Starting from the back row this weekend – surprisingly not that bad.
Being call-up 27 in the Silver Goose C2 on Saturday, then 20 for the PanAmerican Championship race Sunday made it easy to avoid any expectations of nailing a big result in a field boasting multiple World Cup podium and regular top 10’ers. It also made me anxious about how on earth I could possibly “make something happen” from way back in the boonies. But, a little deliberate course analysis, some luck, and my start-sendometer cranked to the max, on both days I was able to put myself into the top 5-8 by the end of the start stretch!
The slightly uphill pavement start had a gentle chicane, which when you lined up on the inside for the distant entrance for the first (very muddy on Saturday) section of the course. Starting from the back is always tough, sort of scary, and unnerving, but I’ve had some good success predicting how the pack will shift and flow at bigger races like this one – where being just brave enough to throw it up the inside suddenly takes you from no-mans-land to third wheel… behind a recent World Cup winner and 2nd place finisher.
“Wait, what, where am I?”
I couldn’t help but let out an little laugh to myself as I sat in bronze medal position halfway around the first lap. At least my worries about how to move up through the field were now a non-issue… only a matter of not getting passed by too many instead. That was on Saturday during the Silver Goose C2, a test run for Sunday’s Championship race. I dropped back a few spots to finish the day 8th, which was really encouraging riding at such a high caliber event and in tricky conditions for the first time.
The track on Sunday was tacky and rocket fast compared to the previous days’ mudfest. After getting some good intel from my dad, who raced the Master’s event in the morning, I decided to flip wheelsets and borrow his lighter intermediate tubulars. They were awesome. Step 2 of my cyclocross development is to get a skinsuit, but I’ll add step 3 as acquiring some tubs.
Anyway – different conditions, but same tactics. I lined up the start the exact same as Saturday, not quite to the same effectiveness, but pretty close. Into 6th or 7th through lap 1, then eventually settling into a battle for 5-6 with 4th just out of touch. For the first few laps I was fighting to close down 4th, but as time ticked on I came to realise my race was for 5th. There isn’t really anything I think I could have done better on Sunday. I had a great start, didn’t make any consequential mistakes on the bike, no mechanicals, and I just raced. The energy from the crowds on course was amazing; it feels surreal to put together such a solid race in front of a home crowd and at a Championship event too.
I’m stoked. While I didn’t have any expectations or benchmarks I was trying to achieve this weekend, I always sort of hope I can race with, and be of a similar class to the best of the field. I certainly feel that I fulfilled those quiet aspirations, and even surprised myself and probably some others as well. I gave one of my best race efforts this year, made the most of my admittedly very unpolished CX skills, and have found a little spark of hope that I’ll carry with me to Nationals next weekend.
It looks like we might have “exciting” conditions to go with what will definitely be a 🔥🔥🔥 field including our new PanAm Champ – Maghalie Rochette, Catharine Pendrel, and Sandra Walter who also raced in Midland this weekend. and just checking start-lists now… I’m seeing even more really fast bike racers; it’s going to be an even bigger and better battle that I thought 😅. Going to keep an open mind, eat some TimBits, maybe go practice some mounts and dismounts, and hopefully be ready to mix it up again this weekend! See you out there.
Post race video interview with Canadian Cyclist: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianCyclist/videos/702248536811835/