A good result at a World Cup is often subjective, elusive and hard to really see until the dust settles and you've packed and un-packed your bags a few times. And maybe flown across an ocean. I finished in 17th place at the last World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. It's my best World Cup result to date (in six years of really trying) and, honestly, it's a milestone that I thought I'd have crossed a few years ago. But I've had a pretty rocky relationship with World Cup racing and it feels good to feel like I finally achieved something, no matter if it's just a top-20. I kind of brushed it off at first with an 'about-time' attitude and how I lucked out with the weather and altitude (conditions that suit me well) and a marginally smaller field size. But it doesn't matter. I had a great race. I even successfully rode the jumps (and didn't let them terrify me) and executed a few technical passes that even impressed a few spectators. And I made about 0:05 seconds of Red Bull TV coverage, which completely makes waking up at 2:30 am worthwhile for TJ, my parents and a few good friends and fans. :)
There were a few things that really stood out about this past trip. For one, we were a small group representing #TeamUSA that consisted of two U23's (Sepp Kuss and Keegan Swenson) and myself. For staff, we had Julia, Michel and Marc. The second thing, is that we didn't have WiFi where we were staying. This meant we read a lot, prepared and cooked meals together, and even pulled out some Swiss-style board games to try out. The initial stress of being disconnected from WiFi wore off after a couple of days. If fact, the days leading up to the race were incredibly relaxing.
The race course was fantastic. It was technical, had great flow and was incredibly hard with very few sections to recover from efforts. There was more pedaling involved than just about any other course I've raced on (race courses can be extremely tough without a huge amount of vertical gain/loss per lap). During my first day of pre-riding, I tagged along with Catharine Pendrel and a small group to check out the course. Catharine takes a very analytical approach to her pre-rides and it's pretty neat to see her process of riding different lines, timing sections and talking though race strategy. I've always appreciated her willingness to share her experience with me and it turned out to be a great intro to the race course. But I hadn't worked up the courage to try the larger jump on course yet (the "Lenzerheide Cliff") and I knew I needed a little extra encouragement and support to tackle that feature.
After spinning around the venue and getting my Fox suspension dialed with some help from Jordy, I went to go find Lea to chat about the jump. Luckily, I found both Lea and Kate as they were leaving for their pre-rides and I ended up following Lea off the jump a couple of times (no big deal) which was confidence-building and helped me tackle it on my own a bit later. In the meantime, I also tagged along on one of Lea's hot laps. She dropped me handily in the technical second half of the course. Her finesse through that section of course was straight up inspiring and I wasn't surprised to see her crush it a couple of days later.
So I ended up having a really productive, fun and confidence-inspiring pre-ride thanks to Catharine, Lea, the Fox Suspension crew and, of course, Michel (the Team USA mechanic). A little bit of help can go a long ways. Thanks guys!