The Whiskey 50, known for its lively cycling culture and brutal course through the Prescott trails. I'd never raced this long, but I’d heard the hype and excitement rushed through me to try this style of event. Accustomed to the XCO style of racing, I hadn’t experienced much like it before. What I took away from this race, more so than my fourth place finish, was the gratitude that I have for my mentors. I raced for 50 miles with a teammate by my side and I was filled with the love and appreciation for what makes mountain biking so special. It’s not so much the results as it is the people that support you and share the experiences with you along the way.
Katerina Nash and Catharine Pendrel have been fundamental in helping me grow into the athlete I am today. I’ve always appreciated their extraordinary character and fearless approach in tackling challenges, but this race highlighted even more how lucky I am to have these extraordinary women in my life. The Whiskey 50 provided a big day in the saddle and a whole lot of fun and exciting racing to remind me of what’s important.
For me, this race amplified my gratitude for my incredible teammates. Their willingness to share their experience and advice made success in this race a possibility.
Friday brought the fat tire crit and a stacked women's field. After a thrilling evening of racing, our call-up order was determined for Sunday's main event. I've still got a lot to learn in this area of racing. The tactics and short high-end efforts are challenging elements of this style racing, but the tight battles and small seconds between riders make me eager to improve.
Sunday morning brought the main event and with 50 miles ahead of us I had asked my teammates as many questions as I could think of to prepare for what was ahead. How much should I eat and drink? How should I pace myself? Where are the most important parts of the course? What chainring size are you going to use? Tires? They advised me without hesitation and with a genuine interest in hoping I could go out their and have my best race. Competitors, yes but first teammates.
Off the line the field was held tightly together as the pavement led us through town and into the National Forest. We climbed our way towards the dusty trails and the leaders put in an attack for the single track. I found myself on the best wheel I could have asked for, Katerina. I settled into the pace she was holding, trusting that she knew much better than I how to settle in for the ride ahead. We hit the first long descent and DANGGGGG was she flying through the rocky and loose train. WOOH! What a blast it was to follow her down the trail (or at least I tried to keep up!!) and soon we had caught back up to the leading pack of four.
From there on the race was full of excitement. It was impossible to tell how the race would end up until each rider crossed the line. On the main double track climb the pace lifted and lifted until I had dropped of the pack and three riders were battling ahead for the win. I hoped that I was pacing my effort right and soon found myself back on Catherine's wheel with about half the race to go and two riders up ahead. We pushed the pace together on all the climbs and descents and I couldn't help but give a little whoop as we rode our way through the trails. I was having the best time chasing my teammate, mentor, and friend on an EPIC ride. In the last portion of the race, local Chloe Woodruff flew by us at an impressive speed and not too long after we rode by Erin Huck as she picked herself back up from a small crash. The racing was close and Catherine and I pushed the limits to keep on the podium. In the final portion of the race we had moved from third and fourth position, to fourth and fifth, back to third and fourth and Chloe was in sight as we pace-lined our way down the final pavement stretch. Then the finish came into few, Catharine attacked and we sprinted to the line. WOW was that one amazing race.
I think this was a special moment for both of us. Crossing the line after pushing each others limits throughout most of the race, shredding the trails together, and then sprinting to the line because both of us are up for a battle to the end. It represents more than just this race, but a relationship that has grown throughout the four years I have been on the CLIF Pro Team. She has helped me grow and improve both on and off the bike. We've traveled all over the world together, through the highs and lows of racing, and have had a whole lot of laughs through it all. I'm lucky to wear the same jersey.
CLIF X PELOTON: A NEW DIRECTION FOR
Being my first ever Pan American Championship, I truly had no idea what to expect. I'd heard stories of the crazy travel, food, and race venues from trips in previous years, but Aguascalientes, Mexico was a new destination for me and most of our team. I joined USA Cycling and an amazing group of athletes, mechanics, and management to take on the challenge.
On arriving Tuesday evening, the action began on Wednesday with the team relay and gave a great start to the trip for Team USA. Christopher Blevins, Riley Amos, Erin Huck, Luke Vrouwenvelder, and I bought home a silver medal after an exciting race on the dusty and rocky track.
Team Relay: 2nd place
Junior Men: 2nd place for Riley Amos
U23 Women: 1st place for me
U23 Men: 1st for Christopher Blevins
Elite Women: 1st for Kate Courtney, 2nd for Erin Huck, and 5th for Chloe Woodruff
Elite Men: 4th for Keegan Swenson
COPA International XCO C1:
Junior Men: 1st for Riley Amos
Elite Women: 1st for Kate Courtney, 2nd for Erin Huck, 4th for me, and 5th for Chloe Woodruff
Elite Men: 1st for Keegan Swenson
Read more from @USACycling HERE:
Becoming the U23 Pan-American Champion is really special,” said Batten, “There were a lot of elements that needed to go right for a win like this and when all the pieces fall into place for a smooth race, it’s an incredible feeling. The support from USA Cycling has made it all possible and watching our team perform so well is amazing to be a part of.”
Faces of the Future: 10 questions with Clif Pro Team's Haley Batten
Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic