Wow, what a whirlwind of a trip! I still can’t believe I had the opportunity to be part of this amazing event and be one of 86 lucky athletes provided an all expenses paid trip to compete in China’s first UCI Cyclocross event.
The Aussie contingent consisted of a few National & International level riders from Melbourne including Lisa Jacobs, Kath O’Shea, Paul Van Der Ploeg and Lewis Rattray and so immediately I felt extremely proud to be riding along side such awesome riders (which also planted a few seeds of doubt that my CX/off-road experience was far less than my superior teammates).
We arrived early enough to have a few days to settle in after an epic 10hr transit in Singapore and were treated with a trip to the Great Wall of China (amazing) and Longqing Gorge (stunning but ruined by tourist developments such as bungee jumping, cable cars, oversized passenger boats etc.. although the toboggan slide down the side of the Gorge was a lot of fun!) in between practice sessions on the course.
My first ride on the course was a complete disaster! The seeds of doubt had grown into a full blown forest and I was so overwhelmed by my negative thoughts that I crashed on just about every muddy/slippery descent and my confidence took a massive nose dive. Here I had the realisation that this wasn’t just another CX race, this was a CX race for some of the best CX riders in the world – hence a technical course to match their superior skills! Not that of a novice DDCX women’s development squad rider haha!
However, with the help of some very supportive Aussie and Kiwi team mates (I love this about CX) and the bonus of a dried out course, I was able to complete the circuit without crashing, not at all fast, but in one piece and I felt on top of the world again! With this small win, I set myself a new goal for the race; to finish and not get time cut.
With only a 40min race against some competitors who regularly feature in the top 5 & 10 at World Cup level races, I knew I had to ride within my limits and not get too disheartened by the fact that I was probably going to be racing on my own. Starting on the back row at the start also didn’t help my chances, but when I found myself riding in a bunch of four after the first lap, I was determined to stick with them, despite having no clues as to how many were in front or behind.
On the 2nd lap, when the guys in the pit area called out I was in 11th place, I could not get the smile off my face! As long as I didn’t do anything silly for the next three laps I knew I was in with a chance of finishing! Our little group worked well together, chopping and changing leads through the technical sections where I usually lost ground, but I was able to make it up in the flat & straight sections.
It wasn’t until the 4th and final lap that I caught a glimpse of a rider ahead, but knew there wasn’t enough time to make up any more places, but I attempted to close the gap anyway and see how close I could get. It was really hot by this stage (30 degrees!) and I was grateful a majority of the race was held under the shade of trees and as I came into final sections of the course all I could think about was getting to the finish so that I could have a drink! It didn’t hit me until after tipping several bottles of water over my head that I had achieved my goal and received the added bonus of 90 euro for finishing 11th!
The men’s race was ripped apart by a World Cup winner Thijs Al, of The Netherlands who won comfortably by over 1min and Alex Revell, the best of the ANZAC’s, finishing 5mins later in 29th. We didn’t have long to celebrate unfortunately as our bus was heading to the airport 2hrs after the men’s race! But despite the long trip and short visit, it was truly one of the best trips I have ever had and am already looking forward to hopefully being invited back again next year!