts but will still need a day job when she retires; it’s a shame.