CX Worlds – in their own words (Part 1)
Posted by auscxmag
Posted in News
Words: Kevin Eddy Photography: Tom Prenen, Luc Van Der Meiren and Focus Bikes Australia
Australia’s first – or second, depending on who you talk to – cyclocross Worlds team have just returned from muddy Hoogerheide. Kevin Eddy tracked them down to get a perspective on the races they contested from inside the pack.
Nick Both, Elite Men
Nick Both was Australia’s sole representative in the marquee Elite Men event on the Sunday afternoon. While Nys and Stybar were busy with their battle royale at the front of the field, Nick was delayed by an early crash and ultimately came in 55th.
“I’ve been to some big sporting events in my career but this was something else. Reports of 60,000 people for Sunday’s racing weren’t exaggerated. The crowd built steadily through Sunday and by the time of the Elite Mens race it was a big, happy, tipsy, passionate party. I’ve never raced in an event like that, with so much support from the crowd.
“I wasn’t too nervous at the start line – instead I was focused on getting a good start. During practice I’d stopped and smiled that I was there competing against guys like Sven Nys, Zdenek Stybar, Lars Van Der Haar et al. But, at the end of the day I told myself “it’s just another bike race” – and I’ve done hundreds of those.
“The start was crucial. Lining up at the back of the grid meant getting past as many people as possible. The start straight was 300m long so it was like trying to move through a pack during a bunch finish on the road. Not easy!
Still, I managed a good one and kept myself mostly clear of trouble and crashes. We hit the first muddy section and I’m there on video palming some guys off to get out of the melee after some riders got tangled.
Elite Men’s Race highlights:
“There’s another pic of me swerving around a crash in front of the VIP tent. When the two guys collided the roar from the crowd was electric. It’s something I won’t forget in a hurry.
“After that, I knew it was essentially a time trial. I tried to ride like it was a four-lap race. I made some mistakes but I was also cross-eyed from the effort and couldn’t have ridden any quicker on the day.”
Lisa Jacobs, Elite Women
Current Australian cyclocross champion Lisa Jacobs was one of two Australian entrants in the mudfest that comprised Saturday’s Elite Women’s race. While Marianne Vos sailed away with the win, Lisa came in 39th – becoming the first Australian to finish on the same lap as the World Champion.
“The closest thing I can compare CX Worlds to is the World Cup racing and Giro Donne that I did on the road in 2010. This was a whole new level. Those races were women’s-only, and the sad reality is that women’s cycling gets fairly limited coverage. The World Championships is the World Championships, though. The hype was amazing and it transformed the town. All of the things that people parody about cyclocross, it’s all true – and was happening on a scale I’d never seen before.
“To race in the same field in Marianne Vos was amazing (although I didn’t see much of Marianne during the race!). I’m stoked with finishing on the same lap as the winner. One of the great things about competing in this race is that there was no expectations or pressure that we’d be competing for the win.
“Our starting positions were at the back of the grid. Straightaway, we were at the back of the race. It started off with a 300m opening straight, which turned left down an embankment into a bogpit. The pace was on from the start, but after 400m you hit this pit. The first four or five women could ride it, but everyone else had to run. Straightaway you’re 30 seconds down on the top racers in the world. You’ve got your work cut out for you [ED- the women’s elite race was the only one that didn’t see a crash after the first turn]
Elite Women’s Race highlights:
“It was very muddy – muddy on a scale that we just don’t get in Australia. There was more mud in that first patch than we had in all the Australian races combined last season. It’s not just wet mud, either – it’s clay-like, boggy mud that really drags on your wheels.
“The course itself was also rutted out due to the number of riders using it through the practice sessions ahead of the race. You’ve got soft mud plus 3,000 wheels that have gone through the same corners. You have to be able to ride through mud quickly, but also ride these enormous ruts at speed.
“Otherwise the course was pretty good for ‘roadies’, although it became more technical because of the mud. It made for quite a slow race, with quite a few twists and turns.
“After the first section, I was trying to pick off riders as I made my way through. It was less aerobically demanding than Australian racing because the conditions made it more of a strength race. For me, it was about trying to survive and power through the really muddy sections – whereas in Australia you’d be on the gas the whole way. It was definitely a demanding 45 minutes.”
My personal highlight is going over there and realising that I wasn’t out of my league. I was slower than a lot of the other girls, but I wasn’t that far out of the ballpark. The difference isn’t insurmountable. I came out of it with the feeling that it’s not unachievable to go back in 12 months and do better.”
Part 2 of this article will feature Tom Chapman and Nick Smith