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Backcountry Bike Team: Three Weeks on the XC Race Circuit

TJ and I have been on the road for three weeks with our dog, Maja. We’ve got two weekends left in our big five-race road trip and Maja is about to become an international traveler as we’re bringing her along to Canada for the World Cup in Mt. Sainte-Anne. It was a very long three stretch with some hiccups along the way, but two National Championship medals, multiple podiums and a couple of wins is a great few weeks of racing for the team.

 WORS Cup Pro XCT

Our five-week stint of racing started in Portage, Wisconsin at the WORS Cup. TJ and Maja drove from Prescott, Arizona and I squeezed in a couple extra days of training at home. WORS Cup was a huge success for the team as Evelyn rode away with her first UCI win on a course that required finesse and climbing prowess, and I took the win in Friday’s nighttime short track race.

My cross-country race was a bit of a disappointment as I started out chasing hard but ended up battling through one of my toughest races of the year.  I felt uncharacteristically sensitive to the heat and humidity but managed to hang on for a fourth place finish. Sometimes you have to search for a small victory in defeat, and mine was hucking off a gap jump on course that I never would have attempted a year ago!  TJ rode a solid race and well within the top-20 before suffering a flat on the final lap.  He’s been hard at work getting all of the team bikes race-ready and handling bottle feeds during the women’s races.

 Nationals

It turned out that my feeling ‘off’ in Wisconsin was the onset of a nasty cold leading into our National Championships in Bear Creek, PA―a race which I’d focused on and targeted for most of the year.  I spent the week prior to the race in a hotel room, trying to recover from my cold and not fall into too much of a pity-party.  We missed out on some dinners with friends and ended up watching more than a few episodes of “American Ninja Warrior” while cooped up in our room.  It was not the week we had in mind leading into Nationals but TJ kept reminding me not to count myself out. Plus I learned how to cook a great meal with a JetBoil and slept better than I had in weeks.

For race day, I chose to race my Niner Jet 9 RDO. The full-suspension bike gave me much more confidence on the rocky and technical course.  We had Push Industries customize my rear shock, which greatly improved its effectiveness over the small bumps that were all over the course. Needless to say, my confidence in my equipment was solid but I had a few lingering doubts about my own health. But when it’s the National Championships, you just have to give it a try.

I went out fast on the first lap and led through the initial climb, unintentionally setting up Georgia and Lea for a battle that lasted through the final lap. Evelyn promptly caught me on the second lap, and I was stoked to see she was flying up the climbs Evelyn-style (demoralizing for her competitors because she makes it look so effortless). However, it wasn’t long before I got the chills and goosebumps on a hot, humid day.  My legs felt good but my race was essentially over. I’m not sure if I was feverish or I just pushed it too hard while still recovering.  If I made any attempt to race after that, my body just said ‘nope, you’re done.’  But I kept pedaling and went on to … finish.  Yep, I’m just happy I didn’t throw in the towel that day and that Evelyn pedaled her way to her first National Championship medal.

The positive take-away from one of the most disappointing days I’ve ever had on a bike was that I had a good thirty minutes of racing in me and I still had a short track jersey on the line. There was no doubt in my mind that I was capable of winning and I went for it, putting together a flawless race. But sometimes there’s just someone else (Georgia Gould) who had that one more acceleration when it counts. She won, and I finished second.

 Catamount Pro XCT

During a succession of races, a little extra rest goes a long way and with a cold to compound things, I took my rest seriously.  We celebrated my birthday the day after Nationals with an easy rail trail pedal through Lehigh Gorge and enjoyed a leisurely road trip to Jericho, Vermont.  Our home in Vermont is with Ed Dombroski, the late Amy D’s Dad.  There is no better place to recuperate although there’s a real risk of being overfed maple syrup products and the best homemade breakfasts’ I’ve had since my stay here last year.

I’m relieved to say that I had a great cross-country race last weekend at the Catamount Classic XC.  I’d finally recuperated and was able to push myself through the duration of a cross-country.  I played it smart and paced myself.  In fact, I rode in 7th place for most of the race before bridging up to the lead group with just over a lap to go.  I put in some effort where it mattered and finished in fourth place in one of the closest finishes we’ve ever seen.  The course was one of my favorite, and there were four jumps each lap. They were well-built (not scary) and just added another dynamic to the race. I’m happy to say I rode each one.

Next up … a World Cup race, with the best riders in the world.

 

Related

The Backcountry Bike Team: 2014 USA Cycling Pro XCT – Missoula, MT
The Backcountry Bike Team: Getting the Most Out of Summer Training

 

 

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