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!
Coupe de France- Ussel, France
After traveling across the sea and driving across the beautiful green fields, deep forests, and cobblestone towns, we settled in in Ussel, France. I would be traveling with a group of eight USAcycling junior athletes for two weeks and competing in two races, one in France and one in Germany. We were all excited for the opportunities and adventures ahead, as the van was filled with laughter and smiles.
After quite a few days of traveling around, it was nice to finally settle in before our race that weekend. The town and environment around us was perfect, with light rain and beautiful skies. The vibes were good and we were able to get on the course Friday afternoon. The trails wound through the thick trees on slippery roots, rocks, tight turns, and brutally steep climbs. The terrain was technical and the course was demanding, but so so fun. We had a hard and exciting battle ahead!
The sun began to shine once again on Saturday morning, slowly soaking up the moisture from the course. This would definitely change how the terrain would behave. The boys on our team represented well that evening, Chris Blevins in second place and the rest in the top half of 100+ riders. The race environment around us filled the air and I could hardly wait to get my wheels rolling.
Waking early on Sunday, although the air was cold, the sun was shining once again, turning the once slippery course into a more loose and dry one. I had done everything that I could to be as prepared for this race as possible, so I was getting excited for the race ahead. I felt so lucky to have the incredible support of USAcycling and these teammates here on this trip, I knew the rest was up to me.
After warming up on beautiful little roads next to the venue we found our way to the start line. All of the U19, U23, and pro women riders were mixed in and starting together. All three of our U.S. riders had great spots within the starting field, I stood in the second row with Kelsey and Savilia in the third. I turned to wish their smiling (but race ready) faces good luck, before setting my sights on the course ahead.
ALLER ALLER!! And we shot off the line. I settled into the long line of women, and although I was towards the front, the riders in my category were lost in the mix. My eyes searched for their blue number plates continuously, but could only see one right ahead of me. I got into my own rhythm and found my way into a group with some pro and U23 riders. I was able to catch many riders throughout the first lap, passing the one other jr. woman I could see, and moving back and forth within the group I was with. During the second lap a U19 girl caught an passed me, but I grabbed her wheel. We battled throughout the lap, but I got the chance to squeeze by her and took it. I focused on keeping a sustainable effort throughout the race, helping me to gain a gap on the other rider. At some point I learned that I was in second place, but I still had no idea how far away or where first place was. I continue to race inside myself and push to the end. Every climb felt a little bit steeper and harder on the fourth lap, but I was getting closer and closer to the finish.
It was almost hard for me to believe that I had ridden under the line in second place. I was unbelievably happy to give a great start to this European trip and know that I can only learn and improve from here. After a post-race cappuccino and croissant, it was the perfect race day.
So proud of these lovely ladies and the entire USA junior team for giving it their all out there. More great adventures to come and the Albstadt World Cup up Next!