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!