There are good people in this world. United Airlines let me creep onto the plane with my massive bike bag FREE. That was a far cry from the $470 they wanted to charge me 20 minutes earlier! Some welling up, some calm banter back and forth along with bike enthusiasts with good hearts behind the counter made for a nice deal in the end. Also with that came an upgrade at no charge to my seat with 5” of more leg room!! Whoo Hoo!
Once in Chicago I had about 2 seconds to make it to the next flight, get a restroom stop in, fill my water bottle and charge my computer. I think I was sweating by the time I got on the plane to Frankfurt! With a seat in between me and the gentleman on the aisle we were happy campers and ready for the 7-8 hour flight. Not exactly sure what I did for those 8 hours but it certainly wasn’t sleeping!!! I think I am used to seeing everyone else but me sleep on these transatlantic flights now. I used to get jealous of those sleepers but now not so much. It is what it is and I just simply cannot do it no matter how hard I try.
In Frankfurt I got to meet Myron for the second time in my life. I was going to be traveling with him for the next few weeks in Europe while he watched over my bikes and kept them running smoothly. Stan’s NoTubes was kind enough to send a mechanic with me to Europe! And not only a mechanic….one of the best around. Thanks Stan’s NoTubes!
Having an experienced mechanic such as Myron had its perks immediately. He knew the roads, the street signs, the area, and GETS what an athlete needs and should be doing. That is half of it right there!
After fumbling through paperwork to get our rental car we started driving towards the Czech Republic and I was all over the place. I guess that is where some sleep might have come in handy. Poor Myron I think I scared him half to death.
An hour in and we decided it would be a great idea to go to the outlet stores that were right off of the road. Why outlet stores? I really don’t know and I am going to guess Myron doesn’t either. Sleep deprivation at its finest I suppose. It actually turned out to be the best idea ever because he spotted a great bike path on the way to the outlets.
After a nice ride and feeling rejuvenated we jumped back in the car headed for Plzen, Czech Republic. As we drove through lots of greenery we passed condensed and vibrant colored town that kept our eyes dancing until we found ourselves in Plzen. Plzen was pretty darn big and finding our off the beaten path hotel was challenging but we found it, got checked in to, lugged our massive amounts of luggage up the restrictive stairwell and then about fell over with exhaustion. It was finally time to sleep but not before getting some (really good!!) food in the hotel dining room. There was even an English version of the food offered!
Ok, now we sleep. And for me that would be the first time in 33 hours!
World Cup #1 – Plzen, CZE
I knew the Cyclocross racing at the World Cup level was going to be different, I just didn’t know in what way. They take an average course that you would find in the US and then they throw the “one-two punch” at you by adding just a bit more to put you over the edge. For example, let’s not just have a set of stairs, let’s make it 23 steps total AND make it so that the step in between the steps is so monstrous that you are practically doing leg squats at a 90 angle as you go up each and every one. Then let’s add a quick steep section only pedal strokes after you remount to really see how much you can take.
On the other side of the course there was a sharp uphill that you had to gas it up (when you were of course already gassed) to make it up. And then right after you hit the “top” there was another steep but quick uphill section. And just when you thought you were done…..there was another! Yeah, that hurt.
Other than those sections the course was flat with lots of turns. The Start/ Finish straight was at the top of the steep hill and the rest of the course down below with the stairs connecting them. All in all the entire course was AWESOME and really fun. The weather was downright beautiful, warm and nice with fast conditions present. This course would certainly shake out a true winner!!!
And unfortunately I was not that winner. IN fact, I was 28 more people down from that eventual winner (Katie Compton – go USA!). Not sure what happened or why it went down the way it did for me, but it did.
I had a clean but not fast start and found myself in 22nd position. For whatever reason I had very few matches to fire which is not good in cross. You need a lot of matches!!! I think what took the wind out of my (mid pack) sails during the race was that I took an off camber section wrong and smacked pole like no one should smack a pole (the pole and course banner imprints were still on my right shoulder that night but I was and am totally fine!!). When I made that mistake it allowed 5-6 women to pass. Not good but that is World Cup racing at its finest. One mistake at this level WILL cause 5-6 women (if not more) to pass. And once they get that 2 second gap ahead of you it seems like an eternity as you try to reel them in. It can be so hard to draw it back again at this level…… and especially since I was not feeling the love. I wasn’t feeling bad out there, I just wasn’t racing like I normally do. But I guess to slop it in for 29th in my first ever World Cup I need to be proud of what I was able to accomplish on this day. That is not to say I am happy about it though! A World Cup is not where you want to have your off day but that is racing.
We went to the Pilsner Brewery (which Plzen pronounced “Pilsen” is known for) afterwards and enjoyed some real Czech food which was incredible. I had pulled pork with dumplings and a spinach sauce of some kind. I was hesitant to do it but thought I really need to live a little while I am here and enjoy the culture and get to know it. And I am glad I did. Plus it came at Katarina’s (3rd place!!!!) recommendation as authentic and good.
We are currently at Katarina’s in her hometown where her parents have graciously opened their lives and home to us. The fresh homemade Goulash that her mom made is currently settling nicely in our tummies as we all prepare for the second half of this week which will include the Cyclocross World Cup in Tabor, Czech Republic on Sunday.