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Cyclocross

Euro Cross Academy: Learning from your mistakes and moving forward

'As I roll up to the start line, my arms shake with a mix of anticipation, excitement, and nerves. I know I have done everything possible to prepare,' writes Elsa Westenfelder.

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During the next two weeks, riders from the Euro Cross Academy will be writing exclusive blogs for VeloNews as they race in Europe.

ECA Journal #7
30 October 2022
Rider: Elsa Westenfelder
Hometown: Missoula, MT
Photos: @toelen_wouter

The tension in the van is palpable. Legs anxiously bounce, hands fidget, and eyes stare out the windows as we pass green fields and navigate through roundabouts. My stomach turns as I visualize the course, my oatmeal threatening to come back up. First the start, then the off-camber, then the steep uphill. There is no talking. European pop blasts from the van speakers as we make our way toward Maasmechelen for the second Junior World Cup of the season.

The amount of time and effort just to get to the start line of a World Cup race is often overlooked. It takes domestic race results, long travel days, overcoming jet lag, and top-notch equipment and support. For student-athletes, it takes a carefully managed balance of academics and athletics while missing weeks of classes at a time. After this level of commitment and preparation, failure is even more frustrating.

Also read: Euro Cross Academy: Keeping the fun in racing

As I roll up to the start line, my arms shake with a mix of anticipation, excitement, and nerves. I know I have done everything possible to prepare. I know my lines, my tire pressures, and where I can leverage my strengths. I have a Plan A and a Plan B for the first feature after the start. I know my bike is dialed thanks to the EuroCrossAcademy mechanics. That doesn’t mean my nerves are gone, though. As I take a few slow breaths in attempt to calm my nerves, I notice an open safety pin on the ground directly in front of me, something that could easily flat a tire.

I awkwardly bend over my bike, scoot forward, and grab it to get it off of the course. I am “controlling the controllables”, as the saying goes. That is something I am good at. From my pre-ride to my warmup to my nutrition, I follow a routine that has worked for me in countless other races. However, competing in Europe at the highest level is a constant reminder that the outcome of my race is not something I can necessarily control.

My races in both Tábor last Sunday and Maasmechelen today were incredibly frustrating. I have struggled not only physically, but also mentally during the races. My European results this year have been worse than last year’s when I was a first-year junior. As disappointing as this is, giving up is not an option. I am learning from my mistakes, moving forward, and making the most of my opportunities. I have one more race left in this block, the iconic KoppenbergCross on Tuesday. I am excited to line up with the elite women and give it another shot.

Elsa Westenfelder (Photo: @toelen_wouter)