And the '15 World Cup begins...

Thanks for Czeching in! Okay, I know that joke has been overused a bit, but while I'm still in the Czech Republic, I'll just keep using it. So, my World Cup race today was so-so. There were some really great parts and a couple parts I wish I could re-do. While I always have a number of mini-objectives coming into a race, a pretty big one for this race was to execute a clean, solid performance without any major f*ups. There's really no better way to describe how I manage to execute my World Cup races, my track record at European World Cups is consistent: I f*up. Obviously, there's a lot more nuance to it. For example,

Here's my report from Nove Mesto last year. Albstadt in 2014 was so disastrous that I never bothered to write about it but I still have an injured UCL ligament in my right thumb as a souvenir from that experience. In 2013, I flew home from Europe without starting either World Cup I was there to race due to a minor calf injury. The year before that my whole preparation was a shit-show and between breaking bike parts, flatting and trying to find parking at World Cups, I hardly had an opportunity to race. I believe my best result was barely a top-60. The depressing history keeps going back a few more years, but I'll stop short of rehashing that much. I've forgotten most of those races anyways. 

On my way to my best World Cup finish to date. Photo: Rob Jones / Canadian Cyclist

So fast-forward a few years, back to today. How'd I do? My result was 26th place, for whatever that is worth. But I didn't quite manage to have a clean race. I f*up. It wasn't so big but when I crashed in 21st place, near the top of the final descent to the finish, I didn't handle the situation very well. My saddle was knocked 90 degrees off center and instead of just making do and racing it out...I floundered trying to get it straight. I failed. Then I tried to cut my loses and rode it in, cockeyed saddle and all.

But why the crash? I hooked my bar on a course stake which sent me careening off to one side. It was a completely avoidable, silly mistake (and these mistakes have hurt me in the past).  I wasn't riding that section any faster than I had in practice or previous laps. So it seems my brain sabotaged my race. I had just moved up from 27th to 21st place on the last lap (which I was, and still am, pretty stoked about) when I messed up. A similar thing happened at the Bonelli race this year, where I had just moved up from 8th place into a podium spot (5th) in the last couple of laps when I made a really stupid mistake that cost me a podium spot. 

It looks like I might need to talk to a sports shrink.  In fact, I have a very wise and dear friend (you know who you are) who asked me about a week ago if I was working with a sports psychologist. I am clearly a good candidate. I can see that now.

Julia, Michel and Jan. The best support crew!

Julia, Michel and Jan. The best support crew!

Even though I didn't have the crash-free race I'd hoped for, I did a lot of things really well today, and, most importantly, in the days and weeks leading up to the start of the World Cup season. I'm still feeling very confident in my training, my equipment, and my ability to perform when I'm on the start line waiting for the gun to go off. For one, I'm riding the downhills a whole lot faster than I was a year ago. I owe a huge thanks to USA Cycling for organizing an early season training camp with Shaums March, and to Niner Bikes and Fox for getting my Jet 9 RDO race-dialed. My brain would have been even more rattled by the end of the race had I been on my hardtail. Even my Stan's Valor wheels have have an impact on my descending. I can confidently run lower tire pressures more suited for my weight due to their Bead Socket Technology and vertical compliance (which adds a little more flat protection). This isn't just lip service as I've made some big improvements in my riding this year and it's due to a combination of factors that include equipment, specific skills work and bike fit (and training in G-Form pads on occasion). I'm also more fit this year but I've been getting more fit for the past ten years while I haven't always made improvements in my descending. So that's going well when my brain doesn't interfere.

A muddy Jet 9 RDO.

A muddy Jet 9 RDO.

Travel from Phoenix went smooth earlier this week and the support from USA Cycling has been fantastic. I really enjoy these trips to Europe and that's key. Even the travel doesn't bum me out. It's tough but I like getting better at it, like racing. I still get really stressed out packing but TJ helps calm me down and not forget important things (like when I forgot my pile of chamois in 2010 and had to spend three weeks in Europe with one pair of riding shorts, which meant sink laundry every night). When in Europe, there's a lot of downtime which can be challenging at times, but the upside is that I'm resting way more than I would at home. At the USAC house, a typically day for me looks like this: breakfast at 9:00 am, training at 10:00 am, e-mail and productivity until lunch at 1:30 pm, visiting with the team as long as possible, espresso, fighting sleep with social media 'homework' for awhile, shooting for productivity, failing, getting a massage and finally eating dinner, catching up with TJ and, hopefully, sleep. Life is pretty easy over here but it's way different than my home routine and I miss my family, friends and home. That's the tough part.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to get in a bit of an endurance ride in the morning. It'll be a point-to-point ride with the team picking me up along the way between here and Prague. It's my one opportunity to explore some Czech countryside (the farms and forest are gorgeous here) and it's perhaps one of the training rides I look forward to the most each year. Sometimes you just need to work in the rides that make you happy. [Note: I did it and my ride was AWESOME. Here's a link to the Strava file]

Pretty Czech countryside.

Thanks again for Czeching in!

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Posted on May 24, 2015 and filed under Mountain Biking.