After racing my first proper Cyclocross Nationals this season, I was given the opportunity to travel with the US national team to the Cyclocross World Championships in Bogense, Denmark. Receiving the call that I had been selected for the Worlds team was a bit of a shock, but I could not have been more excited!
Leading up to the trip I was lucky to have such supportive and experienced coaches and mentors to help me prepare. Almost every weekend we would go out and do mock races, in which Pete and Robson would have me practice muddy off camber sections over and over again. The coaches would hop in the races and make my teammate Jared and I go faster while being aggressive, bumping, cutting corners, imitating what Euro races would be like. It was thanks to all this preparation that I would have an idea of what the race starts would feel like, or how much harder the technical sections would be.
From the moment I got on the airplane the whole trip was one of new experiences. I first traveled to the national team house in Sittard, the Netherlands. The first day I arrived in Sittard, I went for my first ride in Europe with a couple of the other juniors and u23s. It was cold and snowy most of the time we were in Sittard but riding the country roads near the house was beautiful. Leading up to Hoogerheide we spent the week riding and spending time at Cafe Mundo (a little cafe in town that all the riders would go to).
My first race was the Hoogerheide World Cup the weekend before Worlds. On Saturday we drove about two hours to the venue to pre ride the course. Luckily I was able to ride with the other u23 girls and Meredith Miller, who was guest coaching the team and a great mentor to all the riders. This course was pretty technical with lots of up and downs and 180 turns and there was a huge set of stairs, which I was actually excited for because I like running the stairs! That same day I got to meet one of my biggest cycling idols, Marianne Vos. I was in such awe when I shook her hand I almost fell off my bike!
Race day rolled around and it was super rainy and wet, the course became very muddy with thick tractor-pull sections. My nerves were definitely very high and having some of the other girls around to give me advice and encouragement was really helpful. We warmed up and got prepped for the race with lots of help from the coaches and soigneurs (I felt so pro having all these people taking care of us at the race).
The race was a crazy experience filled with lots of emotions. I had so much fun and surprised myself with how hard I was able to push myself and how I was able to finish on the leaders lap! I was 46th in elite women overall, 6th junior. Racing Hoogerheide showed me how much more aggressive European racers are, there is no time to back off or take it easy if you want to keep your spot or move up. I’d also never seen so many fans watching a cyclocross race before! Not to mention how inspiring it was to race with all these women I look up to, and seeing my teammate Clara finishing second in the u23 category! Finishing this race left me with a taste of European Cyclocross racing and made me even more eager to race Worlds!
We drove back to the Sittard house that night and celebrated a successful race weekend eating yummy burgers, cooked by our really good team chef, and watching the movie Madagascar. Now it was time to taper and prepare for Worlds in less than a week! On one of our rest days we walked around town and did some European shopping. It was interesting seeing all the different kinds of clothing stores and food they had in the grocery store. I thought it was especially funny that everyone puts sprinkles on their bread in the Netherlands!
On Wednesday it was time to leave for Denmark so we all hopped in the vans and drove 8 hours, mostly through Germany, to our hotel in Odense, Denmark. Along the way we stopped in lots of German gas stations which are way nicer than the US. Inside each one there was basically a mini restaurant, and lots of German candy of course! We arrived in Denmark and the sun was shining (which was a first.) As soon as we checked into the hotel we saw that the Belgian National team was staying in our hotel as well! The next day a few of us went for a really fun ride through some Danish countryside, it was a little snowy with lots of rolling green hillsides. The same day we drove to the course for the first time to do a course pre-walk. Seeing the venue for the first time was super cool, the course was right on the ocean and it was so pretty. On the way home we stopped at a little bakery and tried some Danish pastries, they were delicious!
We had two days of pre riding the course and checking out different lines. Overall the course wasn’t too technical, there were lots of flyovers and flat straightaways as well as some steep run ups and downhills. I was most excited for the steep run ups and technical off camber sections as I felt those would be my strong suit. The entire time leading up to the race I was nervous but still a little in disbelief to even be there. I would be racing in the u23 category but there were about 15 other 17-18 girls racing as well.
Finally race day arrived. It was a sunny day and not too windy which would be good on this course. Standing on the start line next to girls from all over the world I could barely contain my nerves. At last the light turned green and we were off! The start was wicked fast and from then on I just tried to keep moving up and riding clean. The race went really well and I ended up surprising myself again by my finish – 25th place (9th among juniors). I was able to make time on the run ups and pass girls on the technical sections. I did struggle finding power in the flat sections but overall I felt strong and way more confident riding than I had in Hoogerheide.
Traveling to Europe opened my eyes and I learned new skills on and off the bike. Each race provided me with new lessons, like how much more aggressive and fast-paced Euro CX is, or how much confidence is necessary to ride smooth and move up through the field. Off the bike I met many new teammates and made new friends. I learned how to prepare for a big race like Worlds, how to maintain a positive headspace through adversity.
One of the most valuable takeaways I gained from these races was how important it is to stay focused on the process, not the outcome or result. Since I started CX this fall, everything has been about learning and pushing my limits. After crossing the finish line at Worlds I felt so proud and grateful for the opportunity to race my heart out with a smile on my face!
I want to say thank you to the coaches at Boulder Junior Cycling, as well as the people at USA Cycling that supported the trip. It was an amazing experience. A huge shoutout to my teammate Luke Elphingstone for lending me his bike as a back up for Nationals and Worlds, this trip would not have been possible without his generosity!
Maddie also did an in-depth interview with Cyclocross Magazine after the trip. Read it here.