What a season its been.
What a season its been, 6 months of tough back to back race weekends have come to an end.
Looking back over the last 12 months I can honestly say it's been the most enjoyable of my career to date. I made some pretty big changes at the end of last season, working with a new coach, sports psychologist, and a nutritionist – all of this together was a massive game changer for me and I've truly found a great group of people to help get the best out of myself and give me a sense of perspective and balance with my life both on and off the bike.
Without doubt, this cross season has seen some of the most competitive racing in the women's field there ever has been. Now we have a platform that shows every single race on TV and fans can follow their favourite riders and can see who performs best in certain conditions. Women's cross racing has at last, become accessible to a much bigger audience than before and in turn, the investment into the women's side of the sport has grown massively which has in turn attracted a higher level of riders. This in itself is making the racing more exciting and as competitive as it can possibly be which is starting to snowball the sport into a bigger and better spectacle as it deserves! There's no longer only 3-4 riders battling for the win there are 10-15 different riders capable of winning and this can change every single week. We have some huge talent coming through in the U23 fields and I think in turn this is only pushing us all to be better.
Last summer I put all my eggs in one basket. I cut back on a lot of racing through the summer, I sacrificed not going to the first two world cups in America and instead spent a lot more time training. I wanted to have a strong consistent season where I was able to be competitive at the front of the toughest races and in the toughest conditions. I had four target races on my radar.
1. Koksijde World Cup
2. Namur World Cup
3. National Championships
4. World Championships
Everything before and in between was purely focused on allowing me to be as prepared as I could be for each of those target races. Working with my coach Marc we planned out a program of races and training that would help me achieve those targets to the best of my ability. The reduction in summer racing allowed me to hit the cross season mentally fresher than ever before.
Obviously with doing everything a little bit differently to how I had done things before I was a little apprehensive coming in to the season and those first few weeks back racing were for sure some of the fastest I have ever ridden in cross. The temperatures were pretty extreme for that time of year too, which was a challenge I hadn't really expected. Week after week I started to find my racing legs again. I began to find myself starting to race more at the front of the field, I started to excel in some of the races that I hadn't usually found myself at the front for which was surprising and it started to give me a lot of confidence.
Coming into my first target race at Koksijde I began feeling really good on the bike, my condition was coming along nicely and I was really finding a good rhythm. I had my training, resting and nutrition strategy firmly in place and I started picking up some decent results. I had a strong race in Asper Gavere a couple of weeks out before Koksijde taking 2nd place and by the time I raced Koksijde, I would say I had one of the best races of my career. I was super happy to take 2nd place there but on the other hand I also had regrets. I felt I had missed a couple of opportunities to really commit and go for the win, which for some reason I hesitated that little bit too long and 2ndwas the best I could come away with. It was definatley a great chance to learn and in turn, it propelled me into some great results the following weeks. I had another good ride in Zonhoven, after taking the lead early on crashed and put myself just off the podium. I had a tough battle with Lucinda Brand in Overisje where I finished 2nd. I then went on to finish 4th in Namur World Cup, only a couple of seconds off the podium, I battled it out in Zolder, a super fast race which I hadn't expected any kind of result but actually was racing for the podium for the majority of the race. I then finished 3rd in Baal. I took my fourth National title, finished 5th in Hoogerheide. 8th at the Worlds on a course which I had previously been in two minds whether to even race or not because I didn't feel that I was at all suited to it, and I'm sure if I hadn't had the mechanical when I did then that top 5 would have been within my reach. On top of all that I was consistent enough to take 3rd overall in the DVV Trophy series. Not bad if you ask me!
It's definitely been a great season results wise but one of my biggest victories I would say is how much I learned and progressed at every race. Most importantly - I had fun. I had a plan, I put the work in and together we helped make those results happen. I say together because it's me that goes out there and races my bike but it's my support village; Matt, Kristin, Marc, Pascal, Kareena, my family, and my sponsors who all play a part in helping me be the best I can be. Without them, there is no plan and there is no way. So thank you all for always having my back.
It's also easy to forget the Mudiiita camps, it seems such a long tie ago now. Helping inspire groups of talented riders was so gratifying and inspiring I definitely want to ty my best to do something similar again next season. As always we need a bit of a helping hand to make these happen and often rely on some support from sponsors or private investors, so of course if anyone thinks they can help with funding for any of the camps then please get in touch :-)
After working so closely with my coach Marc and the way that we bounced ideas around all year long, it has really inspired me to get into some coaching and its something I've started these last few weeks. I still have space to take on a few more riders so if anyones keen to work with me then reach on to me on firstname.lastname@example.org or have a look on our coaching page for more info.
It was a bit of a blow not to be able to finish the season properly this year, this flu really knocked me for six! Luckily I'm starting to feel better now so after a few more easy days I guess I better start thinking about this marathon I stupidly entered ;-)
I want to finish by saying a huge thank you to every single one of you who has supported me this last 12 months, it means a lot. See you all soon!