by Maghalie RochetteThere is a Canadian artist that I really love, here name is Charlotte Cardin. She's from Quebec, but her music is in English, and David and I went to see her perform last week with some friends. She was really good! Some people are saying she might be the next Celine Dion, the next Quebecois artist to make it internationally... and although it sounds very random, there is a good reason why I'm bringing her up right now. For one, well, if you check her out now and get to love her music, maybe in ten years you'll be able to say you were one of the early fans. The other reason is that she was the main soundtrack for me at the first UCI cyclocross racing weekend the last few days. And above that, one of her songs represents exactly how I was feeling, coming into this new season.
The song is called Puppy, from Charlotte Cardin.
It’s a new sensation
I got no expectations
Sick of your suffocation
You pushed me over the edge
I'm holding onto the ledge
But it's alright
I'm in a good state of mind
Like a puppy out the window
I just wanna feel the wind blow
Yeah, it's alright
I'm in a good state of mind
Already cried all I could cry for
You couldn't faze me if you tried, boy
I'm seein’ brand new colors and I’m watchin' ’em melt
Into a distant future I painted myself
And I can barеly reach it, but I know that it's there
Bеcause tonight's my last night gaspin' for air
I will spare you the details and will leave you to interpret these lyrics how you want, but the short of it is I've been struggling the last 18 months of my cycling career (except for 2 good months at the end of CX season last year), I haven't been able to race all summer...but now I'm feeling like a puppy out the window.
You can listen to the song here...the vibe is also pretty accurate of my current vibe.
Annnnnd now that you're up to date, let's talk about that first race weekend, shall we?
We are racing
I came in feeling happy and calm. I had done a few good training sessions and felt good, but the truth is I had no idea of where my fitness was really at. While we normally build from March until CX, and race many times in the summer, this year we started to build in mid-July and did 1 Marathon MTB race...a very different preparation. But the unknown of my fitness was not stressing me out. I actually felt very serene and confident. Of course I am competitive and always want to perform, but my approach was not focused on winning or losing (or not losing); instead, my goal was to improve throughout this racing opportunity, and execute a performance as well as I could.
So on a warm day in Roanoke Virginia, the gun went off and the season 2023 started! I chose to start conservatively, both to respect the hot conditions and not put myself in the red too early, but also to observe how everyone was riding. I was feeling good and on lap two, found myself opening a little gap by accelerating quicker at the top of the stairs. I kept the pressure on and slowly increased the gap on my pursuers to cross the line in first place. It felt good to be back racing and generally, I raced well. One personal win was dealing with the heat quite well (normally my nemesis). But there were also a few things I didn't do perfectly, and the next day already offered a new racing opportunity and a chance to improve upon those things.
When we woke up on Sunday, the temps were already cooler and rain was in the forecast. I loved every minute of the day. We pre-rode on a dry course, and then, the skies opened. My favorite 'cross situation: I watched the other races and studied which turns proved most treacherous. I walked some sections to see if the mud looked more like clay, or peanut butter, or just wet grass. I chatted with some of my male friends who had just been on course to hear their thoughts on tires selection...it was just a few minutes before my warm up, and all this intel was getting me GOING. I was stoked.
This time, my plan was different; I was going to start FAST. I told my friend Sidney McGill about my plan, because she's a fast starter and I thought we might get away together. I started fast, but made sure to ease into the first few turns since I didn't truly know the conditions. The studying I had done earlier paid off, on the first treacherous turn I had identified, I cleaned it and people behind me slid, which opened a little gap. This time, I didn't just keep my pace; I opened the gas. I ended up riding on my own the whole race, testing the limits of the muddy turns and of my legs, and having a grand ole' time. I loved every second.
As I said, winning is always fun, but to me, this wasn't the whole point of the weekend. Was I able to use these two racing opportunities to become a better rider? I believe I did, and I'm happy with that. Plus, there was another highlight to this weekend: the people!
Cyclocross is a tight knit community, and it felt special to be back with those people. My competitors (my friends), the mechanics, race organizers, media people, photographer...they're just a really fun group!
