Monday, July 26, 2010

World Cup Champery, Switzerland

Zak enjoys some of Katka's family's baking brought in from Czech republic

Ooh yeah that's good babowka

After Nationals I got a day with Keith and then i was off to Europe again. I was excited to be hitting the World Cup circuit, particularly after being able to confirm good form at Nationals.
My brother Geoff was traveling with the national team as an assistant coach so I was also looking forward to some hang time with him and the other Canadians. Travel was smooth and our entourage of two vans and 2 cars, all fully load, made our way from Zurich to Champery.

Champery is in South east Switzerland in the Alps. It is one of the most beautiful places I've been too. The view from our hotel seemed out of a painting or fantasy movie. The weather was amazing, actually a bit hot, and by Wednesday we were out for our first look at the course.

yes this is the view from my hotel, unreal.

Champery is hosting Worlds next year so I was eager to spend some time on the course and find out how to be most efficient on it. This year they reduced the length of the long climb, also removing some rough descending, but added another climb and descent section. It had a good size drop with a gap in it and some tricky corner chutes into it. First time through I slipped out on the corners and went down hard.

Unfortunately hard crashes have a habit of making you timid and I was never able to master those corners. I eyed the drop eagerly but just wasn't feeling technically sharp enough to risk it. My but was pretty darn tender under load. Thursday brought a big change in the weather with on off hard thunder showers for 24hrs. The course turned ugly. Thick rutted mud and slickness. I was okay with that. I'd prefer dry, but I kinda like it slick too. I had embraced the weather, but I guess not the amount of running that would ensue.

The day before the race I was the most nervous I had ever been for a race..and it was still 1 day out. Wearing the number 1 plate I was feeling some internal pressure, but a good chat with my bro helped me relax and look forward to racing.

Race morning dawned sunny and bright and I wasn't nervous. I think the highlight of the day was being Surprised by Kiara Bisaro showing up with husband Sylvain and their gorgeous daughter Georgia. I was feeling good, maybe not my typical confident, eager self, but excited to race.

From the gun things were good. I maintained my position to the left hander over the bridge and then onto the dirt. This is when things started going backwards however. Once on the soft dirt girls started charging by me. Into the disgusting thick wood chips trails even more went by. I entered the first climb already 1 minute back.

Being used to this type of situation I floored it on the climb and picked a lot of girls off both there and on the first rough rocky descent. Thanks for the lines Geoff! Through the start finish i was up to 13th, but still 1 minute back. I was on the hunt though and had lots of girls in my sights.... and then the sucky moment when you go to shift in a mucky, dirty race and your chain gets lodged between your frame and cranks. Off the bike and reefing on it as the traffic streams by. It doesn't budge. The chain has looped back on itself about 3 times and is really wedged. I start running, but then realize how far I'll have to run and try to relax and figure this thing out. I get my chain out and am back at the chase, although a little deflated.

I run the chutes and take the chicken line, more deflation. Normally I'm pretty good at taking chances, but still tender from day one, today wasn't the day. The rest of the course was pretty decent for me and I slowly made up spots and time. Slowly. When I realized I was trying to stay on my bike way longer than other girls and that they could run by me and gap me I had to change my tactic and start running.

It was a frustrating race. I'd make up time in one section and then be behind someone and lose whatever seconds i had gained, or get my head up my but feeling bad about my race and lose time. At least I felt technically sharp in most sections, and always reeled people in on the climbs. As consolation I could see my team mates riding well up ahead when the course looped back on itself.

I worked my way back to about 14th and then burped my tire on some rocks. Being only a couple minutes from the tech zone I rode it in, changed my wheel and headed back out for the last lap. Thanks guys. I went hard to the finish, but it was one of those days when you suffer a lot, but don't go a speed that justifies the look of discomfort on your face. captures my suffer face

I finished 16th, 7min 49 seconds of the win. Ouch. It's been about 3 years since I've been that far back. I'm a bit thrown off by the race, even without mechanicals I wouldn't have had my best day, but I'm trying not to beat myself up over it. Just a race after all. Saturday is another race and another chance to ride my best.

The World cup overall is still within reach. I'm now 3rd overall at 56 points back. That and another world cup podium will be my motivation.
Thanks everyone for your support and congrats to my team mate Katerina who made the podium in 5th, Georgia who placed 11th and all the Canadians that had great rides from our juniour men and women to Clair Buchar's fourth consecutive 7th in DH, to Geoff (21) and Derek (37) in Elite, and MHP (13), Emily (23), Amanda (28), Sandra (41).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Canadian Nationals


As Keith and I drove from Revelstoke to Canmore I started getting excited to race. Marie-Helene Premont was sure to be on form after her 4th at the last world cup and she was going to force me to be on my A game.

