Before heading straight to Lenzerheide for round four of the world cup, we made a small detour to explore the lovely home town of my teammate Andrea Waldis. The Swiss mountains are absolutely unreal and the views are like no other. All of us when driving: “WOW” and when looking out the window: “WOW” and when riding our bikes: “WOW. We just couldn't believe the beauty! Not only that, but the food and riding is incredible too! I was the happiest girl alive to be able to spend some time here, however short. The hospitality of the wonderful Waldis family made our time here that much more enjoyable. I never wanted to leave! Andrea is one lucky gal!! I have the best teammates and friends to enjoy these adventures and places with. I am one lucky gal!!
Although our stint there was much too short, arriving in Lenzerheide, Switzerland did not disappoint. The scenery once again was gorgeous and I was in awe as we drove into town. I could hardly wait to get on my bike and wander through this new landscape.
I just couldn't stop smiling! There were mountains to climb, roads with endless views and corners to turn, a lake to swim in, goats to pet, and lots of delicious fresh Italian food to eat (thanks to our teammate Eva!).
My teammates helped me dial the course and find my lines. There were millions of choices throughout the roots made it hard to decide which line would be the fastest when taking into account bumps, speed, effort, fatigue, and trail condition. The course was an absolute blast with technical roots and rocks everywhere, along with drops, swooping turns, and challenging climbs. It would be non-stop action out there and I chose to race the Orbea Oiz, knowing that the full suspension would be the fastest and smoothest on the constant rough terrain.
The week quickly slipped away day by day and soon Saturday turned to night and clouds filled the sky. Thunder shook the air and lightning flashed above the mountains, while rain poured down. All my teammates and I could do was smile, laugh, and blast: “Thunder, feel the thunder lightning then thunder thunder…"
I was stoked and curious to see what epic conditions the course would hold in the morning.
Woke up to the fresh swiss morning air. The misty atmosphere and damp grass were proof that the trails would definitely be slick. During the race we would all have to make new line choices in the moment and just hope that we had made the right call. First: eat, prep, warm-up, and get on the start line. The trail conditions would have to wait until I could see them with my own eyes.
Focused. But still can't hold back a smile when I'm doing what I love ;)
At 8:30am the best U23 women in the world were ready to race. The training had been done and now it was time to show what we could do. Who is the world's fastest today? The heart-beat played, the gun fired, and we launched into the race #fullgas, in 1.5hr we would all know the answer.
I didn't quite have the start I was hoping for and as the road narrowed I was stuck behind a large group of riders. As I reached the top of the climb I could no longer see the leaders, but when we entered the first technical descent, I took a fast line straight through the roots and as I entered the next climb I was suddenly sitting in fifth place. "Woah! How did this happen?? Well... I better just go with it."
Throughout the first lap, I chased this group of three, battling myself and the trail to keep up. I felt good and knew that today I could put in a race I am proud of.
These ladies are the best in the world. They are world class athletes, strong and fast. I stayed with them for as long as I could, but as we began the long climb during the second lap, their pace was unsustainable for me. It was time for me to settle into my own rhythm and my own race. The battle for fourth position began.
Fifth place was right behind me and took the pass as we entered into the second section of the course. I stayed right on her wheel, but as we entered into the third lap I took the lead on the climb. Here I was able to build a small gap, but on the technical and slippery sections I made a few mistakes, allowing her to decrease the time between us. Once again she passed me as we entered the pits and then I followed her into the fourth lap. As we reached the climb, I pushed just a little bit harder, allowing me to settle back into fourth place. This time I didn't want to mess up on the technical trail sections after the climb and focused on choosing the right lines.
The course was wet and slick. Every rock and root demanded my attention. "I wonder if this is slippery.. Oops yep! That was close. Okay now find your balance again." I was fully engaged throughout the entire race, my mind had not a second to wander, the trail needed me. You never knew when a root would slide your bike out from under you or a muddy corner would pull you to the ground. Staying upright was mandatory in such a tight race, but risk still has to be taken. "Haley you will make mistakes, that is unavoidable, don't let them phase you. Push on." This lap I was able to sustain the gap that I had created and going into the fifth and final lap I was still in fourth position. The want to stay there pushed me up the climb for the final time.
You never know what will happen. Every last second I pushed myself and gave my all to every pedal stroke, knowing that anything could be happening in front of me. I turned onto the last section of trail and suddenly joy began to rush through me. "I'm going to be in fourth place!" But I had to remind myself to stay in the moment, to continue to race hard and stay smooth so that my result could become reality. "No Haley... focus on the trail, you're not across the finish line yet. Deep breath. Okay keep going, almost there. GO GO GO!"
And then as I rode onto the pavement I could no longer hold back my smile. The hard work, sacrifice, and the support of others was visibly paying off. The feeling when you cross the finish line after leaving everything out on course. The pride, happiness, and not being able to believe what just happened, that's why we race. This is what I love. Thank you to everyone that has supported and helped me along the way, without you it wouldn't be possible.
A muddy tired mess, but so so happy.