Monday, October 15, 2012

Roc D’azur

A trip to France was the perfect way to end the mtn bike season.  Flying into Nice, I enjoyed the beautiful Cote D’Azur and hospitality of Orbea bicycles as we launched their latest beauty, the Oiz.
2013 Oiz
Last year at Worlds, Orbea’s engineers came to visit the Luna team to ask for our feedback in creating a great xc race dual suspension.  They were surprised by some of the things we were looking for, one being that I saw the biggest advantage of a dual suspension as maintaining power over flat rough terrain (seeing more rough grass sections on our WC courses) and for singletrack climbing rather than on the descents.  Races can be lost on descents, but only occasionally won. 

After our meeting I kept in touch over email with the engineers and in June the first prototype was ready and delivered to me just days before the MSA World Cup.  I was able to win that race in large part due to the efficiency of the bike.  I just made fewer mistakes than the other girls on the tough technical climbs.

I was honored that Orbea not only valued my opinion, female racer’s opinions, but actively worked to create the bike that could meet all of our demands and have it ready to test months later.  After the first prototypes the bike’s design was refined further to drop 155 grams and add additional lateral stiffness.
Lateral stiffness

Pitting out of the Orbea trailer at European World Cups I am familiar with the mechanics and staff of Orbea, but there is nothing like going solo to an event to really get to know the guys!  With a mix of French, Spanish and English we had a ton of good laughs hanging out with the 10+ bike testers/press that had come from all over Europe to learn about and ride the Oiz. It felt like the early privateer adventure days of mtn bike racing except also being totally spoiled!

The riding too was great.  Lots of rough rocky descents to test out the suspension, but you expect the bike to be a load of fun here.  It was how it climbed, stiff on hard packed surfaces, but absorbing the rough terrain that really makes this bike shine as a race machine.  No matter the surface you feel that all the energy you put into the pedals propels you forward.

Some nice vistas on course

The race

I was a little nervous for the race, or more how my body would feel.  I haven’t been “training” since worlds, but yes still keeping active, so I was not sure how my body was going to feel going race pace and for longer than normal duration.  But I wasn’t putting a lot of pressure on myself either; I’d do my best.  This was about having fun on the bike and enjoying racing.
147 women lined up to race.  Going low maintenance I was carrying a spare bottle in my pocket so I didn’t have to stop at any feedzones to fill up during the 44km single loop race.  The start was pretty mellow and I was happy to sit in and not waste any energy.  The first climb greets you about 12-15 minutes in and I thought to myself, well may as well see what you’ve got and went to the front.  Elizabeth (Lissi) Osl and Anna Szafreniak were feeling strong though and wanted to control the front.  The first major climb was the toughest.  I wanted to separate the field, but Elisabeth wanted to control the race.  She upped the tempo in response to my coming alongside, from there we settled into a teeth-grinding tempo with the front of the race whittling down to four women, Lissi, Anna, Irina and mself.  Osl was climbing very strong and there were moments it would have been really easy to decide it was too much and back off, but I wasn’t going to let myself and was rewarded on the descents being a bit smoother and saving energy, recovering.  We kept the pace high for the first hour and then the separation came.
 Spectators on one of the main climbs during the men's event

Lissi and Anna dismounted for a tough climbing section I tried to ride, but without a clear track I didn’t make it (should have prepared for that) and was off the bike, but now gapped off them and not the best of runners!  I think Irina was ok with this having yo yo’d off the back on the climbs, now we could settle into a pace together.

So it was now Irina and I chasing. For a long time we could always see them just ahead, but as we approached the tail end of the tandem race and started focusing on the safest places to pass tandems on rocky descents or technical climbs it was harder to maintain or reel in the gap.  In all we passed 107 of the 230 tandem racers! (Isn’t that many tandem mtn bike racers incredible…just another part of what makes this race cool. 17 000 racers do the various events). 

Anyhow, Eventually we caught Lissi who had flatted on a descent.  Tough as she was the strongest climber, if not descender and would have definitely finished the race on the podium.  I was able to open on Irina on a couple descents, but lost the advantage being unsure of a couple turns (one in which officials waved me off the course holding up the tape thinking I was someone just out riding during the tandem event!)  I loved the Oiz’s help on the tricky climbs definitely saving energy.

