The 2015 Road cycling world champs have been undoubtedly the best cycling experience I have ever had.
After flying into Chiacago and staying for two nights to watch Lizzie race in the Triathlon World Champs, Dad and I drove through the night down to Richmond Virginia where I met up with the Cycling NZ team. We were staying about 5 miles out from the course, so it was a brief ride in every day for riding and a short drive for racing. The NZ team was stacked; we had Greg Henderson, Jesse Sergent, Sam Bewley, Linda Villumsen, Jo Keisanowski, Rushlee Beucannan, James Oram, Dion Smith, Hayden Mcormick, Sam Dobbs, James Fouche, Georgia Catterick, Hannah Gumbley, Mikayla Harvey, and me. We were also lucky to have the help of the USA-based UHC pro racing team mechanics and soigneuers; it felt as though we were true professionals. The German team was also staying at the same place, and that was a highlight on its own, with the likes of Tony Martin, Tom Domoulin, and Andre Gripel.
My first race was the individual time trial, on the 22nd. The 30 km course in Richmond was amazing, incredibly quick, technical and through the inner city streets, the atmosphere bolstered by the massive crowds lining the barriers (even on practice days). The course was two laps of a 15km circuit, heading down the historic Monument Ave, out and back on the paved surface, before a long straight stretch across the river – really quick on the way out and a grind back. The lap was topped off with a quick descent and a short steep climb to the finish. I had 4 days in Richmond before my TT, so plenty of time to adjust to the 30 degree temperature and practice the course.
It started early, just after 9:00, and I was the 6th rider off. After a 40min warm up I was ready to hit the starting ramp. My race went really well. I surprised myself with consistency, my two laps being 6 seconds apart (although the second one much harder) and being one of the first to start I went into the hot seat. In the end I was 21st , and 21st in the world is good enough for me at the moment.
The Road race was four days later, enough time to get rest and prepare for the 130km event. Having the U23 men and the U19 women racing the day before ours (in the TT and the Road Race) was a huge benefit, because we could see how the races were likely to play out, in terms of tactics and technicality. The U19 girls event split up on the first lap and the break stuck. The U23’s length (160km) wore down riders, and came down to the final kilometers of the race. It seemed the three hills towards the end of the 16km course played a vital part in the result. The course was really tight and fast, the first half exactly the same as the TT course, but instead of going across the bridge and back, it followed the river through town and towards Libby Hill, the primary cobbled climb where thousands of spectators lined the tight bends. Then after four fast tight crit-like corners up 23rd street, where Sagan attacked to win the Elite mens, a steep cobbled slippery climb. After two more fast descending corners, the course went uo Govenor’s Street climb, again short and steep, and from there is was 600m to the line.
The U19 mens race was 8 laps, making 128km; a long race compared to other U19 races I had done with NZ nationals being 110, and Oceanaia champs 105. On the day it rained, and this added a totally different aspect to our race, especially with the cobbles and sharp corners. My tyres were pumped up to 90 psi, and vinegar was spread on our tyres for grip, but crashes were inevitable. The NZ team (me, James and Sam) was the last team to get rolled out because NZ sent no one last year, and ten seconds after I rolled down to the back of the bunch, we were off. The pace was on right from the start, and the bunch was huge, about 170 riders. I desperately made my way to the front, and got there after 3km, essentially to see how hard doing this was and what riding the bunch was like. It was my first time racing with more than about 70 people. The pace never eased, it was so much faster and steady than any race in NZ. I felt I did a good job of riding through the bunch and staying protected, even so I started cramping about 3 laps in. It didn’t really affect my riding, which was lucky, but over the couse of the race it never really got bad, maybe even got better because I drunk 7 water bottles overall. I stayed with the bunch for 7 laps, before a crash on libby hill split the bunch to pieces, and left me in the third group. I spent the last lap chasing as hard as possioble, and made my way back to the front before we arrived at Libby Hill again. On the hill I blew. Everything went fuzzy and I could hardly pedal, I lost about 1:30 in the last 4km, 2;30 down from the winner, who was in a breakaway group of 12, they got away as I was chasing back on during lap 8. In the end I finished 66th, a bit disappointed with how it ended but the experience was amazing. I was the only NZ rider to finish, Sam was involved in a crash on the first lap and never recovered, and James broke a spoke on the cobbles on lap 5 and it finished there. It was certainly the most worthwhile trip I have ever made and I am really pleased I decided to go, to work with the team, to watch and ride with the pro’s and experience the United States.
A massive thanks must go to everyone who helped me to get there and supported me, it wouldn’t have been possible without you.