It’s been a while since my last blog, so thanks to a long plane ride here are two race reports for the price of one.
World Cup Cozumel: Getting back on track
After a difficult race in Chicago at the Grand Final, it was time for a bounce-back race. Cozumel was a sprint distance and will host next year’s Grand Final, so I was excited to race there this year.
Race morning was very hot and humid and the rolling waves of the 29-degree water made for an interesting balancing act on the start pontoon. I exited the swim with the main pack, but our chase peloton neither gained nor lost much time on the leaders throughout the four-lap bike course, coming in about 30 seconds behind the first group. Despite a poor transition, with the running shoes on I just focused on catching as many girls as possible. Although only 5km, the heat affected everyone, but I was still able to finish 9th with my first top ten finish in a while and earning valuable Olympic qualifying points.
More than just the points, I was very happy to feel fully healthy while racing. After a season mired by injuries, accidents and slow recovery processes, this was the glimmer of hope reminding me that I can still do this. I left Cozumel energized and motivated to race deciding to add the World Cup in Tongyeong, South Korea to my race schedule.
World Cup Alanya: A silly mistake
After a 10-day training period in Belgium, I arrived in sunny Alanya, Turkey motivated for the Olympic distance World Cup. Race conditions were very similar to Cozumel, but with less humidity, much calmer waters and a beach start.
The swim went relatively well, except for a strong breaststroke kick to the face around the buoy filling both goggles with salt water. Once on the bike our chase pack caught the front group after a lap or so making us one large peloton of 30-40 riders. However, when the pack is large and not riding full speed, the result is a fairly anxious, jittery group of riders constantly jockeying for position. On the last lap, like many women, I started preparing for the run, eating a last gel, drinking and trying to position myself before transition. Sitting in the middle of the pack, I was drinking from my bottle when the rider in front slowed and drifted to the right. Unable to break in time her back wheel crossed my front wheel knocking me off balance and BOOM; I had crashed…again.
After being ridden over or around by the rest of the peloton, an extremely frustrated voice inside yelled: “Seriously Claire?!?! All you had to do was stay with the group! Pay attention!!” I scrambled to my feet as quickly as possible and frantically tried to get my chain back on. I heard Belgian teammate Katrien Verstuyft, yell from afar: “Come on Claire! Catch on” as her group rode past. This helped me refocus and catch her group. I spent the last few kilometers trying to calm my frustration with having stupidly given up 40 seconds, but intent on making the best of the situation.
However, in my determination to take back the time I had lost, I took off a bit too fast on the first lap of the run paying for it in the last few kilometers. I was able to come back to finish 14th, still gaining some Olympic points, but disappointed in my lack of attentiveness on the bike costing me a good handful of places.
Up next: Tongyeong World Cup, Oct 24
Fortunately, other than a few scratches and bruises, I was not injured in the crash and will be able to compete in the Olympic distance World Cup this Saturday in Tongyeong. It was a quick turnaround arriving back home from Turkey Monday night and leaving early Tuesday morning for South Korea. Nonetheless, I am happy to be here, eager to race and looking to make the most of this last race of the season (with my fingers crossed for no mishaps).
This Saturday, Oct 24, the Women's race starts at 8:00am local time, while the Men's race with Belgians Marten Van Riel and Simon De Cuyper starts at 11:00am local time.