Canadian Elite ’crosser and Cyclocross Magazine contributor Vicki Thomas reflects on the full Euro race experience, highlighted by the first two World Cups and a chauffeured RV rolling race home.
Phew, just sitting here catching my breath after a whirlwind trip to Europe for the first two World Cups of the cyclocross season. What a trip it was!
I got to race my bike with the fastest women in the world. I went to Germany, Switzerland, France and the Czech Republic. I got to travel with my dad, and he got to experience his first cyclocross races outside of North America. I got to travel around in an RV.
Really it was a cyclocross racing trip like none other. First of all the RV.… Well, lets just say I now understand why so many racers in Europe have RVs. An RV at cyclocross race just simply “rocks”. Room to kick back. Private bathroom. Heat and protection from the elements. A private space to get away from the craziness that comes with racing cyclocross in Europe. All thanks to the trusty home on wheels.
We decided to rent an RV since it seemed to be the only affordable way to travel throughout Germany, Switzerland, France and the Czech Republic for 12 days. We could save on hotel room costs, cook our own food, get from point A to B and have the ultimate race vehicle.
Luckily my dad was along for the ride, and he was the pilot and essentially the manager of all things RV. I didn’t even sit in the driver’s seat! As close as I got to driving or thinking about driving was helping out with some parallel parking assistance. Yes – parallel parking an RV – my dad was a pro at this RV driving thing by the end of the trip.
It was simply awesome to have my dad with me on this trip to race at the World Cup in Aigle, Switzerland, and Plzen, Czech Republic. Honestly, I’m not sure how I would have managed this trip alone. I’m quite comfortable traveling to races alone, but doing a trip such as this solo was a bit much – even for me. So my dad (who is recently retired) leapt at the chance to come. It would be a chance for him to visit Europe and to really experience cyclocross racing. Until this trip, my dad had only been to the Canadian National Cyclo-Cross Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, and the New England Verge Series races in Catamount, Vermont.
I did my best to prepare him for his first European cyclocross experience. I sent him videos to watch so he could get an understanding of the crowd and atmosphere. But as we all know, there is nothing quite like being there. My dad quickly became an expert pit man and bike washer.
So, how about the racing? Well World Cup racing is everything you want in a bike race. Challenging courses. Fast racers. Supportive fans. All in all, it is one of the top cyclocross racing experiences. For me going into these races, I really had no idea what to expect. I’ve been battling some complications from my ulcerative colitis – resulting in severe fatigue and a rather harsh bout of anemia. I had a couple of iron infusions before leaving and, combined with a couple weeks of rest, I was keeping my fingers crossed that my body would respond.
Well, I did okay. Not great. Not terrible. Am I content with how I raced? Yes and no. My technical skills have improved – I was not daunted by the steep descents or climbs at the Aigle race. I handled the subtle elevation changes, steep climbs and long descent at Plzen really well. In fact, from a technical perspective, I did better than I would have last year. But still, I’m not quite there. My fitness was fair – I know that now I’m back training, I’ll be able to sharpen the finer points and ride faster.
I’m left after these two races feeling hungry. Hungry for better technical skills, for my engine to come back, to get back out there and race again. Really this is probably the best I can ask for from this 12-day racing and traveling adventure.
I had an awesome time hanging out and traveling with my dad. It was great to catch up with my cyclocross racing friends. I got to race on some super courses. I tested my skills and learned some big lessons along the way. All good stuff.
After the Canadian National Cyclocross Championships, I’m on the plane and back in Belgium on Nov. 9th for the winter. My first race in Belgium will be at Niel on Nov. 11th. Can’t wait to get back to Belgium and be fully-immersed in the training and racing atmosphere. No life quite like it!
Be sure to visit my site: http://ottawa.cx to stay up-to-date with my training and racing. I’m on Twitter as well: @vickitopcrosser.