Representing the USA and What Makes Worlds Special
Racing for the USA has a special feeling because it is more than a traditional sports team; it’s my country and part of who I am. Racing with the national team isn’t about sponsorships, business, points or rankings. It’s about being the best we can be with our countrymen and women.
The dynamic with national teams is definitely different. I joke that national team events are more pleasant because countries like Belgium--who are notorious for being the most ruthless positioning fighters--only have eight or so guys in the race. Tactically, it is different and always a bit more open and unknown. It’s strange to see my teammates who I race with all season in different jerseys, but it is nice already knowing their strengths and weaknesses. It’s also that rare opportunity to be in a race environment that is comfortable and friendly with no translation needed!
Missing Out on 2017 Worlds
Last year, I was excited and proud to be selected for the Worlds team. I didn’t race Worlds in 2016 because the course didn’t suit me and it had already been a very long season with the Tour de France and Rio Olympic Games.
I was so inspired and eager to be back at Worlds in 2017 and to race in beautiful Norway--somewhere I had never experienced.
Unfortunately the injuries from the Tour of Britain crash--notably the concussion---were much more severe than initially thought and I had to withdraw from Worlds. I’m incredibly thankful this year to be at the end of September healthy and heading back to the World Championships.
Experience at Worlds
This will be my seventh year racing Elite Worlds (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015). I also did 2002 Cyclocross and MTB Worlds as a junior and 2006 Road Worlds as a U23.
In 2012, I had a similar path to Worlds with finishing the Vuelta just a few weeks prior. That season, the team added in a Belgium race between the Vuelta and Worlds that definitely added a lot of stress and made it challenging to stay healthy. That meant I didn’t show up at Worlds in the shape that I would have liked.
This year is similar having raced the Vuelta, but my recovery has gone smoother. I’ve had some nice days at home where I focused on recovering both mentally and physically. It is a delicate balance after a Grand Tour. There is a razor-thin line between resting too much and being stale or not resting enough and being fatigued. I’ve learned to take good care of myself, and I think that if there is any way to prepare for this hellaciously hilly Worlds course, it was racing this year’s Vuelta.
The Innsbruck Course
There is no better way to put it---this year’s course looks absolutely brutal. At 265 kilometers and close to 5,000 meters of climbing that alone tells that it’ll be an extremely demanding day and then there are the added challenges of technical roads and a circuit. The final climb that we only do once will demand some special gearing. Tentatively, I am planning to ride a 36 - 30 gear setup.
A race like Liege-Bastogne-Liege is another super long one-day with lots of climbing, but it is on open, point-to-point roads, which gives it an entirely different feel. A circuit often feels like a steel cage match, bouncing from barrier to barrier (and never being able to find a quiet place to pee!) There’s no denying this race will be a huge battle of attrition and take around 7 hours for the finishers.
Just finishing will be a considerable feat and those that are playing for a result on the final lap will undoubtedly be the strongest and also luckiest to be “on” this particular day.
Heading into Sunday
I arrived in Austria on Wednesday and met up with the USA guys. We did our final bigger training ride and saw some of the course yesterday.
I have no experience on these roads, so recon came down to this ride. Traditionally at Worlds, there are multiple times when the circuit is closed to traffic and open specifically for training, but not this year. The USA hotel is about 80 km outside of Innsbruck, so we got 1-2 laps on the circuit and a portion of the run-in.
The next few days are now all about resting up mixed with a few openers to stay sharp. Fueling also starts to become a more significant factor. You want to carb load, but when you aren’t riding as much, you don’t want to overeat and blimp out with all that climbing….
I felt very similar when I went into the Rio Games in 2016. It was about two weeks after the Tour and felt pretty similar. I showed up very strong on race day, so I am hoping for the same on Sunday!