Old 02-06-2007, 05:06 PM   #1
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Tara Ross- Post World's.


Catching up: Tara Ross... after '06/07 Worlds

Shortly after Tara's return from Worlds, Cyclocross Ontario caught up with her to find out about her experiences in Europe and future racing plans.

CXO: Hey Tara, welcome back. Tell us a bit about the race on Sunday and about the whole experience in Belgium.
TR: It was awesome. The event itself is just massive, there are so many people there you can hardly move in the crowds and people are so enthusiastic and cheering very loudly.

It's a great place to people watch. There was a guy dressed up as some sort of cycling Pope, dressed all in white with a huge cross, with the emblem of Belgium on it. Tons of people were wearing hats with horns and the Belgium emblem on it. The whole thing is a fun cycling event to both watch and to participate in.

CXO: You made new friendships? People were helping you?
TR: There were so many people helping us out that we had a hard time finding jobs for people. It was chaos in the pits. Its worse for the Espoir men, we had four of them and they were all racing fairly close together, but for the women's race I had no problems, because everyone was there for me.

Canadians in general have a good reputation in Belgium, so people step up and want to help. People were even asking if we are going to Italy next year because they want to help.

CXO: Tell us something about the place you stayed in, the Cycling Centre.
TR: It was a really nice comfortable facility to use. It's nice being able to cook in a kitchen. We had Ann make us a team dinner on Friday before the events and Sunday as a celebration before we all went home. It helped to build a positive team feeling and vibe. It was a very supportive atmosphere. The Canadian team had the place to ourselves, so we got to know the Alberta riders, which was great.

CXO: And the race day?

TR: I was pretty relaxed the morning of the race... I wanted to enjoy my experience, but at the same time I felt from previous races I didn't have it together when I was racing. I had some bad luck the week before when I got a concussion from a crash at Hoogerheide. I hit my head on the foot of a metal barrier - my helmet took the impact, but my neck was still bothering me right up until race day. I knew that I had good form and good mental focus, I just needed to stay on my bike. The World's course was fairly technical and required around 5 dismounts per lap, so there was a stamina component involved. That was good for me too because I do alot of conditioning as part of my training.

I felt good about the course. On Thursday I prerode the course, I was feeling good technically and felt I had good fitness.
On race day, Greg Reain pre-rode a lap with me and showed me a few lines that ended up being key to my race - I can't divuldge the secrets, but I really appreciated that.

I did my standard 'cross warmup and went to the start line. I really enjoyed those 15 minutes before the race, doing the sign-ins where the crowd goes crazy.. Some people get really nervous at this point, but I just wanted to enjoy the day and not let it pass without taking it in. I think that attitude really helped me, because a lot of riders were really tense. Because the course was so technical, it really helped to be relaxed.

I'm pretty sure it was a false start because the gun never actually went off. I was 2nd to last rider on the first corner. There were 2 crashes in the first mud section that I had to weave my way through. So in the first km, I was 2nd to last in the race and I just spent the whole race moving up.

I rode really well technically, almost a perfect race for me. Things happened outside of my control and I had a poor start, but I made the best of it. I wasn't disappointed with not making it Top-25, because the time differences between 25th and 29th weren't big. I was glad I made up so many spots, but I hadn't realized my start was that bad.

CXO: The TV broadcast started with leaders taking off really fast. What happened?

TR: The gap went out really quickly, partly because there was that crash in the first 800m of the race. There was a second crash because of that one, so if you got by the first one, you had a big gap. My friend, Helen Wyman, finished 9th and she was within 10 seconds of the top group on the first lap, but by the second lap it was up to 45 seconds. A lot of that is due to the World Championships - there is World Cup speed, then there is World Championship speed.

CXO: Helen is from the Great Britain national team. They were the first one to help when Kyle and Neil had their bikes lost?

TR: Yes, it was her and Gabby Day staying next door to us and Gabby finished 23rd, so that was good to see.

CXO: Did you meet your own expectations during this trip?

TR: I do feel like I accomplished my goal. I wanted to give my best since I knew I had so much support here at home through the I paid a lot of attention to the details and it paid offFriends of Canadian Cyclocross Racers, my family and the people I train with. I've also worked very hard to get to this point, so I wanted the absolute best race I could have. I paid a lot of attention to the details in terms of mental training, nutrition and physical preparation. I tried to do the best I could in all of those areas and it paid off - I feel like I had a breakthrough in the race. It might not be obvious, but everyone who knows me well saw it was a good race, especially to see me move up from being 2nd to last to where I finished.

CXO: Anything that you would differently?

TR: There are always things you'd change about how you prepare, but I did the absolute best I could with what I had at the time. For next year, reflecting on what I did leading up to the race, there are things I wouldn't do exactly the same, but generally as an athlete, every year you need to work on different things. I'm taking a break now, but when I start making plans for the next season, I want to make plans to step it up next year and have even better races and results at World Cups and at World's next year.

