As for cycling, however I started the weekend on a much different note than I ended on! The racing at Nationals for me started on Thursday the 18th at the XCE or Cross Country Eliminator race. The idea of this race is to have riders go out in waves of 4 on a course that is only a couple of minutes long and has open, flat sections, then sudden highly technical obstacles that will cause a bottleneck. The course started on a flat, open wood chipped area, came through a big sweeping S-bend (which was for some reason hayed), then you had to either go around or hop a 2 foot tall log, ride through the forest for about 10 meters, go over some logs, then through some rocks (all tight trail), the course then opened up for a second before pitching riders off a stairset, through some trees, then up a rock nearly 4 feet in height. This rock was not too hard to make it to the top of, but you couldn't see the other side, which was basically a stairset of increasingly less wide rocks. The next section was a straight section with a bunch of small jumps, concluding in two large jumps, then a 1.5 foot drop around a corner and and straightshot to the finish.
I took the opportunity to race this with the idea of getting my poor performance in Sudbury out of my head. The race itself didn't turn out as I had expected; there was a qualifying time trial beforehand. I wasn't so excited about this, because I know that one of my strengths is to beat others to a bottleneck, and because it is always hard to gauge your speed without others to race against. This race was also less of a big deal compared to what else I had lined up so my strategy for the time trial was simple: hammer through the straight sections, and ride the jumps and obstacles conservatively. This didn't pay off however, and that was the end of my racing for Thursday. Though my racing was a bit of a bust, Thursday night was when I got over some of my biggest obstacles (mentally and on the course), and without this practice time on my own up the trail, I wouldn't have raced with the confidence that I did!
Part 2 - Nationals
By Saturday, everything was rolling in full swing at the Nationals course, exhibitions, tents, sponsors, and a big podium. The course was buzzing with excited spectators, and pro riders everywhere (Saturday is when the fastest riders race, followed by a more Ontario Cup type race on the course Sunday). As I got ready to race and started warming up, I couldn't help but to notice my company - Olympians, racers with reputations on the world stage, and so many riders with full trailers and support crews that follow them from race to race. It's pretty surreal to be competing at this level, but also a bit scary! Maybe I'd rather watch the pro race instead of race it? Time will tell I guess!
|Looking down from the top of the jump course to the finish (taken from the Hardwood Ski and Bike Facebook page)|
The race start was fairly typical for me - it happened too fast and I wasn't terribly well warmed up, so figures that I am riding in the caboose of the elite field, completely aware of the repercussions of what a bad start means. Because of my poor start, I was stuck behind traffic jams and unable to even ride my own pace (or the features of the course that I had practiced) for the first 2 laps (of a 6 lap race). I made back time on any open sections, particularly the start of every lap which is a long meandering slow hill. By mid way through my 3rd lap I had climbed the ranks to 25th or so - at Nationals! I was fighting a great race, and only gaining momentum until I had to stop and fix my bike for a couple of minutes...
|Trying not to be too nervous and waiting for my call up|
Concentration - looking down the trail
|Up and over one big and intimidating rock!|
This is a video of the fastest guys coming through one of the big rocks early in the race, even with the top pros we can see the "domino effect" of slowing, and that some guys still won't hit it! And we can see just how much Tori loves my buddy Kelsey, who is a total gentleman, and available, ladies!
Big thanks to Trek Bicycles and Trek Canada (Toronto/Barrie/Aurora stores) for not only supporting me, but for sponsoring such a major event! This is one of the reasons that I am so proud to ride with Trek