After racing in Germany, my family and I made our way back to the Alps of Leogang, Austria. Once again, I was provided with some of the most scenic training routes. The week was spent soaking up the beautiful views, sunlight, and culture while wandering through the mountains on incredible dirt roads, trails, and paths. Every day sped by and race day at World Championships was coming closer and closer.
Soon, we traveled onwards and found ourselves in the thick forests and outstretching fields of the Czech Republic. This country has held mountain bike world cups for years and years, but this year World Championships would take place on its well known and very liked course in Nové Město na Moravě. On arrival, it was time to settle in and make the final preparations for my biggest race of the year.
The course was truly one of a kind, with steep climbs and technical descents that formed an exciting and demanding course, I was not surprised that it was a favorite of many. It demanded 100% focus on every climb and every descent, there was not a second on track to relax and recover. After a couple days on course, I was feeling fast, smooth, and more than excited to give it my all on race day. At this point, I had given every workout my all throughout the season, so I was as ready as I possibly could be. Now I just needed to go race my bike.
Thursday came along and I got back on the trails to dial in my lines on the course one last time. While trying out a new line on the “Mitas Choice” rock garden, I suddenly found myself flying through the air and hitting the ground with full force. With just a small dent in my helmet and a few scratches and bruises, there was no serious damage to be seen, but later I realized that there may be more damage than I had expected. With a foggy head and extremely sore stomach, I made my way back to the US team van. I wanted more than anything to feel right again, but my pain continued although it looked as if nothing could be wrong. With the help of my coach and team doctor, I decided not to finish my ride that day, instead putting all of my energy into getting fully recovered for race day. Possibly too much…
I awoke Friday with a race awaiting me at 3pm that afternoon. I was feeling so much better than the day before, although still not quite myself, but I still had time. The day flew by and in seconds I found myself being called to the line. I stood on the front row with 60 riders all around me. The countries had chosen their fastest athletes to represent them and we all wanted to give our best and represent well. The fastest in the world stood among us, and in an hour we would know who would get to wear the rainbow. Within minutes one of our hardest battles would begin, we all wanted to have a good race, we all dreamed of standing on top of the podium, and we all had a fierce passion to achieve our goals.
As the gun shot we launched off the line with only one thing on our minds, becoming the best in the world.
I sprinted with the leaders, but as we entered the first climb my legs immediately began to slow. Riders began to swarm past me and I couldn’t fight back like I was used to. On every climb I found myself pedaling backwards as my competition continued to race past me. With the start lap finished, I continued forward with three laps to go. I was hoping I could make a comeback, recover and race back towards the front, but my body couldn’t make it happen. Lap after lap I found myself falling backwards on the climbs, but using the descents to catch back up a little. The crowd that lined the course cheered louder than I have ever experienced before, pushing me forward pedal by pedal. I could see and hear my family members, teammates, and supporters sending me energy through their cheers and it helped me race on. I felt confident and smooth on the course, but my power wasn’t there. The battle for the podium was happening minutes ahead of me and I was far from being a part of it.
It was a painful race, far from reaching my goals and instead ending with heartbreak and confusion. I know there are many more bad races to come, but I also know that there will be many good ones ahead as well, it is just a part of the process as I have finally realized, making the reward far greater than ever imaginable.
Disappointment shook my body after I crossed the line in 33rd. Nowhere close to proving the hard work that I had given to this sport all winter and all summer, every workout and every race. I was prepared to leave every last bit of energy out on that course, and that I did, but my tank was empty before I launched off the line.
I have been staring behind me for the past couple of days, wanting another chance, another race for the rainbow to show what I truly have, without turning forward to see the process and opportunities I still have ahead. This race has once again reminded me of the unforgiving nature of this sport and the power and luck that it takes to race well at world championships. After watching unbelievably exciting races by the junior men, U23 men, and elite women, on Friday and Saturday. I was amazed and motivated by every athlete that left their all out on course. Finally, I feel that I can look forward and prepare for what is to come. I have realized that this single race does not put out the fire, it only adds more wood to the flames. I am amazed by USAcycling, The Luna Pro Team, and all of the athletes that fought hard on such a demanding course. I am continuously inspired by my teammates and the athletes that I look up to.
It truly takes a village, so thank you to the people that have never stopped supporting me through the thick and thin, it means the world to me. It was incredible to have my coach, Dario Fredrick, my family, and teammates there to have my back, as well as the endless kind words and support from back home.
As I travel home, I am excited to reset and prepare for Nationals. This journey is challenging, but so rewarding, and I am thankful that I have had so many outstanding opportunities. So here’s to moving forward and enjoying every step of this amazing journey!