Hello from Germany!
It's been quite some time since I last updated my blog. Here's why: I write all the race recaps for the Stan's-Pivot Pro Team website and I send out the team newsletters after our race weekends. So I'm busy writing anyways and struggle to find the time. So please sign-up for our newsletter if you want the latest updates in your inbox. My writing is more buttoned-up on those platforms so I still hope to post a few updates here from time to time.
This past week I met up with the USA Cycling crew for World Cup #2 in Albstadt, Germany. Since 2013, this race has landed on the World Cup schedule and despite it’s reputation as an uninteresting and not-very-technical course, the race has challenged me year after year and I’ve often traveled home afterwards beat, bruised, and broken. It was on this course last year where I ruptured my UCL ligament in my thumb, requiring surgery and sidelining me for much of the 2017 racing season.
This year the World Cup kicked off on Friday evening with the inaugural World Cup Short Track race. It’s hard to describe why this new format means so much to me personally but racing short track with the fastest women in the world was an exhilarating and unforgettable experience. It’s a American format of racing and I’ve probably raced more short track than any other woman on the start line last Friday. In fact, I got hooked on bike racing at the CU Short Track series while in high school in Boulder, Colorado. Now it’s officially a UCI discipline and part of the cross-country World Cup; without wanting to be too sensational about it, this is kind of a dream come true for me.
For the short track race I earned a second-row call-up with my 12th place finish in Stellenbosch, but I also raced an ambitious early season schedule to work my way back into the top-40 in UCI rank to secure a spot on the start line (I’m currently ranked 33rd). The course was very short, with the paved start/finish straightaway, some wide-open grass sections, and a narrow single-track climb into a steep descent back onto the grass. Luckily the rain held off for a day so the course conditions and track were fast. We started at 5:30 pm and raced eight laps on the course.
I had a good start and attacked just as the lead group began to accordion back together after the first lap. No one responded and I spent a lap of the race with a decent gap off-the-front wondering if it was worth the effort to stay up there much longer. I decided it wasn’t. (And Kate Courtney was on the front working to bring me back when I'd have preferred to see a non-North American doing that work.) So I settled in to race for a front-row (top-8) starting position from there. (The top-16 finishers from short track earn the first 16 call-ups for Sunday’s cross-country race.) Positioning in the lead group was tricky and I should have raced harder to protect a spot closer to the front where I could have ridden more efficiently. Once we started our last lap, I was in 9th position and messed up my only opportunity to move up when I overlapped wheels when we came to a near stand-still at a choke point. I put a foot down, lost some time, and could only protect the position that I was in at that point. It wasn’t a great finish but I’ll have more opportunities ahead of me in short track. The race was exciting, a good opener, and a great opportunity for racers working their way up the points ranking to short-cut the process to a first or second row starting position. For those racers who aren’t based in Europe, I believe this opportunity at each World Cup will help level the playing field.
But a good starting position isn’t everything, and I was just off from the start of Sunday’s cross-country race. The conditions were unbelievably challenging and I don’t think any racers finished without crashing at some point. I went down three times in the first two laps, lost my nerve, and played it as safe as I could from there on out. At one point I checked my position as I headed out for another lap and saw I was in 39th. That pissed me off so I didn’t look up at the timing board any more. I was riding the “B” lines but overtaking riders on the climbs. When I rolled across the line in 27th, I was mostly relieved and a little annoyed at Albstadt. I feel like we still aren’t getting along very well even though I keep showing up with an open mind and a willingness to work on things. Needless to say, I’m happy to move on.
Huge thanks to Michel, Jason, and Jen on this trip. These conditions were tough on everyone and everything--our bikes, our bodies, and our minds. Erin Huck traveled home before the race after severely fracturing her hand during training. It’s a good reminder that simply starting a race in good health isn’t something to take for granted. Heal up Erin!