For the last few years, I’ve wanted to start my race season at these UCI Races in Puerto Rico. It seems that the timing was never right, that the logistics were too tricky, and that there was always some other plan on the books.
This year, as I began to formulate my own calendar as a privateer, I sat down with an excel document. I began by writing the dates of every weekend of the year. I looked at week after week of opportunity. I began to imagine all of the experiences I could gain. The excitement was honestly almost too much to hold in. Then, a smile formed on my face and on two weekends in February I typed in “UCI Puerto Rico Races.” Just like that, it was on the books.
Ok, it definitely took a lot more planning than that makes it sound like and it took some help from others to make it happen, but that’s the point, we made it happen. I’ve never liked to take no as an answer. I’ve always believed that there is a way.
When I boarded my flight to Puerto Rico two weeks ago I felt an immense amount of gratitude for the opportunity to pursue these passions, I was also empowered by the fact that I felt like I was doing the best thing I could to have the best season that I can.
As athlete, it seems like we travel all over the World in pursuit of prizes, podiums, and points. All of those things are great, but the reality is that we never know how a race will go when we pack our bags and invest a tremendous amount of time, money, and energy to pursue one of these races. It’s just part what makes racing vulnerable. It’s for that reason that I believe I’m never in pursuit of those objective prizes, but rather pursuing a passion and a purpose. One should never lose when pursuing an experience. Experience and opportunity, after all, are two of the most valuable things. That’s why I felt like lining up this weekend at the second weekend of UCI Races in Puerto Rico, I had already won.
Puerto Rico MTB Cup
One of my favorite things about race preparation is pre-riding the course. I love trying to look at every corner, root, rock, climb, and descent from a different angle. After a week of analyzing the course, I lined up on Sunday genuinely excited just to see what I could do and to see how fast I could pedal my bike around the lap over and over again.
When the whistle blew I had a good start and quickly accelerated to second wheel. I didn’t quite play my cards right and slipped to third wheel right before the single track. The pace felt do-able lap one, but coming into lap two things became a little fuzzy. As I climbed the steepest climb on course, I stood up on the pedals to power down and close a small gap to the rider ahead of me. I timed it wrong and just as I forced all of my power down into the pedal my back wheel slid on a root and I came to an immediate halt. The rider in front of me disappeared around the corner as I desperately dismounted my bike and tried to run up the climb. The next rider caught me and as she tried to pass, snagged her handlebars on mine. Now we were both off of our bikes, both tangled up, and both trying to run up the climb.
As I remounted my bike at the top of the climb, I left the mistake behind me. I fell back into 5th place, but I wasn’t even thinking about the mistake that cost me, I was thinking about the next 3 laps and all of the opportunity that was ahead.
I knew that I had the power in my legs, I just had to use it in the right way and at the right time. I knew I could play the long game. By the end of lap 3 I had moved back into 4th place. By the end of lap 4 I had just overcome 4th place. I finished the race in 3rd and felt like I was flying all the way until the finish line.
It felt like the perfect way to start the season. Traditionally, in the off-season the first thing you will do is set your base and endurance and then as the season progresses you build on your speed. Feeling so strong at the end of the race seems like the perfect place to be so early in the season and with several weeks now to build on some speed I’m so energized by what lays ahead for me.
It was an absolute blast to spend some time in Puerto Rico these last two weeks and experience a new place. It was a welcome shock to the system to be pouring sweat and dumping ice water on my head during the race. The beach-side post-workouts smoothies will be missed and the sunset catamaran ride was certainly a very special treat as well.
Up Next: Lifetime’s Sea Otter Classic