Mathew Bigos (second U.S.A. team rider from the left) had the opportunity to represent the U.S.A. at the Para Road Race World Championships held in Denmark.
‘What drives you, what allows you to do what others tell you can’t be done, is what will be the end of you.’
I’ve had a handful of close friends tell me this over the years. There’s more truth in that then I’d like to admit to. This brings me to my recap of my first trip to the UCI Para Road World Championships. It’s a double-edged sword, while I am grateful for the chance to race and finish in the top in the road race and time trial, I still want more.
This has been my biggest and best season of racing yet, I’ve raced in 5 countries, 3 continents, over 10 states and around 65 days of racing. All of it was built around one thing, Road Worlds! My entire year was mapped out with the idea of building just for it, nothing else. Amazingly, with all the travel, stress, hundreds of hours of riding, racing, sitting in a car/plane, sleeping on the floor in motels, airports, cars, I made it to worlds pretty healthy and rested.
I arrived with the team in Roskidle, Denmark almost a week before racing began. We had several days to ride the course, most of it turned out to be in the rain. The majority of the days leading up to racing were spent riding in the rain and wind. I was hoping the crap weather would stick around for racing, I do love racing in the rain after all and it was Europe, so it should be wet, right?
Thursday brought the TT. While I am not a huge fan of the Time Trial (I think TT is a German word for Torture Device) I do seem to be getting better at it. The course was short, 15.2k and mostly flat. But it did have a few some what technical sections that I was hoping would play into my favor. Things rolled along smoothly in the morning, warm up was good, got a quick lap in on the course before racing started, then hoped on the trainer for final warm up. As a side note, it was great to have my good friend Travis show up and hang out broken leg and all, I was even able to get him in my follow car. Time clicked away and it was my time to jump up into the start house. To be honest, I thought about this race for a long time. I was more nervous the night before and the weeks leading up to it. The day of, the morning, and right before, not really nervous at all. I kept reminding myself that it was just another race, turns out I was right. Clock clicked off and I took off. The race itself was nothing too exciting. I paced rather well, caught my 2 minute, 3 minute riders, and brought back a good bit of time on my 1 minute rider, always nice to have people to pass. All told in the end, my ride got me 5th place in my first world championship appearance. I think the best thing about the TT, was to hear Travis say ‘Well, I am not sure I’ve ever seen anyone hurt themselves that bad. I guess you did it right?’ To be honest, I feel that 4 other people beat me, but I can live with it. I know that I have room to improve and things will be different in the years to come.
Saturday came around quickly and brought with it my favorite event, the Road Race! I do love Europe! Race time wasn’t till 4 pm. Plenty of time to eat, ride, rest and eat again, oh yea, and drink coffee! The road race is a combined field, C1, 2, and 3 all race together. We race together but are scored separately, this gave us a field of around 60 starters. Things took off pretty hectic to say the least, I scored enough points this year to get a call up to the second row and was glad about that! Things were nuts in the first few k. I think we made it to literally 3k before the first crash, narrow roads, nervous riders and lots on the line makes for a dangerous race! I didn’t see the crash, just heard the sound behind me and kept going. The end of lap 1 was really what determined how my race would play out. Just before the feed zone there was a massive crash, around 25-30 riders went down right next to me. I stayed upright, but had someone hit me and rip my arm off the bike. I ended up off the back and chasing solo for about 3-4k to get back. I made it back into the field, but to be honest my race was pretty much over from there. At that point there were only 2 other riders in my classification still in the front group. My goal was just to hide and stay in the front group as long as I could to try and get a medal. I was able to stay in till the middle of lap 3 of 4 before a big acceleration took me out the back. I rode solo the rest of that lap hoping to stay away from the chase group till the end of the race, no such luck. I was picked up on the last lap by a small chase group of about 4-5 riders, with 2 riders in the group in my classification. When we got close to the end of the race, the group split apart and I found myself with nothing leg in my legs to beat anyone to the line. I finished in 5th place. With the amount of energy I lost chasing back to the group, I am more then excited to have finished 5th.
I know I should be happy with my results, and I’d be lying if I said I was. I am not sure what the right word is, not disappointed, but I am far from content with them. This is what continues to drive me, and what will allow me to keep getting faster and move myself up in the results sheet.
Looking back, I’ve had an amazing year. Done things I never thought possible, things I was told by doctors and everyone else I would never do. Traveled more in one year then some do in a lifetime. Gotten to represent the USA in the World Championships. Made new friends. There are so many people that have helped me make it this far and I am sure I wont remember all of them. But I need to say a thank you to my mom and dad, Travis, Brett Clare, Chris Daggs, Dave Kimmey, Brent and the Crew from Ride Cyclery, Sonja from Zipp, the guys at BH Bikes and everyone else I might have forgotten. I am sure I couldn’t have made it this far without all the help.