I am excited to announce that I will be attending Quest University. This is an exciting next step in my life as my world opens up to new opportunities in the pursuit of what I love. Athletics and academics both build up who I am and I am thrilled to attend a school that will allow me to balance the two. I am looking forward to the new challenges and adventures ahead!
Leaders in Elite Athletics & Performance Program
After spending a little time back at home to explore my favorite local trails and relax, I was sooo ready to head to West Virginia! And wow! It's weird to think that it 's that time of year already….. National championships.
I look back now at the winter when I sat down to plan out my season. Thinking about what races I wanted to do, where I would go, and trying to figure out how to fit it all into place with my travel, training, and goals. I had no idea how my season would turn out or if what I put down on paper would become reality. National Championships was just a race in the distance, marked on the calendar for the week of July 17th, but still months away.
Now, here it is. It's time to find out who the best riders in the nation are.
This event has excitement, nerves, and glory all piled into one. It’s hard putting in the work all year to achieve the fitness you hope for at this single event and it’s even harder to have all your cards play properly. Everything mentally and physically has to be at its best and on top of that you need a little extra luck. We all want the jersey, the stars and stripes to wear for the rest of the season and into the next, and every single athlete is prepared to give their absolute best. Sometimes it all starts to get in your head, the strong desire to preform and to prove yourself, but in the end I have to constantly remind myself that it is just another race. Riding bikes... I can do that ;)
Snowshoe, West Virginia. This mountain resort is out there in the middle of well... nowhere, with the grocery store about 1hr away. The forest is dense and feels almost untouched and the views were gorgeous. All of the athletes are staying at the resort (there is really no other option haha!) making it feel even more that you are part of something. Events are going on all day long everyday throughout the week, every category and every discipline. It’s exciting, thrilling, and such an inspiring community to be part of.
We arrived Wednesday night, Lea, Hannah, and I, with the perfect amount of time to pre-ride the courses and prepare for our short track and cross country races on Friday and Sunday.
Thursday we got on track. FINALLY! I feel like I've been waiting for this all week. I usually get very very excited when I pre-ride race courses. It’s like all the energy is just bubbling up inside me and I sing one section of whatever song is stuck in my head over and over and over throughout lap one. Not sure why…. hopefully I don’t annoy my teammates too much while their showing me the lines ;). This week the song of the week was swish swish haha! Could’t tell you the reasoning behind that either… maybe because we listened to it a few too many times on the long drive from the airport. Good team bonding moments!
Anyways. The course was SICK. Seriously. The single track trails were absolutely covered with technical roots and rocks and these sections were separated by long steady fire-road climbs and two man made rock sections.
As the the days went by clouds covered the sky with rain and thundershowers that continued on and off throughout the rest of the week. This made the roots and rocks even more slick and challenging. Awesome. These are the type of conditions I love. The thrill that you feel while riding as it absolutely pours and the unknown of what the course will be like…. scary? unrideable? really hard? epic? It makes me feel bad ass (although in the spectrum of things I’m not doing anything as crazy or epic as many adventurers out there, but still....) I like that feeling of testing my limits physically and mentally in mtb racing and then throw in another curve ball like weather and suddenly realizing how much more you and your body is capable of. So bring on the pouring rain and mud covered trails! This is what we train for, now lets see what we can do out there.
Friday: Pro Women Short Track
Short track. Very similar, yet very very different from cross country. It’s a different skill in a way, more tactical, shorter, faster, and absolutely brutal. It’s easy to push yourself to the limits and beyond in what sounds at first like a short amount of time: 20min + 3 laps, but half why you quickly realize it feels much much longer.
On the line I am called up fifth to stand beside the elite women, the fastest in our nation…. and world, that in itself is an honor. Plus, I’ve got two teammates in this race, so stoke level is high!
BAM! When the gun fires it’s full gas off the line. I am in just the right gear, in just the right place, and I clip in at just the right time, so suddenly I find myself leading the field around the first corner. “Okay whoa! What’s happening!? Is this going to be a good thing or a bad thing?” Kate slips in front of me before the single track and I follow her throughout the first lap. As we enter into the second my legs are starting to feel the hard effort and I begin to slow, three other riders slip past me and I’m in fifth place. “Oh no... Hang on Haley! Keep it going.”
