Earlier this year, in the summer of 2018, we met and filmed an interview with age-group cyclo-cross world champion Robin Delve. He told us about his start in cyclo-cross and his journey to the top of the world - and now he has done it again, World Cyclo-cross Champion for the 60-64 age group for the second year in a row.
Not only a determined and talented competitor, Robin is also an expressive writer, and his account of the race is well worth a read - giving a vivid idea of his experience during the race. Read it and you feel like you’re there with him - amazing!
Mid Devon Cycling Club - Veteran Cyclo-Cross Rider
It’s that time of year again. Yes time to take on the best in the world at the UCI 2018 Masters Cyclo-Cross World Championship. Time to test body, mind and bike against, not only fellow competitors, but also against the unforgiving cruel white sand of Zilvermeer, Mol in Belgium.
One 40-minute cyclo-cross race once a year to decide the Masters World Champion in the 60 to 64 year age group. Ten months of training and preparation to take on riders from all over the world including USA, Japan, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Italy, France to name a few. This is it, no second chance. Yes I won the title last year but this is so different; no longer a quiet outsider, the element of surprise has gone! Huge pressure to deliver mainly from inside my own head. I have struggled with fear of failing all season; negative thoughts during races; constantly thinking this is not good enough!!
As usual we arrived at Mol on the Thursday, the day before the race. My race crew consisted of Lester Young to cover pit duties and Nick Blight, who was racing in the 35 year age group on Saturday. Nick did most of the driving. Thursday afternoon was spent trying the sand and loosening the legs after a long journey. The course was very similar to last year - oceans of soft fine white sand - energy sapping to ride through - so difficult to run through in cycling shoes. I was pleased to ride through the sand but kept telling myself it will be so different in the race; riders in the way and the effects of accumulative fatigue will result in more running and less riding!! One run stretch is 90 seconds of running in deep unstable sand carrying the bike.
On the day of the race I astounded Lester and Nick by taking a nap late morning with the race starting at 3pm. Experience must count for something!
Random gridding for the start. OMG I’m pulled out as number 1!!!! Pressure really ramps up. This year we will start 2 minutes behind the 55yr age group giving us a clear run at the course. On the start line the last 30 seconds before the whistle took an age. Off we go - I make a good start, no problems. On the second straight I was passed by several riders - jeez - what’s happening? First time past the pits and I’m now back in 12th place. Lester shouts diplomatically ‘long way to go - don’t worry’ - I knew what he meant...fantastic experienced advice...invaluable!! I tried to settle and ride my own pace and do my own race. Struggling to catch any breath...don’t let this race get away!!
The course rode loads harder than last year. The beach was not firm but resembled a sucking sponge making progress tough. The sand was unforgiving - miss a rut and the bike stopped very quickly; many riders going over the bars. My golden rule - get off the bike before you have to!! Saves a second or two and with 40 dismounts in the race it can add up.
After the technical wooded and horrendous Devil’s Drop and dune section I am now in the top 3: me, Van Londen from Holland and former multi-national cx champion and pro cycle racer from GB Chris Wreghitt. Chris passes me again on the flat section. We cross the long 90 sec run and then race through the flat to finish the first of 5 laps. I think our front 3 have a small gap. Really struggle to keep pace with these 2 they are so fast.
Hit the next sand section for running and commit all to go to the front; don’t think my lungs appreciated the importance of this commitment. My running is clearly better than the other two. Breathing and lungs well out of control..leapt back on the bike to ride the spongy sand and stay in front….now is time for all those zone 5 turbo efforts to kick in...I can suffer and still recover really quickly...to go again and again….done it in training….so do it now!!! Through the dunes again no let up..this is it, simply go as hard as possible….here again 90 more secs of sand running...running feels like slow motion...only the 2nd lap...wanted so much just to stop and lay in the sand!!! Hurting all over...distress so bad can barely co-ordinate to remount the bike let alone cycle. Lester can see my pain and is really vocal..’excellent, good boy Robin!’ Nectar to a struggling body...got to keep same pace...don’t give the chasers any hope!! 2 laps down….but feel completely spent...felt so easy last year!! Commentator announces me as leader...just the fillip you need. Into the 3rd lap.
Around to the dune area again...quick glance...no one close...yeah!! Nick is patrolling this area giving me encouragement. He tells me I’m making ground while running and to keep my knees pumping high - just wait till he tries it the next day!!! Down the Devil’s slide and into the dune..a complete leap of faith no brakes.. And as soon as you hit the sand take no chances leap off the bike straight into running. Forcing the legs to run faster than they want to...no time to slow...really running scared.
Passing the pits again...half way through race….starting now to get a rhythm and get myself under control...Lester confirms a good lead and to control myself! Easier said than done. Into 4th lap..just think one section at a time...treat each section with care...don’t get ahead of yourself...the Mol sand can take you at anytime. Just get it done..no risk - no trying to ride to be clever…no showboating!! One lovely moment as I remounted from the sand and I shouted ‘leader’ at the rider in front. He then turned and gave me the most almighty helping shove down the course!!! Never happened before. It was much appreciated. Absolutely trying now to blast the easy flat sections...stand and give it everything out of the saddle - legs feel great while cycling! Great support from all around the circuit. From all nationalities in all languages. Love the ‘Bravo, Bravo!!’ and the ‘Allez, allez!!’. Keeps you going.
Last lap and a fantastic lead. Just keep going. No mistakes, even ran all the dune section to ensure no mishaps. Going well, going to win..AGAIN!!! Crowd really appreciative clapping and cheering. Lester now letting his hair down telling me to enjoy the last quarter-lap!!! Time for ‘me’ now down the last deserted area to the dangerous concrete steps, I do all my own shouting!! Yelling loudly as I race!! Don’t care anymore - unreserved excitement and celebrations down the finish straight. My arms waving giving it the 2 finger victory salute. Commentator joins in…’Robin Delve from Great Britain retains his Rainbow Jersey to become World Champion 2018.’ An awesome race in which mind, body and bike came out on top. Not a negative thought in the race. Can’t wait to be faster next year!!!