Monday, December 19, 2011

The Best of BC

Sometimes you can feel pretty spoiled by BC.  One day I am skate skiing in beautiful snow, the next road riding in the sunshine on dry roads.  One week at ski camp in the interior the next riding the awesomely fun trails in Victoria with my friends.  True it is not always like this.  Typically about 2 months of my winter involve no outdoor biking, but hey I love skiing so no big deal.  It's always a good wake up call on how good life is when my day's dilema is deciding whether to ride from my house in the cold or drive 30 minutes for a ski.

My winter steed on the Ferry to Victoria for a training camp

My family has now come out for christmas leaving -19 deg celcius in New Brunswick this morning to step off the plane to 2 degrees here in Kamloops... okay not balmy, but it is winter!  We're looking forward to a holiday week with lots of hikes, bikes, skis, snowshoes, good food, family time and some presies!

Friday, November 25, 2011


Winter training has begun and what a better way to kick off the ski season than with a ski camp.  After years of hacking away relying on my fitness, rather than an efficient stride to get me up the hills, I signed up for one of the Sovereign Lake ski camps.

I was pumped to arrive and find out I would be skiing with my buddy Kris Sneddon from the Canadian national mtb team as well as a great group from California, Wisconsin, Quebec and Alberta. 

The early season skiing was fantastic as Kris and I took to the trails on Skate skis with our fearless leader “Munny”.  The camp was awesome, catering to all levels of skiers and what we wanted to get out of the camp.  We even got treated to an afternoon at the Biathlon range where I shot my first rifle and became hooked on the sport.  

So this week I have skied classic and skate, up and over the mtn a couple times, done a Biathlon relay with my group, eaten some awesome food, done Yoga, been treated to spas and massages and enjoyed a delicious coffee at Bugaboo’s each afternoon.  Yes the life of a professional athlete has its perks!

 My Wickedly fun group

Jen loving the sunny day!
I’m sad to see the week ending way too quickly.  The campers and coaches have been so much fun and the skiing awesome too.  At least I have bike camp next week to look forward too.  Changing gears!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Iceman

Yesterday I got to try racing the infamous Iceman Cometh, although this year it was renamed “niceman”.  Iceman is a 30-mile point-to-point race in Traverse City, Michigan.  North, even by my Canadian Standards being up near Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario. The race has been happening for over 20 years with participation growing to 4700 riders.  Some years have seen racers barging through 1 foot of snow, but this year the weather was fantastic and the course fast.

It has been 2 months to the day since my win at World Championships and my first xco race since then.  Friday Waldek and I got out to pre-ride the 50km course.  It was going to be fast, mostly sandy double track with some fast single track mixed in.  The climbs were very short and punchy.  It’ the kind of course that is easy to ride, but can suck your legs in a race if you go out to hard or do too much work at the front.

I mistakenly figured that the women’s race might be boring for the first hour with lots of cat and mouse and nobody wanting to work, but it was much, much faster than expected.  Kelli Emmett set the early pace and then Chloe Forsman and myself took over.  About 10 miles in Chloe was leading into a corner followed by Kelli, myself and Heather…. and still an entire women’s pack when Kelli went down in a corner into a climb taking me out and stopping the rest of the pack.  Chloe attacked up the climb and Kelli and I ran to get up the hill and back on our bikes while Heather, staying upright behind us was able to ride.  I lead the chase and had to bury myself to catch Chloe who by then had a solid gap.  The crash, attack, bridge allowed the top four of us to separate from the group

The first hour of the race was harder for me than I had hoped, as I knew I would need my legs in the last 7km, but I was nervous to not be at the front in case another rider let a gap form in the singletrack.   (Still learning to be patient and trust other’s speed!) My lack of any speed work training  in the last 2 months was being felt, but I was having a lot of fun being in a 4 woman pack railing past the elite men that started 30 seconds in front of us.

With 8km to go there was going to be a long sequence of popper climbs and I knew all the girls would have their attack points, but again I was nervous not to be leading because the passing lines were quite sandy … so I sat at the front for way too long.  Being World Champ does not make you superhuman and my legs eventually succumbed to the attacks from behind after a solid 1hr 30 of racing.  It was at this point I noticed Kelli was no longer with us.  Chloe got off the front while Heather was content to let me do the chasing. My chase was gone though so I flicked her through to the lead, a little too late  for me though as she attacked and eventually bridged up to Chloe, taking the win.  Chloe finished a well-deserved 2nd having done a lot of the pace setting in the race. I came in for 3rd and the final podium spot to some pretty amazing and loud cheers from the oodles of fans.  Thanks Michigan, It was fun!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Worlds to Iceman: 2 months, 1 post

A little update of what I've been up to over the last two months.  I wish I was better at actually taking pictures, but here's a quick recap
 Home for a week and then off to Vegas for Interbike.  Got sweet posters!

Home for a couple days and then back to San Fran for the Epiphany ride with ClifBar and a super fun Clinic with the Bay area Luna Chix. 

Teamed up with my hubby for a 4hr enduro and had a great time riding with Kamloops friends at Harper Mtn. Keith threatened that if I let the lead male catch me he wouldn't do his share of the laps!

Photo: kevin Bogetti-Smith

No plane rides for an entire month!  Wahoo!


Visits to Penticton, Revelstoke, Squamish 

Went to Whistler and rode a BIG Bike with my bro, his wife and friends at the Bike Park.  I had no idea how confidence inspiring 8 inches and 2.5 tires could be!
No picture…sad because I was bringing the early 90's back with my spandex and full face.

Tore down a rotting deck and got a new one up, complete with Pergola.  Tried to do something with a tree full of pears and gigantic zucchinis.

Turned 31 with some sweet accomplishments under my rainbow belt

Caught up on organizing the Interior cross Series and got in 4 cross races, 2 in costume and one with moustache hand ups.  Baked and decorated 100 Gingerbread cookie medals. Yes sir


Did some photo shoots.  Have had more make-up on in the last 2 weeks than the previous 2 years….wait for Canadian Cyclist in January and the Velo Award issue

Registered for a 5 day/2 lessons a day ski camp!

Raced Iceman and now headed to visit mum and Dad in NB and pay a visit to my Old High school in Harvey Stn, New Brunswick

Sunday, September 04, 2011

40 days, 4 big races, 4 big wins and Rainbow stripes


I couldn't be happier with the way this race season has finished. World Champion. I will have to repeat that to myself many times and keep staring at my jersey and medal to make it feel real.

