24 Hour Off Season
WORDS BY NIKKI HARRIS PHOTOS BY RUSS ELLIS
As you can guess by the title, my off-season is a tad different to that of your average bike racer. After my recent transfer to Boels-Dolmans, things will go a little different than my last few seasons.
Let’s first start by talking a little about 2016 Cyclocross World Championships in Zolder. After the race I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. I mulled over that whole race in my head – over and over and over. Looking for something I could have done better. No race is ever perfect, no matter how well you race, how good your result is, or how much you win by. It’s just the nature of sport. We all strive for perfection.
I worked with my coach specifically on a few areas that would be important at that race – going into it with the clear goal to be on the podium. The rainbow jersey was in my mind, in my dreams, and I knew getting it was possible on a good day. After half a lap I was at the front of the race. I felt good, felt confident and my pre-race goal soon stepped up a notch. I thought, ‘Shit or bust, I’m going to try and win this thing’.
Four or five of us were in a select group, and I knew the winner would surely come from here. I just had to bide my time and wait for the right moment to make my move. Two laps to go, and the opportunity arrived. I made my effort – I got a decent little gap and was pulling away. All I needed now was one perfect lap, and a not-so-perfect lap for the others. Often in races it’s not all about speeding up at the right moment, but rather reading when others slow down. Eventually this didn’t happen – I made one stupid mistake on one bank, and my dream slipped away in the blink of an eye.
After some reflection, I think I can be happy with how I raced. I know I made a few of my fans pretty excited, which always makes me smile. But I don’t want to be the circus clown that races aggressively, and comes away with nothing. I want to win.
However, I went all-in. I could have played it safe and ridden for the podium, but that’s not the rider I want to be. That’s not what makes me thrive, and I’m quite proud of that.
I won’t take much of a rest at all after my last cyclocross race this season. Instead I’ll carry my condition into the early season road races, taking full advantage of the five months riding and racing I have in my legs.
It was, I admit, a bit of a balancing act to be able to do this. A few things needed to fall into place and a few sacrifices were required to make this all work. Luckily I have a fantastic team, coach and support group behind me, making my life easier and working together to make a realistic plan to ensure my ’cross and road racing can complement each other – hopefully bringing me to the next level.
I usually do quite a lot of endurance training during the ’cross season which makes the transition from 50 minute races to 3–4 hour races a whole lot easier. I’ll go straight from my last race to a training camp in the south of Spain with my team and then straight into the thick of the action in Belgium the following weekend. I should be tired and mentally exhausted, as is often the case after such a huge goal, but I feel so excited and motivated to get stuck into these road races and see what I can do. It’s quite refreshing.
The next few months are going to be tough, but I believe as long as I manage to stay mentally fresh everything will work out. After the first part of the season is over, I’ve the small matter of a wedding to attend – my wedding! But again, I’ve no stress there as Matt has it all under control… I wish!
Of course I’ll take a break around the big day, take some time away from the bike, enjoy the cake, and look forward to the best day of my life! If I survive April 16th, the next thing to look forward to will be the Tour of California. It’s still four months away, and it’s already starting to excite me!