There I am stuck in the middle. I see the group battling in front of me and a couple riders battling behind me, but I’m not getting caught and I’m not catching up. Then suddenly the legs get going again and I’m able to pick up my pace just a little. Every lap I see myself getting closer and closer to the riders in front of me. “Keep pushing keep pushing.” Suddenly Rose Grant is right in reach and in the final lap it starts to get exciting. I can hear my friends and family cheering wildly on the sides of the course. The support is unreal and I am fired up!! (And at the same time my legs hurt realllyyyyy really bad, but I’m just so close to the finish!) I get on her wheel and am able to pass her in the rock garden when I ride the left route and she runs the right. "This is my shot! Fourth place! Okay go go go!” This is when the nerves and excitement start to rush through me, since I know she is literally right behind me. Then I see Kate climbing the hill in front of me. "How can this be happening!?" I climb as fast as I can, but struggle to keep my momentum on the next flat section, I can hear Rose RIGHT on my wheel. Someone shouts “Kate has a flat!” First I think shoot…. that seriously sucks, but then I move my focus back on the battle I am in. Back in the moment. I descend with fatigue and begin to go over the flyover... I'm so so close to the finish now. "Crash!" Someone yells from the sidelines. As I crest the top I see Kate picking up her bike as Rose and I speed past her. This is now a battle for the podium. Third place is in grasp!
This is it. Two tight corners and the finishing stretch. Let's go!!
We round the corners and as the dirt turns to pavement Rose comes around on my left side. I pedal and pedal and pedal as fast as a possibly can, but not an ounce of energy is left in my body to sprint across the line. She simply had more in the tank to grab a medal, but boy was that an exciting race! I couldn't be happier with my fourth place finish in a battle with such strong women. It's also awesome to see Lea finish the day with silver and Hannah with eighth! A great day for the team!
Sunday: U23 Women Cross Country
As Sunday comes upon us this is the day we've all been waiting for. With thunder and lightning putting us to sleep the night before as the rain came pouring down. This was going to be a good battle.
9am I am standing beside a strong field of U23 women on the line. All of us focused and ready to fight for the jersey. Off the start I fell back, but was able to move around the field on the first corner and slip into second as we entered the first section of single track. When we reached the first climb I lifted the pace, found my own rhythm, and moved into first. The next section of single track was absolutely covered in slick roots and tight turns. I was able to find a route through the crisscrossing roots and stay smooth and on the next climb I looked back to see that a gap had formed between me and next riders. I turned forward and moved my focus on what was ahead.
For me, this race was about staying calm and relaxed, before and during the race. I didn't want too much of the nerves and excitement to get to my head. I had to stay in my zone and just focus on the task at hand. Since there were so many technically demanding sections on this course, from slick roots and rocks to the rock garden, I found that it was easier than I expected to keep my concentration on just one moment at a time.
I reminded myself that anything can happen in a mountain bike race. Flats, crashes, simply running out of energy, or suddenly a rider behind you has a really fast lap. I kept imagining the ladies chasing after me and used this to help push me forward. Plus the insane amount of energy coming from my friends and family on the sides of the course was fuel for the fire!
Each climb I tested my limits and each descent I went as fast and stayed as smooth as I could. I loved the course and was enjoying the terrain and the challenges of every climb. It wasn't until the final corners before the finishing straight that I actually realized I was about to win this race.
There are few worlds to express this moment. It seems unreal to become the U23 National Champion. I am so lucky to be part of this community and to have so much support. What a feeling.
I am surrounded by amazing people doing amazing things and it's truly inspiring.
There are no other ladies I would rather share the podium with. My teammate Hannah Finnchamp in second and Kelsey Urban in third. Both incredible strong, passionate, and hard working. I love having the opportunity to share this journey with them and so many other incredible athletes.
