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.
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.
Thanks to everyone who helped me get to that 7th place finish at worlds. Kona-yourkey.com 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.