Luxembourgish national champion Christine Majerus fielded questions all season long about her objectives for the 2017 Cyclocross World Championships in Bieles. Patiently she repeated her response. She wanted to exceed her previous best results, a pair of ninth place finishes recorded back-to-back over the last two years. A career best result on home soil was the ultimate aim for the season.
In front of a noisy and enthusiastic home crowd on Saturday, Majerus rode a technically strong race to achieve her objective. Sandwiched between Eva Lechner (Italy) and Ellan van Loy (Belgium) at race end, Majerus managed seventh place, the best result of the day for the host nation.
“I can be happy today,” said Majerus. “I rode a smooth race, which I think saved my seventh place in the end. Physically, I might have been a little bit under what I would have wanted, but that’s life. I’m not a machine. I think today was the most I could get out of myself and this race.”
Majerus briefly led the elite women’s field on the fast-paced and aggressive opening lap. Local fans cheered as she twice shut down attempts by Marianne Vos (Holland) to assume control of the race, but Majerus couldn’t hold off Vos forever. The Dutchwoman powered to the front beyond the pits and led an elite selection, including Majerus, across the finish line for the start of lap two.
From there Majerus settled into her own (quick) rhythm. Midway through lap two, she had slotted into seventh place and that’s where she would remain for much of the rest of the race.
“I felt the crowd on certain parts of the course, and they motived me to fight,” said Majerus. “There was one part of the course, when you come back from the school, and there was a corner where all the fans of Suzie Godart where standing, and that was really loud. I enjoyed that today.”
While most television viewers were mesmorised by an incredible duel unfolding at the front of the race between Vos and Sanne Cant (Belgium), Majerus was engaged in a battle of her own. Trading places with Katie Compton (USA) over the last two laps, Majerus eventually profited from a last lap error Compton made.
“I clawed my way back to her wheel on the last lap,” said Majerus. “She made a mistake in the serpentine bit. That’s what allowed me to get past her and save my seventh place today.
“If this race hadn’t been in Luxembourg, I might not have fought so much for seventh,” Majerus added. “I was good technically, but physically it wasn’t my best day. Racing at home, I had a little bit extra for the spectators to keep fighting for the place I promised I would get.”
Full of nerves before the race start, Majerus was full of emotion at the race finish. In the last six months, she’s raced the Rio Olympics, earned her first world title (team time trial) and ticked a big box in Bieles.
“I need to work not to fall into the big black hole that can come after something like this,” said Majerus. “The first thing that I’ll do is go on a ski holiday for a week. The last real holiday I had was in October 2015. It’s about time I have a little break. It was a really long winter.”
It was a long winter well-worth the energy spent and emotion invested.
“I learned that if you really want to achieve something, it’s possible with the right work and the right people,” said Majerus. “I also learned that I can fight against the best if everything goes well. Even if I wasn’t in my top physical condition today, I still have the result I talked about the whole season. I’m happy with that.”