It was another exciting day at National Championships across the world for the team. Lea and Catharine brought home silver after exciting races with the elite women in the US and Canada, Katerina took the national title in Czech, Maghalie and Eva took fourth in Canada and Italy, and Andrea placed 7th in Switzerland. Rad!
I am one lucky gal to have so many amazing people and support surrounding me. I am part of one seriously incredible team and have the best support every step of the way. Thank you all for making this Nationals the greatest!
Next up is World Cup #5: Mont Saint Anne!
Before heading straight to Lenzerheide for round four of the world cup, we made a small detour to explore the lovely home town of my teammate Andrea Waldis. The Swiss mountains are absolutely unreal and the views are like no other. All of us when driving: “WOW” and when looking out the window: “WOW” and when riding our bikes: “WOW. We just couldn't believe the beauty! Not only that, but the food and riding is incredible too! I was the happiest girl alive to be able to spend some time here, however short. The hospitality of the wonderful Waldis family made our time here that much more enjoyable. I never wanted to leave! Andrea is one lucky gal!! I have the best teammates and friends to enjoy these adventures and places with. I am one lucky gal!!
Although our stint there was much too short, arriving in Lenzerheide, Switzerland did not disappoint. The scenery once again was gorgeous and I was in awe as we drove into town. I could hardly wait to get on my bike and wander through this new landscape.
I just couldn't stop smiling! There were mountains to climb, roads with endless views and corners to turn, a lake to swim in, goats to pet, and lots of delicious fresh Italian food to eat (thanks to our teammate Eva!).
My teammates helped me dial the course and find my lines. There were millions of choices throughout the roots made it hard to decide which line would be the fastest when taking into account bumps, speed, effort, fatigue, and trail condition. The course was an absolute blast with technical roots and rocks everywhere, along with drops, swooping turns, and challenging climbs. It would be non-stop action out there and I chose to race the Orbea Oiz, knowing that the full suspension would be the fastest and smoothest on the constant rough terrain.
The week quickly slipped away day by day and soon Saturday turned to night and clouds filled the sky. Thunder shook the air and lightning flashed above the mountains, while rain poured down. All my teammates and I could do was smile, laugh, and blast: “Thunder, feel the thunder lightning then thunder thunder…"
I was stoked and curious to see what epic conditions the course would hold in the morning.
Woke up to the fresh swiss morning air. The misty atmosphere and damp grass were proof that the trails would definitely be slick. During the race we would all have to make new line choices in the moment and just hope that we had made the right call. First: eat, prep, warm-up, and get on the start line. The trail conditions would have to wait until I could see them with my own eyes.
Focused. But still can't hold back a smile when I'm doing what I love ;)
At 8:30am the best U23 women in the world were ready to race. The training had been done and now it was time to show what we could do. Who is the world's fastest today? The heart-beat played, the gun fired, and we launched into the race #fullgas, in 1.5hr we would all know the answer.
I didn't quite have the start I was hoping for and as the road narrowed I was stuck behind a large group of riders. As I reached the top of the climb I could no longer see the leaders, but when we entered the first technical descent, I took a fast line straight through the roots and as I entered the next climb I was suddenly sitting in fifth place. "Woah! How did this happen?? Well... I better just go with it."
Throughout the first lap, I chased this group of three, battling myself and the trail to keep up. I felt good and knew that today I could put in a race I am proud of.
These ladies are the best in the world. They are world class athletes, strong and fast. I stayed with them for as long as I could, but as we began the long climb during the second lap, their pace was unsustainable for me. It was time for me to settle into my own rhythm and my own race. The battle for fourth position began.
Fifth place was right behind me and took the pass as we entered into the second section of the course. I stayed right on her wheel, but as we entered into the third lap I took the lead on the climb. Here I was able to build a small gap, but on the technical and slippery sections I made a few mistakes, allowing her to decrease the time between us. Once again she passed me as we entered the pits and then I followed her into the fourth lap. As we reached the climb, I pushed just a little bit harder, allowing me to settle back into fourth place. This time I didn't want to mess up on the technical trail sections after the climb and focused on choosing the right lines.
