Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Panada Cup

This weekend I was racing in another Canada Cup, this one being arguably a bit more high profile; it takes place on the Pan American Games course at Hardwood Hills (Pan Ams is in less than a month now!). This brought athletes from all over North and South America to the venue (not to mention the cyclists from all around Canada), which is a neat opportunity for guys like me!

The dude from Columbia was very strong, and apparently a good starter
Thanks Hannah Clarke for always getting photos of our race
There's another reason that this race was very high profile for me; last year I broke my ribs there - I'll admit it, I was very afraid of riding that course again, and I didn't want to have to ride the chicken lines around the obstacles (what I mean by this is that any technical feature on the course had an alternate loop around it, but those took more time and weren't as cool). I borrowed a super light set of wheels with wide tires to help me boost my confidence, and got to the course early on Saturday to practice the course.

I can always count on teammates for help and support!
I got down to business with the goal of conquering every single obstacle on the course with the exception of "endo rock" where I broke my ribs last year. I figured that it wasn't worth the risk of me having a flashback and pressing the brake too much or something. I got my mojo quickly, and aced through the Disera Drop section (which scared me a lot).

Next was a crazy lineup of features, the first of which was a big rock drop (not unlike the one that I had broken my ribs on the prior year), followed by a massive hop over two stacked logs, then a downhill rock garden feature called boneshaker. I was working up the courage to hit the big rock line when team USA showed up. Normally I'd let them through so that I could continue to grow my bravery until such a time that I wasn't scared and would launch myself off of it, but my friend told team USA to wait, and then I really had to step up. I guess I work well under pressure, because I sent it right over the rock, hopped the logs, and that was it. I do admit though, that I was practicing my hops this week in preparation.

Once I got over that hurdle, everything felt easy, I had my flow and mojo, I helped friends and other riders to learn other sections of the course, and my bike was in perfect tune. I really just needed to get my mind around a few things and then I was fine. The weather was supposed to be nice, and I would have the race that I've been working towards, right?

This is us when we though that we'd have a sunny race

The race day was one of those days where it might rain, but it wasn't forecasted to, and everything goes the opposite of plan. I felt like the entire race was underneath a waterfall, which made the trails pretty greasy - kind of like someone had spread a few inches of peanut butter across the entire course. I was grateful to be using my friend's really nice carbon wheels, and also knew that I couldn't afford to fix them if I broke them, so I pumped my tires about 25% higher than I would normally ride with - just to be safe.

This is how we were feeling in the rain
Peter Kraiker photo 
The race start was chaotic as usual, and not even 10 seconds into the race I found myself skidding sideways to avoid crashing into someone - if someone 5 guys up touches his  brake, the resulting accordion effect is dangerous. I lost a lot of positions, but I kept upright and fought my way into a better position by the time we hit the singletrack. As usual, I couldn't ride my own speed because of how congested the trail was with riders, but I avoided crashes and kept the rubber side down, slowly gaining confidence on the slippery tires over the muddy terrain.

By midway through the second lap I was still pushing and making passes, hadn't fallen, and was shooting through all of the technical lines. My tires weren't doing me much of a favor in terms of grip (especially the rear), but I was riding with guys that I hadn't before, moving way up the field compared to the other two Canada Cup races that I'd done this year. I was feeling confident too, because in any section that I could actually pedal hard and use my fitness, I was gaining ground.

Thanks Eric Batty for cheering me on and taking such great photos, it means a lot to have someone that's been so influential in my cycling cheering me on.
By the third and fourth laps, enough people had been through the rainy course that it was totally loosened up and I couldn't ride up any of the hills, hike-a-bike time. I kept positive and rode my best, but I just couldn't keep up with guys who had made better tire choices, or were used to the tires that they were riding.

Another great shot from Eric
I was pulled due to the 80% rule (if you are not within 80% of the leader's time you are pulled off course in elite national races), but I had a lot of people come up to me after the race, saying that I looked stronger than I have before, and even my competitors passed on compliments. Things are looking good for me, I've got the perfect bike (with my own set of carbon wheels being built now), and though it may have taken me a bit longer than the other guys who spent time down south this winter, I am coming into form and there are more national series races in 4 weeks - just enough time to train and re focus for some great road trips, results, and races!

I would also like to thank my mom for coming out to the race this weekend! Love you mom!

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