After Bonelli last weekend, I had three solid days of training at home in Prescott before driving back to SoCal once again, but this time with TJ. The drive isn't so bad.
Fontana is one of my favorite race venues. It's an unlikely spot for a mountain bike race which gives it some intrigue and there are some kick-ass trails on Southridge Mountain. Plus, I've now raced there so many times, that the years are kind of getting all mashed up in my head. But here are some memorable events.
I first raced in Fontana in 2006 because I had a huge crush on a guy (now my husband, so I kind of won that weekend). In 2011, I won my first pro short track in Fontana. I also had my first DNF in Fontana and cried about it in a porta-potty by myself.
This year, the race played out in a really exciting way for the women at the front. I was once again a dangler and got to witness some key moves and moments, which was really exciting. You can also watch almost the whole race play out, helicopter footage and all, here. We raced 5 laps in total.
I had a solid start and entered the first singletrack 4th or 5th wheel, right behind Catharine Pendrel. Then I made a minor mistake (clipped my grip on a boulder) and fumbled off the trail and Catharine's wheel. Just like that, they were gone. Katerina caught me and together we motored up the climb, but didn't close the gap much. Then Katerina dropped me in the first switchback on the descent. She quickly bridged up the leaders while I lost more time on the downhill (so it's clear where I have some work to do!). So before lap 1 was even over, I was chasing solo to bridge back up to the leaders and didn't quite make it. Lap 2 played out in a similar way. And lap 3. I kept making contact with the leaders, only to lose time on the DH and have to chase back on. This is a very inefficient way of racing, and did not set me up for a strong finish. Erin Huck, on the other hand, came on really strong at the end of the race and had the legs to finish strong. And that's how you do it.
Katerina also raced incredibly smart. I'm not sure she was the strongest rider of the day, but she was the most tactically savvy and used her downhill skills and teammates to her advantage. She attacked leading into the final lap and her teammates sat up and waited for Emily Batty to respond. And she didn't. Then again, had she responded then either Catharine or Georgia could have countered. So, she was in a Luna-induced quandary. The lull in pace allowed me and Erin to tag back onto the back of the group. I was pretty blown at that point. In fact, I was thinking that if I had the legs. I'd do my best to get into the singletrack climb first. And that's exactly what Erin did while I suffered trying to hang on the back. And that's how Erin executed a podium-race and I settled in for sixth, which was still a solid performance for me.
As for short track, I finished in 3rd after an exciting and tactical race. With one lap to go, I had to put a foot down avoiding a girl who crashed in front of me. Katerina and Emily (who were the only two in front of the crash) made the most of the gap and I worked hard to bridge back up...but couldn't counter any of the final attacks. I was still happy to stand of the podium this time.
My teammate made her season debut in Fontana, immediately post-finals week at Stanford, which may be the endurance performance of the week. She had a mishap in the cross-country but crushed the Super D race on her Niner Jet 9 RDO with a 4th place finish. I’m really fired up to have Kaylee as a teammate this year. She’s a great ambassador for the sport and a heck of a DH’er. I want to wrap her up in G-Form pads, a Lazer full-face, and see how she’d do up against the real gravity ladies. But, for the time being, I’m very happy to learn a thing or two from her. You can follow her on Instagram (@KayleeBlev) and Facebook (/blevins.kaylee).
Huge thanks to my sponsors!
Stan's NoTubes, Niner Bikes, Castelli, Maxxis, Clif Bar, Lazer Helmets, Crankbrothers, Fizik, Oakley, and G-Form.