After a beautiful and sunny drive through the mountains with some rest stops we arrived in Scenic Canmore with it's vertical mountains on either side of the valley.

Although Canmore used to be a regular stop on the World cup circuit, that was before my time and I was excited for the chance to not only race there, but ride as well. Our house mate Matt had spent the fall there building trails.

Keith and I got in some good rides and preparation (including some river dips), some good visits and dinner with friends and were ready for race day. The only thing that disappointed was receiving word that Marie Helene would not be attending due to Bronchitis.

It felt anti-climatic as I had prepared myself for such a great battle on the bike, however I knew Amanda Sin was on form and awaited my next challenge. I was also luckily to have my in-laws and my father there cheering me on. There were so many great people out on course keeping us motivated to push. Thanks guys.

Race day approached and it could not have gone any better for our household. I got off the front early and worked on extending my lead by racing the best race I could on the hilly, rough, rooty course. Amanda Sin Chased me down, herself being pursued by Mical Dyck, my housemate Catherine Vipond and Sandra Walter. The Under 23 category, starting 45 seconds back, saw some of our strongest women (Emily Batty and Mikaela Koffman) race through the elite field to post top 5 times in the Elite category.

Photo by Patrick Grahm

My race was thankfully uneventful with the awesome support of Keith and the Maxxis team of Garry Wolffe and James Sullivan having my bike race ready and the pits manned. The rest of the luna crew was busy as well winning both the US National Champs (Georgia) and the Czech Republic Champs (Katerina). Go Team!

1. Catharine 2. Amanda 3. Mical 4 Catherine 5 Sandra

Catherine, matt, Nick, Keith and my Dad post race dinner time!

While the gals gave urine and blood samples to doping control, the guys were lining up to race. Obvious favourites were Geoff Kabush, Max Plaxton and Derek Zandstra. But any number of guys would be hotly contesting 4th through 8th and hopefully earning themselves a position on the team for World championships.

Our housemate Matt got off to a good start and settled into 7th position. By 5th lap it looked like we might know our race results Geoff had gotten off the start and Max and Derek were chasing. In the battle for 4th Watson was moving though the field as was Hadley. After sitting in 4th for the entire race Kris Sneddon was caught by Matt in the last km and launched an epic sprint for the line which he took with a massive effort and huge smile.

1. Geoff Kabush, 2.Max Plaxton 3.Derek Zandstra 4. Matt Hadley 5. Kris Sneddon

A first and two 4ths for our house and 3 national championships for the Luna team as well as an xterra win by Shonny, made it an awesome weekend.

Canmore was a great venue for Nationals with a lot of course potential, lots of great restaurants and of course good coffee shops!

Catherine and I now head to Europe while Matt and Keith head on a biking road trip to Fernie, Rossland and wherever their hearts desire.

Stoked to get Spanked in Revelstoke

Revelstoke has always been one of my favourite places to ride. Not only do we get to ride some of the best trails in the world, undulating interior rain forest funness, but we get to do it while visitng my in-laws who spoil us daily. This weekend we also got to try racing on the revelstoke trails.

Friends Carter and Christina came with us to Revy for the racing and riding. BBQ's, enough time to watch the tour before riding or racing along with coffee shop stops with friends Sandra, Jeanine and Ryan who were camping nearby made it a fun, relaxing weekend.

The race sent us through some solid amounts of single track and tough climbs making it not an easy, but a rewarding day on the bike. We capped off the fun race with another bbq and some Mt. Begbie brews with the other racers.

Now a couple days to rest and prep for nationals.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

BCBR: Final stage

Last week was an awesome week of riding and racing with my race Partner Geoff Kabush. I'll sum it day to day with some highlights from each stage.

Last year my luna teammate Katerina Nash and I raced together. We were so perfectly matched and could rail the singletrack I was a little nervous of trying another partner, particularly an uber fast elite male, but passing up on the opportunity to race with Geoff Kabush, fellow Canadian National Champion and World cup winner and getting to follow his lines on some of the worlds best Singletrack for a week, was an opportunity I would have been foolish to pass up.

My Team for the week

Geoff "Super Domestique" Kabush

Amanda Soigneur and gourmet sandwich maker.

James "Jimmy" Sullivan: team mechanic. Yes I will fully admit that those people that do stage races without this kinda stellar support are doing a whole other level of endurance racing.

Day 7: Whistler. After another great sleep in Squamish we headed to Whistler for the final stage. I felt great, but know with today's short stage I should really get a warm up in. No time though so it's to the start line. I felt awesome for about 10 pedal strokes and then nothing. Sorry Geoff, no chicking was going to happen today.

