After a few great weeks at home to enojoy my local trails, train, and relax, round two of the World Cups was finally here!
All of the hard work and preparation would once again be put to the test. Racing bikes is challenging, but I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to travel the world with great people to race my bike. I love this challenge and continuously want to test my limits. After the first two world cups, I was excited to see what my body was capable of after a new confidence was built within me.
Andorra welcomed us once again with its stunning beauty. I continue to be in awe of this country's steep mountains and the many trails and roads to explore. Being able to travel to and enjoy so many places because of my two wheeled machine continuously reminds me to be grateful for these adventures and the people I get to adventure with.
The rain and clouds were followed by sunshine and rainbows, making the scenery that more epic. After tackling the steep climbs and techy decents that built the course of World Cup #3 with my teammates, we were all ready to test our limits at altitude. The sky let loose the night before race day, adding a new element to the technicality of the terrain for the U23 women's Sunday morning race start. I was ready to give it my all.
That morning I woke early to begin my race preparations. Outside was still dark, but as I packed my bag it began to slowly fade into lighter blues. The air was crisp and was even cooler on top of the mountain where the venue stood. I layered up and grabbed my bike. Finally it hit me, it's race day.
Step by step I prepared for my 8:30am start and suddenly my name was called to the start line. People line the course and the intensity begins to build. 15seconds. BAM! We are off.
The groups surged past the pavement and into the first steep climb. Immediately we are put to the test. I worked my way up into the first group, somewhere in the top ten. When we reached the next climb (which is STEEEEEEP) I picked up the pace and moved my way into fifth position.
Soon after I entered into the second lap, I moved my way into fourth place and began the first descent. The trail was slick and covered with rocks and roots. Focus. Suddenly I could hear my front tire leaking air. Shoot. Then my back tire went flat. Shoot! The first thing that rushed into my head was that I would most likely have to run basically 5/6 of the course before I would make it to the pit zone. "Bummer... that's a lot of running." First, I tried to ride with my flat tire to see what I could do, luckily my front tire was holding some air. I realized I could ride every section, although not at top speed, and even had more grip on all of the slippery sections of the trail. The climbs were a little harder than the downhills because it felt like energy was being sucked from every pedal stroke. I kept reminding myself to stay calm and relaxed, getting too stressed wouldn't help me. When I made it to the pits my team made an incredible speedy change of both wheels and in seconds I was ready to go again. "Stay calm, you have time to work your way up." I entered the third lap in 16th place. Three laps to go.
The race was on. In such a world class field the gaps between riders are small and I could see many riders right in front of me. One by one I worked to catch them and pass them. After the third lap I looked up and saw my name pop up on the monitor in 9th place. "That's it." There were so many important aspects of this race: the altitude, the technical features, the slippery conditions, and the steep climbs. I focused on giving my all on every climb and then taking a deep breath before downhills, in order to be able to stay relaxed and be able to choose the right lines. By the next lap I was in 7th place and could still see riders up ahead. I put my head down and rode right into the pain cave, knowing that anything can happen on the last lap. Although I didn't catch other riders in that lap, I am happy with my race.
It feels great to be back in Europe racing the World Cups and to even feel some improvement since the first round in Albstadt and Nove Mesto. It's hard not to wonder what would have happened if I didn't flat.... Luckily I have another shot next weekend and I'm excited to see how the race will play out ;)
Can't wait to explore Switzerland with my teammates! Lenzerheide here we come!