We arrived at our beautiful new little home in Albstadt, Germany early in the week to settle in. Our cabin was nestled into the forest right on top of the course and looking into the town below. The fields of flowers and bright green trees surrounded us and the winding paths and trails provided us with the perfect routes to wander. Our group was ready to relax, but being so close to the venue and course we were all eager to get out there and ride.
As you can tell, we were all pretty dang stoked to get on course right away. With lots of rain earlier in the week the trails were slick and an absolute blast. On the Albstadt course there were two main long brutal climbs, that could not be any steeper. They brought you to the top and then they each dove into very steep, fast, and insanely fun descents with tight turns, drops, and slick roots. After a couple laps on the track we all knew that we had a hard battle ahead.
You can find great information on the course and pro races HERE.
We filled our week wandering through beautiful German territory. The journeys were never-ending and I felt so lucky to be able to experience this lovely area with such a great group of people.
And finally, after days of waiting, Saturday arrived and our German home filled with excitement. We continued to wait patiently.... Until all of a sudden I found myself standing in the front row on the World Cup start line with 60 of the worlds top junior riders. The crowd was cheering almost as loudly as my heart-beat, the thrill for the race ahead rushed through me.
"Drei Minuten! Three minutes!" I took a deep breath, relaxed, and focused. "Eine Minute!" No one knew what lay ahead, but we would soon find out. "Fünfzehn Sekunden!" As if they had spotted their prey, the riders beside me bent forward and got ready to attack.
We launched off the line and pushed forward, fighting for the lead. Suddenly my foot slipped and I stubbled, stopping my progression and the moment slowed, I became a tree in a hurricane as the group rushed past. Luckily I did not slip too far back and I was able to quickly work my way back towards the front. As the group made their way into the first single track section, I battled in the top 5, but then my legs began to stiffen and slow. Although my mind pushed me to go faster, to go harder, and to catch up with those lead riders I had been training to race with, my legs did not have the same idea in mind.
A few riders rode past me and I settled into a painful and slow pace, getting dropped by riders on the steep climbs and catching back up on the descents. Throughout the first and second lap, the same routine took place over and over. I continued to climb the brutal climbs as best I could, pushing my stiff legs to the best of my ability. Although I moved back and forth with many riders, I found myself holding onto ninth place through those laps.
As I entered into the third lap, I knew this was my last chance to leave every bit that I had on that course, and I was pleasantly surprised. My legs had recovered, allowing me to test my limits more than I ever had before. The chase began. Although my legs screamed on the insanely steep climbs, I think there was an energy within me, an eagerness pushing me to get into a better position. I was able to catch one rider on the first climb and another on the second climb. This fueled the flames and I could see another rider right ahead through the trees. I fought harder than I think I ever have before, but as we entered to the descent I knew it would be hard to reach her before the finish. But still, anything could happen. I continued to push the pace on the downhill and small flat sections, her wheel just making it out of the corners as mine entered. On the finishing stretch I was still not close enough to catch her, but I was just happy to have been able to give my best on that last lap. I finished in seventh place knowing that I still have lots to learn, but enjoying every second of this journey, even if the race pain blurs that just a little.
It feels good to finish up this trip with USAcycling with two solid results and some great learning experiences. I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity and be able to travel to amazing places with an inspiring group of riders. So here's a huge thanks to USAcycling, Jason Jablonski, Julian Petit, and Marc Gullickson for helping this racing machine run smoothly. There is so much to learn in this sport and they have made a big effort in helping me and many other juniors continue to progress.
Another huge thanks goes out to the LUNA Pro Team for giving me the support I need to be able to put all of my energy into the race at hand. AND WOOHOO to some great races by the athletes, putting the team on top in the overall!
I can't ever thank Dario Fredrick enough for continuing to push, motivate, and teach me every ride, workout, and race. The Friebes, my amazing German friends, for cheering loudly at the race and giving me a warm welcome in their home as I continue my stay in Europe. This adventure continues to amaze me! I feel so lucky to be able to race and take hold of the many opportunities that I have received. Thanks to all of my incredible friends and supporters that continue to support me every step of the way.
The season is rolling quickly! See you on the trails!