Tuesday, July 15, 2014

National Champs 2014

The Canadian National DH Mountain Bike Championships is the highest level of DH racing in Canada and were held just last weekend at Sun Peaks Resort, BC.  Record high temperatures in the resort last weekend turned the fast course into a dusty, rowdy, hole filled track, making it challenging in its own way.
Photo credit:  CBC Photo
There was a pretty good turnout of racers and a phenomenal vibe throughout the whole weekend!  This was actually my first DH race this season on Canadian soil, so outside of all the regular faces, it was also really great to see so many young BC ladies out there racing!  I think it says a lot about the up and coming generation of women rippers in BC and Canada.
U17 ladies...future rippers!
I had been suffering from a neck and shoulder injury since returning from Europe and I was actually a bit doubtful if I was even going to be able to race.  Thanks to some amazing local practitioners and copious amounts of pain killers however, I was able to get enough relief from my symptoms to ride.

Over the weekend the course broke down considerably, but my whole bike set-up was eating up all the holes pretty well and I ended up seeding 4th during Saturday's seeding runs.  I knew I had some work to do to ensure a podium finish and so Sunday morning practice was really about figuring out where I could find those precious seconds on track.
Photo credit:  Cycling Canada
As I dropped into my race run I tried to put all thoughts of injuries aside and just give it everything I had.  I definitely overrode the course  in several sections, making a bunch of mistakes, but I cranked out those pedal strokes wherever I could to try and make up time.

As I crossed he finish line and the announcer called me into the "hot seat" I was pumped!  I  left everything I had in me out there on the track but I still didn't think I had ridden well enough to secure a top three finish with 3 riders still left to go.  When all was said and done I did hang onto 3rd place, unseated by Casey Brown in 2nd and Vaea Verbeek in 1st, who both put down cracking times.  All the ladies put down some great runs, so I was pretty stoked to take away my first National champs Podium!
Elite women's podium
Photo Credit: Cycling Canada
The men's race was pretty exciting too with Steve Smith, the favorite, narrowly hanging on to his Canadian title for another year.  It was a close race and Kyle Sangers was less than a second behind him, closely followed by Remi Gauvain.
Elite Men's podium
Photo Credit: cycling Canada
It was another great weekend of racing and great preparation for the next two world cups coming up in August.  I had hoped to make my way to a couple BC Cups over the next two weekends, but have decided to get healthy instead to ensure I am in top form and pain free heading in to Mont Sainte-Anne and Windham world cups.

Stay tuned for more...

Friday, July 4, 2014

Euro Trip Part 3 - Leogang World Cup

The next stop on my month long Euro-trip was Leogang, Austria for World Cup #4.  It was a long and cramped drive from Fort William, but there was some amazing scenery to make the journey more interesting and we also got to drive on the Autobahn through awesome to have no speed limit!
Amazing views in Austria
We had a pretty sweet set-up at Tarlack Apartments, our home for 5 days...our balcony backed onto the bottom of the bike park and we could watch the "Red Bull 26 Tricks", the "Four Cross World Champs" and the last couple sections of the DH track right from our balcony!
The view from our pad
All that awesomeness aside, it was time to get out on the course and check things out.  I was pretty pumped on the course, and conditions were pretty epic.  This was another first on the World Cup circuit for me and a course I felt would suit me pretty well. During course walk, outside of engraving the course into my brain, I was also treated to some amazing views!

There were some thundershowers through the evening before the first day of practice and it made things pretty slick for the first lap.  Unfortunately on my first run I had a pretty major crash and sliced up my hand and ripped through my knee pad.  I was a bit shaken up, but after a brief "time-out" and a change of gloves and armor I headed back up the hill.  Thankfully the track had dried up a bit and things felt a little more normal.  I ended up having to take it easy on the first day, and hoped that for qualifications I could turn things around.

There were about 40 women racing in Leogang (a fairly large field) so I had to put down a clean run to ensure I qualified.  I played it a bit conservative, but it was good enough for a top 20 finish and a trip to Finals!  It was a bit of a nail-biter watching the rest of the field come through so I was relieved when I manged to just squeak through. 
Photo credit:  Sven Martin
After a quick suspension tune from Marzocchi suspension god, Piedro, I was ready for finals on Sunday! With really nothing to lose I wanted to just giver'er and leave it all on the course for finals. The track was in pretty mint condition and thanks to heaps of Ibuprofen I was feeling up to the challenge!
Photo credit: Sven Martin
I didn't quite keep it together in my race run, and had a minor crash in the top section of the course.  I finished strong though and after all was said and done I still ended up 20th.  While I was glad to have raced in finals, I was certainly looking to better my position and am looking for even better results. This was one more step closer to gaining the experience needed to be up in the top 10.

I think over the three weeks of racing I certainly overcame some personal obstacles and pushed my envelope to gain a whole new level of experience.  I was pretty stoked to have finally made it to Europe to race, and can't wait to do it all again next year.

To help celebrate all the hard work, it was time for more adventuring in Italy for another 10 days! While there was no more racing on the schedule for our Euro-trip, there was definitely no shortage of bike riding!

Stay tuned for more...