Cathy Zeglinski is the UCI World Champion in the 45 to 49 age category after winning her race at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Aug. 23. She bested the reigning champion and posted a lap time on her course that would have placed her on the top among younger racers as well.
And she did it with a dislocated collarbone, the result of crashing on one of the rock features built on the course.
"I can't lift my arm to get a t-shirt on but I could ride my bike," said Zeglinski on Tuesday, adding that the only thing she couldn't do on her bike was jump or pull up hard on the handlebars.
As for the race itself, Zeglinski said it was not what she expected. For one thing, there was nowhere to warm up — the course starts behind a shopping mall on the outskirts of a town that sees little tourism — and the temperatures were cold enough in the morning that it took her a while to warm up.
"My teeth were chattering at the start," she said. "The South Africans knew what to expect and they brough rollers and trainers to sit on because they knew there was nowhere for people to properly warm up. My legs didn't feel good on the first half of the first lap, and once I warmed up and the power came out I couldn't pass," she said. The reigning champion blocked her out on the decent, and riders also encountered other age groups on the course that started earlier.
Zeglinski managed to pass in an open section near the end of the first lap and by the end of the second lap she had a gap of two minutes.
She said the medal ceremony was the highlight of the difficult trip. The ceremony featured native Africans in traditional garb, and she was presented with a UCI champions jersey she gets to wear for a year, plus a UCI world championship medal.
"They played the national anthem, and they raised the flags of the three podium finishers... so it was the most heart-rendering podium I've ever been on, it was a very cool experience."
She had been to South Africa before for the Cape Epic stage race, but that was in a different, more affluent and more tourist-friendly region. There were times when she felt unsafe in her rental car getting to the venue, and got lost several times trying to get her bearings. "There's a level of poverty and security risk that doesn't exist in Canada, and we should all be grateful for that," she said. "It was kind of disappointing. Crankworx took place in the centre of a town, while at this event you basically spent your time at a mall meeting other athletes."
Zeglinski's trip improved when she met other athletes and ended up staying in a local's home rather than a hotel she booked through the organizers.
As for the race, she compared the main part of the track to Tin Pants, with man-made rock structures scattered around the course to make things more difficult — although the masters did race a different course that the elites will race this weekend, which she said was a lot more technical.
"A lot of riders were actually complimentary to me for my technical skills, which is really interesting that people would notice that while at home I'm just one of many and a lot of people have skills that far exceed mine," she said. "We just come from a place where the skillset far exceeds the norm."
While her goal was to win the event, she also lost the rest of her season to the injury. Despite being a sport medicine doctor working in Whistler, she's only seen one clavicle dislocation before and it wasn't as serious as hers. As a result she isn't sure how it should be treated or how long she'll be out. "I know when I get home I'm going to have to investigate this and do some research in medical literature."
Zeglinski isn't the only Whistler racer at worlds this year, with Felix Burke getting the nod to race for Canada in the cross country junior today (Thursday, Aug. 29), while Squamish's Lauren Rosser will be racing in the junior women's downhill.
Athletes raising race money for World Cup closers
The World Championship isn't the only UCI-sanctioned event ahead for local racers this year. On Tuesday, Sept. 3, Creekbread is hosting a fundraiser for three local downhill athletes — Claire Buchar, Chris Kovarik and Jack Iles, who are heading to Europe for the last two World Cup races of the season at Hefjell, Norway and Leogang, Austria.
The fundraiser runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a share of proceeds from pizza sales, plus a raffle and silent auction, going towards the athletes to help cover travel costs. All are welcome to come by, have some dinner, meet the athletes and make a contribution.
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