Once again I’m typing while flying. This time I’m somewhere over the southern Pacific in a Boeing 777, headed for touchdown in Sydney where I catch one last flight to Cairns, QLD for the World Cup opener (watch it live here). I’m just past the mid-way point in my five-weekend racing block and time is starting to fly (it’s like I’m missing a day or something. oh wait, that happens when you fly to Australia!). If you didn’t catch my last write-up after racing the Pan-American Championships in Catamarca, Argentina, you can do so here.
Bonelli US Cup #1 - San Dimas, CA
If you’re wondering what happened at the first round of the US Cup at Bonelli Park a couple weekends ago because I didn’t publish a report from that weekend, you can catch-up on the race over on Pinkbike. Or watch this video that Thom Parsons from DirtWire.TV produced from race footage. Thom is amazing. I asked him how many cameras he had set up around course and he laughed and said he’s a one-man show and just runs all over the course to capture footage.
Bonelli was a really good race for me, even though I didn’t execute the finish very well (okay, I bombed it). But here's what I did right: I started fast, kept near the front of the race, and even helped do some pace setting on a few downhill sections. It was a really confidence-boosting race for me after not feeling great in Argentina. While I was the only one in our lead group of five to seven on a hardtail, my Pivot Les 27.5, I had no problem handling the shifting trail conditions as rain came and went during our race. It was my first time racing the Les 27.5 and with Stan’s Valor wheels and it’s a phenomenal race bike.
Huge thanks to Bill Freeman for the following images from the Bonelli US Cup.
How I bombed the finish...live and learn.
With seven racers starting the last lap together, it was going to be a very fast and tactical finish. Eva Lechner took the lead into the first descent and I closely followed her. I didn't really know what was happening behind me but it took a fair amount of work to hold my position half way around the lap. My plan was to hit the steepest climb on course (which was just around a minute) hard to create some separation from the riders behind me. There was a technical portion of climbing I struggled through each lap after that section and I wanted to have a little space behind me (and in front) to not feel much pressure there. What I didn't anticipate was Emily Batty making a pass right before the minute-long climb. I thought it was a section where I could take a second or two to breathe...and I wasn't prepared for anyone to come around me there. So lesson learned.
Emily slowed up the pace soon after passing me where I really wanted to keep it high. I couldn't come around her on the steep, narrow climb and when we hit the next crucial rocky climb, I messed up my line, jumped off my bike, calves cramped, and just like that, Katerina cyclocross dismounted around me and Erin made a pass as well (sorry ladies for causing the separation!). Mentally, that mistake unhinged me and I didn't really recover and to keep fighting. Both Georgia and Daniela made passes shortly after and while I chased, it was kind of a half-hearted quarter lap for me. I felt like I was racing to win and then I wasn't. Oops. But overall, I was really pleased with my race and how I felt after having just returned from Argentina.
A highlight from Bonelli was having the Arizona Devo team there. It was pretty special to have my own cheering section on course and I’m incredibly proud of all our riders for toughing out their races in such challenging conditions. Most of them experienced their first ‘mudder,’ some their first UCI race, and for others, their first race outside of Arizona.
US Cup #2 Sea Otter Classic - Monterey, CA
Sea Otter is the busiest of race weekends as it’s first and foremost an industry expo and trade show. The racing is kind of a side-show to all the chaos that descends on the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, CA every April. This year both Stan’s NoTubes and Pivot Cycles launched new products at Sea Otter. Pivot released the new LES, the bike that Rose raced to her win at Fontana Short Track a couple weeks prior. Stan’s launched the new MK3 Series rims. These rims update the current Crest, Arch, and Flow by reducing weight, adding width, and updating the rim decals. It’s pretty neat to see how these product launches work behind the scenes and all the planning that goes into them.
It’s possible I took one of the biggest wins of my career this past Friday in short track. It’s big because most of our sponsors and many people in the industry were actually there to see the race. It was also big because I came out with the win in a group of five riders that included three Luna racers. The course was pancake-flat, fast, and slightly sketchy with some creative course design that included three flyovers, wood-chips, pavement, and some 180-corners. We had a field on near-50 women, which is the largest short track field I’ve seen in years.
My plan was to set a fast pace from the start to create some separation in the field and to get a feel for the course at speed. While I didn’t lead out the first half of the course, I put in a little attack right before we entered the first fly-over and the ‘techy’ section of the lap. I kept the pace high to see what it felt like at speed and exited the straightaway with a decent gap—which surprised me a bit. From that point on, I tried to race smart and stay in a position where I could respond to attacks with a minimal amount of work on the front (where I'd be providing riders behind me a draft).
Erin led out the final lap and Georgia put in a perfectly-timed attack before the first flyover (she kind of beat me to it) and I stayed on her wheel. I didn't think I had enough gas to overtake Georgia on the final straightaway before the 180 to the finish, so I figured my best chance of passing was just out of the corner. It was a very close finish and an exciting race from start to finish.
Sea Otter Cross-Country
The XC race at Sea Otter featured a new 'Olympic-style" XC course which means the laps were short and the race more visible to spectators than the previous 12-mile or so loop we used to race. The course wasn't much to write home about but that's just fine--it can still make for some great racing. What was clear from the start is that the race was going to be incredibly short (perhaps just an oversight?), very fast, and very tactical. So in some ways, it was going to be a slightly longer version of the Short Track race but with a big-ass climb.
Luna, Erin Huck, and Ren did most of the pace setting for the first couple of laps. I'd get a little dropped off the back towards the top of the climb and then pass a couple riders where it took considerably less effort to do so. Rose bridged up to our group at the start of the fourth lap and it was awesome to see her in the mix. Then I dropped my chain and spent the rest of the race chasing back on after losing about a minute of time. That wasn't ideal but I put in a good chase, felt great on my Les 27.5, and was so pumped that despite my misfortune, Rose was going to get Stan's NoTubes-Pivot on the podium!! Sometimes things happen outside your control and you just have to go with the flow. Or that's what TJ tells reminds me of from time to time...
Sea Otter was also the first race where our entire team kitted up to race. TJ had a good showing (how can you not in that kit!) in the Pro men's race and Kenny is rockin' his flippy-floppy's on the podium for his 3rd place ride on board his new Pivot Vault.
Now we are approaching touchdown in the land of wallaby's, Tim Tam's, electric ants, and other things I may or may not want to discover. Next up: Cairns, Australia!