Dombroski representing the US at World Cup Hoogerheide. Photo Courtesy of Amy Dombroski

American Elite racer Amy Dombroski is in Europe preparing for the fast-approaching World Cyclocross Championships. Read on as she gives us a play-by-play of her experience at Sunday’s World Cup at Hoogerheide. Stay tuned for a profile of her ’cross rig, the Ridley X-Fire, coming soon!

by Amy Dombroski

In 2008, Hoogerheide was my first World Cup. In 2009, Worlds were in Hoogerheide and I wanted to go but was not selected. In 2010, I returned to Hoogerheide for the World Cup, finishing ninth.  It’s a special race to me, probably my favorite, no matter how the course is mapped out.  Plus it’s a mere 45-minute drive from my base in Westmeerbeek. I love the crowds that come out, I love the varying course challenges and conditions, I love the venue, I love that tons of ‘my’ people are racing and watching because Mol was the day prior and Worlds are just around the corner.

Simon and I drove to Hoogerheide early(ish) Saturday morning, as he had his important Technical Delegate UCI posh official duties, so at noon I had the course almost to myself for recon. I found it similar to last year’s, with more u-turn bits. Apparently, last week the lower field of the course had been entirely under water, but they drilled holes in the earth to drain it and it was now just some slick mud, which turned into a running section. This year’s held more of the circuit in the woods, a tacky swerving through loose soil. The terrifying descent I had nightmares of from my first World Cup was again a steep leg numbing run-up, like last year.

Indeed, the familiar faces were in abundance at this race. The Boulderite contingency who raced in Mol yesterday were enjoying their frites and beer while hootin’ and hollerin’. Dan Ellmore had been ‘bike exchange co-ordinator’ for many of the masters riders yesterday, and stepped in today as mine. The entire US Worlds team was in full force, stretching their legs out of jet lag…nice to have Uhmericain slang on the start line! And after their demanding races the Junior and U23 guys were running about, standing out from the normal Euro crowd! The US team coaches were in full force, as was the supportive crew from Ridley. I won’t lie, I’m not homesick, but hearing familiar voices and a welcoming hug is always nice!

The race…I again was off to a less-than-stellar start. It’s a fairly long drag start that turns hard left on a quick drop into a mud-ridden S-turn, with quick straights, eventually hitting the first pit, with the first longish straight. Then more quick turns before shooting into the woods. We fire out of the woods into a tacky straight onto the lower muddied field into a slippery-as-a-banana peel four-u-turn section. In the recon this was rideable but after a day of pre-rides it turned into a slip n’ slide.  This is where I was able to work through quite a few people after my dissatisfying start. I whipped out my running legs and glupped through. Back on the bike quick as quick and hammer the pedals for a 150m straight into a kicker to the woods and back out and a wicked kicker back in. Again, girls became bogged down on this kicker and running was the ticket to move up a bit more.

Head down for a slippery, tire-caking drag, u-turn, back down and a slick turn back into the woods, a loose corner and loose kicker into the massive fly-over, then through the pits the second time. The mud that stuck was heavy, so ideally a bike change every lap was necessary. I think I changed bikes three times out of five. Going into the second pit actually offered the next turn a better line onto a good power pedal section which led you smokin’ into a loose and techy U, back up a bit, another U and a fast descent back to the lower field with a few good and tacky turns, a brief stint on the pavement, a couple more speed-reducing turns into the massive and loose run up. It looms at you. It gives you the feeling of walking through deep snow without the aid of snowshoes. And at the top you get to superman back on your bike and hammer away and turn back onto the start/finish straight. It was a solid race for me today. I rode technically strong with just a few bobbles, and am happy to not find my knees riddled with bruises like in many technical races!

Just up the circuit for much of the race was a group jostling positions for a top-10, but I could never quite close that 15-second gap throughout the race. I think today bodes well for next weekend when we head to St. Wendel, Germany. Fun day on the bike today and we’ll keep it rolling into next!