Thanks to the generosity of friends and family I was able to make it to Quebec to race my first World Cup! Three years ago I sat on a mountain bike for the first time and would have never guessed I’d ever be where I am today. I began racing in Sport because the members of my carpool always competed in the afternoon and didn’t want to get up so early…then they made me upgrade to Expert so we could sleep in even a little later. Before I knew it I upgraded to Pro…
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the support of my friends and family and Dave has been there every step of the way, encouraging and believing in me sometimes more than I’ve believed in myself. I’ve certainly had my fair share of naysayers as well, but their words have actually helped push me to prove them wrong.
In any case, I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve found this sport I love. It came into my life at the right time, has taught me so much and connected me to amazing people around the country. Since I started mountain biking I’ve closely followed the World Cup coverage, in complete awe of those riders and courses.
When the 2011 World Cup schedule was released (about a year ago) and Windham was again on the schedule I started thinking about what it would take to enter. The North American venues were my only opportunities to compete, as I am paying my way through all my race expenses (being able to afford even regional racing is challenging enough); traveling abroad was completely out of the question.
The idea planted in my head and began to grow..I decided to focus this season around getting to the World Cup. I started training with structure for the first time and have been fortunate to work with Coach Gordy and Speed Cycling. I know it will take more than six months, even years, to get where I think I can be but I’ve already seen a lot of improvement. I’m just getting started and looking forward to the hard work ahead!
I couldn’t afford to focus on any complete race series this year and chose to pick specific events that stood out to me. I only had one chance to get UCI points before the WC deadlines and came closer than I expected to qualifying on my own. I petitioned for a spot on the US National Team and was accepted!
What this meant didn’t really sink in until we pulled up to the entrance of Mont-Sainte-Anne last Friday morning and then it got REAL.
I was fine until I saw Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå riding casually on the road and I started to panic a bit. I’ve always raced ahead of my capacity but what was I thinking now? These are the best riders in the WORLD and everyone is on top form preparing for the Olympics next year. I proceeded to check in at registration with Mary McConneloug and got to meet the USA Cycling mountain bike director. The venue was quite a sight to take in:
I let it sink in and got ready to pre-ride the course. It had rained a lot recently and it was still raining lightly. HERE is a map of the course. It was very messy and extremely difficult! Very technical, with steep climbs and crazy descents. There was no where to rest but the course was awesome. I loved it!
My Ikons have been the perfect tire of choice for almost everything but thick mud, which there was plenty of. I had little traction and was a little rattled coming into the infamous Beatrice descent (it’s way steeper in person than the pictures make it look!). I stopped to watch others ride and felt somewhat better when I realized a lot of top riders were just standing there, staring at the rocks with me.
The problem section was the last switchback coming into the rocks. There was a large, troublesome slick rock to slide out on. While turning, the front wheel would come all the way to the edge of a significant drop-off and there was no room for error. Later on, I watched a lot of men FLY OFF this edge in their race! A lot of the crashes were pretty intense but somehow the men got up and continued to ride the race as though nothing happened. It was crazy! That is why they are the best in the world.
I’ve sharpened my switchback skills but the Marmotte climb was very difficult as it was slick in all the wrong areas. The climbing was quickly rewarded with a really fun rock descent (“La Germaine”). The course was mostly singletrack with short open sections. It was really well-designed and always interesting. The second half was much drier and featured flyovers and the Perdrix drop:
I switched wheels (thanks to Industry Nice I had this rare luxury!) and felt much more confident on the Maxxis Ignitors. They offered a lot of grip and control in the deep mud, slick roots and rocks. Once I was familiar with the course I was able to relax.
In the morning, the venue was full of energy and excitement. Rocky Mountain/Maxxis let me warm up in their team space, where I had a nice view of Geoff, Sabrina, Marie-Helene and the start:
They made us wait in holding pens by start order. There were eight other Americans in the race and Chloe and Krista were in my pen–it was great to see some familiar faces! I had the fewest UCI points and was the very last call-up.
HERE is a replay of the women’s race (I am the only one wearing a Team USA kit…)
The start was crazy, as expected, and I actually moved up quite a bit into the first climb. No one gives up places and to pass anyone is a huge challenge. Any mistake costs seconds, and positions.
The heat and humidity on the second climb hit me like a ton of bricks and I lost positions quickly. I saw spots and struggled to keep my technical skills afloat. I bobbled features I cleaned easily on the pre-ride but kept trying. I guess a lot of World Cup racing is managing to keep calm, and ride the crazy sections with your eyes crossed!
I made it a couple of laps before I was pulled; they didn’t pull the U23 girls behind me so I must have been close to making another lap. I still saw spots for a while after I stopped racing…I’ve never hurt so badly from such a short effort! Even though I didn’t have a spectacular race I was thrilled to have the experience to race such a legendary course with the fastest women out there. I finished; a lot of people didn’t. There is definitely a long way to go if I want to be competitive at this level but I learned a ton!
The crowds were amazing with hecklers and superfans in full force. They cheer for every single racer, first or last place…
Thanks again to everyone for the support!! I am so grateful and without it I would not be able to do this. Thanks to the American World Cup veterans for welcoming and encouraging me. Looking forward to trying this all over again at Windham!