The course was wet and slick. Every rock and root demanded my attention. "I wonder if this is slippery.. Oops yep! That was close. Okay now find your balance again." I was fully engaged throughout the entire race, my mind had not a second to wander, the trail needed me. You never knew when a root would slide your bike out from under you or a muddy corner would pull you to the ground. Staying upright was mandatory in such a tight race, but risk still has to be taken. "Haley you will make mistakes, that is unavoidable, don't let them phase you. Push on." This lap I was able to sustain the gap that I had created and going into the fifth and final lap I was still in fourth position. The want to stay there pushed me up the climb for the final time.
You never know what will happen. Every last second I pushed myself and gave my all to every pedal stroke, knowing that anything could be happening in front of me. I turned onto the last section of trail and suddenly joy began to rush through me. "I'm going to be in fourth place!" But I had to remind myself to stay in the moment, to continue to race hard and stay smooth so that my result could become reality. "No Haley... focus on the trail, you're not across the finish line yet. Deep breath. Okay keep going, almost there. GO GO GO!"
And then as I rode onto the pavement I could no longer hold back my smile. The hard work, sacrifice, and the support of others was visibly paying off. The feeling when you cross the finish line after leaving everything out on course. The pride, happiness, and not being able to believe what just happened, that's why we race. This is what I love. Thank you to everyone that has supported and helped me along the way, without you it wouldn't be possible.
A muddy tired mess, but so so happy.
After a few great weeks at home to enojoy my local trails, train, and relax, round two of the World Cups was finally here!
All of the hard work and preparation would once again be put to the test. Racing bikes is challenging, but I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to travel the world with great people to race my bike. I love this challenge and continuously want to test my limits. After the first two world cups, I was excited to see what my body was capable of after a new confidence was built within me.
Andorra welcomed us once again with its stunning beauty. I continue to be in awe of this country's steep mountains and the many trails and roads to explore. Being able to travel to and enjoy so many places because of my two wheeled machine continuously reminds me to be grateful for these adventures and the people I get to adventure with.
The rain and clouds were followed by sunshine and rainbows, making the scenery that more epic. After tackling the steep climbs and techy decents that built the course of World Cup #3 with my teammates, we were all ready to test our limits at altitude. The sky let loose the night before race day, adding a new element to the technicality of the terrain for the U23 women's Sunday morning race start. I was ready to give it my all.
That morning I woke early to begin my race preparations. Outside was still dark, but as I packed my bag it began to slowly fade into lighter blues. The air was crisp and was even cooler on top of the mountain where the venue stood. I layered up and grabbed my bike. Finally it hit me, it's race day.
Step by step I prepared for my 8:30am start and suddenly my name was called to the start line. People line the course and the intensity begins to build. 15seconds. BAM! We are off.
The groups surged past the pavement and into the first steep climb. Immediately we are put to the test. I worked my way up into the first group, somewhere in the top ten. When we reached the next climb (which is STEEEEEEP) I picked up the pace and moved my way into fifth position.
Soon after I entered into the second lap, I moved my way into fourth place and began the first descent. The trail was slick and covered with rocks and roots. Focus. Suddenly I could hear my front tire leaking air. Shoot. Then my back tire went flat. Shoot! The first thing that rushed into my head was that I would most likely have to run basically 5/6 of the course before I would make it to the pit zone. "Bummer... that's a lot of running." First, I tried to ride with my flat tire to see what I could do, luckily my front tire was holding some air. I realized I could ride every section, although not at top speed, and even had more grip on all of the slippery sections of the trail. The climbs were a little harder than the downhills because it felt like energy was being sucked from every pedal stroke. I kept reminding myself to stay calm and relaxed, getting too stressed wouldn't help me. When I made it to the pits my team made an incredible speedy change of both wheels and in seconds I was ready to go again. "Stay calm, you have time to work your way up." I entered the third lap in 16th place. Three laps to go.
