What a weekend! When I planned out this little racing block, I had big goals and hopes, but I had no idea it would go quite this well. A lot of things have to come together perfectly on any given day to win a bike race- fitness, strategy, nutrition, mechanics, equipment, technical skills, mental outlook. For all of those things to come into alignment for the last 6 races in a row, well, I’m just overjoyed.
The last several races that I’ve done have consisted of a UCI C3 XCC and a UCI C1 XCO race. That means that those races all contribute points to overall UCI ranking. The UCI Ranking is the way that all of the cross country mountain bikers in the World are ranked. When you gain points, you move up in the ranking. When you move up in the ranking then you get higher start positions. If you make it into the top 40 ranked in the World then you get to race in the Short Track at the World Cups. Rankings are also used for other things such as team selections for specific events and can be calculated by country as well to determine Olympic spots. With that said, the last few races I’ve done have been important to me because every race is important, but also because they held the chance to get those critical UCI points.
With all of these underlying elements, showing up at the race this weekend, I set it all aside and just focused on the joy of this wonderful thing I get to do and call my job. Canmore, Alberta is an absolutely incredible place. On our drive there, we saw a black bear, two different grizzly bears, a cub, and a herd of mountain goats! Are you kidding me?! That’s incredible. When arriving at the race site there was a bit sign that read “Grizzly Bear on site.” We were informed that due to an active grizzly bear we would all be required to carry bear spray during the race and the volunteers would all be within visible distance of each other with bear spray as well. If you had told me this in advance, I would have thought it was overkill, but after seeing all of the wildlife activity in this area, it seemed like the appropriate precaution. Thankfully we were all safe and now I get to add this experience to the list of crazy adventures I’ve been on!
Canmore Canada Cup XCC:
The XCC course was a primarily flat course with one short climb and then a long flat straight away into a head wind heading into the finish. I knew that group dynamics would play a big factor in the race so I tried to start fast to encourage a fast and hard pace. After two laps, I didn’t want to just let everyone sit in my draft so I sat up and followed several others as they attacked. The group stayed together and with 5 laps to go as we entered into the small climb, I felt a hesitation in the group so I stepped on the gas with the intention of making everyone put out an effort to chase, but not with the intention of going off the front. As we rounded the corner going to the head wind straight away, I saw that the whole group was strung out and I realized that no one would be working together to close the gap. I put in another dig and settled into my own solo pace off of the front. Going it alone for 5 laps was maybe the ‘harder’ way to win the race, but it felt so good to come into the finish line solo and added confidence into the bank for Saturday’s XCO!
Canmore Canada Cup XCO:
The XCO on Saturday started up a long fireroad climb and the pace was hot from the start. I felt fine on the climb, but as we entered the descent, I had to find my bearings again on course. It rained hard the night before the race and the conditions had changed significantly. I had to take a moment to get used to the little dance we play as we allow our bikes to ping pong off of the slick rocks and roots. I entered lap 2 about 15 seconds behind the leader and I took a deep breath as I encouraged myself that now I knew how the course was running and I had plenty of time to execute my race plan.
By the top of the first climb on lap two I had closed the gap and entered the descent right on the woman who was leading the race. As we entered the 2nd climb of the lap, I made a move and developed a gap of my own. I entered the 2nd descent of lap 2 in 1st but then managed to crash on one of the steep descents and wrap myself up with a stump. As I pulled myself up off of the ground my gap was diminished and we entered lap 3 once again together. As lap 4 came around I had had enough excitement for the day and I put in a dig to solidify a gap to the finish. I was feeling strong on the climbs and had finally found my flow on the slick descents. Even so, the descents were slick and mistakes were easy to come by, so I was praying and talking to God all the way to the finish, just praying to keep it clean. The battle at the start of the race made finishing 1st all the sweeter. I was able to stretch it out and finish the race with about a 40 seconds gap to 2nd.
Now we’re driving 14 hours back home to Salt Lake for another big training block before starting the busier (?) part of the season in July. I am just undone by all of the love and support I have been receiving. I truly could not do this alone. A special thank you to my coach, Chris Mileski, for always preparing me for this crazy racing schedule we’re attempting and of course to Clayton Otto for wearing a million hats, my do-it-all professional.