Monday, September 16, 2013

World Cup finals: Hafjell Norway

          Luna again claims the number 1 team position in 2013

By Monday afternoon I was in Oslo and greeted by sunny skies, a beautiful 21 degrees and teammates Georgia and Dusty.  We settled into our condo in Hafjell for the week.  I liked Norway immediately…probably as it felt like home.  Driving from Oslo to Hafjell I could easily have been driving from Vancouver to Whistler…although highway speeds were much slower!

The course in Hafjell was a nice change from the now normal charge from manmade feature to feature.  I felt like I was just out riding trails…unfortunately the RedBull coverage didn’t showcase the course that well.  There was a lot of climbing and rocky descents with enough shale to puncture more than a few tires on race day. After a relaxing week of good riding and team-time including dinners in Lillehammer and Oslo I was towing the line of the final World cup of 2013.

It has definitely been a turbulent year for me, never finding my best form or confidence.  I had developed a pattern of starting hard and then fading dramatically.  My mind had not caught up to my new reality of having the speed to get to the front, but not the capacity to recover from that effort.  In order to finish the season on a positive note I had to admit that perhaps an alteration in goals was needed…maybe racing to win was not in the cards, but racing for a solid result was.  I raced to have my best performance on the day, driving every climb and accelerating through every corner, and driving to maintain speed across rough sections.

After an abysmal start where I entered the first climb 8th from last I was thankful for the extended climb to work my way into the top 10-15.  I steadily worked my way up to Katerina and tried to help bridge her up to Tanja Zakejl who sat only 85 points ahead of her in the World Cup overall, but since South Africa Katerina has been suffering with stomach issues and just wasn’t feeling healthy enough to bridge up and I went alone. 

Even if a top 3 was out of reach for me (I had lost 47 seconds already with my start) helping Luna secure the top team position and Katerina her position in the overall was a worthy and motivating goal so I set to work.

I was able to move into 7thh position by lap 2, just behind Gunn-Rita and Maja. Unfortunately I couldn’t clear Maja before the descent and Gunn-Rita pulled away, opening a gap I wouldn’t be able to close.  From there I raced in 6th until the final lap when Tanja over took me.  I was able to finish the season with a 7th place and knowing that I raced a good race.  I climbed strong, descended well and gave everything…other women were just better on the day.  I now enter the off-season (or perhaps cx season) with strong motivation and confidence for a great 2014 season.

Home for 2 nights and then Vegas and Star Crossed!

Apparently Hell for espresso is just adding milk!

Going Swiss

After World Champs in South Africa I got to spend another 2 days with team Canada taking in all-you-can-eat Sushi on the Indian Ocean in Durban, riding through Sugar cane fields and monkey havens with Maghs, David and Dan and of course the Tiger-Tiger Worlds after party.

      Sushi sandwich 

From there it was on to another adventure in Solothurn, Switzerland.  When I first raced World Cups in 2007, Sandra Walter and I stayed with her aunt and uncle in Bern for several weeks, loading up their Golf every weekend to head to the races.  There I also met the Schneitter’s.  Nathalie was one of Sandra’s teammates and her family welcomed myself and other visiting Canadians into their home.  They became my #1 cheering squad in Europe.

Below Sepp, Prisca, nathalie and Sonya

So it was back to my roots for a week with Nathalie and her family, speaking a mixture of English, French and hand gestures.  The weather was fantastic, great for rivers swims in the Aare, good rides and beautiful views of the Alps.  The Schneitter’s gave me a home away from home to make my 1month on the road fly by.

After a week of sun and 30 degrees some donner and blitz (my sparse Swiss German) lit up the sky and the rain started falling just in time for the Swiss cup Sunday.  The organizers put on a great event in Langendorf, only a 10 minute pedal from Nathalie’s house.  Rooty singletrack and fast roads to climb made it a fun and challenging course.

3 of the top 15 women from Worlds were able to make the race and I had a chance to redeem myself from the weekend before and more importantly prove to myself that Worlds was a bad day, not a representation of my current form.

I had planned/hoped to stay in the group of Ester Suss, Kathrin Stirneman and Nathalie for a couple laps and practice my group riding skills….but then I thought “attacking and leading would be more fun” so I tried that instead.  I felt great and opened a gap, which Ester Suss was able to close.  For the rest of the race we rode together.  She wanted to lead and I was content to gain confidence sitting on and ensuring I was there until the end of the race. 