On top of that, we got to spend more quality time with one team. David and I have decided to reduce our operation this year; we sold our truck and trailer, our tents, reduced the amount of wheels we have, and just generally are trying to have a simpler approach. Part of that change means that instead of driving 7000km and spending 6 weeks on the road to hit the first part of the North American races, we will be flying to some of them, and driving to the close ones, and go back home during the week. I've calculated the carbon emission for this trip to Roanoke (on a site called Planetair.com), and it turns out that our big truck and 26" trailer was creating more Co2 than taking a out/back flight for 2 people. Anyway, part of what makes this possible is our incredible friend Chris McGovern.
Chris started a new team called Cervélo/Orange Living ; it's an U25 development team supporting 3 riders, giving them a home and some support out of the junior ranks. But Chris also has a team service business, and has a great setup with tents and a trailer, and they agreed to transport our bicycles between the races. Part of the deal is they also allow us to hang out with them under the tents. For us, that not only means that we can travel with a carry-on bag to the races (say WHAT?!), but it also means we have an incredible crew to hang out with at the races.
To me, this was a true highlight of the weekend! I spent a lot of time hanging out and riding with their riders Sidney McGill and 17 year old Kaya Musgrave, and got to know their other rider Jules Van Kempen. What a treat!! They were all so enthusiastic and genuinely are just all nice people. Meanwhile, David worked with mechanics Chris and Charlie on all the riders' bikes.
I'm very thankful to Chris and the whole team for accepting us into their space. I think we're going to have a lot of fun with them! Now my job this week is to gather everyone's favorite songs to build a pre-race playlist.
Let's see what happens
David and I made a lot of changes this year...in our preparation, in our logistics, in how we tackle the events, etc. Some of it was by choice, some by necessity, some as a reaction to injury or obstacle along the road. Not all of it is optimal, but it is what it is. In the end, we are starting the season with a new approach, based on simplicity. We are as motivated as ever to perform and improve, but I do sense a slight difference in my personal motivation, which is rooted more in self improvement & happiness than on ego. We will see what happens, but the first weekend sure brought a lot of smiles.
The USCX Series keeps going next week for rounds 3 & 4 in Rochester, NY.
I'm equally as excited for the racing as I am for seeing my new friends again...alright, now there is a flight to catch and a new playlist to build!!
I mentioned earlier that this Spring had been tough…to be honest, my last good (awesome!) racing experience goes back to the Cyclocross World Championships in February. This Spring, the few races I tried to do all left a sour taste in my mouth, bringing no joy, no elation, no excitement…Now I understand that part of it was due to having so much pain in my back. So having such a blast pushing myself and racing in the Marathon meant the world to me. It was such a positive experience, and exactly what I needed to build momentum towards the rest of the season.
I was supposed to race the E-MTB race two days later, but I decided that morning not to participate. I had not had a chance to try the E-bike until the day before the race. The course was super challenging, and e-bikes are powerful machines that ride differently. With so little time to get accustomed to the new motor, and with a challenging course, I felt uncomfortable jumping into a World Championships race, and opted to not take any risk. The cyclocross season is coming, and at this point, I don't want to risk any injury.
Despite doing one less race than planned, I’m leaving Scotland with my heart full, my legs and body fitter than when we left, and my mind excited for what is to come. We discovered a cycling heaven in Scotland and I will definitely go back to explore more. Above all, I feel like I connected more deeply with my love for the bike.
I couldn’t be more grateful!
Now, we race a gravel event tomorrow at home***
***Turns out that never sent from the plane! So now we are Sunday, we've done the Skills Clinic at the gravel event and rode the gravel event already. It was awesome. I didn't "race" it per se, but instead used the opportunity to connect with the local community at this amazing event, The Big Red Gravel run.Full gas CX training starts tomorrow. I'm ready for it!
Cheers and thanks for following :)
Thanks for reading everyone :)
Sept. 23-24: USCX Series Rounds 3 &4, Rochester NY
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