Cathy Zeglinski wrapped up her season wearing a blue jersey with a rainbow stripe instead of her trademark pink one, as the Whistler rider wore the colours of a world champion atop the podium in Africa last week.
Zeglinski won the women's 45 to 49 cross-country title on Friday (Aug. 23) at the UCI Masters World Championships Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, despite dealing with a severe shoulder injury that will bring an end to her season on the bike.
"It was my goal for the year, so it's kind of exhilarating," Zeglinski said Tuesday (Aug. 27) from Seattle as she travelled home.
Zeglinski finished two loops of a 7.5-kilometre course in one hour, six minutes, 53 seconds, blowing past defending champ Maria de Bernardi of Argentina midway through the race and extending the gap all the way to the finish.
"My first lap, I thought 'OK, I'll go hard from the gun' and my legs just didn't respond. (De Bernardi) got ahead of me, and it was very tight single-track, kind of like Tin Pants (in Whistler) and it was very hard to pass at all.
"When we got onto the straightaway for the second lap, I just put the hammer down and dropped her and never saw her again."
Zeglinski ended up with more than a 1 -minute margin of victory over de Bernardi. But the local doctor almost pulled out after she crashed on her first lap on the first day of training, which left her with a fairly serious collarbone injury.
"My clavicle is sitting up in my neck where it's not supposed to be. It's stressful as a sports med physician (knowing) that there's nothing we can do about this. It's very uncomfortable, I can't put on a T-shirt, I can't raise my arm, but I can ride my bike - go figure," she said.
Zeglinski said she messaged coach Tony Routley back home to tell him she may have to pull out and was "devastated," but quickly turned her thoughts back to racing after seeing she could ride her bike without too much discomfort.
"I think the only way you can deal with an injury is to pretend you're not injured, so I was not injured as far as I was concerned. I iced my shoulder, I took some anti-inflammatories and said 'I'm fine, I'm going to race fine and I'm going to win this damn thing.' There was no way I was coming home from South Africa not having won."
Though Zeglinski walked away with the world title, she said the nature of the injury will keep her off the Whistler trails for the rest of the season. It's been a great summer for Zeglinski, as she was part of the winning women's duo at the TransRockies and also had a solid finish in the Beskidy MTB Trophy stage race in Poland earlier this year. But she said it's a little bit strange to end her year on the shelf.
"I set some goals this year and it's been successful so it's all worked out well, but finishing the season injured just doesn't feel right, I've never done that before," she said. "My season is done, but I went out with a bang."
Having been awarded the world champion's jersey, which is blue with the traditional rainbow stripe through the middle to signify a UCI world titleholder, Zeglinski is unsure what her kit will look like in 2014. She's easily spotted in most races with her bright pink jersey and said she doesn't know if she wants to trade it in for a different colour. She said sponsor Kallisto, which produces custom cycling apparel, will be working on a jersey for her for next season.
"A lot of (world champs) wear their kit and put the rainbow stripe on it, so I'm not sure what they're making me," she said. "But I really don't want to give up the pink, because it's been very much a symbol and there are a lot of women in pink in other parts of the world."