One month plus 3 days ago today, I was racing my first Mountain Bike World Championships in Andorra; still an experience that feels surreal. My first experience being outside of North America, in conjunction with racing outside of North America was incredible; but what seems equally as incredible is the events leading up to the World Champs.
My race season really came together this year, after 4 years filled with tons of work and perseverance, I started to really reap the benefits. It was amazing, being able to put races together with strategy and tactics; I’d replay my coaches words in my head as I played out races the way that we had together visualized.
Once the Worlds Team selection had been announced, which I had been waiting for with anticipation, I knew this opportunity was one that I could not possibly turn down due to monetary costs. It had been a goal that I had set for myself back in February, and I had to see it through. My coach assisted me in setting up a couple fundraising campaigns, and the support that I received through those efforts has humbled me, has challenged me to be more generous, and completely brings tears to my eyes! I am incredibly blessed and so grateful!
I spent the week in Andorra soaking in the experience, I was the obvious rookie. I was racing with the best in the world, in Europe, representing my country, my team, and my home state of Montana! It was an honor being part of Team USA, and I value the relationships that I garnered with my fellow teammates. As the week unfolded, the rain continued to change the track. Within a few days the course changed from dry and fast, to wet and muddy, to sticky, thick muck. Race day came and the sun shined amidst cool temps. I was number plate 55 out of about 60 racers. I lined up on the back row out of six rows. My plan was to be patient and move forward consistently and tactfully. As the race began, the damage the rain had done to the course quickly became obvious. It was a complete mess. Slower became faster; cornering was slow, climbs became impossible to maintain traction, and the tiniest mistake in bike handling was completely unforgiving. Everyone was off their bikes a lot, running, scrambling, slipping, sliding…. I just kept moving. I’d gain a spot, make a mistake and loose two. Then someone in front of me would make a mistake, and I would gain a spot or two. I continued to slowly move forward. The lap times slowed down so much, that winner Pauline Fernando-Prevot’s finishing time was 1 hr 53 min. By the time I finished in 31st, I had been racing for 2 hr 8 min, about 30 minutes longer than most cross country races.
What an incredible race though! My equipment worked flawlessly. In the muddy conditions my Cannondale FSi was the ticket, with my Crankbrothers Eggbeater pedals, and Kenda Karma tires. The support from USA Cycling allowed me to really focus on my race.
I left everything on the course that day, as I try my best to do on every race day. I had a solid race, 31st for my first world champs is nothing to be disappointed about, and I’m pleased with that result. Deep inside I know I have the ability to do better, and so I continue to stay challenged and hungry, to continue improving and learning and garnering the experience that I need to bridge my way farther up the field. Time and patience is required, but as I approach new bends in the trail, it is my job to explore where they will take me, and continue to trust that God will bless my efforts.
I am so thankful to the village who has continued to make racing my bike possible. My husband, Nelson, is so supportive and proud of me. He, grandparents, and a handful of friends have helped with our daughter Layla for my training and racing. My coach, Dustin; my team, the Stans NoTubes Elite Women; countless local businesses in my community, such as the Sportsmen Ski Haus, Able Body Shop, Access Fitness, the Great Northern Brewing Co., Whitefish Mountain Resort, and so many friends and family have all contributed in so many ways. I am eternally grateful!