As I stepped foot yet again off of a plane into a perfect mid-70s California, my excitement for the racing, riding, fun, and overall experience with the team rushed me off of my feet. It was lovely to be able to return to our team house from the previous camp for a few days while we prepped for the UCI race at Bonelli. Hugs and high-fives greeted each and every one of us. As before, that first weekend race comes VERY soon, but I felt confident and was ready to play bikes! We made our way to the preride and I liked the new layout of the course for us juniors (now it was the pro course, like it should have been). The preride and race went a little something like…
"…It was a welcoming feeling to be flying back into Ontario and to arrive at the same team house as last trip. Everyone was excited to be back together and quickly resumed our old sleeping quarters. As we settled in, that familiar "oh we race in less than two days" feeling made its way back. The preride Friday morning went really smooth and I felt very well on the new course layout. It seemed like it had more elevation gain but with choppier, shorter descents that deprived you of any recovery you might have. The course also seemed to require a little more attention to technical spots. It was comforting to be back on the course with my teammates though as we were just getting ready for the week and a half ahead of us.
I knew that Simon would be bringing the rainbow stripes back, but I also knew that there would be an even deeper stacked field for this race. Race day was a bit different this time because we didn't start until 4:30 pm, so the preparation was a tad different. I spent the morning relaxing with Chris, Anders, Kelsey, and Haley until roughly 1:00 when we headed over to the venue and sat around a bit while watching Nino Schurter lay down some smack. I kitted up and worked my way into and through my warm up and the 10 minute call-up period was cracking off.
I was excited about a 3rd position call-up right behind Chris and Simon, a. position I'm definitely not used to. The race sped off and I tried keeping a safe position in the first group as we rounded the start loop and began the first lap. I practiced a little harder, less reserved start this time and my body responded surprisingly well. I was probably 10th but quickly settled myself into 5th behind Jerry again and together we strolled out of the pack behind Egan, Chris, and Simon. After Simon flatted, caught back up, and then attempted to drop Jerry and I, I was hot on his wheel. The three of us kept the throttle on and rolled on through a few dusty and demanding laps.
Simon and I began breaking roughly on the second to last lap, and at this point I was pulling Simon around the course and he had no desire to lead. So I kept it pinned starting the last lap hoping to weaken Simon and keep distance between any one else. Every punchy hill was nearly a sprint as I dumped the tank hoping the timing was good. As we approached the peak of the final climb into the last single-track, Simon gave a quick surge to get in front of me and he kept the sprint on for the last couple of hundred of meters. My counter was only enough to keep him about 10 yards out as we approached the line.
This race has been probably the most satisfying race yet this year because it gave me some great feedback and I was more than happy to give the World Champ a run, even if he wasn't feeling the greatest. I enjoyed the technical, demanding course and was very excited to see Whole Athlete taming the podium yet again. Chris had a killer race and I am glad I could join him on the podium. The support of the team and those involved are what make these races such an experience. Now, I'm off to experience the famous Sea Otter for the first time! "
From there, we made our way up to Marin County (aka Heaven of singletrack County) where we spent a wonderful few days riding behind the trail pioneer Dario for some 3-4hr extravaganzas. These rides in the birthplace of mountain biking itself reminded me why I ride…
We departed Marin -sadly- and headed down to Monterey for the Sea Otter Classic; the largest cycling event in the country at the least. It was exciting to finally partake in such a historic race and to get to experience the equivalent of Interbike. We had a beautiful home to stay in and it proved to be a nice welcome to the Sea Otter Classic. Here's my report of the race!
"After a swift 6 hour drive up to Marin, I spent the following few days soaking in the landscape and drooling over angelic singletrack. We developed a sense of how things were and began to feel like we could squeeze by as locals. Before any of us knew it, we were packing up and preparing for our trip to Monterey, for me it meant my first Sea Otter extravaganza. The venue was big, and I knew it would be, but it was really big. The opportunity to be at the event was truly awesome. We used Thursday to preride the course, Friday to connect with sponsors and see the venue, and Saturday to do some final race prep (which I for one overlooked).
The alarm clock sounding off at a wonderful 5:00 AM was the calling of race morning. We shuffled off to the venue in the dark and began warm up with a slight drizzle and a fog. I was quickly on the line, feeling anxious but confident, and soon taking off on the racetrack...which seemed like we were in cars because of how the pace erupted on the track. We made the first climb and I was in the top 10, right where I wanted. Although, on that climb and the following, I noticed a sort of lack in spark. I fought the discouragement off for a bit only to be reminded again by my legs and lungs that, "hey, I'm not going anywhere". Slowly I drifted back and back trying to grasp the next rider and the next for a few miles, but ultimately found I couldn't touch the speed I was hoping to have on this course. The lungs flatlined and the legs got heavy, there was no digging out of this cave. Trying to keep contact with riders here and there, I crawled into the finish roughly 20th.
This was disappointing because I knew I would be able to compete well for the top step because of the tactics in play on this course and the abundance of climbing. Although, I'm happy that this hit me here at Sea Otter and not at Bonelli, nor next weekend in Europe. I can take this race as a lesson on race prep and can use it for future racing. The team crushed Sea Otter and couldn't have done it without Dario and Josh's guidance. Now, it's off to Europe to test myself against some foreign competition and I couldn't be more excited!"
I am currently sitting in between the alps in Austria in a house that resembles something from The Hobbit while trying to keep up on homework and get some rest before tomorrows race. I couldn't be more excited to be here with the fastest group of juniors repping the United States.The course is very technical, steep, and punchy and should be a blast. Stay Tuned!