So I read this week that Valkenburg 2018 will be my 15th World Championships, in a row, which is a record for women riders. It allegedly makes me the most experienced rider out there this weekend, although I’m yet to get a certificate from the UCI to confirm my status, and thus I still think of myself as young.
But with this info at hand, I guess I should pass on my experience and produce a guide to the World Champs and surviving the inevitable fuss around the event.
Helen’s Guide to Surviving the Worlds Fuss
1) It’s just a race. Okay, you hear people say this, but it’s true. What are the consequences of “failure?” And pushing deeper still, what is “failure?”
If you give every race 100%, you’ve never failed. Every race is a chance to learn, a chance to develop, a chance to win or challenge. A result is just a number at the end of the day. So there are UCI points up for grabs, and if you get a result way below expectation you might loose your contract with a team, therefore your financial security, your support team might fall apart, and you end up in a less than optimal position going forward.
But trust me, I’m yet to see this happen to a female racer and ultimately where there’s a will there’s a way back. So if your result isn’t up to your own expectation, don’t cry into your rice crackers, they’ll just go soggy.
2) Getting the approach right. The approach to every race should be as similar as possible. Keep your trusted crew around you, keep your time schedule tight, but don’t copy last year’s approach to the race. It’s going to different, so is your health, your form, the course and many other things. Take the right approach to the race you are facing.
My biggest tip here, is don’t leave your race on the indoor trainer in warm-up. Just because that rider in the tent next to you is doing big gear efforts all morning, or laying around listening to rap music eating nutella sandwiches, doesn’t mean you should. Stick to your plan. It’s yours.
Also, please don’t add any fuel to the Nutella riots; I need peace to return to France as I’m headed back there soon.
3) Social Media. Okay, now this week is all about people going on social media and looking for sneak peaks at the course they are going to face. Well, my advice is don’t bother. Don’t look at the video, or certainly don’t read anything into them. Find it all out for yourself. Don’t change your chain ring size based on that grainy Insta vid you watched on the airport shuttle. The only exception to this is if you are stuck in traffic going to the event and have no chance to pre-ride. If you find yourself in this situation, watch the videos, try some kind of sit-jogging as a warm-up, hit the race fresh and see what happens.
But do remember to put a picture up of your race number because if you don’t then basically you weren’t there.
4) Random Photographers. Right, these folk are awesome; they love our sport and you as an athlete. They all want your picture, but I have a feeling they haven’t raced at Worlds before. Their levels of adrenalin and nerves aren’t at fever pitch like yours, so when that photographer and his friend (you all know him) ask you to take off your helmet and glasses, when you are already gridded on the start line, just say no. If we riders all stick together here it’s going to make future Championships better for all of us.
I’ve only been to 15 in cyclocross and three Road Worlds, so I think I might have a few more in the tank, and I want all subsequent Championships to be great, so do this for me. Thanks.
5) The Race. Right, it’s Worlds, you’re excited, you’re on TV, your folks are watching … ignore all that and carry on as normal. That pass from row 5 to 10 seconds off the front in the first 400 metres is cool and all that, but it might not help your overall result. Now I know, according to point 1 above, results don’t matter, but your coach is going to scrutinize your entire performance and that does matter. Losing two minutes on Lap 2 isn’t that cool, so just race 100%. Get to the limit, push the limit, push it some more, race fair and when you finish, try to smile, and try not to be sick, you’re still on TV, right.
6) The Apres Race. First of all enjoy yourself, you’ve earned it. If there is a foam party invitation going around, take it. If you can get the invitation and get a chance to crowd surf, take it. Otherwise, don’t make a complete arse of yourself, there’s another race next week. If you are making an arse of yourself because your forgot you shouldn’t, don’t put it on social media. Be nice to people, all people, and remember rivalries are for the race track, not the foam party.
7) The Crew. Right, as well as the biggest day of your year, it’s also the biggest day for your crew, and if you are supported by your national federation, it’s a big event from them. Everyone around you is trying 100% to get it right, so say thanks.
If you don’t know your crew for this, the biggest of days, take five minutes to sit down with those that will be working with you (Please know they are not working for you, they are working with you). Explain your likes and don’t likes. Treat it like mechanic speed dating, get the most out of this relationship. Then, after, say thanks. They’ll appreciate it, especially if you win.
We can’t do it without them, they work their thermal socks off for us all season.
Anyway, good luck and enjoy.
The Helen 100 Fundraiser
Wyman is hosting a raffle to raise money to send 100 U23 Women to British Cyclocross Nationals in 2019. Learn more about the raffle and how to donate at her Helen 100 page.
For more from Valkenburg-Limburg, see our dedicated 2018 Cyclocross World Championships page.