Mont St. Anne is my favorite stop on the World Cup circuit, not only because I’ve experienced some of my highest highs as a racer on these mountains, but because year over year this course has challenged me and forced growth as a person and a racer. Every time I step foot on this course I approach the trails with utter respect, but what was once a scary experience is now a course that excitements me and provides an opportunity to enter into the ever desired ‘flow state.’
Every day in training on the course, I caught myself smiling and wanting to push faster and faster on the lines. My legs and body felt like they had really come around and I was genuinely itching to see how fast I could turn over laps on the course this year. With Clayton here, he was able to pre-ride with me and analyze all of the best lines. I felt like I knew every rock and root on the course and I couldn’t wait to take it by storm.
Friday Short Track:
Friday night’s Short Track ended up being somewhat anti-climactic for me. I had a decent start off the line, felt really strong up the first climb and then at the top of the climb, two of the women spectacularly crashed directly in front of me. I had nowhere to go and was forced to slam right into their crash. Luckily, my body did not hit the ground, but I did fold over my bars, set my hands on the ground and get my bike tangled in the mess. When I was finally able to back up and continue onwards, I was dead last and chasing. I still felt strong so I was able to continually pass riders and move up the entire race and even grab one more place in a sprint finish. I crossed the line in 21st and secured a 3rd row start for Sunday, where I hoped the cards might fall a little more in my favor.
Sunday Cross Country:
I really thought Sunday was going to be my moment. I felt calm, excited, and more prepared than ever. When the start gun sounded, I moved forward cautiously. I even avoided what looked to be a very hard crash that happened immediately on the start line. I was patient as we went up the first climb and then when I saw the hole I capitalized. I moved from 3rd row up to 5th wheel in a matter of seconds. I entered the first descent in the top 5 and felt so much joy in finally achieving the start I know I’m capable of.
Then, as we rode down the first descent, I was suddenly on the ground. It happened in an instant. I’ve watched the replay so many times. I still don’t know what happened. One minute I was right in the group, the next I high-sided at high speed. I went over the bars. My body hit the ground and bounced again. I laid on the ground face down, covering my head as riders all sped around me. My body felt limp and I was in shock. Once everyone went around I got into the quadruped position and my thoughts came back online. “Did that really just happen? Is my head ok? Do I have a concussion? Why did that happen? What now?” It felt like everything was in slow motion, but the race was still blasting forward. I got back on my bike and told myself I could analyze my injuries while at least making progress.
The next 5-10 minutes were spent riding through the course analyzing my head. Once I was confident I didn’t have a concussion I was committed to finishing and passing whoever I could along the way. I felt strong going up the climbs and as I blasted past several riders I couldn’t help but feel like this could still be the comeback story of the year. Then as I dropped into my first descent, my shoulder completely fought back. I crashed a couple more times because my shoulder was too weak to pull the bike back underneath me when it got a little off line. This was especially emphasized when the rain started to pour and what is normally a loose dance to let the bike slip and slide became lots of groans as my shoulder resisted. My perfectly calculated lines were no longer the lines my body could endure and I had to adjust plans and adapt constantly. Any passes I made in this race would be entirely on the climbs. I told myself that if I was going to finish I was going to be all-in so I pushed out any non-productive thoughts and fought forward.
Ultimately, I crossed the finish line in 20th which is a result I am proud of, especially given the circumstances. It’s hard not to think about what “What ifs” or the “Could Haves.” I still believe this could have been my day, but what I know for sure is that I made the most that I could out the hand I was dealt.
When I crossed the finish line, I took my hand off the bars and I felt my arm start to go limp as the adrenaline slowed. Today, it’s extremely painful but I am optimistic to make a full and quick recovery with the best people in my corner. A big thank you to USA Cycling for helping me find medical attention back at home. As well as Julia Violich, Anna Terry, and Jesse Anthony for the support on site. And of course, my do-it-all man who will have to somehow manage to carry all of the bags through the airport today. Clayton Otto you’re a hero.
I once again leave Mont St. Anne filled with respect for the course as well as with growth as a racer. Of course I’m disappointed, but I’m also very proud of myself, my ability to fight on, the result despite it all, the mental toughness required and for all of those reasons I’m still smiling.