After three luxurious days at home with Keith and the kitties i was off again. This time to Alabama. The nice thing about US cups though is I don't have to travel with a bike. Zeph and Chris have it all ready in the trailer for me when I get there. Thanks guys!
We got in late friday night and I was pooped. I had felt like I had zero jet lag in Kamloops, but it all came crashing down on me after a full day of travel. A 9hr sleep helped out though and i hit the bump and Grind trails with my teammates for a couple laps on Saturday.
The course was super fun. It was predominantely singletrack. It was going to be crazy hard to pass. We would start with a slight paved climb before hitting the woods and then dive back out on pavement 2 times per lap. The trails were super windy, rooty and rocky. After 2 days at home on my dually i was missing the plush comfort. The trees were tight and I'd be surprised if a single rider made it through without a raspberry on their shoulder.
Race day was hot and muggy. This is appearing to be a trend for racing in North America this year. I'm not sure where the women have gone, but unfortunatley only 17 showed up to race the uber fun course lined with ethusiastic Alabaman and Georgian fans.
From the gun Georgia and Katerina were dictating the pace. I made it to the front to grab 2nd wheel behind Katerina into the woods. Fairly quickly a lead group formed at the front including Katerina, Me, georgia and Katie Compton. I took over the lead from Katerina mid way through the woods and onto the pavement. I drilled it up the paved climb to see what everyone had and then fast into the singletrack descent. All the girls stuck with me, today was going to be challenging. On the next paved section it was quickly evident that everyone was prepared to let me pull the entire pavement. I wasn't into that so i did a short attack. When i came back to the group Katie launched a painful counterattack, but i reclaimed her wheel and finally got to sit in for a bit. Yes, this was going to be a very tactical race.
The pavement lead to the start finish and feedzone. After grabbing a bottle we charged to the singletrack and i knabbed first wheel. The woods was hard and tiring and the heat was taking it's toll. i dabbed on a tricky climbing section and messed up whoever was 2nd wheel (found out later it was Katerina and she got gapped and wasn't able to reclose). So now it was me, Georgia and Katie with katerina a couple seconds back.
Katie took over the lead at one point in the woods and my determination started to waver. I was feeling like maybe I didn't have it today and should pull off to not mess with my teammates race. Instead i decided to suck it up and dig. Everyone hurts in the heat and maybe they were hurting more than me.
On the pavement it was the same cat and mouse game again. Lap 3 Georgia was first wheel into the woods. She started to string it out on me, but I was able to reclose. On the climb i had dabbed 1 lap before i heard Katie dab this lap and told Georgia we could get away. We drilled it through the woods trying to extend our lead and worked together on the roads to maintain it.
Last Lap i attacked in the feedzone. Whoever led the woods might be able to slip away if the other made a mistake. But georgia wasn't going to make a mistake and it would come down to the pavement. I lead the lap till the paved descent into the finish where Georgia took over. Whoever claimed the lead into the final corner could win it so when i saw it approaching i dived inside and charged with all i could muster to the line.
I claimed my first ever US National race win and in a sprint finish no less. That would be the second sprint i would win in my life and the only one for an actual race win. Pretty exciitng. Racing has been so tactical this year, with legs to back it up. I'm learning so much every race and having a blast doing it...when i'm not suffering that is.
Katerina finished 3rd for a Luna Sweep. Unfortunately Katie Compton was not able to finish after having an asthma attack at some point late in third lap. Katie, hope you're feeling alright and we see you at more races!
After a great dip in the lake to cool down -ahh nothing says summer like a swim in the lake- we watched an exciting men's race. Like ours the race quickly separated into groups so all positions came down to sprints for the line. Thanks to everyone that came out to cheer and check out the race. We enjoyed your trails! Thanks Waldek for getting up so early to get us to the airport!