Phew, what a week and weekend. Lots of hype and attention following the Olympic team announcement and receiving a new prototype Orbea bike and Fox dual suspension electronic system 2 days prior to the race had me feeling a little tuckered, but also energized and excited, if those two states can co-exist!
Zak thank you so much for getting my bike together so fast with me pestering you all the time!
The guys behind the #1 Team! Chris, Waldek, Zak
I love being in MSA with my friends, family, great trails and lots of creeks for river dips. Every year I return I’m blown away by the support from the organizers and locals. It’s one of those places that makes you feel good about what you do, that you have the potential to inspire kids to ride bikes and make Canadians proud. Many people remember seeing me develop racing Canada Cups here in 2004-2006.
Like every year, Patrice Gagnon had found new ways to change the course to keep things interesting and challenging. Already one of the toughest courses out there MSA offered even more technical and physical challenges with little recovery.
Several European racers decided to skip the travel and focus on their Olympic preparation so our field was smaller, but still deep with 5 of the top 6 from the last world cup in attendance.
I had a poor start, whether I underestimated its importance in a smaller field or just didn’t have it; my teammate Georgia detonated the field quickly opening a large gap. By the time I cleared some traffic and made it to the big rocky descent I was already over 45 seconds back. Even after I cleared traffic she continued to pull away.
The first lap was spent chasing 3rd position, Katerina, and then trying to catch Marie in 2nd. By mid lap 2 Katerina and I had caught Marie and I was able to start pulling away from the two, but as great as I was feeling on my new Orbea Oiz, I could not bring in Georgia. She was on fire and it looked like my battle would be to hold 2nd place.
On lap 4 of five I switched mind frames. I didn’t want to race for 2nd I wanted to race for the win and that meant looking for seconds everywhere. Corners were getting greasier, but the rocks and roots drier. I was loving my bike and making it work for me, locking out the suspension for 5 hard pedal strokes whenever I could and enjoying the bump absorption every where else., especially up the techy climbs and down “The Beatrice”.
Then people started giving me weird time splits. Was that really to the front or to the riders behind me? But the crowd was getting excited and when I came through the start finish I was only 29 seconds back rather than 50+. Wow. This could happen, but 29 seconds is still huge to bring in unless the rider in front is really hurting. I could see Georgia ahead and this helped me dig harder, the win was so close. By the switch back climb the gap was down to 15 seconds and people were lining the climb screaming at me to push, to believe, to go for it!
And then I was there. As hard as I knew it would be for Georgia to have the race close up in the final 10 minutes, to be pushed for the win when your body is screaming no, that is what we all sign up for isn’t it?
I raced passed her into my favourite descent, yelling “keep on it”, knowing she just had to hold on another 10 minutes to secure one of the top 2 positions that day. And she did. Georgia is one of the toughest racers I know, and as I later found out was pushing through cramping legs.
There were a lot of reasons I wanted to win that day. It was Keith’s birthday, it’s an Olympic year, a “hometown crowd”, a new bike, new suspensions system, I like to win, and I like to do my job well for my team and for myself. In the end I was able to claim the win on the day in front of a crowd that got a more exciting race than expected. I knew the guys at Orbea would be excited to see their new bike win in its first race and was excited myself to win a race from behind, not from the front for once.
L to R Katerina, Georgia, Me, Marie-Helene, Gunn Rita
With that result I am back in the World cup leader’s jersey. Georgia claimed second, Marie 3rd, Katerina 4th and Gunn Rita 5th just ahead of Emily Batty.
A shout out to Sandra Walter on a career best 16th place finish, just ahead of Amanda Sin, also of Canada who finished 17th.
Now to Kingdom trails and then Windham!