I recently listened to a podcast that said that the feeling of ‘awe’ greatly decreases any feelings of nervousness. Maybe that’s why I felt strangely calm in the moments leading up to the Lenzerheide World Cup.
I soft pedaled on the rollers in the start box as a small smile formed in the corners of my mouth. You see, I’ve put in a tremendous amount of work to be at and prepare for this World Cup and the race, in my ways, was the fruits of my labor. All of the hard work was done, the preparation was good, and it was simply time to give it my all.
I had been staring down at my bike in my own world, and suddenly I looked up and was immersed in a new World. Spectators were lined up against every portion of the course tape. I didn’t see a section of the course without people cheering. I guess it makes sense…they were anticipating 10,000 spectators. I felt in awe. I felt humbled to be there.
I couldn’t get the smile off of my face as I was called up to the line. My call up was number 54 (the 7th row). I knew I had a long way to go, but in these races every pass is so exciting, that I could only hope for a whole lot of excitement in this race.
We pushed off of the line and just as suspected, even the start loop was very tight. Everyone tried to push forward, but the truth is, there really isn’t anywhere to go. It’s like honking in bumper to bumper traffic, everyone wishes that it would speed up and honking doesn’t help the process. A few of the women tried to make passes forward, but it seems that it only caused chaos as I tried to navigate around people crossing wheels and grabbing brakes to avoid crashes. Some women yelled saying they wanted to go faster. At first the yelling makes you panic, then you sort of laugh, and you remember that the yelling is just them wasting energy.
As we dropped into the trails the march of patience continued. I tried to pass here or there, but there were still so many people there was really no way around. It lasted almost 3/4th of the first lap and I simply had to soft pedal in position, telling myself to be calm because when it opened up, the moment would be critical. I prayed for patience, and to recognize it when the moment came.
Finally, there was an opening and I jumped forward, putting in a huge effort to pass as many people before the trail got narrow again. This was how my race went for several laps. When the trail opened it was a 100% all-out effort to pass as many people at a time as I could. Then when the trail got narrow I would be stuck in one position. This is an exhausting way to race and much different than when you are setting a steady pass at the front, but it’s also rather thrilling.
Every time you go through the start finish line at the World Cup, your name appears on the big screen with your position. It’s so exciting to watch and see your position get better and better each lap. Every pass made is like a little victory with its own hit of adrenaline. Every single pass it a battle, too. The women are pushing and blocking, and they aren’t afraid to force you into a tree or to even cause you to crash if it means maintaining position. To me, that makes the battle even more exciting because that means every pass I make I have truly earned and executed well. Every woman is fighting for every position, whether it is for 1st place or for 60th.
Throughout the whole race I felt excited. I felt excited about the next pass I could make. I felt excited to throw down as many watts as I could. I also felt myself breathing deep to contain the excitement so that I could ride smooth through the technical features without mistakes. Any mistake you make in these races can cost a whole lot because the racing is so tight. I’m so thankful that my Trek Supercal was flawless for this rooty course, my Sram components never even made me think because they worked so smoothly, and of course Orange Seal kept my tires rolling.
The whole last lap my body was screaming from all of those huge sprint efforts to make up positions, but all be darned if I was going to give up any of those spots I worked so hard to earn. I was sprinting all the way to the finish straight. I took one more look back and then I gave the kids reaching out high fives as I crossed the line in 35th. Still moving up and having an absolute blast doing it. I’m so happy and so thankful to get to do what I love and it’s so rewarding to get to progress every time I line up.