That's what I'm going to call three podiums in three big race weekends. The podium this past weekend was an especially meaningful one as it was the first time I have won an actual medal while racing for our USA National Team. And it's the first time I've ever won a tree.
I'll admit, I had a lot of nerves coming into this race. It was a third weekend in a row of travel and competition and there were a lot of UCI Points on the line. These points, as I collect them early in the season, will boost my world-ranking and give me a better starting position at the first World Cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic (in May). And we were racing at over 8,000ft above sea level, an altitude which none of us were acclimated to.
It's hard to describe what racing at such extreme altitude feels like. Most of time, I'd get to section of course where I'd typically wind up and get ready to chase only to realize I was still gasping for breath and would have to cool it. It's like racing in slow-motion. If I'd want to accelerate, attack, or close a gap it'd have to happen in triple the time or not at all. This turned out to be an issue for me as I fumbled on a couple of technical climbing sections late in the race. There was no recovering any time from a fumble. I had one speed only.
I traveled to Colombia with my Niner Jet 9 RDO. I've been training on this bike quite a bit this year and am adjusting to the benefits of a full-suspension bike. In Colombia, despite the course's steepness, the Jet 9 RDO was the faster bike choice. The added suspension allowed me a little time to recover on the downhills and I dropped my Maxxis Ikon tire pressures to 18/18 front and rear for maximal climbing traction. I'm running a Fox shock that's custom tuned by PUSH Industries and the improvements over a factory tune are incredible. It's fun to be able to turn an adjustment knob and have it actually do something. Or to get full travel out of your suspension without sacrificing overall performance. The mountain bike world can be a tough one for petite riders, but there are some companies that make it more accommodating (e.g. Niner Bikes, Stan's NoTubes, PUSH Industries).
Racing in Colombia for one weekend is a bit of a teaser. The countryside was gorgeous, lush and it seems that Colombians really love their bikes and dogs: my kind of people. The city of Bogo-TA first came on my radar as the video below made its rounds among bicycle and pedestrian professionals while I was working in the field and actually inspired many similar events in U.S. cities (like Cyclovia Tucson!). Needless to say, I was a little disappointed we were racing Sunday otherwise I would have been experiencing the original Ciclovia.
As always, we had a pretty awesome crew representing #TEAMUSA for the weekend. The support from Marc Gullickson, Tom Neb and Bernard Condeveaux allowed us to perform at our best. Thank you guys!