After Gränichen, our next home became the Alps of Kappl, Austria. The gorgeous mountains surrounded us and all I could do was stare with awe. This area provided the perfect terrain for steep climbs and technical descents along with jaw dropping views. Every day throughout the week was spent exploring the endless trails and soaking it all up. Austria does not disappoint!
Sadly, the week came to an end, but we moved onwards to the next adventures! This week was spent back in Germany for race preparations as we made our way to Heubach for the weekend.
Bike the Rock in Heubach, Germany always brings the competition, spectators, and lots of rain to make for a very exciting race on a challenging course. And boy was the trail slick! The rain made the dirt thick and slippery, so all of the steep turns, rocks, and roots took pure focus and a little luck.
After dialing in the course, it was all about resting up and preparing for the battle ahead. If you are ever racing, riding, or traveling in Heubach, check out Have a Seat and denn's Biomarkt nearby in Aalen to find some healthy and delicious food options!
Race day came in the blink of an eye and with a little extra rain. Sunday afternoon I found myself standing on the line waiting for the exciting battle ahead with the strong competition standing beside me and a lively crowd. The elite women took off ahead of us and the clock began to countdown one minute. All eyes were on the flashing red numbers. Our elbows bent. Deep breath. Just seconds left. The whistle blew and the mass surged forward. I found myself fighting for the lead, but as the pavement began turing to the left I saw rain water glittering on its surface. Questions and thoughts raced through my head as I calculated how much speed would cause me to slide out. Should I slow down? Or should I… And I hit the ground. The riders swarmed past me and I found my self struggling to my feet and onto my bike as they rode away. The fight had begun.
The first (and only) climb is long and steep. When I entered the dirt, the climb began and I could see the field of riders slowly stretching into a long string as they raced upwards. One by one I made my way forward and towards the front of the field. I settled into fourth place right behind two other riders, first place pedaling into the distance.
The climb was steep and slick. I moved into my lowest gear and cranked onward pedal by pedal. The three of us were moving at a fast pace, powering through the mud. On entering the descent the rider right in front of me chose the right line on the slick rocks, I chose the left and was able to squeeze by, putting me into third place. I followed seconds wheel through the slick and steep descent, but as we entered into three sharp root turns I stumbled on the third, barely catching myself as I slid and hopped around the switchback. The rider ahead of me grew her gap and I raced to catch up.
Lap two began and the battle continued with full force. There was no slowing down on the steep uphill, you either rode it or you ran. I spent the climb slowly catching up to the second place rider and then took the pass before the descent. Right away a muddy corner grabbed my wheel and threw me back on the ground, once again I watched second slip away. I hopped back on my bike and slid, jumped, and skidded as fast as I could down the muddy trail.
As I entered lap three, second place was just out of sight, but I gave it my all throughout the lap to catch back up. Although I couldn’t quite bridge the gap I was happy that I could give a strong effort throughout the race and finish in third. It was a very muddy and exciting day racing bikes!
I have continued to meet amazing people and have incredible support throughout this journey. I can't thank my family, the Luna Pro Team, Dario Fredrick, USAcycling, and all my supporters enough for making this possible. This has been quite the adventure and I am so thankful to have had so many amazing experiences. I have been chosen to represent team USA at World Championships and am excited to make the Czech Republic the last leg of my trip!
As I continued my stay in Europe, I received a very warm welcome into the home of some of my wonderful German friends. I spent the week relaxing and re-setting while soaking up the beautiful scenery in their little german town. Everyday gave me another chance to enjoy some of the unique experiences that Europe has to offer. The paths throughout the forest allowed me to spend hours on end riding through the glowing green trees and off the bike there was plenty of places to go and see, so time just flew by.
After having the perfect week to rest up before the next block of training, I was ready to keep on trucking. My brother and mom arrived that weekend and we traveled on to Bad Wildbad, Baden Baden, Le Bresse, France, and then reached Gränichen, Switzerland. The riding and small discoveries along the way and in each destination is what made the journey so special.
On arriving in Gränichen on Thursday, I had plenty of time to settle in, pre-ride the course, and prepare for the Swiss Bike Cup on Sunday. The vibes were good, with beautiful scenery surrounding us and light rain.
When I hopped on course the stoke level rose even more. The trails were slick, muddy, and so insanely fun. Winding their way up and down through the trees with fairly short climbs and steep technical descents. The course would put the racers to the test and the rain throughout the evening would continue to make the mud thicker, roots slicker, and climbs harder. I was looking forward to the exciting race ahead.
Sunday arrived and the clouds hung above, but the rain held back as I began my race preparations and warm-up. At 12:50pm, a few minutes after the elite and U23 women had begun their battle, I stood on the line with a strong field of junior women. BANG! And we were off.
We launched off the line and I settled in behind the front group. The first climb was long and steady and even though the pace was strong, the riders stayed in a large mass. I could hear the hard breathing of the riders on either side of me as our legs began to burn. As we neared the single track the second surge came, and I squeezed into second as we entered into the mud and slippery roots. The rider right in front of me slipped out of her original line and I used my momentum to ride into first. From there there was no turning back.
Throughout the lap I could see a couple riders close behind, but I just focused on pacing myself and riding smoothly on the technical features throughout the course. I felt confident knowing that my Orbea, Fox fork, Maxxis tires, and Shimano components would allow me to ride full speed on all sections of the course.
Going into the second and third lap I continued to leave it all out there. After each brutal climb I had to reset and remeber to re-focus the mind in order to stay smooth on the slippery roots and technical aspects of the descents. Not only was the course a blast lap after lap, but the cheering was so motivating as the crowd shouted in all different languages throughout every lap. It felt so good to finish the race with my hands in the air after giving it my all in Switzerland.
I was so impressed by the organization, cheering, and course, and was glad I could pull off the win at such a great event. Next up, many more adventures and Bike the Rock in Heubach, Germany!