Sunday, July 28, 2013

National Champion!

 It takes a village, Jojo pins on my number before the race
 My teammate Todd Wells and I standing on the top step of the podium for the Short Track race
 Riding through the unbelievable LoneWolf Heckle Pit during the race.  This was one of the best cheering section I have EVER experienced

 My new bike, the 2014 Specialized World Cup Epic

I am over the moon to report that I grabbed the National Champion title last weekend.  The National Championships were back on the east coast in Pennsylvania after being held at altitude in Sun Valley, Idaho for the past two years.  I was so excited to be racing familiar terrain on the right coast and at sea level.  I've been really aiming at this title for the past two years, and there have been some close races between Georgia Gould and I.  Two years ago, I was twenty seconds away from the win, and, last year, Georgia rode an impressively strong race to convincingly defend her title.  The race was looking to be a heated battle once again, and I was really hoping to have a great ride.

Jojo and I drove from Vermont to Pennsylvania on the Wednesday before the race and I previewed the course on Thursday and Friday.  I was so excited with what I found, classic east coast technical single track.  The entire course was one big rock garden, and I loved every section of it.  There was one long gradual climb, a couple of punchy steep climbs, and a very challenging descent.  The entire course required focus and bike handling.  Specialized rolled out their new 2014 World Cup Epic and sent them to the team just in time for the race.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect because the national championship course was built for this bike.  I didn't think it could get any better than the 2013 Epic, but the engineers at Specialized have done it once again.  With wider chain stays and a redesigned frame, the new Epic is significantly stiffer and climbs like my Fate.  The chainstays are shorter and there are thru axles on the front and rear wheels so it descends like magic.  It's responsive and stiff.  This is the best bike I have ever ridden and it showed on race day.

Race day was hot and humid, but I was feeling positive about the conditions because I'd been training in the humidity for a month leading up to the race.  I had the control casing Fast Tracks on the front and rear of my bike and I was running a 1x11 setup with a 32 gear.  Chloe led off the gun, and, as the race neared the top of the climb on the first lap, I took over the lead.  It was extremely advantageous to be leading through the single track so I could pick my own lines and go my own speed.  I was leading Georgia and a big group down the main descent, and all of the sudden I didn't hear anyone on my wheel.  Unfortunately, Georgia crashed and suffered a front flat tire which took her out of the race.  I finished the first lap with about a thirty second gap on the chase group, and I put in a big effort on the second lap to try to extend that lead.  I focused on being smooth over the rocks and accelerating, and I extended my lead the remaining four laps.  I was very cautious especially the last lap because I didn't want anything to get in the way of nabbing the national champ jersey.  I crossed the line overjoyed!  It was so great to have my dad and jojo cheering me on during the entire race, and the Specialized staff's support was phenomenal as usual.  It takes a village to garner a stars and stripes jersey and this race was no exception.  From the team mechanics dialing in the new bike, Jojo handing me a cold bottle every lap, and my dad giving me time splits, everyone made this happen.

I am so proud and excited to be wearing a new stars and stripes kit at the next race, the Catamount Classic.  This race happens to be the finals of the national series and also happens to be in my backyard. I get to debut the jersey in front of the Little Bellas and my home town.  Life is good.

Thanks for the support!

Lea