Saturday July 15th Keith, Matt H and I headed up the hill to Sun Peaks, site of this year’s cross country mountain Bike Nationals. The temperatures were pleasant, creeping into the low 20’s, but I was fighting off yawns after a less than restful sleep. The women’s race was scheduled to do five laps starting at 11:00, the men 6 at 2:00. Around ten I started my warm up. My legs were feeling good and easy handled my warm up intensity sessions. A good sign. After completing my warm up I headed down to the start finish area. The Junior races were still underway, taking longer than anticipated and it was decided that the women’s race would be shortened to 4 laps and the start would be pushed back to 11:30. Time to chill out for a bit. At 11:00 I hoped back on my bike to keep my legs warm. The waiting made them feel heavy.
Being the fifth ranked Canadian in UCI points I was fifth called to the line. A nice front row starting position. The course saw some mid week changes to it – all for the better – so we now had a long starting climb and descent before hitting the single track. The starting whistle blew and the racing began. I didn’t have my most spectacular start and soon found myself in 15th-20th. I was able to regain some spots by the top of the climb, but not as many as I would have liked. After two sections of single track we were back out on an open road and I could see the field in front of me and knew where I had to go. UP. I grabbed the closest wheel Trish and we rode up to Mical. Then we both hoped across to Melanie and Wendy. Trish was climbing really well and aggressively so I made sure to stick with her moves. By the top of the next climb there were only 3 riders ahead of us, Marie-Helene, Kiara and Alison. Trish hit the long descent ahead of me, but I was able to get ahead going into the next short climb. By the end of lap 1 I had bridged up and passed Alison on a long steep climb. I was able to lead the top of the climb and following descent before she stormed by me on the fire road leading to the Start/finish area. She kept on the throttle and opened a gap of a couple seconds on me.
The next time up the fire road climb Trish and I found ourselves climbing together again. She set a good hard tempo at the base and I led hard the top section and into the decent. I could hear people cheering Mel and Mical on behind me at the base and with Trish climbing well I knew I had to pick up my tempo a bit. After the descent Keith was waiting for me with time splits. Where I was losing time and where I was gaining and I was able to use this to help widen the gap between me and the girls behind me. Mostly I tried to go as fast as I could without frying my legs on the steep climbs. I felt good and was able to pick it up in the last two laps. I could see Alison and Kiara duking it out in front of me 3rd lap. This battle helped them open time on me and eventually put Alison in 2nd position. Although I had a strong 4th lap and was able to bring my gap to Kiara down about 15 seconds it wasn’t enough to set me in a podium spot. Still a great race and Nationals best performance. Marie-Helene finished the short race in1:33:34 with Alison at 1:36:31, Kiara 1:37:12 and myself at 1:38:26; my closest finish to all three women.
The next day I had a blast doing the Timbits challenge up at Sun Peaks. Our 7 year old neighbour participated in the race. She demonstrated some natural talent and bike handling confidence as she scooped the other kids on an inside corner and charged up the next hill eventually finishing 3. That night we all gathered around a projection screen outside over our BBQ’ed supper and looked through pictures from the weekend. It was a great way to cap off a full weekend.