This season I have matured as a racer. Having a competitor as strong and consistent in performance as Julie Bresset forced me to look at what I could change in my racing to come out on top. How do you win against an equal?

In the past I have had so many races where I felt I was the stronger rider, but somehow missed out on the podium or lost the battle for position at the end of a race. The continual progression of my training from year to year and some insights into racing more efficiently have left me feeling more confidence in my endurance and power and in my ability to race with diffent tactics. That I don't necessarily have to solo away to win a race. I can be patient and wait for the right moment.

That is what happened yesterday at the World Championships in Champery, Switzerland. I knew the start and position into the first single track would be critical and that most of the races this week were won by early moves, but so did 2010 World Champion Maja Wloszczowska.

I had a good start and had the legs to move to the front on the big climb. Only Maja showed the dangerous climbing speed I was watching for and she held me off to lead the descent. Through the start finish we were away with Lechner and Kalentieva chasing. All the women I had pegged for medal threats were at the front.

I wasn't sure whether to make a move on the next climb or try to work together with Maja. Still a creature of habit, I decided to test out her strength on the next climb, but she was ready and determined to not have me leading the single track and surged the crest of the climb for first tracks into the drop. From there it was a bit of back and forth, trading up the lead. I knew she was a real threat on the climbs, but felt I had the edge in the single track.

With just over 3 laps left of the 6.5 lap race I was able to claim the lead into the longest, roughest descent of the course and I attacked it, quickly gaining seconds. At the base of the descent where the course loops back on itself I saw I had opened a gap, but she was still in sight. By the time I reached the start finish line however the gap was larger than expected and as I headed out towards the feed/ tech zone I could hear the announcers mentioning her flatting, being overtaken by Lechner and needing a wheel change in the tech zone.

I stayed on the pace and grew my lead over Maja and Eva to over a minute. Champery demands focus and a mistake, as Maja discovered could be costly. My goal out front was to be as smooth as possible, minimizing mistakes and conserving energy to finish strong. With over a lap to go my quads started cramping, but I forced it from my mind as I started getting time splits from Dan that Maja had repassed Eva and was closing on me quickly.

I drew on the inspiration from my Luna teammate and 2001 World Champion Alison Dunlap that you have to treat the last lap of worlds like it was a tt, that you haven't just done most of a bike race. That year she moved from 3rd to 1st in the final lap. I knew Maja would be thinking similar thoughts and began my tt.

The last time through the double tech with one climb and descent to go my mechanic Zak was pounding on his chest. I knew it meant one of 2 things. I was giving him a heart attack or I had to race with heart. I raced with heart, I had to.

That last climb was one of the most painful climbs I have done. If not for the amazing energy coming from my Canadian team mates who lined the climb yelling and screaming for me every lap I would have climbed much slower. It was the most amazing support I have ever felt in a race and I feel in debt to them all.

I made my way safely down the descent and as I was about to enter the stadium team Canada was there to yell "flag on your left". I had to hold back the tears, realizing that the finish line was so near and I had done it. I think it was actually my brother that passed the flag, but i was so fixated on the finish line i am honestly not sure. I grabbed the flag and held it over my head all the way to the line and quickly hugged anyone I recognized. It was amazing to see the smiles of my team mates as I got wrapped in bear hugs and high fived.

Changing into fresh kit for the podium only the cramps every time I lifted a leg brought me back to reality. We were on the podium before the race was even finished and I got to watch my teammates cross the line and see their smiles when they heard the Canadian anthem playing. It was amazing. I could not have been happier to share the podium with such talented riders as Maja and Eva.

After the fact the media kinda muted my moment by asking me if Maja's flat took away from my win, as if it should have.

No. Had she not flatted I still feel confident I could have won, the race just would have played out differently. In bike racing you sometimes take risks to stick with a faster rider or to get away and sometimes that ends up costing you, but you still have to take risks to win. There is no question that Maja was on great form and the race would have hurt more had it stuck together, but I was ready to win.

Congrats to all of team Canada on a stellar week of racing!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Raining Champagne at World Cup Finals


Phew, what a world cup season!  This year was a career best season for me with 3 world cup wins, 2 seconds, and a win at the Olympic Test event. Yesterday the World cup season wrapped up with me finishing 2nd overall.  This goes to show how amazing a year 22 year old Julie Bresset has had equalling my 3 wins and 2 seconds, but also never finishing worse than 4th.  I had an incredibly consistent season and for the first time this weekend won World cups back to back, a great mental and physical challenge.

After a few days in the Czech republic visiting with Katerina's parents the Luna team drove to Val di sole Italy for World Cup finals. The weather was hot and sunny all week and the organizers had made some nice changes to the course from last year.   Steep climbs were still the dominant feature of the course, but the descending had also been extended so that the course felt more balance between time spent going up and down.

After last weeks win I was feeling upbeat.  I knew the WC overall was pretty much out of reach, but that i could still go for another win. Last year in Val di sole I finished 2nd in a sprint with Maja.  I knew I could go early and hard on this relentless course and be successful.

Some early week start practice with Waldek and team Canada helped me move into a great position early in the race, wasting no effort getting to the front and from there I was able to solo away.  A race for 2nd-4th developed behind me between Julie Bresset, Gunn-Rita and later Maja.

Everything was looking good.  I was steadily pulling away bringing my lead up to over a minute when I had one of those Kika moment's similar to last lap in Mont Sainte Anne.  Loosing focus? or at least loosing my front wheel I went down hard on a seemingly innocuous corner.  The sound of my bike hitting the ground was gut wrenching. I thought for sure I had taco'd a wheel, but it was just the sound of my stem being forced crooked.  I tried to straighten it, but wasn't able to.  I reached for my tool, but it had flown from my pocket and was gone.  I hopped back on my bike, but my handle bars were so crooked I would for sure crash again.  Back off. Another reef on the bar with the wheel between my legs.  Straighter?  I hoped back on and cautiously rode to the tech zone where Zak was able to speedily straighten my stem as best as possible with me anxious to get going again.   My lead had shrunk to 15 seconds.  Dread.

