Sunday, June 9, 2013

World Cup Openers

 The essential Specialized Staff, mechanic Dylan, Team Manager Benno, Soigneur Christine, and Soigneur Peiter.  We ride for Burry, our late teammate that was taken away from us too early. We are racing inspired for you Burry. 
The start at the Czech Republic World Cup.  Can you find me?

I have now completed the two World Cup openers of the 2013 season, and I am currently preparing for the third round in Val di Sole, Italy.  The first World Cup was in Albstadt, Germany, and there were a handful of really exciting things that happened during that race.  First, it was my thirtieth birthday, and I got to race myself into a new decade.  Team Specialized sang me a hearty happy birthday in the morning before the race, and a random german stranger came up and gave me the paper.  Maybe it was a way to remember my birthday? I'm not so sure.  Then, to my absolute surprise, I was standing on the start line with five minutes to go until the gun went off, and the announcer wished me a happy birthday.  This was so cool.

I would say I had a solid race, but it definitely wasn't my best world cup.  I was feeling good but not phenomenal, and the Albstadt course had absolutely no mercy.  There were steep climbs and even steeper descents with nowhere to hid and very little time for recovery.  I got a boost in the middle of the race when Marianne Vos, cycling's most decorated racer (two time Olympic Gold Medalist, multiple world champion on the road and cyclocross, just overall amazing rider who is now trying out mountain bike racing), caught up to me.  We rode together for most of the third lap where I was just observing and soaking it up like a sponge.  I passed Vos to lead down two of the descents and then she fired back when she dropped me up the next climb.  I would have love to hang on to that wheel for the remaining two laps, but my legs didn't quite have it on the day.  Vos went on to notch a respectable eleventh place, and I finished a solid 17th.  Thank goodness it only started to rain on the last lap of the women's race because it made the already technical course pretty sketchy.  The light precipitation made the stone armored trails like ice.  I was grateful to make it out unscathed and I had an inkling that world cup effort wake up would translate into peppy legs the following weekend.

I was right!  I was SO excited for the next world cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic on what is possibly my favorite course.  Last year, the Czech world cup served as the third Olympic qualification race, and I crashed about 200 meters into the race on the pavement.  I was very lucky to get up from that crash with all limbs intact and just a couple of burn holes in the jersey and related scars.  Thank goodness!  Very lucky.  So, this year, I was a bit nervous about the start and I wanted to shake those demons.  The start went way better than expected.  I made it off the pavement section, and my legs felt great so I was able to move up on the start loop's steep climbs to ride in the top ten.  I could actually see the front of the race!  Do you know how exciting this is? To be within contact of a world cup win is completely enthralling.  This is, by far, my best world cup start of my career, and I am so thrilled about this because it's something I've been working on improving.  It makes racing for the world cup podium so much easier since I'm not playing a game of catch up the entire race.  I kept a steady pace and battled with two other riders for 5th, 6th, and 7th position.  On lap three, I was feeling phenomenal and briefly dropped my fellow racers in what was looking to solidify fifth position.  But, after that effort, I faded a bit in the last two remaining laps to end up eight.  My friend, Katerina Nash, used her Czech power and what seemed like the entire country cheering for her (seriously, the Czech fans are incredible.  The amount of noise was comparable to the Olympics) to pass me on the last lap.  I'm still so happy because this is my best early season world cup yet.  Things are starting to click and I'm pumped about the rest of the season.

Michal Cervany took some phenomenal photos from the weekend.
 Look at all the spectators in Albstadt.  Wow!
 A new perspective from photographer Michal.  Albstadt, Germany
 Navigating the technical descents in Albstadt, Germany
 Working the SRAM 1x11 up a climb, Albstadt, Germany
 Here's photographic evidence that I was, at one time, ahead of Marianne Vos

 Feedzone Action in Albstadt. 

 I got a new female teammate this season, Tereza Horikouva.  Welcome Tereza :)
 Teammate Todd Wells navigate the Albstadt crowd. 

Suffer face in the last two lap of Czech World Cup. Ooo.