The final 15 km was pretty urban, riding over a beach, up stairs and along the old customs patrol route on the coast where border control watched out for smugglers in days past, back over a long beach section and then along a mostly paved stretch to the finish.  Irina and I traded up pulls and with two corners to go into the finish I surged through each corner trying to gap her before the sprint, it was not in the cards though and she nipped me at the line.
I finished 3rd having really enjoyed racing my bike and the new experience of Roc D’Azur.

Thanks Jokin, Julien, Ivan, Alex, Xabier, Joseba, Banate for bringing me over for the adventure and taking such great care of me and the bike!

More Bike testing!

Friday, October 12, 2012

When fall hits, the Bike season changes, but it doesn’t slow down!

The last few weeks have been super busy with Luna and ClifBar putting in an awesome presence at Interbike.  I even got to team up with Kamloopsian Matt Hunter for some foosball action! Yes, yes Interbike is all business.

Then I headed to San Francisco 6 days later for a Clinic with the Bay Area Luna Chixs.  There is nothing like going to ride with a group of 15 women that love mountain biking to make you realize how great a job you have, how lucky you are to be able to share your passion with others.  Thank you ladies for keeping me inspired!
Getting to know some new ride buddies in the Bay Area

The next day was the infamous ClifBar Epiphany ride (and my birthday) where I was yet again impressed by how tough a group of people cyclists are and how awesome everyone at ClifBar is!  215km of rolling Napa Valley roads sure go by more quickly with great company. Thanks to everyone that made this ride and day so memorable!

Getting up at 6am and starting in the dark we rode through sunrise

What a weekend at home?  Time for some Thanksgiving dinner and local racing at Harper Mountain’s Oktoberfest.  Keith, and I teamed up with our friend Chris for a 4hr enduro and had a blast on the fun trails and hanging out in the sunshine with the local riding scene.
Of course I forgot to take pictures!

And yes two days later I was back on a plane, but when your destination is the Southern coast of France in October it is pretty easy to do another trans Atlantic flight!  I travelled over for the Official Launch of the beautiful Orbea Oiz (raced the protype at MSA) at the Roc D’Azur Mtb festival.  I’m so excited about this bike so was more than happy to head out on the trails with Julien Absalon and a group of journalists from all over Europe to test out the bikes. 
Orbea Oiz

Roc D’Azur is a fabulous event drawing over 18 000 riders to Europe’s biggest mtb event.  There are races for all ages and distances as well as huge expo areas for bike industry promotion (Picture a combo of Sea Otter and InterBike with beautiful weather and scenery!

It was so much fun  riding on the course with Julien and others excited to push the Oiz’s limits.  As we were out an amateur race went through.  The double takes and near crashes as passing riders realized Julien Absalon was with us were hilarious!

I have been totally spoiled by Orbea with this experience and now they are going to have to deal with me wanting to come back every year.  Saturday at 9 I race through 44km of hills, down rocky loose descents and up tough fire road climbs, along twisty forested singletrack and the Ocean, down and up stairs, through sand, over floating bridges and all in just over 2hrs.  Should be an adventure.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Recently this article appeared in the Globe and Mail

I wanted to correct a wording in this text.  The author chose to use the word overtraining, not the word I would have chosen which was under resting.  To some this may seem an insignificant difference, but it is actually quite significantly different.

 My training plan was solid, but my desire to improve made me feel doing more was important, because all high performers feel there is always something they could be doing better.  We are rarely satisfied with good. I feel I sacrificed some of the quality of planned rest days/weeks and probably started training too intently too early, but again this is hindsight and there are SOOO many factors.

Pendrel now believes her problems involved overtraining and not handling the pressure leading up to the Games. She blames no one but herself. “I was healthy and I was fast. I just wasn’t as fast as I needed to be. I just reached a point where I just wasn’t getting faster.”

When you are training through normally key events like world cups and always looking ahead it is easy to put the blinders on to the present.  You aren't expecting to feel your best till the big day, but are confident you will on that day.  Basically it came down to giving 98% or 102%.  98% wins medals, but it is easy to push for 102% with the desire to win.

Running the strip (A gift of the Interbike Experience)

7am Vegas run, bright lights fading to the rising sun
While friends break fast under the Eiffel tower
Sinatra dances across still water
Through Venetian canals Gondoliers row lovers
Most others asleep under covers
Despite yourself you smile up in wonder
As a roller coaster glides over New York