Sunday, September 8, 2013

Striking Gold

One week prior to World Championships, we competed at the final stop of the UCI’s World Cup circuit in Matane, Quebec, three hours south of Baie-Comeau. The two time trial courses were similar to each other and would serve as the final dress rehearsal before Worlds a week later. Perfect execution was the goal for the World Cup.

Some of the Matane TT medalists
Matane’s 8km circuit was open for training before the day’s racing began. I’ve always liked pre-riding the course as much as possible; it’s one more opportunity to learn about the course, and to get a read on the day’s conditions. The wind changes directions often in northeastern Canada, changing the difficulty of the circuit so having the most up to date weather conditions is helpful. Pre-riding the course followed by a standard warm up on the rollers had me primed and ready to race.

The team’s head coach, Andy, was in my follow car. After some technical problems with the race radio, we decided not to use it. Rather, he would use a bullhorn to relay information to me. Having nearly constant feedback and encouragement throughout the race in Matane was incredibly helpful. From the start, I knew it was going to be a good day. Staying in control and going relatively slowly for the first three minutes had me raring to open things up. After that, everything felt great. Mentally, things were sharper than ever; leg speed was excellent; every opportunity to straight-line turns was maximized; speed and power increased throughout the race; position on the bike stayed the same from beginning to end despite fatigue. I crossed the line with a comfortable margin of victory. It was as close to a perfect ride* as I’ve ever been.

Warming up in Baie-Comeau.
Fast forward one week to World Championships in Baie-Comeau. The plan was the same- to execute perfectly. Andy was in my follow car with his bullhorn again and we decided to use a race radio as well. This was to get more specific information directly in my ear while racing. A morning pre-ride of the course and a final warm up on rollers started the morning of perfect execution. The weather was drizzly and cold on race morning: only 49°F when going to the start house. It went unnoticed once the clock ticked down and I rolled down the start ramp. The course was hillier than Matane which meant slightly more shifting and required slightly more focus on cadence. Still, I wanted to keep the cadence comfortable, stay focused, maximize speed, and keep the aero position.

When finishing the first of two laps on the circuit, Andy relayed that I was 37 seconds up on second place. By this point, Andy was going crazy yelling into the bullhorn, giving encouragement, and feedback. Hearing “you’re riding for a World Championship” was chilling, even in a semi-delirious state. Hearing teammates stationed around the course watching and cheering gave an added boost of energy. It was fun.

On the podium with teammate Sam H.
After crossing the line and rolling back to the pits, the results came in. I won. It was another perfectly executed ride. This individual title is far from an individual victory. It’s taken years of work; years of falling short; trying and failing again, and again; being the bridesmaid but never the bride; years of being helped back up by teammates, friends, and family. It has taken unyielding support. The easy part was riding as fast as I could.

Jersey, medal, bib.
Listening to the Star Spangled Banner and finally getting one of those striped shirts is a moment I won’t soon forget. The most amazing part of winning a world title though, has been the outpouring of support. Dozens of emails, texts, and social media posts waited for me when I returned to the hotel and they’re still streaming in, over a week later. It’s a testament to how many people it takes to win a medal, and how deeply the roots of my support system run. It’s impossible to thank everyone who has helped on this eight-year journey to the top but know that everything you do and have done is appreciated. Thank you.

For the first time in years, I didn’t go into Worlds counting the days until racing was over just to have a break from the bike; counting the days left before packing up the bikes and not looking at them for as long as possible. Rather, I arrived in Baie-Comeau energized and excited to race, excited to go out and play bikes because that’s all it is- playing bikes. I left with the same excitement and motivation to get better.

Team USA's World Champions
* A truly perfect time trial results in the rider’s death as they cross the finish line, having exhausted every ounce of energy and life from their body. I, obviously, am not dead yet.

1 comment:

  1. Your hard work and winning attitude helped you get that striped jersey. Well done, Greta! Champion becomes you.