Dave returned home after Mont-Sainte-Anne, leaving me on my own for the Windham World Cup. Luckily I was able to coordinate plans with Erin, who was also traveling alone, and we arrived in town on Wednesday. Sarah and Carolyn were staying at the inn with us and it was great to hang out with them! I’ve really appreciated the chance to get to know more women on the pro circuit this year and especially in the past month!
I had a rare opportunity to practice on the course both Thursday and Friday and the lack of last-minute travel made a huge difference for me. Of course I was nervous for the race, but I was much more comfortable and the faces of foreign racers and team managers I met at MSA were welcoming and familiar. On a group pre-ride it was funny to look back and see the rainbow stripes of World Champion Jose Hermida right behind me, joking that he wanted to ride with us girls instead of his teammates…
The course was very different from Mont-Sainte-Anne; it was a pretty straightforward climb followed by a descent. Most of the climbing was exposed and wide, punctuated with wet, rocky, rooty East Coast singletrack and bridges. There were no “A” or “B” lines and while decently technical, nothing was difficult to ride. I thought the course was pretty fun and knew it would be extremely fast on race day.
The race courses had their differences but somehow the weather was almost identical to MSA a week earlier; super humid and rainy on Friday, warm and sunny for the race.
I made a muddy mess of my bike and jersey and had to scrub out the mud stains by hand:
Adidas Eyewear was a big sponsor for the race and they kindly offered the use of their tent, which was front and center at the venue:Overlook Mountain Bikes, an awesome shop (and Adidas Eyewear dealer) from Woodstock, NY, generously offered technical and feed support for me. My bike was pretty trashed after the mud in Quebec and they really dialed it in and put me at ease.
I even got a pair of super-limited edition Evil Eye Halfrim Pro glasses to wear in the race! The crystal silver gradient lenses were PERFECT for the course!
Before I knew it race day arrived!
We had a slightly larger field. I was again on the last row but NOT the very last call-up! The last eight in a row on the start grid were Americans!
And we were off! There was no start loop as the climb was enough of a deciding factor to spread out the field.
Starting at the back of these races is intense and NO ONE gives up positions. I got a great start and made up some spots on the first portion of the climb. Into the woods it bottlenecked and I managed to stay on the bike around some chaos. In the next section I was forced to practice my cross skills and continued to move up a few more places. I knew I would have to work extra hard on a few straight, open climbing sections as those are not exactly my strong suit (yet). I actually felt more confident in the technical sections and descents. I was riding well–much stronger than the week before.
Unfortunately coming out on a berm of the first descent, “the Rip,” my front tire blew entirely OFF the rim. It sounded like a gunshot and before I knew it I was on the ground covered in a shower of Stan’s sealant. Aside from rolling a tubular once I’ve never had tire issues off road; I’ve never even had a flat! My great luck had finally run out. I am well-versed in tire changes, but doing one properly, quickly 10 minutes into a World Cup with nerves, adrenaline and max. heart rate added is another story!
I didn’t (and still don’t) know what caused the tire explosion, but I wasn’t exactly thinking straight. My first instinct was to RUN, so I did, but my tire was flopping around, hitting my fork and making running difficult. Of course I had just passed the tech zone and there was no way I’d make it another 3 miles around the course. I started to panic that my race was over.
I came out of a wooded section and suddenly remembered that I had an inner tube. The remainder of my field (and the U23 girls) passed me as I opened up the tube and grabbed my CO2. Fortunately the tire was already off the wheel but the tubeless valve was stuck in the rim. I used the CO2 to hammer it out. I heard the announcer talking about me and later found out that I was fixing my wheel ON THE JUMBOTRON for the members of 32 countries to see. Talk about pressure! I am also featured on the live race coverage, available for your viewing pleasure HERE.
My heart rate started to slow and I began to think somewhat more clearly. I threw in the tube, put the tire back on and released the CO2, praying that the tire bead was still intact. It popped 4-5 times as it seated itself into place…it worked! I threw the wheel back on, glad that my thru axle made centering the brake a breeze and charged up the hill.
Every second felt like minutes. I was in such a rush to get on with the race that I threw my gloves into my pocket instead of back on my hands. I never ride without gloves but seemed to be fine so I tried to shrug it off, more concerned that my tire would blow up again. On the last descent there were a ton of people cheering and I became over-confident, thinking, “oh this will look cool” as I came in hot…and promptly hit the deck on a slick rock when my sweaty hand slipped off the grip.
I got right back on the bike, finished the descent and started to feel sorry for myself. I thought for sure I’d be pulled right away (the UCI pulls riders before they get lapped). To my amazement I was 5 min. behind the leaders, not 15, and I carried on with my second lap, completely alone off the back, pretty much the last place I wanted to be.
In the tech/feed zone I switched bottles, checked my wheel and threw my gloves back on. While climbing I thought of the men’s race in Quebec where riders crashed so hard on Beatrice but continued on as though nothing happened. I made myself forget about my mechanical and rode with renewed strength. I saw a U23 rider ahead and caught and passed her on a long climb.
The volunteers and spectators were really encouraging. I didn’t make any more technical mistakes and thought that maybe my race wasn’t quite over yet. I knew it was inevitable that I’d be pulled because in reality losing 5 minutes right away was too much of a deficit to come back from, but I kept trying. In this field I had to be 100% and then some if I wanted to finish on the lead lap on such a fast course. No room for error.
When I came around for my third lap the officials looked at each other in debate and at the last minute directed me to pull off. With that my race was over. Yes, I am disappointed that I didn’t get a fair chance to add even one more lap or pair a good finish with my start, but that is racing. Mechanicals happen to everyone and now I know it is possible to get past them. After the race Stan’s NoTubes helped me out with a new tubeless set-up…the tire and wheel were still in perfect condition!
My jersey didn’t fare so well:
Both World Cups were amazing, eye-opening opportunities. I’m incredibly grateful for the chance to learn so much and I look forward to building on these experiences in the future.
Thanks again to Adidas Eyewear/Overlook Mountain Bikes/Industry Nine/Team Rocky Mountain-Maxxis for making me feel PRO, Speed Cycling, Momentum Racing and everyone who helped me get here–both financially and emotionally! Thank you to USA Cycling, the race promoters and all of the amazing volunteers!
After Windham I tapped out my bank account and had just enough money to drive home to Asheville…which unfortunately means my season is over and no Nationals. However, a short break will be nice; cyclocross season is on the horizon and I am motivated and ready to switch gears!
Thanks for reading!