Team canada staff was all over the course giving me time splits, so I knew I was still gaining on the climbs and had clawed back 3 seconds heading into the final lap.   I was desperately afraid that Maja would spring across to me from Gunn-RIta's wheel and close the gap in one climb, but I was able to fend them off and extend my lead to 30 seconds by the finish.

It was such a relief to cross the line, to have fought back for the win and triumphed and to have done my best to finish the world cup with Strength.  Maja took 2nd ahead of multiple time World Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle and Julie Bresset rode in to finish 4th.  Team Luna and Canada claimed many top 20 results on the day and we are set for our final preparation for Worlds in Champery Switzerland in 2 weeks.

So now a couple days in Italy and then we're on the train to Champery.  Whooo Whooo

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nove Mesto Na Morave World Cup



The first time to an unknown country and venue you never quite know what you will get.  In Czech we got a fantastic course, a well run race and amazing crowds which rivaled those in Quebec during the World Championships.  With riders like Katerina Nash and Jaroslav Kulhavy hailing from the Czech Republic it's no wonder.

After three solid weeks of training at home and in Europe, lots of driving across Europe and having Keith going home, i was feeling pretty tired and worn down.  My legs felt good, but I wasn't sleeping that well and knew that mentally I would have to be extra prepared in case the race didn't go the way I wanted it to.  That if I had a mechanical, a crash, got passed by too many women, that I would have to be able to regroup quickly.  Mental fatigue can cause most of the inconsistency you see in race results.  But I had a great sleep before the race and woke up with good energy.

I wanted to win here, not just because I always want to win, but because I want to win the World Championships and don't want people thinking that I won because the actual fastest women this year (Julie Bresset) has to race under 23.  Winning at these last two world cups could show I am the fastest woman during the 2nd half of the season.

I liked the course.  It reminded me a bit of Revelstoke, BC with loamy forest floor and lots of roots.  The descents were like pump tracks, the climbs wide, but wooded and rooty and some small rock garden obstacles were added in for variety.

We raced 6 laps plus the start loop.  I had a good start, immediately grabbing Eva Lechner's wheel.  Into the first descent I was 6th wheel with Julie leading, but as I had guessed this was too far back as Julie started pulling away and I was trapped a couple riders back and lost 15 seconds by the time I could clear traffic and reach the start finish.

Into chase mode I tried to claw back the gap.  By mid lap I had contacted Julie.  I trailed her into the descent and up the trickiest climb where taking an alternate line I passed her.  She didn't want to give up the lead though and raced me into a drop with us both airing off of it at the same time.  Pretty exciting.  Back following it was all good till we hit the rock gardens and I forgot how to ride my bike and lost 18 seconds with 2 awkward screw ups.

Chasing again and now with Irina and Eva chasing me hard.  Argh.  Mental regroup and chase.  Eva was gaining on me on the first climb, but the pace was too much and she had to back off.  I held steady and one lap later I was reeling in Julie. By the main climb I had caught her at the base and seeing she was fading I  attacked immediately.  I looked back at the top and had a good gap.  I built the gap to 35-40 seconds and held it for the rest of the race with Julie holding onto to second and Irina taking 3rd.

Katerina had an emotional 13th place finish in front of the home country crowds and Georgia followed her in in 14th.  Canadian women had a great day with Emily taking 8th, one position ahead of Marie Helene who was struggling with a sore stomach.  

So I have moved closer to the overall lead, but it would take another win by me and  Julie finishing outside the top 8 or 9 to get it so I may have to settle for another good single day and hopefully a great World Championship.

After the race the Luna team travelled with Katerina's family to her hometown of Prachachice for 2 days rest in the country.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Olympic Test Event in Essex, England

Under clear and sunny skies the men and women of many nations lined up to race the Olympic course for the first time.

Team Canada had arrived on Wednesday for the Sunday event to test out our accommodations, driving routes and log some serious training time in London.  The four of us athletes had a great time chasing each other around the course, trying out the drops and gap jumps and seeing what lines helped us carry the most speed.   I think as a team we did a great job of collecting information for whoever ends up racing at the Olympics, we had a lot of fun and despite some good training load going into the race, we raced well.

It was a little surprising how real it did feel.   All the workers, volunteers and fans were so excited and happy to have us there.  There was a ton of media and helicopters hovering over the spectacularly open course.  There was definitely more excitement than at a regular World Cup.

The women raced first and were paraded around the start loop before going to the line.  Many of the top riders of 2011 were there, but missing from the mix were 2008 Medallists Maja and Irina who chose to sit this race out and instead focus on the European Championships. Marie-Helene Premont and Emily Batty of Canada also chose not to travel over for the race.

We lined up to what had to be the most intense start line music ever and looked up to lines of people stretched out on the horizon.  Our mechanic Scott Kelly said he half expected the people to lean down, string a bow and shoot a row of arrows skywards.

My start was mediocre, but Julie shot to the front followed by Lechner, Georgia, Osl and Schneiter.  Passing was tricky, but by the 2nd set of tight switch back corners I was able to get past Osl at the crest and slowly work my way back up to the leaders.  On a tough grassy climb I made contact with Julie and Georgia and we just sort of pulled away.  I sat on for a lap or 2.  Honestly with 6 laps and a course that loops back on itself so much it is hard to remember how it all played out, but I got off the front earlier than I had planned or desired so was happy to be rejoined by my Luna teammate Georgia.  It's always great to have some horsepower to share the front.

It was looking like the race would come down to the final couple of minutes when around a loose corner last lap I heard Georgia slide out behind me.  Unlike road racing though, when there's a crash you keep going as staying upright in the loose is part of the challenge of our sport.

I rode the race in solo with great support from the British fans and my cousin who had come out to watch.  It was a pretty cool feeling to win this event and no matter what happens next year I'll have this incredible memory.

Huge thanks to the Canadian Team & staff, Keith and Waldek who became an honorary Canadian for the day.

Fellow Canadians Amanda Sin finished 14th, Andrew Watson 18th and Big Wheels Evan McNeely finished 33rd.