Whistler put on a great stage this year. Sending us up easy does it to the Crank it up descent down the Bike Park. Due to a tight area we went off in waves of 50. Unfortunately our wave after climbing a 20+% climb took a turn down singletrack and had to climb back up, reaching the summit just as wave 2 did. A bit of a cluster, but we pulled ahead again. Geoff took advantage of the open climbing to get in an all out effort and chased down the lead guys while I settled into a maintainable pace.

Crank it up was a giggle with beautiful bermed corners, table tops, doubles and jumps. From there we headed to the lost lake trails which consist of gazillions of rocks and bridges to ride up, over and down. The Stage was a short 1h34.23. Definitely my worst legs of the week, but a good day none the less.

Check out the helmet cam videos at

Geoff and I took our 8th consecutive win, while Wendy Simms and Norm Thibault challenged Mical Dyck and Jeff Neilsen for 2nd Place. Jeff's gunshow on the final podium showed their team's winning edge!

Awards, Dirty Burgers, nap, shower and final Banquet. It was an awesome week and I couldn't have asked for a better team mate than Geoff. All the riders were so much fun to race with and the race staff, volunteers and riders wicked to hangout with all week.

20hrs 27minutes 54s of racing, 5th fastest team overall. Same tires all week (Maxxis Ikons 2.2) and no flats, no mechanicals, no blow ups, no bad days, just lots of good riding, new friends and beautiful travels. I feel recharged and excited for the rest of the summer's racing!

Check out BCBR to see how you can have that much fun too!

BCBR: Day 6 Squamish

Day 6: Keith has finished school and joined us as a guest racer. Really it's not fair for me to have all the fun! We stayed with friends Dwayne and Renee and I took advantage of a King size bed getting some needed sleep.

The Squamish stage incorporates the infamous test of Metal and gear Jammer courses offering riders tons of good descending. Some descents are more like jump trails where as others are rugged tests of agility and skill. I liked it all.

After Yesterday's wicked day Geoff and I were amped to have another chick show down. We marked the top ten, but climbed within ourselves (by this I mean within my limits). We were riding in a large group containing the 2nd and 3rd place men's team and all the solo guys from 6th to 9th place. We strung together some good descents. On the climbs some guys tried to get away, but we kept them in check. The legs are definitely feeling yesterday's race, but still feel good.

Through aid station 2 Geoff and I take advantage of being a team. He fills my bottle as I ride through and set a hard tempo. He bridges up, but we have gapped some guys that had to stop for fuel. Through the last single track I start fading a bit, but only Marty and Steph and Tonkin go by us for the finish and we claim another top 10. 2hr 42

The intense racing up front early on is taking it's toll on the immunity of some of the guys with colds starting to appear. Geoff an I have raced smart and really came into our legs on the singletrack these last two days.

That afternoon I got to hang out with the Shimano R&D guys and learn more about the new xtr as well as give them feedback. It has been phenomenal. The brakes are fantastic, they've done lots to prevent overheating, even with small rotors on the rear wheel. The shifting is smooth and dependable in all conditions and it feels and looks sharp.

I also entered my second race of the day. The kids race with categories from 2 year run bikes to 7 year old hammer heads. I got worked over and Amanda had to give me mid race leg rubs to keep me going. Geoff Played 18 holes of Golf with some very respectable shots.

BCBR: Hump Day and Chixed day

We left beautiful Powell River (only accessible by Ferry and float plane) in the am and headed by Ferry to Earl's Cove on the Sunshine coast.

Day 4: Ah hump Day. So far so good. 4 days in, 3 to go. Geoff and I have been a good team. We've had some good laughs, some good mishaps and lots of good riding and racing. We've been able to stay close to the front at the start and then gradually settle in with a fast, but not the fastest group (Barry, Kris, Corey, Collin, Chris, Jason).

Hump Day: Earl's cove to Sechelt. I started with a slight headache and a delicious breakfast before heading to the Ferry. Then another race from the Ferry. This was the hardest stage last year and it was tough again today. There was tons of climbing, steep climbing and not a lot of single track until over 2hrs in. Fire roads make your mind and legs feel flat and missing a turn lost us our rhythm and time advantage over Jeff and Mical, but we got back into rhythm and pulled away through some loamy singletrack and kept working for the advantage the rest of the day. Finally we were rewarded with singletrack. Unfortunately still lots of up hill before the down, but the down was pretty sweet and we still came in in under 4hrs. Pugsley sprinted us for the finish. Today was 3:41.

Geoff captures me and Pugsley climbing mid race
Day 5: Sechelt to Langdale. One of my favourite stages from last year thanks to the sweet long descent down to the Ferry Terminal. The day started pretty rainy and we had a large creek crossing to Fjord. The neutral road start would be the messiest and from there a dirt climb and then mostly singletrack. We got a good position into the woods. Managed the stream crossing. Geoff wanted an inflatable raft that he could ride ahead, inflate and then porter us across on, but Peter didn't have one. Jeez Boss!

