When we last heard from Craig Richey, he had just gotten the win at Beacon Cyclocross. Now, he’s been to Canadian Nationals and is spending the rest of his season overseas in Europe. He checked in to let us know how Nats went and how the rest of the season is shaping up.

by Craig Richey

Criag Richey battles for eighth place at Canadian Nationals.

Criag Richey battles his way to eighth place at Canadian Nationals. ©

Unfortunately, it seems that just when things are starting to going well, something bad is bound to happen. This was the case two weeks ago, making the excitement and thrill of my first UCI win very short lived. The next day was HPCX, another UCI race and a chance to try and secure another win and more UCI points. For Beacon, I had great form but I also had perfect focus and determination. For HPCX, my form was no different but I wasn’t nearly as hungry and lacked focus I had a day earlier. I raced reasonably well but made a few mistakes and had a couple of bobbles which Lukas Winterberg capitalized on and got away for his first UCI win. I battled with Jerome Townsend for second but wasn’t able to match his speed at the end.

In the end, I was still super happy with the weekend. I had been training hard and struggling to find form, now with a first and a third it was obvious things were coming around. With a week to go until Canadian Nationals, I had timed my peak well and was excited to head back to Canada to fight it out for the maple leaf jersey.

Looking back, I should have seen the warning signs, since both Saturday and Sunday were really cold conditions. Even before the start of Sunday’s race, I had an ugly sounding cough but figured it was just a race cough from the effort the day before. Monday night, I couldn’t stop coughing and was having trouble getting enough air. I ended up having to sleep propped up with pillows so I could breath better, but my lungs felt full of liquid. I thought, “This can’t be happening, I was sick for Nationals last year.”

I knew I was in trouble. My dad was making the trip up to Nationals with me and he made sure I was well taken care of with lots of hot tea and rest. I was steadily getting better and on Friday did a pre-ride of the course and my first real ride of the week. I was still kind of sick but could at least breath pretty well. This was National Championship, my number one goal for the season, so not starting was never even considered. Plus, participation at Nationals is required if you want to go to World Championships.

Once the gun went off, I knew I was in trouble. Despite feeling like crap, I was faking it pretty well and bridged to the lead group on the second lap. On the third lap, I had a high speed crash on the descent that left me shaken and limping a mangled bike to the pit. That essentially ended my race.

I rode the rest by myself in eighth off the back of the front group and the despite a lot of much appreciated enthusiastic cheering I could do nothing to get back to the front. I was absolutely devastated. Nationals was the major goal for the season and I had blown it.

Monday morning before flying out to Belgium, I went to a walk-in clinic and after hearing me breath, the doctor immediately sent me for a chest X-Ray and antibiotics. I had pneumonia.

Five days later, after a ton of rest and not touching the bike since Nationals, I took the start line at Nommay, France. It was probably a little early to be racing but I was feeling pretty much healthy and a very generous start contract had me willing to risk it. During the race I felt good, I was cornering well and felt like I was going fast, though I wasn’t. Francis Mourey lapped me. A couple of two hour rides on weekend left me pretty tired, and it was evident that sickness had really drained my energy.

When things are not going well, it is easy to dwell on recent results and get depressed and down on yourself. It is a long ’cross season in Europe and I still have three months of racing left. I am now totally healthy but I haven’t really done anything for two weeks and the bottom line is that I am a little out of shape. But … I’m motivated and it is time to refocus and get back on the bike.