The race was on. In such a world class field the gaps between riders are small and I could see many riders right in front of me. One by one I worked to catch them and pass them. After the third lap I looked up and saw my name pop up on the monitor in 9th place. "That's it." There were so many important aspects of this race: the altitude, the technical features, the slippery conditions, and the steep climbs. I focused on giving my all on every climb and then taking a deep breath before downhills, in order to be able to stay relaxed and be able to choose the right lines. By the next lap I was in 7th place and could still see riders up ahead. I put my head down and rode right into the pain cave, knowing that anything can happen on the last lap. Although I didn't catch other riders in that lap, I am happy with my race.
It feels great to be back in Europe racing the World Cups and to even feel some improvement since the first round in Albstadt and Nove Mesto. It's hard not to wonder what would have happened if I didn't flat.... Luckily I have another shot next weekend and I'm excited to see how the race will play out ;)
Can't wait to explore Switzerland with my teammates! Lenzerheide here we come!
Once again it was time to travel on and we were all ready to experience a different culture, different food, different surroundings, and different terrain. After a long day in the car, we arrived at our next destination: the traditional german town of Albstadt, Germany, filled with bakeries, cafes, apothekes, and ice cream shops. This year we were surprised with sunny and warm weather, making it hard not to break into a huge smile while exploring by foot or by my favorite two wheel machine. Surrounding the buildings and cobble stone streets are rolling hills covered in glowing green trees and wandering dirt roads and trails, providing us with the most gorgeous landscape to train.
It was time for World Cup round two and, even with an entire week to settle in, with so much going on around us time absolutely flies. How couldn't every day be great when there are castles to explore, endless trails, shining sun, crepes, pretzels, amazing people surrounding me, oh and Elke (the owner of the bed and breakfast we are staying at) bakes delicious bread!?!
After really putting my body to the test at Nové Mesto, I was prepared to give my absolute best once again. This time my bike held number 8 on its handle bars, placing me on the front row for the start, much much better than before and I hoped to use this to my advantage. I felt calm once again. No pressure, but my sights were set a little higher.
Albstadt is an absolutely brutal course. Steep climbs.... very very steep climbs, short fast descents, and little rest during the lap. This year, the course had a couple new sections different from last year adding to the excitement of pre-riding the course. The trail was dusty and loose, making the goal to stay smooth a little bit harder to achieve. Each day we get closer and closer to race day and I am slipping into race mode. I am ready to roll.
Sunday morning wakes Kelsey and I at 6am… breakfast…. kit on…. ride to venue…. timing chip…. final bike preparations…. and I begin my warm-up. The day is already warming quickly and time is slipping by extremely fast, but the sun is shining and it’s another perfect day for a bike race.
Start box. Rollers. It’s hot. Julien holds an umbrella for me and Waldek hands me ice and water. That helps. A wonderful German friend wishes me good luck and I can't hold back a smile. I am continuously amazed by the support that I receive every step of the way.
I am ready. I see the fast riders in the start box with me, but for some reason I am not intimidated and I won’t let myself be. I have nothing to lose. I focus on my legs and what they need right now to be ready to burst off the line. I focus on my mind. They begin to call riders to the line. I am number eight. Front row. Far left. Deep breath. Names of riders from all over the world continue to be called to the line. 1 minute. Garmin beeps. Silence. Cheers begin to fill the air. 15 seconds. BAM! We are off.
I have a pretty good start and I am able to settle into the top ten. Off to a good start. Better than last time. The leaders are pushing the pace and riding fast throughout the start loop. On the final climb I am riding behind Malene, deja vu, together we push the pedals just a little bit harder and are able to pass a few riders before the descent.
The climbs are steep and the sun is out…. five laps to go.
I am with a group of about three other riders. We are constantly passing each-other and going back and forth throughout the next few laps. There are seconds between us. No slowing down. Every second counts and hydration and fueling can't be overlooked now, especially with such steep climbs and pounding heat.
I'm in sixth place and holding my position. The downhills are loose and rough, I have to focus on staying as smooth as possible in order to stay on my bike. It's not worth crashing, but also important to stay fast in order to keep up with the world class athletes right in front of me. Every lap I continue to focus on pacing myself the best I possibly can. The athletes around me have set their rhythms and I must react to their attacks, while also settling into my own rhythm so that I am able to finish strong.
