Kathy Sherwin on her final days in Europe.

 

In between the Czech Republic World Cups we were able to spend some time in a small village near the Austrian and German border called Zablati. Zablati is a few blocks long and sits in a valley with one main road running through it. It was beautiful, quaint, and quiet; the perfect recovery from the World Cup! 

 

We were blessed to have this opportunity to spend time at Katerina’s parents summer home and to discover (even partake in!) what the locals do.  Thanks to Katerina’s mom and dad along with lots of translation by Katerina we got a glimpse of what life is like in Zablati.  It was a short glimpse filled with our own needs of doing laundry, resting, cooking and trying to find the right training terrain each day but we did manage to fit in some mushroom hunting lead by Katerina’s mom!!  It was pretty cool to step off the beaten path and into a massive forest to find the little eatable gems that varied in size from minuscule to massive.  Luckily her mom was there to let us know which ones were poisonous and which ones she could use in her homemade soup.  I think about 90% of the ones I found were poisonous.  What a rookie!!   

 

During the week, Myron and I also found our way up to Prague.  Myron has a friend, Cory who lives there and was generous enough to open his home to us.  Cory gave us the best tour he could give in our quick 24 hour stay in the beautiful area he calls home.

 

Once we parked the car at Cory’s house it was all about “The Metro” subway and the city tram lines.  Both are used plentifully by the locals during all hours of the day and night.  Prague was simply amazing and its buildings were nothing I expected or envisioned.  Filled with ornate churches and large beautiful buildings, structures, corridors, statues, plaques, monuments, clock towers and endless history we could have stayed there 2 weeks and not hit it all.  Needless to say, I got my fair share of walking in.  Probably more than I have done in the states this entire year! 

 

Being in Prague was a great experience while following Cory, his wife and daughter around like lost puppies as we stared at everything in amazement and tried to take pictures that would actually do what we were seeing some justice (fat chance!).  The place is so beautiful even your eyes can’t do it justice in person!  I have never seen such beauty.

 

After one more day in Zablati, a school talk/Q and A with me and Myron in Prachatice, and a great night out at the local Indian Restaurant we concluded the wonderful evening and week by getting pulled over by the police for a random breathalyzer test.  How come I have only ever gotten breathalyzer tests in every country but the U.S.?!  I of course was not what the officer was looking for in the rocking town of Zablati since I was just a boring calorie counting athlete in between World Cups.  After he “let me go” I just stayed parked where I was because he unknowingly happened to wave me to park in my parking spot I had been in all week in front of Katerina’s parents’ house! 

 

Tabor, Czech Republic

After a quick 1.5 hour drive to Tabor from Zablati we got checked into our next hotel.  It was centered in the old square in the historical center of the ancient southern Bohemian town.   The square notably had plenty of cobbles and a beautiful clock tower along with a maze of tiny roads veering off of the square that lead back to the surrounding main roads.  The town square was a paradise in and of itself.

 

After making 4 trips each to and from the car we got all our stuff unloaded and were finally ready to crash for the night and get ready for the start of the weekend.  The weekend would include a pre-ride of the World Cup course on Saturday and then the big show on Sunday. 

 

Weather seemed to be holding out for the most part although the temperatures were slowly showing their fall form.  The course was very similar to Fort Collins in that there was good amount of elevation gain for a cross race.  There were about 5-6 stairs step section and some barriers that you rolled up to like a slug (or was that just me??!!) as they sat on the longer uphill part of the course.  There was also my favorite part of the course which was more techie with a steeper downhill followed by some sticky mud and an off camber uphill power section. It was a pretty fun course overall and you found yourself either going up,  making your way back down or making your way back over for another go of it on the flat section at the bottom. 

 

Myron was there to help with everything and get the bikes sorted and ready.  He was really great on this trip because the guy knows what he is doing!  He has so much experience travelling along with wrenching and that alone settles any nerves. With his army of tools and plentiful connections, everything was always going to be ok!

 

And it was!  My Ridley X-Fires rode flawlessly around the course 5 times on race day.  But I really can’t say the same for the engine of that bike though.  I felt good, I felt fast but at that level “feeling fast and good” just isn’t enough.  You need to be having your best day ever. You need to have your best start ever. You need to not make any mistakes.  And you need to drill it till your eyeballs pop. 

 

The only category I fell into above was the last one. The first one…well, it is what it is and I did everything I thought I should do leading up to the race.  As for having your best start ever….even starting on the 4th row doesn’t make it impossible but didn’t happen either for me.  Of note was the girl next to me who decided when the official said “One minute to go!” to take her wheel and cross it in front of mine at an angle so we both had our wheels in between the 2 ladies rear wheels on the row ahead.  My first thought on that one was “You snooze you lose.” Then I thought if someone has to do that to get ahead I better stay away from her!!  That second thought proved to be the winner of the chicken dinner because she indeed got ahead of me as my start was delayed waiting for her to go but she slipped a pedal…..and I passed.  Good riddance!  And as far as not having any mistakes, well….as I carried my bike on my shoulder up the stairs on the first lap I felt like someone was pulling my rear wheel back (I had been warned about this at the World Cup level) and when I threw my bike forward on the ground to remount I fell to my knees because as it turned out the girls handlebars behind me were entangled in my rear wheel!!  Luckily she and I were both amazingly calm about the situation as we ran together for a good bit while simultaneously untangling ourselves and letting what seem like droves of people go by.  How ridiculous!  But that is just how close the racing is over there in Europe!   

 

Looking at the bright side, I was at least faster than the week before off the winning time (Katerina won today!!) but that still put me in an extremely disappointing 31st.

 

No one said World Cup racing was going to be easy and its not.  Coming over to the Czech Republic to experience my first 2 Cyclocross World Cups gives me the knowledge and experience to be able to go home and know exactly what I need to do in order to get my buns up there in the Top 15 where I belong.  Without experiencing everything firsthand I would have never known. 

 

With that I need to thank EVERYONE who made it possible to make it over to Europe to discover what I didn’t already know about racing at the World Cup level in Cyclocross.  These experiences only make you stronger and wiser so long as you can handle the defeat while you find yourself in that learning curve.

 

A big huge outstanding thanks to:   Stan’s NoTubes, RidleyUSA, Kenda, RotorBikeUSA, Lazer, Genuine Innovations, adidas eyewear, GU, Fi’z:k, TRP, Crankbrothers, Verge, K-Edge, Showers Pass,  Cottonwood Cycles (New Mexico), Jet Black Trainers, Garmin, Patagonia and Enduro Bearings.  Thanks for making it possible!

 

My next race will take me to a state I haven’t been to yet for the popular 3 day Cincinnati Cyclocross Festival in Ohio!

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