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!!