Some stories and photos from the day http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,12040_7074671,00.html
http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/olympic-test-event-hadleigh-farm-international-2011/elite-women-cross-country/results

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fast and Female

So I did two other things Fast and Female outside of the women’s Canadian Championship race this weekend.
The Fast and Female mtb camp, the brain child of Olympic gold medallist Chandra Crawford.  We had over 40 girls age 9-15 come to learn some mtb skills,  be inspired, dance and just have fun with the women of the number 1 ranked country in women’s mtn biking.  That’s ride Canada. Whoot whoo

Super cute Event video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w35G9lfjqE0

I also had the pleasure of meeting Olympic silver medallists in Bob sled Hellen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown and teach them how to mtn bike as we filmed a segment for “How tough are these sports?” for CTV Olympics.  What fantastic women and great sports!  I don’t know if I would have been so gutsy learning to bob sled….but would relish the opportunity!  You have to wait till next August to see the show, but you can follow these ladies on twitter (which they have gotten me ontoWinking smile)
Hellen, myself and Shelley-Ann

Good things come in 3’s

Photo: Rob Jones canadiancyclist.com

Last weekend we had our Canadian National Championships in Canmore, Alberta.  The course was fantastic.  Lots  of great trails, some fast that you could really set your bike into, others requiring you to back off to make a tough step up or uphill switchback.  The course was demanding, but very fun (actually so demanding a section was taken out (but luckily after I overcame my mental demon and rode it smoothly a couple times…a story to come here later).

Coming off of 3 sleeps at home and some pretty intense world cups I was having a bit of trouble switching gears back into battle mode.  This worried me as at the last world cup Marie-Helene was less than a minute off of me.  I knew her and her team were hungry for a win and with the different dynamic of not sharing the start line with an additional 60-80 women the race might play itself out differently.

MHP took to the front on the start loop and as we headed into the lap I took over.  Emily Batty was sticking to our wheels.  Through the first singletrack, and they were on me like glue so I launched an attack into the next climb.  Emily didn’t follow, but MHP was not going to give up the lead with out a fight.
Up the singletrack we climbed with only the sound of our heavy breathing to accompany us.  Normally on a climb like this I can get some breathing room, but not today. I am already starting to look at plan B. Where on the course can I get an advantage, what lap?

We crest the climb and I hear that great sound of the rider behind you downshifting rapidly.  Okay so she was working maximally.  Phew.  I attack across the flat and into the descent and just try to be smooth and focused.

By mid lap I have 15 seconds, but I mess up “get up” (the step up) and nervously check my shoulder.  I feel fast on the 2nd part of the course, well the down hill at least.  The climb back to the start is a suffer fest, but I know it is a critical part of the course so I push with everything.  The effort with MHP and the altitude make climbing hurt more than usual, but this is for the national title so I push to create a gap I hope will buffer any late race surges MHP comes back with.  After railing the trails in practice I feel sloppy at 180+ bpm, but resolved to keep searching for smoothness.

In the end I was able to build my gap to 2 mins and take my 3rd Canadian Championship.  MHP rode solidly to 2nd, 2.5 minutes into Emily who was 3rd in her first Nationals as a senior.  Congrats!  The battle for 4th-8th was more hotly contested.  Unfortunately a bee sting to the eye 1st lap meant my friend Catherine Vipond raced with only one eye open, climbing like a billy goat, but wanting that other eye on the descents!  She pulled off a strong 6th place after Amanda Sin and Sandra Walter in 4th and 5th respectively.

A HUGE thank you to Luna mechanic extraordinaire for driving to Nationals from Windham even though he had to be back in Idaho for the Us short track nationals the next day.  Greatly appreciated!

Thanks also to all the cycling fans and family out there cheering and congrats to everyone who had their best nationals yet!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Windham World Cup

Photo: Rob Jones. Check out canadiancyclist.com for all race news

Yesterday was one of the best World Cup battles I have had.  After a slow week in the countryside of upstate New York, staying in a farm house without the usual time occupiers of cell reception and internet I was looking forward to some race action and Action is what I got Saturday.

After recovering from a mediocre start, I was able to grab the lead and pull away with only Julie Besset coming with me.  It's always neat to have number 1 and 2 duking it out blow for blow for an entire race and there was an amazing Canadian and American crowd cheering the entire time. Even all the team managers were getting into it and every word of encouragement was appreciated!

To have a hope at winning the World cup overall, I could really use another win. I was entering world cup #5 140 points behind, but a win would bring it down to 90.  I also had set a goal of achieving back to back victories and winning the end of a race. Often in a head to head, I am the one settling for 2nd.

Although I didn't win the race I still feel like I hit many of my goals.  I raced strong two weekends in a row, I battled hard and felt strong and challenged Julie the entire race right up till the last hill sprint to lead the single track.  Julie barely nipped me for it, but went on to put out very strong surges on the 2 single track climbs that were mixed into the descent.  She opened a 7 second gap, but I wasn't giving up and with less than 2.5 minutes to the finish it was down to 5 seconds. I chased her hard and felt that the lower section of the descent was where I could hopefully make up some time.

Then some misfortune struck. The spare tube attached under my seat unraveled and went into my rear wheel.  I ended up losing around 30 seconds and any hope of closing on Julie.

So in the end I did have to settle for second, but I feel good about my form and the knowledge I gained of what I need to improve in my riding to be able to win a head to head next time....not to mention I will always mount my spare tube on stem from now on! I also feel inspired by the challenge of earning another World Cup win.

It was a good day all round for the Luna team with Georgia claiming 5th spot on the podium and Katerina finishing 7th.  We also took the number 1 team position for the 3rd consecutive race.

Canadians rode strong with Marie-Helene finishing 4th, Emily 18th and Amanda, the  3 amigos (jean-ann, Catherine, Sandra) and Mical between 30th and 40th.

Next up, National Championships in Canmore, Alberta

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Racing World Cups at home

You realize how big Canada is when you are talking about growing up pretty close to Mont Sainte Anne, only a 7hr car drive away.  But the trails feel like the trails I learned to ride my bike on as a teenager.  Challenging single track through dense forest, exposed roots and rocks and when it rains, mud and lots of it.  To me the trails in MSA, Quebec are mountain biking.  The course there has always allowed me to excel from Nationals in 2004 until yesterday, my 34th World cup (incl championships) event.  Wow, how have I suddenly become a veteran having only started doing the WC series in 2007?
No matter, I am still loving it and the people that surround me at these events.  Over the years the locals have come to embrace me as a favourite alongside local Marie-Helene.  I even had a french woman yell out during my race “we are proud of you Catharine.”  That is why racing in your home country is so special.  To be able to make those that share a connection with you proud.  It’s what makes the Olympics special and inspires greatness and gives meaning to what I do.

