Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cyclocross World Championships - Treviso, Italy

I am back at home in Nanaimo, still feeling a little fuzzy from the travel so CX worlds already seems pretty far away. Back to reality after 6 weeks in europe. But there are still e-mails and calls coming in with congratulations so I figured I should recap the Italy portion of our trip and I will try to get a slideshow up soon.

Norm and I arrived in Italy on Tues night and by Wed I already missed Belgium. Treviso was a pretty big city with lots of cars and noise and construction. It just seemed dirty after our great little place in Hertsberge. Sigh. We met up with the Canadian team: one Junior (Dave Larsen), 4 Espoirs (Kyle Douglas, Brian Robinson, Ian Manning, Shaun Adamson), 3 Elite men (Mike Garrigan, Aaron Schooler, Osmond Bakker) and 2 Elite women (Kelly Jones and myself). It was a huge change from the team of 2 we had the first year I came to worlds in 2004. We even had a manager (Glen Rendall) and Norm and Brad were the mechanics with help from Brian's dad Ian. We also had a decent sized fan club as some parents of the team came from Canada to cheer, a group of 30 Cross Crusaders had made the trip from Portland and the Luxembourg support club were staying at our hotel and remembered me from the New Years race so they adopted us. All it took was a few Kona trading cards!

Our hotel had complimentary townie bikes (in various states of disrepair) for us to use so we held the first ever "Knock down" national championships in the Treviso city square Wednesday night. Knock down is like bumper cars on bikes. Norm and I play it all the time. Some people use skill and balance to outwit their opponents but I generally just smash into other people and try to force them to their feet. The baskets on the front of the townies were especially helpful when smashing head on. There was no "official" ref for the national champs but I am pretty sure I won. Our pansy junior may protest but you can ignore him, he is just a whiner.

I was still feeling pretty haggered from the Hoogerheide race. I didn't want to broadcast it, but I actually felt like I was coming down with a cold so I did next to nothing but fight it off for 3 days. There was no way I was going to come to europe 6 weeks early to prepare for worlds, have some of the best races of my life leading into it, and then fall prey to the common cold. I won the fight and finally headed to the course on Friday. After looking at videos of the Treviso world cup from 2007 I had prepared myself for a fast dry race but when I actually got on the course it was muddy and slick. It had been freezing overnight and when the ground thawed parts of the course turned into a mess. Interesting.

Saturday the juniors and espoirs raced. I spent about an hour and 20 euros trying to watch the races LIVE on wcsn and but due to blackouts and mac pop up blocker issues I didn't get it sorted out until about 10mins after the last race at which point the coverage was over. '%$#@*'n technology. The ironic part was the race was only a 10min drive away from me. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Oh well I got the animated play by play from the Canucks. Everyone was pretty pleased with their races for the most part, with the exception of one DNF. Interviews with the boys are on

Race day. I was feeling pretty good Sunday morning. I had fought the cold, my legs had come around after the Hoogerheide race and I had confidence (and a second row call up) after my two 5th place finishes at the last world cups. Nothing more to do but pull it all together.

I had a good start off the gun and went into the first corner top ten without burning too many matches. We immediately went downhill into a muddy few corners which threw some girls off track so I ended up sitting comfortably in 4th place (yawn) behind Daphne van den Brand, the Czech girl I had been battling with the last two world cups and an Italian girl who was getting HUGE cheers. The comfort didn't last long as Hanka towed up a group of girls and pushed the pace. We hit a descent and Daphne went down, taking a few girls with her so I was back in 2nd place going into my favourite part of the course. The slick mud. I rode the muddy section pretty smooth (like a west coaster should) and suddenly I was LEADING the world championships!! Holy crap. I looked back after the mud and saw that I had a GAP on Hanka and the chasers!! My Queen Ann cutting through the mud and dropping 5 world champions from my wheel (van den Brand, Kupfernagel, Vos, Salvetat and Leboucher). No time to gloat. I ducked into the pits to change my bike (which had gained about 10lbs) and tucked back in behind Hanka and the French girl.

