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!