I woke up this morning with a smile on my face. Taking the win in both the XCC and XCO at the Missoula, Montana UCI Pro XCT C1 Race this weekend was a very special moment for me. I’ve raced this event for many years and I’ve experienced a whole gauntlet of results here. Over the years, much of my family has made it out to this event to cheer me on. Years ago as I prepared for the race I remember explaining the caliber of the competition and how I would really need to hustle to ensure that I wouldn’t be lapped by the eventual winner. Over the years it seems like my expectations continually increased from top 10 to top 5 to top 3. As we discussed my competition and expectations this year it felt both amazing and nerve racking to announce, “Well, this year, I would like to win. That is my goal, but anything can happen out there.”
Friday Night Short Track:
Friday was a long day waiting to race. 7:35 PM start time meant staying calm and disciplined all day long. Sitting in the AirBnb I watched the rain fall guessing and anticipating what conditions might be waiting at the race venue.
When we finally pulled up at the race venue, I looked at the athletes finishing their races and couldn’t help but laugh at the completely mud-covered riders exiting the course. It wasn’t just mud splatter, it was about the same amount of mud as you would anticipate to be on someone if they ran and just fully supermanned down the muddy hill as if it was a slip and slide.
I decided to stick with my Kenda Rush 2.4 tires because they not only still maintain good traction in the mud, but they shed mud really quickly as well and don’t pack up. I also had my Pivot Les SL and DT Swiss XRC 1200 wheels for the lightest possible set up which helped counteract the pounds of mud that would inevitably end up on my bike.
I started the race hard and set a solid pace for the first 2 or so laps. I wanted to set a certain tone for the race. Shortly after, one of the women wanted to create a selection and separate the two of us so she put in a good dig up the finish climb. I followed her wheel and watched her pace for about a lap before identifying the area of the course where I felt like I could make a move. I felt excited to establish a lead and attacked up and over the climb. After about a lap I had a gap and began to focus on maintaining a hard and steady pace without taking any risky moves.
As I came into the finish line, I was all smiles with mud all over my teeth. It was definitely a confidence boost to take the 1st win of the weekend.
Saturday Night XCO:
Another long day of anticipation waiting for the race to start at 7:00 PM. When the race finally started I really had to reign myself in and start with a conservative approach. A 3 lap course with an approximate 20+ minute climb and then a 6-8 minute descent demanded a little bit of respect and a calm start. As we rolled out of the venue area and onto the first climb I locked into my steady pace and then engaged my senses for those around me. It’s interesting how in any given race you notice such different things. When you are on the limit you will often only be aware of yourself. You begin to think you’re the only one suffering, you fixate on the pain in your legs, and you hear the slight wheeze in the cadence of your breath. When you race calmly you have more bandwidth to monitor your competition. I would hear the shifting of gears and the rhythm of their breaths. My steady pace slowly took a toll on the group as we whittled down to just 2 of us about 10 minutes into the race.
My plan wasn’t to make a move until at least half way through the 2nd lap, but I felt excited and I could hear the rhythm of her breath increasing behind me. I ratcheted the pace slightly and could almost feel the hesitation to follow so I ratcheted a little more and had a gap. When the gap formed, I knew I had to change my strategy. You can never take a gap for granted in these races. If nothing else, you have to make your competition burn matches to close them.
I came through the lap with a small gap and pushed to grow it throughout the next two laps. Even with about 30 seconds in front of the next rider I still felt the pressure, probably because my desire to win was burning brightly. I just kept praying, “God please help the power keep coming and the bike to stay upright.” As I descended the final descent I could literally hear my family members yelling and whistling out of excitement. I already knew the smiles that waited for me at the finish. Clayton gave me a high five as I crossed the line and I truly felt like WE had won. This individual sport truly takes a village and I’m so incredibly grateful for me. It felt amazing to put together this race in front of so many people that I love. After a 6 week racing block starting in April, the last 2 weeks of training leading into this race were tricky to navigate. I called my coach, Chris Mileski, a lot during those two weeks, but I think he knew me better than I knew myself. Again, I’m just so grateful to have so many amazing people in my corner.
I finally got my big set of iconic Elk Antlers that we hope will fit nicely over our stairway. We’re already back on the road heading North to the Canmore, Canada Cup.