It's strange to sit down and write an update from last weekend's final US Cup race in Colorado Springs, CO after my first day of training on the World Cup course in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. A part of successfully racing back-to-back race weekends is becoming adept at switching gears after a race and immediately start preparing for the next event. Actually, preparation begins far in advance for big races (like World Cups) but everything needs to be executed right in the days leading up to that event. So as soon as TJ and I left the race venue in Pulpit Park last weekend, we were full-on preparing for the upcoming weekend. While Colorado Springs was important as it wrapped up the US Cup Series and had lots of UCI points up for grabs as it was an "HC" level event, the purpose it served in our plan was more of a confidence marker in the lead-up to Nationals. So we used it to confirm I'm on the right track with my training and fitness, and we confirmed that so the weekend was a success.
On Saturday, we kicked off the weekend with the cross-country race. Most of the top domestic riders were present and we even had Daniela Campuzano, Alexandra Serrano, and a couple of riders from Chile on the line. The course was fast, had some punchy climbs and a lot of loose, rough terrain--a real Colorado style race minus some serious climbing. Since I had left my Jet 9 RDO in Europe after the prior World Cups, I raced on board my Air 9 RDO on Stan's Valor wheels with the new Neo hubs. Kenny and TJ were both there for support, and my parents and sister came out to watch and cheer me on, so it was really fun to have the whole crew there.
I led out the race from the start loop although Catharine and Katerina were quick to come around me on one of the opening climbs, followed closely by Kate and Erin. I settled in as the 5th wheel and believed things would stick together in the opening laps. I'm often wrong, and pretty quickly Catharine and Katerina had established a few seconds lead and, just like that, they were gone. I tried chasing for a bit but once we entered the rocky singletrack--it was clear they kept gaining seconds.
Erin and I settled in as the chase group and traded the lead and pulls through most of the laps. I felt a little out of control on the descents but still had fun on board my Air 9. The handful of miserably hot training rides I suffered through in Prescott in the preceding weeks paid off, big time. While it was hot out, I never felt like it affected my performance and hardly paid attention to it.
With a couple laps remaining, it was clear that Erin and I were racing for third place. I wasn't really sure how I'd beat her, mainly because she seemed strong on both the climbs and descents. I'd been able to finish strong in most of my races this year so I was confident I'd have something left in the end. What ended up happening is I made a silly mistake in a technical section on the last lap and Erin got herself a few seconds advantage. I tried to close the gap but couldn't quite get back onto her wheel. At that point, after my effort, she gained a few more seconds and I just didn't have that much fight left in me. That last lap was a good wake-up call, "oh yeah, so this is what bike racing feels like!". A fourth place finish was still a solid result in an HC-level race and while I felt a little rusty, we are definitely on the right track.
On Sunday, we got to race short track. I love racing short track so I was looking forward to this particular race all weekend. The course the promoters had set up for us was pretty long and had a climb that lasted well over a couple of minutes. Katerina had already left to race the BC Bike race but it was still going to be a competitive field with Catharine, Georgia, Larissa and Rose.
I got the hole shot at the start (great World Cup practice!) but it was Rose who set the pace on the first lap. She attacked from the gun and split the field immediately. I rode second wheel the entire lap and was impressed with her effort. Rose clearly has some impressive power but I wasn't sure if she'd be in the race to the end--maybe it was too much too soon?
Catharine and Rose both spent some time at the front and I even led up the climb one lap. I believed there were a couple of opportunities to pass at the top of the course (the first half was wide open and paved, then it narrowed to double-track and a bit of singletrack). With two laps to go, Catharine went on the attack and while I hung onto her wheel, we had a small gap on Georgia and Rose. The gap didn't stick and we were all together on the final lap. I was considering attacking when Rose went for it...honestly, I didn't quite have the confidence to go so early and when Rose went I was 1) super stoked to see her go for it and 2) felt a little panicked that that was the move and I missed it. While I was able to hang with Rose, I wasn't able to pass in either of the spots I had picked out. Rose had the power to make her move stick. I made one final effort at the end but Rose had made the move to win her first short track. It was pretty awesome to see!
Erin and I ended up tying for points in the US Cup Series, for fifth. But since she beat me in the final round, she took fifth place and the final podium spot. Overall, I was pretty stoked about my performance and consistency through the series (5th, 6th, 6th, 4th, 4th).