After a busy and very enjoyable week spent in multiple beautiful destinations with the team, it was time to settle in for another race weekend. This time Bonelli Park would be holding an HC event, bringing along international competition and rainy weather. Throughout the weekend rain turned the course from its usual hot and dusty self into an exciting muddy mess. The punchy steep climbs, along with short fun descents, would make for a very challenging and thrilling race for every rider.
Once again, I was stoked to get out and race my bike. The conditions had made every part of the trail slippery, which I felt made it more fun than ever before. I was feeling confident racing with the Orbea Oiz and was looking forward to the battle ahead. About 20 of us stood on the line for the UCI U19 women's race. So far, I have never had the pleasure of racing alongside such a large field of fast riders in the US until this season. So here's a huge thanks to NICA and all of their leagues across the country for helping to get more kids on bikes (especially girls!) and enjoying this amazing sport.
At 4:30pm, right behind the Jr. men, the race was on. We sprinted off the line, right into the pain cave, the thrill of racing, and lap one of four.
The group stayed fairly large throughout the first half of the lap, but then quickly split apart. The steep climbs and technical descents were demanding and quickly showed the strengths and weaknesses of each rider. Soon, three of us were battling in the lead as we began lap number two. After following behind Kelsey and Sienna for most of the first lap, I was able to squeeze into the single track first and settle into my own pace. Throughout the rest of the race I found myself building a gap from the other riders and really focused on pushing and competing with myself mentally and physically. I was so happy to ride across the line with my hands in the air, after a fast race on a challenging course.
The Luna Pro team had also grabbed three spots on the pro women's race, but the weekend of racing was not quite over yet. I was standing on the line Sunday afternoon for the pro women's short-track race. Beside me were some of the fastest women in the world, athletes that I have looked up to ever since I started racing. These women are FAST and excitement was building within me.
I launched of the line and surprised myself with a good start, placing me within the front group. I battled there for the first couple laps, but I slowly slipped farther back. Finally I lost the front pack, power no longer visible in my legs. This was probably the longest and most painful 20minute race I had ever experienced. Soon another rider raced passed, then another, and another, and another. I was fighting only myself, wishing I was farther up ahead, but happy I was still in the race and giving it my all. I was the last rider to cross the line who had not gotten pulled. I'd left it all out there on that little course, but my first elite short-track was done and dusted. I was happy to see Luna had taken another win, finishing off a great weekend with the cherry on top.
The race season has officially begun! Next up the Sea Otter Classic!
A lot goes on behind the scenes of the Luna Pro Team. Every athlete has a world of people supporting them, and the team is a really big part of that. This week, in-between Fontana and Bonelli, was focused on team bonding and getting this exciting season rolling. I feel so thankful for this incredible opportunity to get to travel, laugh, and learn from this amazing group of people. I can tell that this is going to be a phenomenal year of racing.
The team includes (from left to right) mechanics Chris Mathis and Dusty Lubarr, athletes Catherine Pendrel, me, Eva Lechner, Maglie Rochette, Andrea Waldis, Georgia Gould, Hannah Finchamp, Katrina Nash, and team manager Waldek Stepniowski, also (not shown above) Dave McLaughlin (team manager), Marla Streb, and Julien Burgeas (Orbea Mechanic). Mountain bike racing is far from easy and so much goes on to help make the teams success possible. Including our incredible sponsors for helping us enjoy the ride by supporting us with some of the greatest equipment and gear out there.
My first race of the season with the Luna Pro team was right around the corner. I was looking forward to an exciting new year of racing and adventures, but the the nerves are always strong at race number one. Right after arriving Friday afternoon, I immediately began settling into the Fontana course on the Orbea Oiz. The rocks and steep climbs are only a few of the great aspects of this course, but the heat and dust would be the most noticeable during the 80º race at 4:30pm.
I was already amazed by the incredible support that Luna was giving me as I began to settle in. The atmosphere provided by the athletes, mechanics, and all the supporters behind the scenes, was outstanding and truly grew how much I look up to this phenomenal group of people. I knew that everything besides my mental and physical state would be taken care of in the best possible way, so I would be able to put all of my focus into the race ahead.
After a long day of relaxation, the excitement was building and I was looking forward to racing against a large and strong group of junior riders. We were on the line right behind the UCI Jr. boys and the countdown began. The sun was in full force above us, but all eyes were on the trail ahead.
As we rode off the line, I settled into the lead group as we pushed up the first climb. On entering the first single-track section, the pace was strong and the group began to dwindle. Soon, Rachel was in the lead with me and Kelsey following close behind. The sun was hot and the trail was loose and dusty, providing for an exciting challenge. I slipped into the lead for the main downhill section and found that as we began the second lap only Kelsey and I were battling in the lead.
After a couple attacks by both of us, I took the lead and was able to build a gap throughout the second lap. The
Orbea Oiz turned the loose turns and rocks into a playground, and I couldn't help but enjoy the pain cave. And to top it off, the cheering throughout the race was insane. It always feels amazing to hear your supporters cheering your name, giving you the extra energy you need to push just a little harder. I was extremely happy to take the win, giving a great first start to the season. I really can't thank Dario Fredrick, my family, Oakley, the Luna Pro Team, and everyone that has supported me along the way enough. I am looking forward to enjoying some bonding time with the team and Bonelli #2 is up next!