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Cyclocross

EuroCross Academy: When the plan works out

AJ August makes a plan, experiences frustration but doesn't let it sidetrack him, and executes for a validating result

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During the next two weeks, riders from the EuroCross Academy will be writing exclusive blog posts for VeloNews as they race in Europe.

​​ ​​ECA Journal #8
31 October 2022
Rider: AJ August
Hometown: Pittsford, NY
Photos: @toelen_wouter

We reached the venue of the Maasmechelen World Cup with an extra hour of daylight and temperatures that were unusually high for this time of year. Upon arrival, my teammates and I headed out to pre-ride the brand new course that had received much pre-race skepticism.

The course was made up of many tight, rocky, and bumpy sections which meant overtaking would be difficult. As this was only my second cyclocross race of the season, I knew that with my start position on the sixth row of the grid my work was cut out for me.

As I spun my legs on the trainer before the race, I began to plan how I would make my way through the field. I thought of the sections where I could pass my competition and the ones where I would rest and reset. Then I got off the trainer and headed over towards the start line.

(Photo: @toelen_wouter)

My legs felt good and I was ready to race.

After being called up to the starting grid, I got set for the start and waited for the lights to turn green. The race started and everyone sprinted to the first turn frantically to make up positions. The pack came into the first pinch point of the course and, at the back of the pack, I was forced to come to a halt. Although this was frustrating, I didn’t let it get the better of me. I pressed on and continued to move through the field. As I moved up further through the field, the riders became harder and harder to pass. The blasting music and the shouting fans gave me the encouragement I needed to keep pushing through the race.

As I rode into one lap to go, I had made my way inside the top 10 and had just caught a group of riders composed of three Dutch riders and one other rider from Czech Republic. I was motivated to try to pass all the riders in this group. I knew it would not be easy but not impossible.

We started the final lap, and I took the front of the group and started to apply the pressure. I sprinted up the main hill on the course, giving all I had and started to gain a small advantage on the other riders. I now knew that coming first in this group was in my favor, but after making a mistake on one of the technical sections, I allowed one of the Dutch riders to come back to my wheel.

(Photo: @toelen_wouter)

I continued to keep the pressure on while thinking about my tactics for the finish. I came to the conclusion that it would be best to lead out of the last corner, so that’s what I did. I exited the final turn and then put all of my power down to the sandy ground while my rear wheel kicked from side to side. We hit the asphalt with around 100 meters to go and the Dutch rider was not coming around me. We came closer and closer to the finish, and I realized I had held off the rider behind to finish fourth place. This marked my best finish in a World Cup race and now gives me confidence for the rest of the season.