February 2, 2009 (Hoogerheide, Belgium) – Pedal caught up with Canadian “˜cross racers, who took part in the 2009 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Hoogerheide, Belgium on the weekend. Derrick St. John (Stevens) shared his experiences from the elite men’s race and Wendy Simms (Kona) and Natasha Elliott (EMD Serono/Stevens) recounted their races in the elite women’s competition.
Derrick St. John’s Report
What an experience. In Holland, it has been cold sunny and dry for the last couple days. As in the previous weeks leading up to this, everyone thought that the parcours was going to be a very muddy, heavy course with lots of unrideable sections. Well, it was the complete opposite. We raced on a completely frozen course that snaked its way through the Centrum of the village, past the church, the VIP area and about 30,000 screaming fans. It was like riding a winter crit on frozen bumpy ground with obstacles in the middle of a rock concert.
Knowing that it was going to play out more like a crit or road race, it was critical to get a good start. I did what I could to shove myself as far forward from my 7th row start position as possible. A Spanish rider crashed in the first km causing a little bit of a pile up as always. I settled into a rhythm a little further back than I wanted to be, because just as I had almost worked my way to the group ahead, my chain snapped when I jumped on my bike. So it was a pretty long run on the frozen ground that felt like running on concrete.
Once this happened all I could do was run to the pit and just focus on staying on the same lap as the leaders. I did this, but since I was only a minute ahead of the leader on his last lap they decided to pull me although I had not been lapped.
So not exactly the way it was supposed to go today, but hey that’s cross and this was the Worlds. It’s the best of the best on their A game in their biggest race of the year, so you can just imagine, it’s pretty intense. But it’s been a fantastic experience. The crew here has been really positive, it had been a pleasure to share the last few days here with a great Canadian National Cyclocross team. Our Manager Dan Proulx, unofficial manager/mechanic Norm Thibault, and volunteer extraordinaire Paul did a fantastic job with minimal resources available for this project.
It’s been an incredibly long and hard journey but I think it still ended on a pretty positive note. It’s not everyday you get to do a World Championship – it was awesome. It has been Natasha’s and my dream to wear the Maple Leaf since we started cycling, it’s taken a lot of hard work, but it’s been worth every minute.
For more about Derrick St. John’s and Natasha Elliott’s cyclocross adventures, read there blog here.
Wendy Simms’s Report
Hmmm, what can I say except I went for it! There were two crashes on the first corner, but I managed to squeak through them, so I was in a great position 4th into the dirt with the leaders. The pace was insanely fast as Compton was off the front and Hanka was chasing HARD. It was either play it safe and drop back to the chase group, or go for it. I tried to stay with the leaders and then blew pretty hard and then had a hard time hanging on to wheels so just went backwards. Staying with a group was pretty important with the wind and road sections. So 18th, I think – not great, but it was world champs, so what can you do? Play it safe for a top ten, or hang it all out and see what happens… it was an all or nothing move. As Norm says, “Death or glory.”
For more on Wendy Simms’s World Championships, read her blog here.
Natasha Elliott on her first CX Worlds
“I was off to one of my best starts in Europe especially after having a late 3rd row call up. But unfortunately there was a crash in the first corner of the race on the cobbles – a girl slid out into a few other riders and I went over the front of my bars. I had nowhere else to go but straight into the girl on the ground in front of me,” said Elliott. “I was about 2nd or 3rd last off the start after that going into the grass section of the course and the peloton had about 100 metres on me.”
“I made my way up to the back end of the race in the first lap and then started picking my way through the field. I ended up having a really strong 2nd half and I was pleased with my recovery from the initial set backs. I am happy to have experienced Worlds for the first time and got to represent Canada. I look forward to many more to come and only hope that my results will improve. Next years focus – top 10 at Worlds. Thanks for all the support from our fans, family and friends back home,” added Elliott.