Did you know a heartbeat is played as a countdown to the start of a World Cup Cyclocross race? Maybe you did! Watching, it almost has the feel of a scene from a suspense film. Almost. But my heart races on the startline for a very different reason.
Before last year’s Heusden-Zoler UCI World Cup, I barely had enough UCI points to crack the Top 16 women allotted to the host country at a domestic World Cup. At both the Cross Vegas events and the Christmas miracle that was Jingle Cross in 2016, my starting position was so far from the front row, I had to strain to hear even the starter, much less the low-drumming of a synthetic heartbeat over the pounding of my own. But after steadily accumulating UCI points throughout that season, I arrived in Zolder, jet-lagged and rearing to go, having cracked the top 50 in the rankings, securing a spot near the front of the race!
Aside: While I often watched the World Cup races over VPN, I rarely caught the start at 6:30 AM CST. Either the feed didn’t go live until seconds before, or my browser didn’t.
Numbers at World Cup races are assigned in blocks for each country. Which is why when I received my race numbers last year for Zolder, number 53, just a few hours from the start of my first European race, I had little to reference where my starting position would be. As I rolled to the start at the first call, I was stopped to sign an autograph! Humbling, and somewhat astonishing, not to mention surprising. But, this made me a little late. I positioned myself near the back, thinking, “No problem. Made it!” Within seconds, and with barely three rows filled on the starting line, I heard my name called out - twice - across the crowd of "renners”. Barely, made it.
On the starting line, I still didn’t hear that damn heart beat. No recollection of it.
On Dec. 26, just two days from now, and my second go around at the Huesden-Zolder course, (now that Santa United Airlines has finally delivered my delayed bicycles bag), I’ll be listening for that heartbeat, and will be the first one to report to the start line!