CXO: The UCI announced that there will be a World Cup race next year in the US. Ryan Trebon made a comment about the course in Providence being much faster than in Europe. We saw a two flights of stairs awfully close to each other in Belgium. Being fresh off the European scene, what is the biggest difference between North American and European racing in your opinion?

TR: In particular, racing in Belgium, the weather is wet and the courses are muddy. They're not necessarily slow, but they're technical. There tends to be sketchy, steep, drop-ins, or a steeper hill with a turn at the bottom. They love sandpits in Belgium - they import sand and make sandboxes. It slows the riders down because they have to power through it or get off and run - either way it slows you down. The sand and the mud are the biggest differences.

CXO: It was a huge success for the Americans this time around?

TR: It was. In Jonathan Page's case, he has been in Europe for several years and he's been an example of someone who has worked very hard to continue to improve himself as a rider. When he first went over to Europe, he was having a difficult time staying on the lead lap. For Jonathan to go from there to 2nd at the World Championships, is inspirational. People should look at what he's done and be really motivated to continue to improve and to test themselves at a high level of competition and to commit to the sport.

In Katie's case, she is a really powerful rider. I think she had a bit of luck because some of the favorites crashed, but it shows how women's cycling is getting more and more competitive. None of the favorites for the race were on the podium, so for spectators following women's cycling, it makes it more of a gamble. You can't just say Kupfernagel, Van Den Brand or Marianne Vos are going to win... Vos finished 7th. There were other girls who had phenomenal days. It's exciting for women's cycling that Katie can have such a great day and get on the podium like that.

CXO: It will be more cross-ing for you next year?

TR: Yep, I'm pretty pumped for 'cross. I saw such an improvement in terms of my skills and fitness from my last trip to Europe and even within this trip. Cross is so fun and has such a great atmosphere... so yeah, I'm hooked on 'cross.

CXO: So what does your offseason look like?

TR: I'm taking a vacation from the bike right now... doing some hiking and other things. This is the first year I can say my body needs a break in terms of my muscles and tendons. My body definitely needs a break before I get into harder training. I'll start back training in South Carolina in the warmer weather, doing some base miles and enjoying myself. Slowly the training will get more structured, but I'll start off just riding my bike.

CXO: Any thoughts yet on goals for the 2007/08?

TR: I think right now I would like to be more competitive at Nationals. I would like to get a medal and I want to race with Wendy and Lyne and stay with them for more laps at Nationals and be closer to them in time. I'd like to step up my fitness and speed to be more of a threat to contest the championship and that follows to the other other races - I'd like to be more of a contender in the bigger races. At this point it's just a continuation of everything I've been doing - getting stronger and getting more technical skills. When you focus on becoming a better rider, the results will follow.

CXO: Will we see you more next season in Ontario?

TR: I'd definitely like to do more of the local races in the Hamilton/Toronto area when I'm home between races. I haven't sketched out my schedule yet, but I definitely like racing in Ontario - I'll probably race the men's field next year if I'm racing at home, or both as I've done before, just to get get pushed by the elite men.

CXO: What about UCI points?

TR: I think one of the goals that I'll have for next year is to get more UCI points before Worlds. Starting position is important, but... Jonathan Page started mid-pack and got 2nd. Katie Compton started 23rd and got 2nd. Rhonda Mazza, who I am competitive with in the US, started back with me and finished 11th. So the start is important, but you can't over-focus on the start. I had a particularly bad start - normally I can get myself into the top-20 and it's just a matter of fitness whether I stay there or not. You can waste energy getting into position, but you usually find the girls who have the same fitness as you. Having said that, it's important to have a good UCI ranking for start money to help support yourself while you're racing. Really, it does help to be on the 2nd or 3rd row... it takes a lot of pressure off.

Finishing top-20 overall in the World's next year is probably going to be a goal. That, Nationals and just being more competitive. As far as my race schedule, I'm not sure if I'm going to put as much emphasis on the USGP races, I think racing a bit more in Europe and in Canada.

CXO: Who will you be racing for next year?

TR: I'll race for Advil/Chapstick on the road and I'm still working stuff up for cyclocross in the fall.

CXO: You are known to help young riders with some advice and show and tell. You helped out at Scott Doel's cyclocross clinic last year?

TR: I'll try to do it this year too. It's great to get people to a clinic and teach them how to ride better. Sometimes its fun to do that type of stuff at a race, since people are going anyway. A couple of hours before the race, pre-riding it and people can learn things about their technical riding and actually apply it to their race.

CXO: Well, thanks for following up on your season with us and enjoy your vacation from the bike.

TR: I also wanted to mention that the whole team appreciated your support so much. It's hard to put into words how grateful we are and it's more than just the money, but it's the emotional support for what it means too. Just the action. The effort pushed people to have a good race, because so many people helped us to be there, so we didn't want to let anyone down.
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