So yes, with my mom, dad, aunt, uncle, husband, brother and sister in law all out there cheering I was able to claim my 5th World cup win.
The race got off to a worrisome start as traffic ground to a stand still in the woods before the first climb.  What should have been the fastest line was completely stopped and women went streaming by me on alternate lines.  Up the first climb I was somewhere in the twenties and then got to experience what the women with less favourable start positions always see the walking lines in the first single track.  I swear women are way more aggressive when running with their bikes than when they’re on them.  Luckily they’re also creatures of habit and tend to follow each other’s line so I was able to take a couple alternate line options to try to regain the top 10.
By the Beatrice (the sketchy rock chute descent) I was closer to this goal and kept working my way forward.  The course zig zag past itself a lot and I saw the Georgia and Katerina had stellar starts and were leading in the top 5.
Through the start finish heading onto lap 2 I was able to grab the tail end of the top 6 all riding together.  I picked off a couple to better position for the steep climb and then set my hardest pace on the climb and moved into the lead with Georgia and Julie Bresset following me into the single track.  Julie used an alternate line to get ahead of Georgia and I lead into the Beatrice.  Down the descent, up a switch backing climb and single track and then down a fast, but mucky switch backing descent I was able to put 11 seconds in to Julie who had also opened on Georgia.  From there i had to keep on the charge.
On the right side Julie brought in a couple seconds on me, but I had a bit more climbing speed on the day.  Julie crashed on the Beatrice that lap and the gap opened to over 40 seconds. Georgia also had some bad luck crashing near the Beatrice and damaging a wheel.
For me the rest of the race was just a charge to stay ahead and stay focused even though it seemed like all sorts of stuff was happening in the race behind me.  Irina overtook Julie for 2nd and Katerina finished 4th after getting  up to 3rd before Bresset clawed her back.  Unfortunately Georgia, who had amazing legs, lost a lot of time after flatting.  Still Luna walked away as top team once again and 2 podiums.
It was a phenomenal day for Canadian women, taking 1st, 5th (Marie-Helene Premont and 7th Emily Batty, not to mention a host of ladies from 27th to 41st.
Kabush later went on to continue the good rides with a 7th in the men’s race and Lauren Rosser our DH World Champ won the women’s xc followed by her Canadian team mates.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Big Bro got married

We celebrated the fantastic outdoor wedding of my brother Geoff and his love Liz Johnson in Fredericton, New Brunswick last Friday.

Here are a couple pictures from the day.

groomsmen and sunbeam
Eric Goss, Me, Kirk MacDonald, Geoff and Dad with the old Sunbeam Alpine

Geoff & Liz Wedding 183

Geoff & Liz Wedding 196

It was so nice to spend some time with friends and family in NB.  I really have to get back more.

On Tuesday after some nice NB riding Keith and I drove to MSA, Quebec for the world cup.  On our way we totally lucked out with a stop in Edmunston where within 15 minutes we found an amazing and well mapped trail network that totally energized us for the rest of the trip.  The espresso and ice cream may also have helped.  Great work on the trails Edmunston crew.  We’ll be back!

Test of Metal

Once again the Test of Metal was a great event, bringing over 800 riders from the north west together for some good riding, racing and of course a little suffering and good eating.
This year I decided to race my dually, the Orbea Oiz and tricked it out with some light carbon wheels.  I had been feeling sharp on it and find it just helps me maintain speed over rough terrain a bit better.  I also decided taking 5 minutes off my last record would be a sweet goal. Time to really race the boys, no getting complacent by leading my category.

The Blow by Blow
This year was my 7th Test and I could definitely use the experience of years past to  pace or pin it depending on what seems necessary.  On the opening climb I hang in on the tail end of the main group and then try to pin it to maintain a wheel on the rolling fire roads where guys usually swarm around and pass me that I could out-climb.

Into the first single track it’s about maintaining a steady tempo.  I had managed to stick with Roddi Legga and we bridged up to Tyler Trace, who had apparently blown a bit on the climb so Roddi and I got around in the woods and led into Alice Lake.  A couple guys bridged up and we started trading pulls.  It felt great to be racing the men as an equal, trading up pulls, well actually 3-4 of us pulled and some other guys just had to sit on!

I was definitely feeling my lack of time on wet roots in the first techy sections so had to work hard between to stick with my group. The only problem of being fit enough to ride with guys like Roddi Legga and Adreas Hestler is that i also have to be able to descend like some of the best male descenders out there, but I like a challenge and although they opened on me a bit in some corners, by staying on it every where else I was able to enter the climb in a group of 6.  Thanks to the guy in the orange jersey who worked with me on the fire roads, I’m sorry my draft wasn’t as beneficial.

Up the 40 minute climb I pushed  steadily, trying to stay on it when the grade wasn’t as favourable to my body size and was able to shed 4 of the guys from my group with Roddi always close by.
Down the Ring Creek Rip Roddi reminded me how to attack the little popper climbs which helped me keep a high pace.  Into the plunge I pinged around.  Maybe I shouldn’t have added air to my fork?  Or maybe it’s just greasy and I need more time in fun,wet, gnarly singletrack. By this point Tyler Trace had recovered and ridden through the group of guys i started the climb with and grabbed my wheel. We caught and passed Roddi fixing a flat near the base of the plunge and hammered on to the final feedzone. Always a fun experience when you’re racing well with so many familiar faces and getting to weave in and out of the newer riders on the first pass through the feed zone.

Tyler stuck my wheel through crumpit woods and we caught up to Ben Thomas who I spent some trail time with in BC Bike race last year.  The three of us hit the pavement together and started trading up pulls. 
At this point I realize I am freakishly close to my race goal of shedding 5 minutes from my record.  How?  I’m not exactly sure, but I know I just stayed motivated the whole race and had fun.  The record became my goal and hopefully a top 10, but having Tyler and Ben to contend with I was happy to also just push the pace for a best time.

We crossed the line with Tyler taking the sprint, then Ben and Me just missing top 10, but clocking a 2:45:50 in wet conditions.  Wahoo. 

Post race Keith and I joined up with the local ride crew for some burgers and beer.  The next day we got in some more awesome trail riding in Squamish.  Such an amazing place to ride in!  Thanks Squamish.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June at home

Wow how have I managed to get 2 consecutive June's mostly at home?  