Following has its advantages and disadvantages.  I got a draft, but was not able to make use of my faster singletrack speed.  This was the perfect race for me to gain confidence and try following rather than leading so I stuck to that plan.  On lap 4 of 6 I made a mistake on a climb and Ester got away, but I was NOT going to give up.  I chased her down and was surprised at how quickly I could bring her in on a climb when I stood up and hammered…she had just climbed her way to a 3rd place at Worlds.  We did another lap together and then I tried to use my climbing speed to get away on the final lap.  I was initially successful, but soon she was back on my wheel and able to sprint around me to lead the woods…exactly what I needed to do in order to get an advantage.  I chased her to the finish, but again made a mistake on a rooty climb and was not able to make up the lost time before the finish line.

I was happy to claim second in a strong field with Kathrin finishing 3rd and Nathalie fourth.  With a fun and confidence inspiring race behind me and a relaxing week with friends I was ready for World Cup finals.

Thanks Prisca, Eddy and Nathalie!!!!
Solothurn, Switzerland

Taking the tram up for a fun "recovery ride" down

Friday, September 06, 2013

World Championships in South Africa

After a disappointing race it can take longer to put up a report.  What do you say when you’re not at all happy with the results of a race and that race happened to be World Champs and you went in feeling capable of getting a medal but instead get 20th?

You focus on the positives, what was good and how that can make you great in the future.  There were a ton of great things about this trip.  The atmosphere on team Canada is so fun and supportive.  I loved going out training with the team and although I feel that as a veteran I should be the mentor, I often feel with the new style of courses that it is the younger athletes that are showing me what I am capable of!

After Peter Disera took silver for Canada in the Jr. men’s race he said he loved every lap riding into the logs (an incredibly steep log staircase that had me more than a little nervous after watching Sabine re-break her collarbone in front of me). That’s the attitude I wanted; to be excited to ride the section of the course that scared me most.  His winning attitude and that of all the other amazing riders on the team helped me get there so thanks Peter.

Before the race I had been through huge fluctuations in nerves, confidence, desire and even a day of bed rest from food poisoning or a bug, but by Friday I had great energy, mental and physical.  I felt rested, confident and ready to have a great race.

Not having the best 12 months of racing my uci points were low and I was lining up 3rd row.  The start turned out amazingly thanks to the help of fellow Canadian racer Andreanne Pichette who flew past me and I was able to grab her wheel and follow her to the front.

It could not really have worked out any better.  I was in 6th position going into the amphitheater (the sections with the drops and logs), but then I washed out on a loose corner entering the section and had to run the drop. I lost a couple spots having to get out of the way of gals on their bikes behind me, but was still in the top 10.

For 3 laps I maintained position.  I felt good, but not awesome.  Near the end of lap 3 I crashed exiting the large rock garden.  Crashing in rocks is never fun and having recently broken a bone every sensation of pain has you thinking that you broke something, but what broke was maybe my spirit.  I was tired of getting hurt of fighting back, but fighting for the front is what sport is about and nothing makes you feel worse than having given up. 

So I got myself and my bike back together to finish the race knowing that every lap I would get to ride past all the Canadian U23 and jr riders cheering me on.  It’s definitely tough to only be passed in a race rather than overtaking, to have high expectations and fall short, but every day you have to do the best with what you have that day.  That day 19 women had more so I will press the reset button and enjoy my next stop, Switzerland after some great riding and team building in Africa and before heading to Norway for World Cup finals.  Yeah, life is still pretty good.

Thanks to everyone that made the trip so great especially Sandra and Maghs for all the words of wisdom and fun times on and off the bike and Dan for creating an awesome team dynamic.
Team tough Canada at the start of the dh course.  Fun exploration on top of the mtn!

Safari.  Best moment getting our jeep stuck in bushes? or "Is that an Ant hill?  No that is an Ant hill."

Uphobia tree.  Hallucinogenic for rhinos or a fisherman's aid

Blurry all you can eat sushi post race in Durban.  First time for a sushi sandwich

Coach Dan by my side.