Photo by Patrick Grahm. For more great shots check out

I felt great in the singletrack and after a while we started catching the 3rd place men's team and lots of fast guys. We realized we could be in a position for a top ten overall that day if we rode well. With this motivation we snaked our way through the woods, past guys and into 8 and 9th position. At the crest of the singletrack all we had to do was maintain our lead on the guys on the descent. It was tricky railing a descent while keeping our eyes out for pink ribbon and having to pee like a race horse, but we managed it. Manny Prado road up on us as we were less than a km from the finish, but a little scoop on the corner and down the chute to the finish and we held our top 10 finish. Geoff got a kick out of chixing the guys. 2hr50. Sometimes he even had time to twitter about it mid race or take photographic evidence!

Showers and then onto the ferry to Horseshoe Bay and Squamish.

BCBR Day 2 and 3

Day 2: Cumberland. I like this stage. Big Climb, BIG descent. We got to stay at the Kabush's home for 2 nights which was great and after a good sleep I was looking forward to racing Cumberland's flowy trails. We initially lost the race leaders Chris Sheppard and the Kona Boys, but then tucked in on Geoff's wheel on a fire road we came up on a group. It was all the leaders. After sitting in a bit i went for a fake attack off the front to rile up the guys, but then eased off to let them have the singletrack first. We were able to stick with them for an hour through flowy singletrack and until the base of a 20 minute climb up to Forbidden Plateau. From there, the guys really started racing and I waved them good bye and settled into my own group with geoff.

We crested the climb with Andreas, Blake and Ron and headed into a super fun rocky descent. Entering the descent Geoff went for a v ramped bridge and I followed. When we were both on it we realized there wasn't a ramp, but a large drop. Luckily I survived and we all got a good laugh before railing down the rest of the descent and back to the finish. Time 3:04

That night I got to have an awesome dinner with friends Emma, Jon, Aya and Solay at their newly built Yurt. Thanks Guys!

Day 3. New to BC Bike race was a stage in Powell River. This stage was mostly flat singletrack. Some of it very fresh through some of the most beautiful mossy cedar forests I have gotten to enjoy.

Kelly Sherbinin sadi it right when she said "I was afraid the moss would grow over me if I went too slow through the forest." The day was tough, hard to hydrate during and not always easy to keep momentum, but we went pretty damn fast through the woods. Going fast is always fun so it was another enjoyable day with only one course detour. Time 2:51:52

That afternoon I got to enjoy my first real down time of the trip with a walk in the ocean, maybe too much time in the sun and a water front massage! Amanda, James, Peter and Keiran from Rocky Mtn:Maxxis adopted me as one of their own for the week. Amanda had delicious gourmet sandwiches ready for us after the race and prepped our legs while James washed and dialed in the bikes. Peter (Boss) and Keiran managed the fort logistics.

BCBR Day Zero and -1

Friday: Day -1 Geoff and I arrive at Endless Biking to get the new xtr dyna sys put on our bikes. Nice and shiny and over 400km of racing to put it to the test!

Day 0 was a short individual TT in North van over some pretty rooty trails. Geoff and I raced individually and teams took the slower rider's time as the team time. 8min 55. Racers are on their own till we hit Nanaimo, then I join the rocky Mountain team for the week as we travel around with the race.

Day 1: A way too short sleep of about 4.5hrs after getting to sleep at midnight and having people waking up at the hotel way too early. Those beeps when you lock and unlock cars should be banned. 4.5hrs is a scarily short sleep to head into a stage race with.
We all hopped a ferry to Nanaimo and started racing right off the boat. Well actually two police officers on bikes escorted us for almost 30 minutes through town to the trail head. The poor officers got quite the workout with 500 racers bearing down behind them.

The Lead out

Into the singletrack it was a whirl of riders and dust. I felt pretty good on my bike and the new xtr was working great. Yeah 36 tooth cassette! Geoff and I worked our way to the front of our group only to miss a turn and end up at the back of our group again.

Today was a comedy of errors as Geoff and I took turns snagging branches and flying off the trail, stopping for small bike adjustments thinking we had some room on second place only to have Mical and Jeff ride up on us again and not being able to drop the guy with 3.25 tires (Pugsley; okay so the bike is actually a Sandman with some front suspension, but that boy can ride!) till quite late in the race. We got sorted and Geoff pulled me into the last couple km of paved road to the finish at 40km/hr for first place. Not sure if my arms are tired from all the singletrack or from tucking in behind him! Sweet. 3hr 35