Missoula Pro XCT…one of my favorite courses on the US circuit. It is a climbers dream. The course features 5 laps with nearly 1000 feet of climbing per lap. This means that riders will conquer almost 5000 feet of climbing in an hour and a half.
It was full-gas from the gun because every rider wanted the chance to get to the single track first and set the pace. On the first lap I found myself riding in 5th but refusing to let go of the pack. After gaps began to form, I moved up into 4th and moved my sights up the switchbacks to 3rd place. I began to dangle, determined to get to 3rd but finding the gap the same lap after lap. I was continually reaching for gels and water, trying to find the extra seconds from somewhere. With 1 lap to go I was 30 seconds behind 3rd and decided to give it everything I had until the steepest pitch on the climb and see where that put me. Fully spent at the pitch, I saw I was now only 10 seconds off of 3rd. 10 seconds is a hop and a chasm all at once. Digging even deeper, the diminished gap gave me new strength as I surged and grabbed her wheel going into the final descent. We came out of the single track nearly neck and neck, giving the crowd quite an exciting finish as we raced around the venue for a sprint finish! I came up a little short but definitely very happy with such a great effort (especially one that lands me on the podium).
On Sunday, in the short track, a sketchy start with skidding wheels and locked out brakes left me entering the single track much further back than I hoped. The difficult start didn’t deter me but set me up for a painful race in which I would persevere to repeat my place from the day before and stand on the podium once again in 4th.
Photos: Trevor Finchamp