Kamloops is wonderfully green with the rain we've been getting and I have discovered that Dill is a gardening menace!

The Art walk is now on and Susan Helly a mountain bike enthusiast created this fantastic piece (sponsor correct no less with Mavic rims and Maxxis tires!)

Taking advantage of being at "home" I haven't actually spent a weekend here.  I get in my Kamloops time and miles in the week and find new playgrounds on the weekend hitting up some of my favourite trails in Revelstoke and even doing a twoonie race and then heading to the coast this weekend and doing my first road race in i think 5 years?  It was pretty fun and left me wanting to try one of the bigger North West races.

Next up is the Test of Metal, a classic mtb race in BC with a 1000 mass start.  Kamloops is also hosting a 6hr enduro this year and already has 85 participants so I see another classic in the works.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

JumpShip Contest. Go watch it!

Anyone with the chance to get to Victoria this weekend has to check out JumpShip contest.  My brother Geoff has organized this dirt jump comp on a floating barge in the inner harbour as part of Victoria's 5 week cycling festival.
http://www.jumpshipcontest.com/

Not only do you get to see some of the best dirt jumpers doing their tricks, but doing it while out on the ocean!  There will be 16 Dj's creating a party atmosphere and beer gardens stocked with local brew from Vancouver Islander.

Like Hockey?  Checkout game 5 for free on the big screen while enjoying the downtown Victoria vibe and then come back saturday for JumpShip qualifying and Sunday for the finals!  Check out the complete schedule of events here
http://www.jumpshipcontest.com/node/3

Monday, May 30, 2011

Offenberg

The Black Forest area of Germany reminds me a lot of the Okanagan Valley. Beautiful hills lined with intricately formed vineyards, orchards and fruit stands selling fresh strawberries and asparagus. Needless to say I love it there. I always look forward to it and feel right at home.

Like last year, we chose to stay at Edy's Hotel in Ortenberg and just like last year we were spoiled with gorgeous food at their family run restaurant. On Mondays they close to prepare all the spices that will flavor their week's dishes. Each dish was cook and flavoured perfectly and had us well fueled for the race. Maybe that's why I felt good to do another lap in the race!

I had another good start. I always knew how hard you had to go at a start, but now I believe it and make myself do it! It's still a work in progress though and sometimes I forget the start is as long as it takes me to be at the front so sometimes I start well, loose spots and then get it back together. That's what happened in Offenberg.

By the end of the first lap we were still a large group of about 13. Through the start/finish I inserted myself as 3rd wheel. Never one to wait to see how things will pan out I attacked into the woods and by the end of that first section , which included the dual line descent and a solid single track climb Julie was the only rider on my wheel. She attacked me into the North Shore descent. From that point we raced together till the 4th lap. At this point I tried to make a pass before the North shore descent, but Julie could hold me off, i tried again, but another shut out. Julie led into the north shore and eked out a slight gap. I tried to close the gap on the fire road, but she was on it and over the next lap and a half she grew her lead and took the win.

I was happy to put out a great, if not a perfect performance. I'd still like to be the racer that makes the right move at the end of the race, that moves up in position, that can put out that decisive attack to get away or hold off the chasers. That's my homework for the next one!

It was a great weekend for Canada with Marie-Helene finishing 4th and Emily Batty claiming another 15th. Katerina finished 14th and Georgia 20th after a mechanical took her out of 6th position on 4th lap. We won the top team and a 3l bottle of champagne which between the 3 of us girls we managed to polish off by the end of a late lunch (I'll admit to being the lightweight).

Now it is back home to see how that garden is doing and what mischief my husband has gotten up to.

In Other Race News

It's been a busy two weeks of racing with former house mates Matt and Catherine winning the opening Canada cups of the year. Matt went on to win round 2 while Keith's other athletes Jean-Ann McKirdy and Sandra Walter knocked Catherine off the top spot this weekend.

Keith also did some racing taking 2nd in his age group at the newly started Nimby 50 Epic race in Pemberton, BC, a great event to take in if you get the chance and love great trails.

2012 Olympic Course

From Dalby we traveled to London on way to little sleep. My typical post race midnight wakefulness combined with a 5am wake up call meant I was pretty much a wreck. But the organizers of the Olympics were giving us the opportunity to ride the Olympic course and training started at 11. Getting to ride the. Olympic course did help to energiize me though!

Driving there I was thankful to live in a town Kamloops's size. I hate traffic! It took almost 6hrs to get to Hadleigh farms, but we got there thanks to Zak and Waldek and enjoyed some beautiful sunshine on a great course.

Just as it had been ridiculously windy at Dalby, Hadleigh farms, located on the south shore of England was equally windy and on certain sections of the course we were blown up or felt like we had hands pushing us backwards or over.

The loop is fast, hard packed dirt with some loose rock sections to challenge climbing skills. lots of rocks were brought in from northern England (where the rocks are harder) and arranged around the course to offer various rock gardens, both up and down, step ups and drops. Most of the climbing is switch backing to create more climbing out of only 74 m of elevation change (Beijing had 64m and was one of the hilliest races I've done). The climbs in London are not steep, but with the fast track we will be seeing them all at least 6 times in our race.

All in all I think the organizers did a good job. It should be a great course for spectating and fun to ride. Because it is so fast and there nothing that will really separate riders like a monster climb or super tricky section the race will really stick together. It will require patience, smarts and decisive moves. I'm looking forward to the test event July 31st.

The county of Essex has adopted team Canada and the town councillor invited us out to dinner and to visit a local school. They had transported 1000 kids out to watch us train on the course. It's pretty neat to be so welcomed into a community.

Is it June already?

After Arizona, I was treated to some home time. With all the rain that always seems to come while I'm away Kamloops is a lovely green (for Kamloops), little veggies and flowers are starting to poke out of the garden and I am toying with my yearly Reno ideas. Before I can get up to too much destruction however I am off to England and the 2nd world cup race in Dalby Forest.

I really like the course in Dalby. It's a fast course with some fun technical challenges. Last year the start proved to be critical and the course hard to move up on if you had any challenges. Team luna would be returning to our comfy self catered cottage, a renovated stable with an inner courtyard and about 10 mother and foal couplings in the back paddock. Zak saved the day when after hearing a large crash he found a foal tangled up in a fence with both hind legs in the air. Grabbing his wire cutters he freed the foal with the owner's help and the foal was back to his blitzing around.

