As I blow a thin layer of dust off the keyboard and retrieve forgotten login details, it occurs to me that it's been a while since I've last checked in with Ride Happy. Clearly, some things need updating… 2014 was a big year. It included some great adventures, professional opportunities and most importantly for me personally, some good results overseas. The challenge for Cross riders in Australia is that it's very hard to work out whether you're any good. World champs last January showed me what I already knew: that racing in the Belgian mud required a totally different skill set to Australian CX racing. It wasn't until I raced in China and the US in September that I got to race against an international field in familiar conditions, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I wasn't crap. Finishing 2nd in a C1 event (the Qiansen Trophy in Beijing) - C1 is the level below World Cup - was a career-best result out of any discipline I've raced. Cross Vegas wasn't the race I wanted it to be, but 17th in that field while sick was encouraging. I'm a long way from chucking in my day job and running away to Belgium, but I'm excited about stepping up some more and, hopefully, continuing to put distance between myself and crap.
2015 is looking really cool. I've signed with a new team, Rapha-Focus, which is a professional dedicated CX team and means I'll be able to spend more time doing what I love. Both Rapha and Focus have been great supporters of CX in Australia from the beginning and I'm excited about all the cool stuff we're going to do this year, including racing domestically and overseas, riding awesome bikes and and wearing lovely gear. I'm being coached by the best in the business, including the Supercoach Donna Rae-Szalinski, and skills gurus Neil Ross and Pat Fitzpatrick (trust me, I need all the help I can get). And the amazing Paul Larkin is back and we're planning all sorts of adventures, which makes me happy.
I'm not racing world champs this year. I'd have liked to, but work commitments had to win this time. Instead, I'm heading over to Belgium for 3 weeks in February to catch the end of the CX season and, importantly, to get 6 UCI races-worth of Belgian racing in the same mud that we'll get at 2016 world champs, which is a big target for me. The last couple of weeks have been challenging and I've been struggling with fatigue and health. I'm hoping that's behind me now, but the reality of my life now is that I cut things fine, and that every so often I don't get the balance right. When I get it wrong, I don't have the same recovery mechanisms that I'd have if I were a full-time athlete. I had a great block of training over Christmas but it was probably too good, and I went into road nationals carrying more fatigue than I expected. The result was that I pulled the pin pretty early, which was disappointing but a better option than riding around digging holes and making up numbers. It was really touching to get so many messages of support, so thank you, it means a lot. I got some tests done last week and things are looking up, although I need to recognise that coffee and retail therapy are not legitimate forms of recovery.
So, in case my vomit of enthusiasm hasn't spilled onto you yet, I'm excited. I never expected that my racing career could extend beyond road cycling and I feel super lucky to have found a sport that is unquestionably rad and brings me so much happiness. Most of this is due to the great people I have in my corner, so thank you to Rapha, Focus, health.com.au, Neo Pro Imports, SRAM, FMB, Perfect Pilates, Kask, Bike Gallery, and in no particular order to Donna Rae-Supercoach, Neil, Pat, Paul, Grover, Allister, Nadine, Pikey and Bowie. And thank you to my Mum, whose enthusiasm for cowbells is matched only by her bemusement at my pre-race warmups.
Finally, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to take a moment to share the radness of Cyclocross. If you haven't tried it, you should. There's something about riding around in the mud that unleashes your inner child and creates a happiness that I've not found in any other type of racing. It's family-friendly, time-friendly and regardless of your ability you will have fun. You will find it a great opportunity to bleed from your eyeballs if you are so inclined, but if you aren't, that's OK too. You may even win beer, and if you don't win you will probably be offered one during the race. The pros are nice. The bikes are cool. I promise you that you will like it.