What a wild weekend in Snowshoe, West Virginia at the UCI World Cup race! As much as I don’t like to admit it, I came into this weekend with some apprehension. After getting home from Nationals at Winter Park and doing some quick doctor’s visits I realized more of the physical toll that weekend of altitude illness took on my poor body. I knew that I would be healing all week and trying to squeeze out extra rest from every day possible. I once heard a comedian say that stand-up comedy is the only job in the World where when you show up to work you don’t know exactly how it will play out. I would argue the same for professional bike racing. I knew I had done everything I could to heal my body, but I didn’t know if it was enough time. There was only one way to find out…
No matter where my body was at, I was elated to finally get to line up for a World Cup Short Track race. It was a huge opportunity to move up in start position as well as to learn this fast and furious World Cup discipline.
I made a bold decision and lined up on the far right on the outside of the track. When the whistle blew I had the perfect moment where everyone shifted left and I shot through the gap to the front group. After less than optimal starts so far this year it was really encouraging to put together an idealic start and blast through the start/finish line in good position.
World Cup Short Track is probably the hardest possible effort you can do on a bike. With only seconds separating a dozen places, it’s easy to yo-yo through the field constantly. A powerful moment sending you to the front of a group, and then going a little too wide in a corner sending you all the way back again. It involves staying very level headed, never getting overly excited or distraught as you watch your place move all over the board.
I crossed the finish line giving it absolutely everything I had and I melted over the handlebars as others also collapsed onto the ground. I finished 19th, which secured a 3rd row start position for Sunday.
I woke up Sunday and immediately looked out the window at the weather. The course looked relatively dry, but as I looked at the forecast, I continued to hee and haw about what tires to run. I had multiple options, a dry and fast combo, a total mud combo, and a semi-muddy combo, which is what I ultimately ended up deciding on. I ran a Kenda 2.2 Karma on the front and a Kenda 2.4 Rush on the rear.
When we lined up, the course was pretty dry except for a few mud pits that had formed in the woods. We had no idea what was about to ensue.
When the whistle blew, I aimed to shoot up the side like I had in short track, but got cut off. I made as many passes as possible as we neared the first bottleneck on course and sure enough the moment we hit the main technical, singletrack descent the chaos began. One mistake at the front left everyone behind off their bikes trying to dance down slippery rocks and roots in carbon soled cycling shoes. It was probably harder to run than it was to ride, but with no space to ride, all the riders were left elbowing each other to desperately try to move one spot up. After the technical downhill, came the deep mud bog which left much of the field still running and in mania. When we finally got back to a double track section, I felt like I took an assessment of where I was at and that position is where my race would officially start from.
I settled into a solid pace, moved up several positions and eventually found myself situated in a group fighting for 18th place. I felt like I had the strongest legs in the group, moving to the front and taking control on most of the climbs, but as the weather turned, it became obvious that there would be many elements impacting the final position, and such is mountain biking.
As the rain began to sprinkle on course, I didn’t think much of it. I was already covered in mud. Then, all of a sudden, I noticed that the conditions had drastically changed. The initial lines on course were altered, the mud had deepened, everything was more slippery and I finally noticed that it was indeed absolutely pouring rain!
While the gaps between riders were bigger in the cross-country race, the mistakes to be made were also more drastic so I felt like there was still a bit of position whiplash on course. It became obvious to me that the positioning of my group would ultimately be decided by who made the final mistake.
One girl would slide out on a descent, then I would slip out on a climb and be forced to run. Back and forth like that was the pattern of the final couple of laps on course. Ultimately, I finished 21st and got to high five the many, many dedicated fans standing in the pouring rain to cheer us all across the line.
As the rain dumped down at the finish, it felt comical. I couldn’t be any more soaked, so at that point the rain didn’t matter. I guess many fans felt the same as they asked for photos and we had conversations standing just outside the finish chute. The rain streamed down, the mud on my face was impossible to remove entirely, and I talked and laughed with friends as well as people I had never met before as the rain dumped over us.
As I head to Mont St. Anne next weekend, I know that my body is indeed healing and on an upward trajectory. I think with each day I get better as I heal. This weekend was a step in the right direction, but I know I have more inside of me and that is nothing but very exciting!