B oulder racer Amy Dombroski is spending her second season in a row overseas. She will be competing in Belgium for the Young Telenet Fidea cycling team, while she learns more about Belgian customs and racing hard. Most recently, Dombroski finished eighth at the Superprestige Hamme-Zogge in early November.
We caught up with Dombroski to check in and see how she's feeling so far this season.
How are you feeling at this point in your season?
(I'm) very much looking for better races this season -- it has not been the start of season I was hoping for. ... The level of international racing is so fast and I have some work to do. Last season I came into the start of season flying and slowed from there; I got sick in November and made the mistake of not fully recovering from that sickness, so it eventually took me out of racing for over a month. It is such a long season and we are racing at our limits in unforgiving weather, so I am hoping to keep healthy and the form will continue to improve into the World Championships.
How has it been racing with Telenet Fidea? What do you love about racing in Belgium?
It has been a big step up in support. Instead of one person standing in the pit for me, I now have overwhelming support of the whole team. I now have 28 teammates, which is the size of a Pro Tour road team, so the equipment support and organization needs to be very refined. It's a lot of little details that add up -- such as a camper van at the races to stay warm and dry, a fleet of support staff, equipment choices, just to name a few of the key details.
Racing in Belgium is massively challenging, and that is what I love about it. The courses require me to be at my best, mentally and physically. In every course I can count on there being an aspect which scares me. In every course I can count on there being aspects that will have me at my absolute limits, before you even add in my competition. A rider can be good in America and be good in Europe but I truly believe that to be the best cyclocross racer, at the moment Belgium is the only place to reach this.
You described the first winter you spent in Belgium as a "building block." What are you hoping to achieve this season as you build off last winter?
I learned a lot about myself in terms of training, racing, recovery and my body's limits. I knew going into the season last year that taking on 35 races in a foreign country in inclement weather would be difficult. But there's only one way to do it, to jump right in and see what comes. Each little uncertainty is a gram of stress, so I think the first season here is about seeing the courses and venues. I had some of my highest highs and lowest lows, but I loved it and knew before the season was over that given a second chance, I could do it better.
When I was at my low, I contemplated just going home. But I am stubborn and decided that any results I achieve in that first year, so long as I tried my hardest, were icing on the cake. A lot of these riders have been doing this circuit for years. They know the World Cup courses like a "home course." They know what it is like in rain, snow and dry weather. Sure, I wasn't as fast as I wanted to be, but I could still soak it in. And now that is paying off because this season, it's more like seeing a familiar face.
Has staying healthy been a challenge so far? What are you doing to keep yourself going?
It is a very fine line between form and flu. The first two World Cups in the Czech Republic (Oct. 21 and 28) were a big planned target of mine and in the week leading into the first World Cup, I had that "fit feeling," where the form felt spot-on. I was entering a rest week to taper for the first race so the timing couldn't have been better.
That very night of the day I felt amazing. I woke at midnight with a scratchy throat, spent the rest of night worrying and woke in the morning with a full-blown sickness. The body works in mysterious ways and I find it incredible I could feel so good -- and in a matter of a few hours feel so low and terrible.
Many Belgian houses are kept quite chilly, so I have perhaps made my best purchase of the year, a heater for my room. This, a bathrobe, good diet and wearing too many layers will hopefully keep me healthy.
What do you listen to before you compete?
The White Panda or BoySetsFire.
Any race day rituals or superstitions?
I try to have an Indian curry the night before every race. It's good fuel.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.