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The Backcountry Bike Team: 2014 USA Cycling Pro XCT – Missoula, MT

Heading up to Missoula from Utah for the next race on the Pro Mountain Bike Cross-Country Tour , we were equal parts nervous and excited to see first-hand what the buzz was all about at the Marshall Mountain course. There was the famous “A-Line” jump, the rowdy crowds, and the summer solstice buzz and requisite parties that Missoula is known for.

After an almost seven-week break since our last major domestic cross-country event, we all wondered who would be on top of their game. The last time the top North American women had lined up together was for the Whiskey 50, and Backcountry.com’s Chloe Woodruff out-sprinted Erin Huck, rolling in just ahead of teammate Evelyn Dong. The usually dominant Katerina Nash, of the Czech Republic, was a distant 4th.

We had 8:15 p.m. start times for the short-track XC on Friday and a 4 p.m. start time on Saturday for the XC, so there was plenty of time to figure out the lines on the course, hit the hot spots downtown, and settle in at our super host housing, which even included a custom welcoming sign.

Finally, Friday night arrived and it was race time. An interesting format was introduced this year where riders are pulled from the back of the pack until only six remain. Once down to six, the group would race three laps without fear of being pulled, and duke it out for the win. The Backcountry girls hit hard with a mix of one-two punches, never afraid to give it a go, because as they say … scared money don’t make none.

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Eventually it came back together, with Luna’s Katerina Nash taking a sprint win over Chloe Woodruff in second, and Evelyn Dong in third. Before the adrenaline of twilight racing wore off and we all crashed, we hit the famous Bridge Pizza for pizza … and burritos.  Hey, it’s better to have a pizza place making wraps than a wrap place making pizza.

Saturday became another case study on how to kill a day. Sleep in, coffee, eggs, more coffee, wash bikes, count energy gels … just kidding … well, not actually. We do have to count gels at some point. Bikes ready and nutrition sorted, we headed back to Marshal Mountain for the cross country, a UCI C1 event, meaning big money and international ranking points.

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Once again, the girls were all over the front of the race like a goat on a side hill. Nash and Dong quickly pulled away from the chase group, which was now racing for third and led by teammate Woodruff. While Chloe kept pressure on the chasers, Dong and Nash traded attacks, both up and downhill, for four laps of the five-lap event, before Nash snuck away to beat Dong into the finish by a tight 30 seconds.

A throwback to her Whiskey 50 victory, Chloe and Erin Huck once again took the race all the way to the line, with Chloe once again taking the sprint and putting herself on the podium in third to join Dong’s second place.

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Once the awards were wrapped up and the giant checks locked away, it was time for another lap downtown, back for more pizza, but this time with a cool-down lap for ice cream at the Big Dipper.

Sunday, regrettably, we had to roll out of Montana back to the motherland, due south. We’re already packing again for both the BC Bike Race and the next round of the Pro XCT series in Colorado Springs, but the souvenirs still remain. Good thing we didn’t have to fly with these trophies, right?

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