After getting used to driving on the opposite side of the road and shifting with my left hand, I made it safely to Pickering, UK . I linked up with the USA Cycling crew at the Sands Farm Cottages in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. I've yet to sample any classic UK curry or fish & chips.
Aside from my general excitement about being across the Atlantic for the first time, the best event so far was last night's XC Sprint Eliminator (XCE) event held in the streets of Pickering. The XCE is a new format held on Friday nights at this year's World Cup events. The event involves a short course (1 to 2min) with a time-trial format qualifying round, followed by knockout rounds of four riders at once. The event is mostly for the crowd, but there are still UCI points and cash available, and it attracts a star-studded field of the world's best. Friday night included the top-ranked racer in the world from Switzerland, Nino Schurter . I thought the race would at least be a good way to make sure the long commute was out of my legs, and get mentally revved up for Sunday's cross country. I was fast enough in qualifying to make the first knockout round, and was barely edged out of the sprint, and finished 22nd on the day. Most of all, it was exhilarating to race through the huge crowd and feel how popular cycling is in the part of the world. It felt like "the real deal".
and HUGE crowds!!
Today was the last day of practice on the XC course before the race. The climate here is just like Seattle, and luckily the weather has been mostly dry. A little rain last night has made the trails tacky and fast. The forest and track here remind me a lot of riding at home - rich dirt, roots, mossy rocks, big trees... Tomorrow we will race 1 start loop + 6 laps on a 6km course with some intensely technical sections and aggressive climbs. My start position is 109 out of 137 riders and my first goal is to fight my way to the top 60. Finishing 60 or higher would earn me World Cup points and bump me up to a better starting position for next weekend in Germany.
Here are some good links for viewing the action:
LIVE TV COVERAGE: www.freecaster.tv
CyclingNews Report: www.cyclingnews.com
British Cycling: Photos and Race Reports