World Cup #2: Albstadt, Germany
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!!
Obertraun, Austria MTB Grand Prix
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!