80,000 screaming, drinking, and jeering fans. 80,000. Within my three months in Europe, I’ve been to a lot of big ‘cross races where spectators were lined shoulder to shoulder around the entire course, but this was at a whole new level. People sloshed through the pouring rain and muck for forty-five minutes just to get from their car to the venue. People camped out to claim a course-side spot for hours before the races started. And those same people let out an primal roar every time their cyclocross king, Sven Nys, got anywhere near them as he craved around the course in his final World Championships.
This fevered energy is passed on from the fans to the riders. Even though it’s a routine we’ve done dozens of times this season, the World Championships amplifies our pre-race nervousness. Perhaps it is because it’s our one and only opportunity to represent our National pride or perhaps it’s simply because it’s the biggest show of the year, but every year at World’s there are more mistakes, more crashes, and more reckless passes than at other point in the season. With all that going on, it’s easy to forget to simply focus in on your race, block out the crowd, and do what you always do.
Fortunately for all of us Canadian racers, much of this pre-race stress was minimized by our national project. It’s not something I thought I’d be able to say, but Canada was one of the most well represented countries at the World Championships and with seven staff members we undoubtably had some of the best support out there. I’m happy to say that we’ve taken huge strides since my first World Championships in Louisville. With the cyclocross working group stepping in over the course of the past year we are only going to see more and more riders with better and better performances in the years to come.
Speaking of performances, I’ll be honest and say my 45th place wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. After spending a season in Europe, I now have a pretty good idea of where I’m capable of riding at these races and I was pretty disappointed not to be there on the day. While my personal race fell more into the disappointing than successful category, but I’ve come to realize that there is much more to be learned from that experience than there is from the other. While it was not what I was looking for, my disappointment from World’s has given me a hunger and desire to do things better next time in a way that simply cannot be taught.
At the end of the day, I’ve had a great season. I scored C1 points at the toughest C1 in North America, I won a UCI race, I finished seven races in Europe on the lead lap, and I landed inside the top-40 at a World Cup. More importantly than those results, mentally, physically, and technically I’m a better racer than I was four months ago. Not being able to put it altogether for Worlds is always going to sting a little, but it’s also only one small part of what I think has been a very successful season. It’s always a good sign when the season has hardly ended and I’m excited about the one starting in eight months!
I can’t thank everyone who has been a part of my season enough. Thank you to my ‘cross season Red Truck Garneau p/b Easton and to my road team Trek Red Truck p/b Mosaic Homes. Thank you to my Cycle-Smart Inc. and my coach, Shaun Adamson. Thank you to all the local supporters, friends, and family for being a part of my year. Thank you to everyone who bought a cap or t-shirt. And, of course, thank you to my wife for being tackling this crazy sport with me.