So the last time I wrote to you folks, I started with, “I’ve raced four races, in four different countries, won two of them and finally made it home.”
This time might not sound as impressive by saying I’ve raced two races, in two countries and won one of them. Oh and I had to leave home. Sounds about half as good, but that’s only half the story.
A Spanish Trip to Remember
So the win, that was in Spain. My first ever ’cross in Spain and only my second ever race there, the other being Madrid Road Worlds in 2005. I only got 91st that day, but I did my bit to help Nicole Cooke win a silver medal.
You might not know too much about Spanish cyclocross racing, so I’ll bring you up to speed. It’s damn good, with exciting races, fast racers and enthusiastic crowds. I couldn’t have felt a warmer welcome, and I was racing alongside two stars of Spanish women’s ’cross, Aida Nuno Palacio and Lucia Gonzalez Blanco.
Also on the start grid was Nat Redmond, an Australian hitting the Euro scene will full gusto, and two huge up and coming Dutch stars Ceylin de Carmen Alvarado and Manon Bakker. These two whippersnappers were only six or seven years old last time I raced in Spain, which makes me somewhat queasy.I was glad Manon was there, as without her, I’d of felt very lonely with a name that wasn’t half as cool as any of the people I was racing against. My parents played it safe in the name game clearly.
Trying to Stay Warm in ParboLand
It was the end of my stay at home, and soon after that Stef set off in the camper for a 2,000km drive north to ParboLand (or Denmark, for those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Joachim Parbo). Of course, as a pampered athlete, I stayed home and took a flight the next day to join him for the last 100km of driving. Generous, if I don’t say so myself.
The trip was all for my first race in Denmark in many years. This time it was round four of this year’s Cyclocross World Cup. I’m not going to lie, after five minutes of riding on the course, I wondered why Stef had bothered to drive. I wondered why we were in what was clearly the coldest place on earth that day. I wondered why the melting polar ice caps haven’t migrated to Bogense, since they’d surely be saved and with it, we’d see an end to global warming and the world could celebrate the fact cyclocross saved the world.
Anyway, back to business. I went to see Stef, standing at the side of the course, holding his sore back from the travels and made various noises about what I thought of the course. It’s at points like this coaches earn their money. All right, let’s be honest, I don’t actually pay him, but others do, so technically he still earns money right?
He talked me off my perch, broke the course down and told me I could win. Yeah right, I thought, but large parts of what he said sunk in. I took the advice, pressed reset and hit the course with a different mindset.
Anyway, race day came, I did okay and got second behind the best there is. So that’s it, the end of the fortnight’s racing. Half as much on paper but never judge a book by its cover.
On to Zeven and German TV
Now I find myself in the middle of nowhere in Germany. It’s rained for three days non-stop. I guess I bring this on myself, as I’ve now included a rain dance as a key element of my daily core stability routine. I’ll Instagram it one day.
It’s a beautiful area here around Zeven, with roads that are very long, very straight and very flat. They’re also generally underwater. We’re staying on a small farm, which surprisingly has some horses. We didn’t know it was a farm or had horses when we booked it, but it could be a good sign as the same thing happened for Worlds a few years back and I ended up with a silver medal there. Keep your fingers (or hooves) crossed for me.
The TV is really, what’s the word for it, German. Now that’s fine if you understand the native tongue, but sadly I was busy in French lessons when the German lessons were on. So how do you amuse yourself in Germany when you have a week to pass? For me it started with coffee, then the purchase of a reindeer, know known as #DasReindeer and then far too much time on social media. Oh, and then more coffee.
Big Cheques Can Be Deceiving
I’m now officially out of my role with the UCI Cyclocross Commission, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’ve loved the challenge, hated the politics and enjoyed the buzz of successfully implementing change (Some might call it being demanding). But I’m left with a little empty feeling that the sport isn’t yet on an equal footing with the men’s side of the game.
I was reminded just how far we have to go with World Cup prize funds when I received my huge—almost two metres long—cheque on Sunday. Although large in physical size, the amount of money was still much less than that of the second-place man. Still, I won’t stop fighting for equality. I’ll spend my time in the sport pushing for a better future for the next riders, and one day, equality might happen.
So from the highs to the lows. I have 40 days (until 1 January) to get a solution to stay in the sport. I won’t bore you with more details, but I have passed the final work to keep myself in the sport to Stef, whose back is feeling slightly better for those of you who were concerned. I have every faith he’ll find a solution to keep me in the sport I love at this level.
No pressure at all for him, but I need to focus on pedaling my bike and hopefully getting some more good days to write about in the coming weeks.