I think my tire is leaking during the fourth lap and make a quick stop in the pits. The loose trail and sharp rocks can sneak up on you at any moment, making it that much more important to ride smoothly and with all of your focus on the trail. I just lost a little air and am good to keep going. Phew! I ride out of there as quick as I can and into the final climb.
I make the tight corner onto the straight with one lap to go. I see the rider in fifth place has a rear flat and is slowly riding across the pavement. I put my head down and pick up speed.... Could this be my moment for a top five finish!?! I have been giving my all the entire race, digging deep both mentally and physically, but now it is time to dig a little bit more. This is the last lap and it is time to leave every last bit of energy that my body has out on course.
I am in fifth place on the first climb, but my result is far from being set in stone. Anything can happen in a single lap and I am ready for anything. Going around the switchbacks I can see the trail I have just ridden and now know I am not alone. Although I have tried to build a gap, two riders are right behind me and chasing me down. I turn my eyes back to the climb in front of me and turn the pedals a little bit faster. I hear the shouts and cheers of my teammates and friends, motivating my to continue to push forward and give my absolute all.
As I head into the final descent and then the feed zone, I take a deep breath. The riders are right behind me and getting closer, but right ahead of me is the final climb, my last chance to solidify my position. I focus now on what is in front of me, put my head down and give everything my body can give. In a blur a rider passes me, but I won't give up now. I hear the cheering along the sides of the trail and push forward pedal by pedal. I get on her wheel and chase her to the top of the climb. She has gained a little distance from me at the bottom of the final descent, but not much. We are getting close to the finish and make the tight turns in the grass as fast as we possibly can. She is right there, so close. We both stand and sprint across the line, finishing just four seconds apart.
I am all smiles after the race. It was a hard fought battle for sixth place and with a strong field from start to finish. These World Cups are seriously non-stop action and truly the most exciting racing that I have ever experienced. Being able to travel to new places, put my body to the test in a sport I love, and meet incredible people throughout the way, makes every step of this journey worth it. I feel so honored to have absolutely unreal support from the community surrounding me. It takes so much to make every race possible, so thank you THANK YOU to everyone that has supported and helped me as I chase my dreams!
It's hard to say goodbye to Europe and all of the great memories! I so appreciate that support of USAcycling and this phenomenal group of people for making the past three weeks possible and truly one of a kind.
Now enjoying some home time and training time... I've got some work to do ;) and I can't wait to explore my local mountains as the snow is finally melting away to reveal my favorite trails. See you out there!!
As we traveled towards Czech, the terrain made drastic changes. We left behind the powerful peaks, cold rivers, and dense forests of Austria and wandered into the unique field patches of the glowing green grass, bright yellow flowers, and dark forests of the Czech Republic.
Soon, we arrived at what we would call home for the next week. USA cycling has stayed at Hotel Romantika for this event for several years and the comfort and service that the owners provide reminds me of how lucky I am to have so much support. It takes much more than just the athlete to make dreams in sport come true.
Nove Mesto Na Morave is holding the first round of the world cup for 2017. The steep climbs, demanding technical terrain, and loud crowds make this venue one of my absolute favorites. After getting in many laps on course with my teammates, I was feeling smooth on course and so so SO ready to race.
You could feel the energy grow throughout the week as we prepped to race in an incredibly demanding and competitive event. The excitement was high, the vibes were good, and the beautiful sunny weather and fresh air made it hard not to smile.
Saturday came around with the U23 mens race at 10am and the elite women’s race at 13:15. It was be a day full of spectating and cheering like crazy for my teammates, great preparation for tomorrow. It’s always exciting to cheer on the other riders on your team. Since mountain biking is an individual sport, its amazing to support those that support you and becoming part of something larger than yourself and your own race.
Sunday rolled around and the morning felt like it slipped past in an instant. Gray clouds covered the sky and a breeze chilled the air. It was a beautiful and thrilling morning to race bikes. After making my last minute race preparations, I spun to the venue to get my bike dialed by my team and then began my warm-up.
