Forced off her bike due to an injury, American Meredith Miller was given the okay to return to racing five weeks after undergoing surgery to her right hand. Her primary focus has not wavered, to be selected as part of the USA Team selection for the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships powered by Exergy, the first time in the history of the sport that the event will be held in the United States.
Battling for the podium the California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized rider suffered spiral fractures in her right hand when she crashed hard on the final lap of the UCI C1 elite women cyclocross race. Following another exam last week, Miller was given the okay by her doctor to start racing.
"Officially I am free to go, no restrictions, I can ride and race however I want to." Miller stated.
"The doctor said that I'm 75 to 80 percent of strength and he said that it was all you need. I can still obviously improve some but that's all anybody needs to function so he said I was ready to get going and just not to crash again." she added with a laugh.
Throughout those five weeks, Miller kept her fitness up on the trainer, always remembering the main season goal which is to race in Louisville come February - though the schedule had to be adjusted. "Now we'll go to LA and Bend and if everything goes well, if I'm riding strong enough and it's worth it, then I'll go to Europe for the Christmas World Cups and hopefully do whatever I can to get to Louisville."
The plan currently is to race the two World Cups during the holiday season, Namur on December 23 and Zolder on December 26, 2012. She is still weighing adding other races to the schedule while in Europe.
"I need to race and I need to race as much as I can but I also need the World Cup to do well so it's a little tricky but sometimes I do better the second day than I do the first day, so maybe that one race. I don't know." she mused. The plan will be revisited following her races in Los Angeles.
Miller knows what she needs to do to be selected on the team, after all she has raced in the last three Cross World Championships. "If I can get an automatic qualification, if I can a top 10 at a World Cup that would solve that. Otherwise I think if I can come back and ride as strong as I was before I crashed, hopefully then I can get that discretionary spot."
USA Cycling has laid out criteria on how an elite women are automatically selected to be part of the World Championship team, and for Miller, the best bet is to claim a top 10 finish at a World Cup.
"I feel good. That's part of the reason I went to Louisville for the USGP because I wanted to see the course, I wanted to have my head wrapped around the course, watch how people were racing – just being proactive, doing everything I can do to get myself to Louisville and then when I am in Louisville I already have an idea of what everything looks like and how people were racing that course."
Miller was seen doing her trainer workouts by the side of the course at the USGP Derby City Cup in Louisville. She found that "it wasn't that hard" to be there and not racing. "I know a lot of people feel that they can't be there if they're not part of the action. The need to be there and stay connected, easier than being at home. It worked out really well because that weekend it snowed in Boulder and I would have had to do my trainer workout inside and being there I was able to be outside. Trainer workouts are hard, they're mentally tough too and so anytime I would start to be 'oh this sucks, I just want to quit'. I'd look up and see people out there racing, and say to myself 'No, this is where you want to be in February, so get your ass in gear.'"
With two months left in the season, the pressure is on to get results. Using her experience learned during her racing career which included winning the 2009 Road National Championship, Miller is taking it day by day.
"I've also been seeing a sports psychologist, again something so that I'm pro active and that I have all my ducks in a row. It's not because I think I suck, it's just that I want to be mentally prepared. I've done everything that I physically can to be prepared and the mental aspect is such a big part of cross that I want to make sure that I have that part of it dialed too so that when I line up for all these races coming up, because of the high pressure, I just want to make sure that I'm mentally prepared as well. "
Miller's first UCI races back will be this weekend's CXLA in Los Angeles this weekend followed by the finale of the Trek US Gran Prix of Cyclocross p/b Greenware® and WD-40 Bike in Bend, Oregon on December 8 and 9, 2012. She will then head to Europe for the two World Cups.