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