In the start box I finally realize the caliper of the athletes are this event. They scan every athletes bike to check for motor doping, something that I have never had happen before, and then I continue my warm-up on the rollers. The start boxes are filled with athletes from all over the world and the loud vmmmmvmm vmm vmmm sounds of the rollers fill the air. I am filled with excitement. My mechanic and team help me make my final prep for the race less than 10 minutes away. I am ready.
The announcer’s voice filled the air as he began to call up the top riders to the start line. I rolled up as number 28 to the line, the fourth row. All riders are now at the start. 2minutes to go. We move forward and squeeze tightly together to get as close to the front as possible. The rider behind me has somehow gotten in front of me. That’s okay. I am calm. Dramatic music and pounding heart beat on the speakers. 15 seconds to go. Elbows bent. I am ready. The gun signals our start and we are off in an instant. A girl runs on my left side into the fence and I have to stop to avoid a crash. I am able to get around her and I race to catch up with the field. On the first climb I pick up my pace and settle in, slowly I begin to ride towards the front and into the top 10. I can see the riders right ahead of me and right behind me, something unique to racing in such a competitive world class field. There was no slowing down for a second or riders would fly past me.
Every lap I fought, working to catch or keep up with the riders right at my finger tips. I was with two other riders and on the beginning of the third lap we caught up to the group right ahead of us. Third place suddenly within grasp, but not for long. The pace was lifted and I was not able to hang onto their wheels. The group split and once again I was fighting for eight place. The steep climbs filled my legs and lungs with pain.
I looked towards the top of the long steep climb I was just beginning. It was lined with spectators on, yelling so loud I could no longer hear my body. My burning legs and gasping breath fell silent as my ears pounded with the noise of the cheering. Throughout the laps I continued to go back and forth with the riders around me. Results unknown until we cross the line. I gave my all on the climbs and focused on keeping smooth on the technical downhills. Every second of this race demanded my full attention.
When the fourth and final lap began everyone was fighting for position. No one was giving up now. I was battling for seventh position with Malene Degn. After going into the feed zone, I took the pass and entered into the descent first. We then began the Expert Climb 2, I took the left line and she took the right. One pedal stroke at a time I made may way to the top of the climb, but she was quicker and slipped in front of me when the lines merged. I could see sixth place just reaching the top of the climb. This was a close race. Into the descent and “Rock and Roll” rock garden, I began gaining on seventh place once again, catching her on the final single track section. I slipped past her on the rough roots and entered the pavement in front of her. As we rounded the corner she was right on my tail, I knew this would be a sprint. I pushed as we reached closer and closer to the finish line hoping to get a gap, but she came around my right side sprinting and I was unable to reach the line before she did. I finished with nothing left and for that I am happy.
Being my first U23 World Cup, I am so stoked to finish in the top 10. To see the hard work paying off and to know where I am and where I can be is a great feeling. I am motivated and confident going into World Cup round 2 in Albstadt, Germany and I can’t wait to put my body to the test once again.
The support I have felt on this Europe trip alone, from home, sponsors, my coach Dario Fredrick, USAcycling, and the Clif Pro Team, is absolutely unreal. I am lucky to have so many incredible people surrounding me and it allows me to move forward every day, in training and racing. The journey could not be possible without this community. Thank you all!!
On arriving at the Munich airport, the USAcycling team managed to collect together and travel to the beautiful land of Austria. Obertraun welcomed us with breath taking views and an insanely fun course. It was easy to settle in and get STOKED for the race that weekend.
The next day we couldn’t build our bikes quick enough, too antsy to pre-ride the course. That afternoon we were off, checking out every brutally steep climb and technical descent that the course had to offer. The dirt was in perfect condition, the roots, rocks, and drops were a thrilling challenge, and the trail was surrounded by glowing green trees. After learning the many different lines to the best of our ability we were all smiles and had a hard time dragging ourselves off course to relax and recover.
