Stream of thought, read at your own pace and peril. Please forgive me for not thoroughly proofreading, my comma splicing, odd hypen-usage, and for probably seeming lost in my own head – it’s just like that sometimes 🙃
This fall was kind of crazy. I knew from mid-summer that I’d be rolling 8-10 UCI weekends of cyclocross racing straight off the back of mountain bike Worlds. My goals were pretty vague and expectations loose – I mostly just wanted to race, mix things up, see where I’d stack up in this first full season on the North American scene, and make sure I showed up for my team and sponsors (Easton-Giant).
After the second weekend of racing, I was at least pretty sure I’d showed up for the team (a UCI win, world cup top 10, “best random signing ever” – team manager, Dylan). But now, amidst the bubbling keenness and excitement, I felt expectations and ambitions taking shape… and I hate those, they make me so nervous and unsettled. I’m still not sure if it’s better to own my ambitions – to put them up front and commit to them, or to have none at all and just swing for the fences.
I swung for the fences at the first two World Cup weekends of the year – winning my first UCI race, then placing 10th and 7th in the World Cups was crazy. I did not prepare for this, so why and how did it happen. And I mean it – I literally have not done any deliberate preparation to race cyclocross. So how did I show up to these cyclocross World Cups and roll near the front against full-time ‘crossers, when I spent the whole season training and preparing for the mountain bike World Cup where I’d fight for my life only to be mid-pack? I mean, worse things have happened to folks than stumbling into World Cup top 10s… Although, I may only be remembered for running fast downhill (I will get a link if I find one, and I swear it was less sketchy than it looked), I am still a bit bothered by the disparity in focus vs. results between mtb and cx, but am trying to frame them more nicely to compliment and improve with both.
As much as I’d love to really see how proficient and competitive I can be at cyclocross right now – to be all in, I still don’t quite have a means to do it… nor do I think exclusivity is the best way to get there… and I am still far from done with mountain biking – I know I haven’t been my best there yet either.
In some ways, I think I’ve been lucky with my results in cyclocross so far. For the most part, it’s just worked out… Following results where I’ve “shown potential”, so to speak, the opportunities to race at higher levels and be supported have come a lot more quickly than with mountain biking… The mountain bike progression has been much more deliberate and steady over these three seasons in the sport, which makes it feel like a safer avenue – one that I’m now feeling more at home with. And I think ‘cross pays dividends to the benefit of my mountain bike racing too.
Now straight up – I’m super proud of my mountain bike season. I was grinding from plates in the 100’s up to the low 30s, and this was my first crack at it, a little experience goes a long way. Or at least I hope so for next summer, that and a few more UCI points to bump me up from the back row, maybe even get into a short track this year!
While I say this year was my first “real” cyclocross season because I came into it with a program – I actually got into cross last year, albeit by the seat of my pants and without any plans… I did wind up going to Europe over Christmas though, and I did go top 30 in a Belgian World Cup and top 10 in a C1. In some ways, I think that race trip last winter set me up to believe I could do OK on the mountain bike come summer – it took the edge off of the sometimes over-hyped “racing in Europe” intensity. And now, I hope that the racing I did this fall at the US cyclocross World Cups and slew of races against the top North Americans sets me up to do better in 2020 for both cyclocross and mountain biking.
So why say this fall was crazy… Well, in some ways it seems insane and unfair to be such a novice, yet wing it with some of the best, most practiced, most dedicated and focussed individuals in the sport. I’m barely out of my 0-2 year FUNdamentals with cycling and am so wide-eyed and open-eared trying to learn and apply everything as quickly as possible… But I also feel like I have this enormous weight of experience and perspective as an athlete who’s already seen out an entire career (from skiing, and just thinking about stuff a lot, I guess). It’s very polarizing and heavy at times… trying to decide how to define yourself as an athlete and person. And in this day and age, being a professional athletes also means being a public figure – so deciding how to project yourself and influence how you are perceived and received by others is always on my mind too. On that front, I’ve settled on being an extraordinarily ordinary person, to be a dynamic racer, and to be a friend and a fan of everyone.
Looking ahead to 2020, I think I’m getting closer to lacing things together. Like anything, it all starts with showing up; and I plan to be back on the start grid for cross in the New Year. Until then, I’ll be turning these and many other thoughts over and over in my mind. I mostly typed this out to create “content” since I haven’t shared much in a while, and to let it be known that, when given time, I tend and think long about what I (might) do – even if it doesn’t go anywhere. Making choices is tough, but so is sitting tight and waiting. So it all is. But it’s all good and well.
Happy Holidays all, take care.