And pretty much the rest of my race was like groundhog's day. I would get passed by a world champion and try to stay with them as long as possible until I would blow. Then I would try to recover and get back on track before the next world champion would catch me. First Kupfernagel. Then Vos. Then Salvetate. Then Leboucher. My mouth was wide open looking for more oxygen the entire time. Norm said he had never seen me suffer so much. I was doing pretty well except for this one long mushy hill where I seemed to need just one more gear to stay with them. I had known it would be the hardest section for me. You know those grades of hills that are just a little off your strength? But I had my own Canadiana cheering squad running beside me to keep me honest to the very top. The boys were screaming and ringing bells and waving flags all the way to the top (after they had raced yesterday) so I couldn't let them down. They were working harder than I was. I was pretty scribbled by the last lap and lost my 6th place to Mirjiam Melchers (a road world champion) which was probably the only spot I was bummed about losing because I didnt have much fight left in me. But I saw Daphne's pigtails coming for me strong and managed to outsprint her to the finish. So.... 7th place at the world championships!! Of course holding onto first would have been nice but even those 2 minutes of glory were pretty sweet.

I finished my race, drank some beer, ate some Neauhaus chocolate and tried to stay awake for the men's race. I cheered for the Canadians but I am ashamed to say my legs couldn't run up the long hill even once for them. Sorry boys, I could barely walk to the top without stopping for a rest. We went out for dinner with the Canadian crew that remained and celebrated the best CX worlds for team Canada. I had lots of wine and pizza and gelato and then I am pretty sure I took another knock down win. Norm streaked through the centrum of Treviso on his townie. Monday we woke up a little hung over but visited Pinarello and met Giovanni, the legend. We went into Venice to check out San Marco square and the carnivale chaos. Then we were packing up and heading home at 4am Tuesday. Ouch.

Thanks to everyone who helped me get to that 7th place finish at worlds. for supporting my extended trip over here. Our team sponsors (FSA, Alpha Q, Shimano, Kore, Swiss stop, WTB, Honey Stinger and Verge) for providing us with such sweet gear (it took a beating!). Helly Hansen for keeping me warm. Frontrunners for letting Norm sneak away to support me. Brad and Norm for keeping my bikes dialed. The Canadian team for being so fun and cheering me on during my dark place on the course. Malaspina for letting me take some time off work to follow a dream. And last but not least, my brother Kevin Simms for coaching me all these years.


erikv said...

Thanks for all the great posts this season. I have really enjoyed reading them. Best of luck with whatever lies ahead!

Biker Pete said...

Wendy, I don't know what to say other than - WAY TO GO GIRL - outstanding race and season! Really hope to see you and Norm sometime in the next month or two to do congrats in person and hear all the trials and tribulations of racing in Europe. Congrats to Norm as well for the great race at Mol!

Peter W.

Melanie M said...

Nice work at Worlds wendy... very creative photgraphic recap!

It is totally unfair that you are the ripped specimen that you are given the number of pastries and chocolates in those photos.

It is pretty cool to see how far you have gone pioneering cyclocross in Canada. I am sure you will have an equally impressive mountain bike season. I am totally inspired to try some cc racing after this season.

See ya at the races...

Hopping said...

Way to go Wendy!!!
Congratulations on an awesome 2007 and what an incredible start to 2008!!!

Have a great winter, see ya next cross season!


Streeter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Streeter said...

Congrautulations again on a very successful season. I read through your posts and noted several references to coming down with a cold and such. I have something along those lines you might find mildly iteresting at least. It is kind of gross but probably at least partially true. I had a college professor (about a year ago, and I should also add that niether he nor I are authorities on the subject) that was obsessed with what actually caused colds. After arduous research, he concluded that the primary path for bacteria getting into our bodies was when it becomes lodged in the many folds of the sinus passage; and that the primary path for the bacteria to make its way deeply into the sinus was when we-shudder to thik about it- "shoved our dirty fingers up our nose". According to his research, the notion of ingesting bacteria didn't hold because most bacteria is killed by our digestive fluids. Anyway, just food for thought. No pun intended.