After a lot of travel, I have always found it hard to get my body back to feeling itself again. My legs feel stiff and slow for a little while, but being in such a peaceful area to breath in fresh air and simply feel the excitement of being in a new place helps my to keep my mind on track. It’s not a bad place to spend some free time.
In what seemed like seconds, Sunday was upon us and it was time to do what we came here to do. Race bikes. The U23 boys headed out for their race in the morning and Kelsey and I awaited our start time. After watching out USAcycling teammates grab some great results, I was motivated and ready to give it a go. At 13:00 the U23 women lined up behind the Elite women. It was great to see my Clif Pro Team teammate Eva and Catherine with smiles on there faces and ready to crush it. I feel so lucky to have such inspiring and supportive teammates to race with.
Two minutes after the elite women launched off the line, it was go time. The whistle blew and the race was on. Off the start I was able to get into the lead and push the pace. The first couple climbs were steep and painful and after finishing half a lap for our start loop, we had four laps to go. I built a gap from the riders in my category, but the course constantly winded back and fourth so I could see many of the riders that were behind and in front of me. Even though all of the elite women were minutes ahead, it felt as though the gap was only seconds, motivating me to push forward. Lap after lap I raced to catch up with the elite field while conserving a for the last lap. When the fourth began, my legs started to feel more like themselves and I put everything I had left on the steep climbs and focused on staying as smooth as possible on the technical sections.
It felt good to finish as the first U23, knowing that this race was perfect tuning for the World Cups up ahead. Not only was the course an absolute blast lap after lap, but it was also incredible to be a part of such great vibes at this event. I’d love to come back some day.
Sad to say goodbye to Obertraun, Austria! Wish I could spend more time here, but I am looking forward to the adventures ahead. Now to Czech for the first World Cup!
The Sea Otter Classic is so much more than the race itself. It's about the community: the companies that create our sport, support our journeys, and the people that make biking something I am honored to take part in. There is non-stop action. Events for every discipline going on all day every day, music, food, dancing, and well.... we raced our bikes fast too.
Friday morning came along and the racing began. On the start, a world class women's field stood ready to give it their all in the short track. This race would be 20minutes plus 3 laps. Not short, but not too long either. It was time to put the legs to the test once again. The whistle blew and it was full speed ahead. After making it around a lap with almost the entire field, a crash in the sand caused the group to split apart. I found myself once again in the third chase group with three other riders. Kate and Jenny were fighting for the win and a large group was not far behind, chasing to catch up. Lea and I spent lap after lap working to catch up with the pack right ahead of us. Boy did we get close, but as soon as they were in sight the two other riders in our group attacked, causing the four of us to separate. For a couple laps I became a lone wolf, chasing to catch back up to Lea. With half of a lap until the finish, another rider caught up to me. I was able to get on her wheel and follow her until the final climb, where I could see Lea not far ahead. I sprinted the other rider and caught up with Lea. We entered the finishing straight and I stood to sprint, looked over my right shoulder "where'd she go?" Shoot! Lea sprints past me on my left side. I laugh to myself and sprint to the finish, stoked on having such a fun battle with my teammate.
After checking out the venue, rapping at the Little Bellas lemonade social, and sharing some laughs with everyone at the Clif Pro Team Party that evening, we got back to the hotel for some final race day preparations.
Saturday morning rolled around and everyone had their game face on for the cross country. I took my spot on the third row of the start line, with a strong group of women surrounding me. When the whistle blew, we were off and directly into the first climb. After lap one, the field began to split apart into multiple groups. I found myself riding with five other riders for a couple laps with Lea chasing from behind. When she caught us she lifted the pace and my tired legs couldn't hang on. I settled into my own pace for the next lap, chasing to catch up with the group, but the long road sections were not in my favor. On the last lap I gave it my all, crossing the line in 14th. It was another fun day racing bikes and continuing to learn more about myself.
The day is completed once again with good times, Maghalie and Katka crush it in the cyclocross race and Clif Bar tops it off with great music, food, and people. Love it!
Next up I will be heading to Europe to race in my first U23 World Cups. I can't wait for this adventure and to see what I am capable of. Go time!