Diner again at Spice 4 you, ah Indian food! A staple while traveling in the UK.

Traveling and training were good. I seem to sleep well in Dalby and race day I felt ready. I had a fantastic start, for me, only to have 2 riders go down in front of me across the trail in the first single track. Now I was leading the chase and hoping to regain contact with the leaders. It took almost the full lap to clear traffic, but a massive effort took me into 2nd position with Ren in my sights. Remounting after the run up I realized my chain had dropped and as I put it back on and got going 3 women passed me and I was back in 5th.

I felt good and raced strong and moved up to 3rd, still seeking the lead, but I had used my super match and could neither get up to the lead two nor get a safe margin ahead of the chase group of 4 behind me. In the final 10 minutes I came very close to Ren. I turned on the turbo diesel, but then the terrain went from flat to hilly and the torque faded. Rather than bridging up to Ren I watched first an unknown rider (Anika Langvad) and then Sabine Spitz pass me. Not much later Eva Lechner and Maja bridged up to me and passed me into the run up. I followed them in and was able to pass Maja afterwards when I saw she was letting a gap form between her and Eva, but she grabbed my wheel and Eva had gotten the gap. Into the final minute and Maja goes by me again in the bmx track. From 3rd to 7th in the final 10 minutes of a 1hr 40 race. Tough love. Races that allow groups to stick together are always so interesting and results always seem to only tell part of the story.

Katerina was riding strong in about 6th most of the race before puncturing on a fast rocky descent, while Georgia got pushed back to the 30's off the start and worked all race to get up to the top 15. Marie-Helene finished 11th after some derailleur issues and Emily took 15th. Not a bad day for Canadian women, but we're looking for more!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Arizona

From South Africa I went solo to Arizona.  I stayed in Tempe for 2 nights until Luna mechanic Chris joined up with me.  In Tempe the friendly guys at Cactus cycle pointed me to some super fun trails on South Mountain and I did my best to not go too hard on the punchy trails as i recovered from jet lag and adapted to the really warm weather.  I tried out my Camelbak racebak with ice in it and it was awesome to help keep me cool out in the desert.

On Thursday Chris and I headed up to Prescott to pre-ride the 25mile loop of the Whiskey off Road race that I would be doing that weekend.  Chris doesn’t get to mountain bike with us all that much, typically taking care of our bikes, but that boy has skills and showed me how to rail on the loose San Luis Obisbo type descents.

The view from the top (somewhere around 2000m is Prieta overlook)

After leaving cool scenery in Tempe and going through some uninspiring areas of Arizona for riding I was relieved when we arrived in Prescott (pronounced Preskitt).   The trails were fun and fast and there was lots of single track on the 25  mile loop.   The 50 mile loops adds a 12 mile out and back fire road descent one way, 12 mile climb the other.

Some things I quickly learned about Prescott was that it was at altitude, just over 1600m.  This made it both substantially cooler than Phoenix and a little more painful to race at.  The town loves mountain biking and has an insane amount of great coffee shops and restaurants, seemingly way too many to be supported by the population but they are all hoping.  I’m sure the 1500 racers helped.

The vibe was great.  Mtn bike enthusiasts galore and curious citizens and passers by.  I even met a family from Kamloops!  Chris and I teamed up with Peter Glassford to do some restaurant and coffee sampling so I was well fuelled and caffeinated come race day.


Chris and I sample the Prescott Brewing company's Porter and Amber.  No whiskey for us though.
Friday we raced a fat tire crit.   I was curious how it would go, thinking that slick tires and pavement can lead to way more pack racing and accelerations which hurt my slow twitched legs, but the climb in the course was so selective pack dynamics were not an issue and I went on to lap all but two of the field.   This had me feeling pretty good about my legs and chances for the $4000 prize purse in the 50 miler.

I definitely did not want to underestimate my competition, particularly Kelli Emmet and Pua Mata who are both experienced xc and endurance racers.  Pua being former endurance national Champ and Kelli also a great Super D racer. I imagined the sketchy fire road and loose descents putting her in her element.

The race: My first 50 miler (okay so it was really 75km)

Today I would get to see what endurance racing was about. I have done the Test of Metal a number of times and of course the BC Bike race, but for some reason the unknown of the Whiskey made it feel a little more intimidating.... Or was it just that 12 mile fire road out and back? The women started 10 minutes behind the men, I think unfortunately, as it would have been nice to have a faster rolling pack on the pavement and more carrots to help me dig for speed early on in the race.

Having laid the smack down in the crit, no one really felt the need to help pull on the pavement, fair enough, but Pua was a good sport and helped share the load and was rewarded with good karma.

Once the climbing got steeper I decided to go and Kelli and Pua gave chase. We entered the woods in that order. I was able to sneak away, but never by much. The numerous step ups on the climbs were quite challenging at race pace and I have to admit to not feeling super sharp mentally or technically.

We were treated to some great descents though and I started finding my mojo and reeling in the men. The fire road descent was way more entertaining than I had expected. After I learned to slow down for the corners I was much faster too. My triceps were tired from tucking between turns when after 20-30 minutes I reached the turn around in skull valley. I could see that Kelli was disturbingly close and Pua not far behind her, but I guess I was too confident in my climbing and had settled into a pace that would prove to be too slow. The climb was long, much longer than expected. I think the whole thing took about 1hr 10min.

It was such a great group of women racing.  I think i got a "go girl" from every women out there. The guys around me must have been amused at how diffently women interact in racing.

About 40-50 minutes in I looked back and saw Kelli had closed on me and internalized a big "oh shit" before ramping up the pace, hoping she had already used up her pace to get to me. I was able to gap her, but was riding hard and scared. The top of the climb took way too long to reach and I felt exhausted.  The descent rejuvenated me and I felt good punching the fire roads and climbs in between.

