Last week we set off to the Czech Republic for the first two World Cup races of the season. I was looking forward to the challenging race courses and the chance to compete against the toughest competition in the world. In addition to our stays at the race venues, we had booked a studio apartment in Prague and planned to spend the five days between the two races training and being tourists. It bears repeating that this trip would not have been possible without the amazing support of our sponsors. Thanks, Bob’s Red Mill ! Thanks, Seven Cycles.
We arrived in Prague a bit exhausted from lack of sleep on the overnight flight. I can’t imagine the parents or the child that cried the entire plane trip felt much better. We stumbled our way through the airport happy to have all of our luggage (two bags, two bikes, and ten wheels!) arrive safely. We grabbed the rental car and navigated our way to the apartment we had rented.
In spite of the maze-like cobbled streets of Prague, our arrival was a smooth one. Matt unpacked the bikes and I headed out for a quick ride. After a little rest, we crossed the Charles Bridge for dinner at one of the many vegetarian restaurants in the city. I opted for the vegetarian take on a classic Czech goulash.
The next day, we packed the car back up and headed to Plzen or Pilsen, home of Pilsner Urquell beer and the site of the first World up race of the season.
On Saturday, we were greeted by several familiar faces as I pre-rode the course. The US had sent a full women’s roster and several men to the event and we were all able to meet up and check in with one another before the racing began. I was also lucky enough to get in a lap on the course with my old friend Tim Johnson and was thankful for the pointers he generously offered. It was going to be a tough course with a lot of pedaling and power and a few punchy hills to really work the legs.
Based on my points from the previous season, my start position was close to the back row, making for an especially tricky start. It was going to be really tough to get into a good spot on the first lap.
Unfortunately, my start was not as strong as I would have liked and I was in the back of the group coming through the first technical sections. I avoided some crashed riders and began the chase to pass as many people as I could each lap to move into the top groups.
It’s always cool (and motivating!) to hear people cheering your name. It’s especially cool when you’re racing in the Czech Republic and there are people cheering for you. Partway through the race I heard someone yell, “Happy Birthday, Mo!” It was last week. Thanks, guy!
With every passing lap, I was riding stronger and stronger. I was able to pass enough riders to get myself into 20th position by the finish. I was hoping for a top 15 and knew that I’d have to improve my start next week to get into the mix.
In between the World Cups, Matt and I stayed in Prague. Our studio apartment was in the Malá Strana section of Prague with the castle (the Hrad) looming above us each time we left the building.
Although training was a big part of my daily routine, Matt and I still managed to experience Prague by exploring a new section of the city or visiting a museum nearly every day. Highlights included Petrin Hill, the John Lennon Wall, the Kampa Museum and the Museum of Young Art.
After a full week of touring the amazing sights of Prague, training in beautiful city parks and enjoying a few surprise eateries, we headed to Tabor for the next World Cup. I had been to Tabor two years before for the World Championships when it was covered in snow and ice. This time, though, the course was dry and very fast with some leg sapping climbs. I felt confident that I could have a better start and hoped that I would have a better result come race day.
The weather had turned very cloudy and chilly for the start of the race but there wasn’t a drop of rain to be had. The course was hard-packed and the race would be smoking fast.
Off the line I settled in the top 15 and spent the first three laps swapping places back and forth with several other riders as everyone fought for every single spot and every inch of room on the course.
With two laps to go I was leading a large group of about six riders. Everyone was pushing the pace and trying to create some time gaps. Each time one rider made an error, another one of us would take the advantage until the last lap when the pace began to pull the group apart.
I finished 18th for the day a bit disappointed to not have been able to secure a top 15 spot but pleased with my best World Cup finish to date.
Oh, by the way, apparently my ride in Tabor did not go unoticed. Colt at CyclingDirt named me the “Jump of the Week” in his weekly “Who’s #1” cross rankings. Check out the video clip here. Thanks, Colt!