CX Worlds in their own words (part 2)
Posted by auscxmag
Posted in News
Words: Kevin Eddy Photography: John de Jong and Tom Prenen
In Part two of Worlds -in their words, Kevin Eddy talks to Under 23 rider Tom Chapman and Junior rider Nicholas Smith about their Hoogerheide experience
Tom Chapman, Under 23s
Adelaide rider Tom Chapman was one of two entrants for the Under 23 race. Following strong performances in warm-up races, he suffered mechanical problems and eventually finished 56th – one place ahead of last-placed finisher and teammate Alex Meyland.
“I started from the back row due to not having any points for under 23. I knew had a big task ahead to smash through that lot! I got a super good start, and was passing guys straightaway. It was long start straight, so gave me plenty of opportunity to weave through.
“There was a crash on the bitumen at the first turn: I was able to get around that, but there was another crash immediately afterwards,so we had to get off and run around it. That first section wasn’t necessarily muddy, but it was deep and slow with heaps of rocks in it – and when you’re trying to get through there next to eight other guys, everyone’s going to make mistakes.
“From then on it was flat out and single file straightaway. I was still passing guys – Dad said I’d made up 25 positions by the time I got to the pits, so I was closer to mid-pack by that point. Then, halfway round the first lap, full disaster. My chain dropped off the biggest gear on the back into my hub. I had to get off and remount that. It was at the bottom of a climb so I lost a heap of positions. From then on, I tried to catch whoever I could. It happened again later; by that point it was pretty much race done for me.
“With the quality of rider in front, I couldn’t catch many from then onwards.I had no one in front of me, so I could pick my own lines – that was good, because I did lap after lap in practice. Out of all the Aussies I’d done the most laps out of anyone.
“I did the best I could, but it was a brutal race, but the crowd gets into to you and keeps you going. Coming from racing here where we don’t have big crowds to 50,000 people watching you – it gives you a big buzz for sure.
“If I hadn’t had the mechanical problems, I don’t see that there wouldn’t have been any reason I couldn’t have kept moving up on the first lap. I’ve got quite an aggressive style, and am pretty good at making room for myself. Knowing the pace the front half of the field held for the full 45 minutes, I don’t know if I would have stayed there. But I was feeling strong on the day, so I was a bit disappointed that I had a few mechanicals. It’s only made me hungrier to train harder, get better results and hopefully get selected again next year.”
Nick Smith, Under 18s
16-year-old Nick Smith was Australia’s sole entrant in the junior race, and probably suffered the worst luck out of all the Australians due to being involved in a first lap crash. He eventually crossed the line in 50th place.
“The biggest race I’ve done in Australia would have been the National Champs in Melbourne, but it doesn’t really compare to Hoogerheide – especially the feeling of having 50,000 Belgians screaming at you!
“I was feeling pretty confident on the start line. Usually I get a bit nervous but this time I was fairly calm. Off we went, and about 10 seconds in I heard the sound of a few guys hitting the deck. I was on the brakes pretty quick but didn’t get a lot of traction – I got a bit knocked around, and a couple of riders went into me, which buckled my back wheel pretty badly. That wasn’t the ideal start.
“I then had a little off in the first muddy section, but managed to get to the pits, got off the bike and gave it to Joroen (Suys, Nick’s pit mechanic). However, we’d taken the spare bike to the start line in case of a flat tyre, so it wasn’t in the pits. I wasted a bit of time there waiting, getting a bit stressed, but once that bike arrived, the race was a lot better.
“I was about two minutes down on the leaders at that point. I thought ‘I’ve come thousands of kilometres to get here, I’m not just going to give up’. So I kept plugging away. I came back to the pits again and Joroen said my bike was ready – they’d managed to source a wheel from an American family who were watching on the sidelines. They’d taken the rear wheel out of one of their kids’ bikes and given it to us! That was awesome. Without that, I wouldn’t have finished.
“After that, I sampled the Dutch dirt a few more times than planned, but I pushed as hard as I could. I’ve got no regrets coming out of it. But next time we’ll keep the spare bike in the pits from the word go!
“My one big memory will be riding over the finish line in the green and gold, and being the first Australian to finish a Worlds race. Having the green and gold on your shoulders is something that I’m never likely to forget.”