I haven’t written a post for a while, i think because i’ve had so much to say that i’ve actually been paralyzed by the words, left with nothing to say. Just keep observing. Even at this point i struggle with knowing where to start.
I will start with Nationals. Reflecting back now, i see that it was a race of a lifetime. I fought for all i had struggled through this season, my struggles gave me timely strength.
My approach to Nationals this year was one with relaxed surrender. I was sick of caring only to be let down by crashes, mechanicals, or just lack of co-operation from the body. I decided that the race had already been predetermined and i would just show up to take my place, what ever it was to be. I would put my best foot forward, as i always do and enjoy myself along the way.
Practice on Saturday was insanely muddy and i knew the track would freeze over so i rode one lap just to get the lay of the land. I rode of the track with a big smile, it was technical, challenging and fun. I knew that the conditions would be intimidating for others, especially with the rumors of an overnight freeze. I had ridden so many years on my downhill bike, scared out of my mind, that anything a cross course could produce was child’s play in comparison. The track would be groomed overnight, something i was not happy about, and the tops of all the ruts would be scraped off. That evening i filed my toe spikes to a point in anticipation for an ice rink.
The next morning we all woke to light snow on the ground and single digit temps. The mushy ground from yesterday had turned rock hard. I smiled. I honestly did not care what happened as long as i was happy with my effort. Preparation for the start was a bit frantic. Matt and Pete from Alchemy Bicycles had decided to come out and support me. We had never worked as a team together but managed to pull it together. Richard from SRAM would be our third pit man, thankfully. To the front line and i felt relaxed and ready for battle.
The whistle blew, foot to peddle, locked and loaded right behind the holeshot, Meredith Miller. Perfect positioning, out of the mayhem. Pavement to dirt and i made my move around Mer, skimming over frozen ruts, light on the bike, body centered letting the bike do what it needed under me. I found myself ahead of the pack and comfortable. Katie Compton made the pass around before the first big climb, i would not contest her, but she slipped on the ice and fell in front of me, my opportunity to stay in front just a bit longer. By the time we reached the run up she was back, up the run and to the next downhill together. I slid out and slammed hard, destroying my rear shifter/brake lever. I got up and my heart sunk, i could barely hold on let alone shift or even use my back brake. Don’t panic, i told myself, stay steady. The big downhill was coming up and i had to negotiate my way down with only a front brake. From my experience on the motorcycle and downhill bike i knew that all was not lost. The front brake is your strongest and most important. With a little finesse i could get to the pits.
Bike exchange and i was back on the charge, head down and determined. In the crash, the buckle on my shoe had come loose also. I had shoe covers on so there was nothing i could do to fix it. It was so loose that if felt like a flip flop only being held on by the covers. This is something else i would have to deal with the whole race. Ignore it and deal, i told myself. The next laps i knew i would not have a bike to exchange, i could no longer shift in the front, the chain rings so caked that there were no teeth showing for the chain to even find a home. I would have to negotiate the uphills in the big rig and could barely turn the pedals over. Spectators were yelling at me to shift down, “if you only knew” i thought to myself. I would drop my chain to be passed by others several times. Management and consistency i told myself, anything can happen. And, it did, the course was throwing seasoned riders from side to side like a dragon trashing about its tail trying to free itself. We were all holding on for the ride, trying to survive. By this time, i had my lines dialed and was actually having fun despite the mechanicals.
Pass the pit again and i get the yell from my pit crew to keep going, i knew this would be the case. I also knew Richard would come to my rescue and pull the unthinkable, a shifter change in record time. The next downhill before the big run up and i hit a hole so fast and hard that my handlebars slipped and i was riding in a very compromised position rendering all my technical advantages useless. Now things were getting difficult. I screamed to the crew next time around is desperation, ” I need a bike!!!!!!!”. Next time around and the impossible was done, shifter changed. I exchanged and relayed info of handlebar slippage. This is when the charge started, new bike, and i was off. I started gaining time and never looked back, literally. I didn’t even know i was second i was bewildered by furry and determination.
My challenges would not end there. Before the big downhill again, i got a rear flat. I would have to negotiate the very technical downhill at speed all the while cringing for my wheel. Like rim to rock. Bike exchange, relay info and off again. I had no idea who was behind me or how far, i just kept pushing and riding my race. Half a lap to go and last bike exchange, i decided to take one to seal my second spot with a fresh bike. The exchange went poorly as my crew was still trying to fix my flat when i came through. I had to back peddle to grab my bike, as i threw my other to the ground in a panic furry. Little did i know, it would have been better to miss this exchange. My rear shifter/brake lever was frozen and would not move. No shifting or braking for the last half of my lap was detrimental. I struggled and fell apart at times. I could now feel Jade breathing down my neck, last climb and i had to get off and run, this would be where i would loose my hard earned 2nd spot. I jumped back on and negotiated behind her on the last technical sections, wanting to pass but not finding the right time. Going through my head……(should i pass here?, no too dangerous, you could loose it all. Should i pass here? no. Ok, just make it to the pavement behind her and hope she doesn’t have anything for the sprint.) On to the pavement together, she does the look back and turns it on. I have nothing left in my legs to contest her. The roadie in her came out and the mountain biker in me stood still. I had lost it all in a matter of a half lap. I peddled through in third, still happy that i had done what i had come to do. I was happy with myself, i never gave up although i wanted to, i pushed through circumstances and persevered. I also had fun, honestly albeit manic fun. The challenge was extremely exciting. The fans on the course had kept my motivation and energy high propelling me forward. I crossed the line into the arms of Matt Simpson of Alchemy. We had done it, it was an collaborative effort. Everyone had worked incredibly hard and kept their cool, kept it together. It takes a village.
I look back and i see, i laid it out all on the line, expressing myself through my bike. The last year of my life had been tumultuous to say the least and this was my last expression of exhale before moving on. I needed this, to prove to myself that i still “had it” to continue on. As for Worlds, the buzz started. Would i now be selected? I had hopes but did not want to set myself up for too much disappointment, a feeling i had too much of already this year. I decided that i would be thankful for one last beautifully dramatic, courageous, and successful race. A culmination of all that had happened to me left out there on the track for the grand finale. My pick for Worlds, Teal Stetson-Lee. A young woman who had proven herself this year as the future success in the sport. Not only do her results prove this but her attitude is one of a humble champion.
As for my Nationals result i owe it all to Matt and Pete at Alchemy Bicycles, and SRAM for really stepping up to the plate for me. Without this support i wouldn’t have even arrived to the line. Spy, and Michael Marckx have proven to be family and always arriving in the time of need. Thank you also, Giro, Mad Alchemy, Skratch Labs, Thule, Fascat Coaching, and Ben Berden for completing a great program.
Here’s to time off, vacation surfing in Mexican waters, snuggling with my children, stand-up paddleboarding, and spending time with the love of my life, living the dream with Ben Berden. The fire is burning and im excited to come back next season bathed in renewal. Thank you for being a fan, friend, and support along the way; this journey is amazing!
Nationals race coverage………….