I thought I strung together a pretty good descent, particularly the rocky sections and was hoping it was enough to hold off Kelli. When I hit the pavement I wasn't sure if it was the light shining through the trees or whether I really was seeing stars. Just 10 minutes of paved descent to the finish line. I went into full tuck, hardest gear i could turn, gut and legs protesting and spun my legs as best I could with my police escort guiding the way. Several minutes in though there was another police moto flying by and " You've got to be kidding me", several minutes from the finish and running on empty Pua was powering by me. I had lived the last hour in fear, riding in urgency to not be brought in before the finish after such a long race and here it was happening and not even by the rider I thought I was riding from.  And I had nothing. The last climb was intensely painful physically and emotionally and Pua found a minute on me before the finish. It was an extremely hard end to the day, but as always happens from this kind of ending I get super mentally charged to kick some serious but at my next race.

Pua claimed the victory demolishing the old course record with her 3:30 and establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with. Although feeling sorry for myself, I was pretty pumped for her win and was consoled by the knowledge we were pretty damn fast among the men too. Kelli put in a solid ride trailing me by only 30 seconds at the finish.

In a town like Prescott you can't stay down for long. Even though I was disappointed with my ride, the party kept rockin, people were smiling and despite a tough day it was undeniable that life is pretty darn good.

Thanks to the town of Prescott for supporting such a great event, I'll be sure to spread the word, to chris for all the bike support and Peter for the ride and dining.

South Africa

Despite logging over 60-80hrs of travel in the last week+, I seem to have found very little time to tell you about any of my travels.

The first World Cup of the Season was in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.   The course was fantastic.  The organizers had obviously put a lot of time into it and the weather conditions, unlike the previous weekend where they got 100mm of rain, were fantastic.

The Luna crew flew into Johannesburg and then did the 5+hr drive south.   The  scenery was much like Colorado and Utah until we were almost to our destination about 100km from the south east coast and it became more lush and rolling.

We were caught out by the season change to fall (having changed hemispheres) and got to the course ready to ride at 4:30 only to have it be really dark and start thundering by 5:30.  Bummer. We did get to see some vervet monkeys though.

South Africa, doesn’t look too different from North America, however the obvious racial distinctions in economics and life left me feeling unsettled there, not to mention all the talk of crime rates and the fact that every home and hotel was lined with electric fencing, often advertising an armed response to prevent home invasion.

africa 016

My race was good.  I still don’t feel like I have achieved that top end speed, but then I haven’t really trained it yet so am pleased to have finished 4th with room to go in my training.   The first lap of the race was very controlled as all the climbing was singletrack and passing was virtually impossible which meant the best sprinters lead the climbs until there were fire road sections where you could hopefully outsprint them for the woods.   I had moved up only to get caught behind a crash in the tricky rock garden and lose positions again.

I was shocked to go through the start/finish and be able to see the 3 leaders just ahead of me.   I never was able to get into contact with Julie who was the first to clear traffic, instead I settled into a familiar spot, battling for a medal with Irina.   A couple laps in the Chinese Rider Ren Chengyuan bridged up to us.  I rarely have a woman urging me to descend faster, but she was on it and went on to catch Julie and take the win.  She definitely has to be commended for being the most aggressive descender on the day, not to mention having the fastest legs by far.

In my battle with Irina for 3rd I noticed I could eek out a small advantage on the climbs and in the rock garden leading, but she would close it in the transitions.  I decided to follow her for a lap and see what i could learn.  I learned being 2nd wheel into the rock garden allowed gaps which I wasn’t successful at bringing back and Irina went on to take 3rd while I settled for 4th. I know I am capable of more and will be up there this season, but to be the best I have some small technique things to work on and have to bring up my top end speed.

But enough of racing, off to the Safari!

africa 018

africa 022
Uphobia trees are extremely poisonous and can blind you

africa 043

africa 027
My favourite, the Giraffe!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Classically Sea Otter

Classically Sea Otter

26km/hr, thanks to our new sponsor Garmin I have the details to back up how hard and fast Emily Batty and I rode this weekend in the cross country portion of the 2nd Us Cup of the season. That also tells you a little something about the terrain, fast, smooth, some pavement, some smooth dirt roads and some bumpy grassy sections and unfortunately for me only 600m of climbing in 45 Km.

Both the short track and the cross country were very tactical races, favoring not only fitness, but a rider with good jump. In the short track my team mate Georgia got off the front pretty much from the gun and never looked back before sailing into victory after 26 minutes of full out racing. Lea Davison was trailing her in 2nd for a couple laps, but between myself, Emily, Katerina and Katie we were able to bring her in. She went down in a corner losing critical seconds reducing the field to four chasers. Near the end, lapped traffic started to get intermingled with us while I was sitting 4th wheel. A gap opened between Katie and Emily and Katerina and they cruised off the front while Katie and I chased. With 2 laps to go I pulled away from Katie, while Katerina maneuvered to take 2nd over Emily. luna Claimed 1st, 2nd and 4th with country mate Emily Batty took bronze and Katie Compton 5th.

Enter a Friday night luna party where we got to hang out with sponsors and friends and then it was Saturday and the cross-country. I have to admit I was feeling a little bummed about the lack of technical challenge on the course, but Keith cheered me up saying "hey, think of it this way, you never get to road race!". I was cheered and went into the race looking forward to a different challenge and it was fun. Not every course is your ideal race course, but it can always be good racing if you want it to be.

To my surprise Emily and I soloed away early first lap only to have my teammates Georgia and Katerina bridge up to us with Katie Compton on the 2nd of 7 laps. It's always a little interesting to figure out the working dynamic in a drafting race, but we soon did, only to have Georgia burp her rear tire hoping a ditch and lose gobs of positions running to the tech zone. Katie later fell off the pace and then ran into a bee (to which she's allergic) and had to end the race short.

With 2 of 7 laps left to go Katerina got gapped in a corner and Emily and I continued a hard pace trading up pulls on the pavement with me choosing to always lead on the dirt and climbs. Emily is a talented racer and a better tactician than I, we worked together superbly, but I felt the need to drive the pace on the climbs (perhaps to my downfall?) knowing she had more jump in a sprint. Too bad for me, I couldn't drive the pace quite high enough and after 1hr 41.23 of racing Emily claimed victory in a sprint finish. Congrats on your first US Cup xc win Emily!

After that it was bike packing for south Africa and a little party and amazing tunes with the ClifBar crew. Our trip to South Africa is getting off to a chaotic start with vehicle issues and forgotten passports, but the team is now on a 4hr flight to Washington, to be followed by a 16hr flight to Johannesburg via Dakar and then a quick 5hr drive to Pietermaritzburg.... And no we don't get to fly first class!