UCI Cyclocross Worlds: 3 Lessons from the Big Guys
What a great race in Bogense today. I enjoyed watching the titans of cyclocross duke it out at the front and also tracking US favorites like Cody Kaiser and Anthony Clark as they fought for respectability and places within the top 40 or 50.
Four lessons were screaming out to me as I watched and learned. I was not surprised in any way by the outcome
1. Technical skill is everything (when all else is equal).
The off-camber section on this course was a bear, and Mathieu Van der Poel took seconds out of Wout Van Aert everytime the two reached that critical spot. Especially when you are putting in hard efforts and your heart rate is through the roof, you cannot undervalue hours and hours spent on the tough trails and courses that make riding over this craziness second nature. When Van Aert stumbled he simply could not overcome the gaps that kept opening up.
2. Closing the gap is a must- You could see on Van Aert's face that he knew the end was near after lap 6. He was losing seconds every time that Van der Poel popped up onto the stretch at the top of the off-camber while he had to dismount. However, he never quit. I know myself that there are times in a race when the thoughts pop into your head and you lie to yourself that if you settle in, you will get back on. This is a load of crap. You need to close the gap and ride hard until your legs fall off and your heart stops. Kudos to Wout.
3. You can ride way harder and longer than you think- As I watched Van Aert ride so courageously to get back on, he looked like a mess: spit all over his face, dirt caked on his brow, his lips open like a guppy gasping for air. But he never quit. He was so far into the hurt locker that he was much more interesting to watch than the wunderkind Van der Poel who was riding away to glory. The commentators reminded us of Strade Bianche and Van Aert having his legs seize up on the hill into Siena. I remember that. And I remember all the times that I quit.
4. It's never over til it's over- As Van Aert chased Van der Poel and Toon Aerts chased Van Aert, it is obvious that mistakes can happen and you can never quit. The efforts put in by these three were colossal. Staying away, gaining ground, and holding on are all done at max effort and one slip can take it all away. Poor Toon Aerts learned this lesson all too well when a slip on one of the last sections caused Van Aert to go away and regain a second place podium spot.
There is no easy win. I think it was impressive how Van der Poel won, but no one should be confused into thinking it was an easy win. He was going harder than any of us could imagine, he possessed more technical skill than his competitors, he had no accidents, and that is why he won.
Cyclocross is finally over. How long until the #crossiscoming hashtags start again?