Worlds, Part 2 - Bogense 2019
In this second installment from Clara’s 3-week block in Europe, she dives right in to share her race day at U23 World Championships in Bogense, Denmark—a day we’ve been building to all season. Erik and Brenna made the midnight trip across the Atlantic to join Clara’s family and support her race day in person. Our friend and team partner, photographer Patrick Means, traveled with us to capture scenes from the weekend.
In the small harbor of Bogense this last weekend, the start of the women’s U23 world championship race felt lot like the start of an elite World Cup. If you have ever witnessed the start of a World Cup, you know it is unique. There is of course the massive bushel of soigniers, photographers, and mechanics trying to support their riders up to the final second before the start. There’s the blaring techno soundtrack that both young teenagers and old men pump their fists to with equal drunken vigor. The only real difference for me was that I was called up on the front row and snuggled between some of the fastest Dutch riders in the world. It was a setting I had been anxiously anticipating all week. A little voice in the back of my head would sardonically mumble “I am just a kid from Oregon who has been trying to figure out how to rip around on a bike.” The riders next to me had been racing cyclocross since they were toddlers and have held pro contracts since they were thirteen. But when the moment comes, I am on the line next to them and I realize that we are all racing for the same place.
And just like with World Cups, at thirty seconds to go, the music stops and the heartbeat begins. Many riders despise the heartbeat, but I secretly appreciate it. It creates an extremely visceral moment. It begins slowly—lub dub—temporarily bringing silence to the crowd and setting a metronome to focus on, a rhythm more stable than the rapid firing of my own heart. As it quickens—lub dub, lub dub—the anticipation grows. I center all my concentration on the red light and after a few seconds, my eyes begin to strain. But then the light is green and the world around me explodes. For forty minutes we are on fire. Screeching into corners and blasting out of them. We fight for lines with elbows and hips as we wind through a tunnel of screaming fans. The distance between me and the front is elastic, stretching back and forth, but I refuse to let it snap. With each surge, I kick back trying to hold the pace. The smallest of errors—a fumble in a corner or a slip on the run up—costs me meters and places in the pack. On the straightaways I can make it back up to the pack, but I am not aggressive enough to elbow for a place on the front. In the end, that is my greatest mistake and I finish tenth. It is a result I am content with as a developing cyclocross racer. It is another important experience on my ride to become an elite.
As a season overall, I feel satisfied. I set some large goals and have grown a lot since September. More than anything, I am ready to finish my undergraduate as a U23 and begin my masters as an elite. While my riding has improved vastly and my results are more consistent, there is still an immense amount of work and practice to put towards being a true elite.
But in between now and then, there is time: time to rest, time to rip mountain bikes through the woods, and maybe even time to break out the skis. And at the end of this season, thank you again for your support these past few months, across continents and through the thickest terrain and in the harshest weather. It truly has been a blast!