Sunday, August 31, 2014

World Cup Finals and World Championships

 Meribel World Cup Teamwork with Annika Langvad photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany
 Top of Galibier
 Photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany
Photo: Michal Cervany

I am on the second week of an awesome european racing trip.  This season is short and sweet since I missed the whole first half so it's great to get back in Europe.  Last weekend was the world cup finals in Meribel, France.  The course was awesome, had a decent amount of climbing, and was marked with a great amount of natural features.  This is good to see in a day and age when they are building more manmade obstacles and jumps.  I started on the fourth row (which is not ideal in a mass start) so I was crossing my fingers for lady luck to be on my side.  It turns out she was for the start.  I barely missed a crash one hundred meters after the gun went off and kept on snaking my way through as many people as possible.  I found myself in the top ten faster than I thought I would, and I was excited.  I could see the leaders, I was feeling good, and I was in a solid position.  Then, moments after I passed the technical zone going into the second lap, I got a slow leak in my rear tire.  I rode it gingerly for half a lap until I could get to the next tech zone for a wheel change.  I dropped to about fifteenth, which was a bit of a bummer, but I just did the best I could do with the situation.  I hammered as hard as I could and passed as many people as possible to secure a top ten finish.  I am actually thrilled with this result as I am feeling great for the World Championships. I was able to work my way back up to tenth in a fast and very competitive field.  This is something to be excited about. 

We stayed in Meribel in the french alps for five days after the race.  We had a training schedule full of alp ice baths, patisserie sampling, and classic climbs.  Literally, my coach is the best.  Officially, on the training schedule, my coach ordered me to try two of my favorite french pastries. My coach and I really get along.  Kate Courtney, my fellow Specialized american teammate, and I adventured to one of the classic french alp climbs that is usually in the tour de france, Col du Galibier.  This was a thirty four kilometer climb and truly one of the most beautiful and amazing bike rides I've ever done.  It literally felt like the top of the world at the summit.  

Now, we are in Hafjell, Norway preparing for the World Championships next weekend.  It's like Vermont here but with more water and a lot more fish.  There's as many different types of salmon that you could ever imagine at every meal here.  It's awesome.  I race the team relay on Wednesday and the main event, the cross country world championships, is this Saturday.  Today, we had a Specialized team ride on the course with our downhillers, Aaron Gwin and Troy Brosnan.  These guys are ranked the second and third best downhillers in the world with world cup wins and world cup overall titles to their names.  We took a solid hour to analyze the best lines over the entire five kilometer course. It was so valuable to get their insight and analysis on the world championships course.  Gravity racers have a different way of looking at a trail, and it's great to open up the perspective.  I had such a blast out there today, and I'm incredibly excited about racing.  Thanks to these boys, I feel like I have the course dialed, and I'm ready to go. 

The live feed link is here. Saturday. Noon.  6 AM EST.  

Send me some fast, good vibes! Thanks for the support. 

Cheers,
Lea

 I found my spirit animal, the goat
 Psyched to be on top of another alp, La Madeleine
 Kate is psyched to be on top of Galibier








 Can you tell we were excited to be on top of Galibier after a 2.5 hr climb?  We pranced around the summit a lot 


 Bananas are my midnight snack of choice and Kate made sure that she kept this one for herself.  She honestly tried to put it in the hotel safe under lock and key


 This is how you feel after racing a world cup
 Meribel, France
Not a bad view for the week in France. Life is fantastic

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hard Work Pays Off



Wow!  That's pretty much sums up the phenomenal last month of racing.  After the BC Bike Race, I returned to elite competition in earnest.  First up was the National Championships, then the ProXCT Finals in my backyard at Catamount Outdoor Family Center, then the Mount Saint Anne World Cup, and then, today, the Windham World Cup.  Having sat out of racing for the first half of the season, I honestly didn't know how any of these races were going to go.  I was a wild card to myself and to everyone else.  Andy Bishop, my coach, told me he wasn't worried about my return to competition back in the early days of recovery.  He said, looking at the schedule, that I could still pull off a great season, but I honestly didn't believe him.  It's hard to believe even my coach when I was working on range of motion in the pool and swinging my leg back and forth in the basement.  Meanwhile, my competitors are racing their bikes and putting in training blocks.  Nevertheless, I put my head down, followed my aggressive strength conditioning plan to the T, and just worked as hard as I could.



This whole comeback process just proves that hard work pays off.  Because of this experience, I also believe that gratitude is fast, happiness may be even faster, and freshness is a great thing.  I've had all of these components in ample supply.  Nationals was a truly epic and close battle between Georgia Gould and myself.  We were together the entire race.  At one point, I just thought "I am completely thrilled to be riding with Georgia right now in contention for the win.  This is so amazing".  Gratitude.  It came down to the last climb in the last four minutes of the race.  I attacked and got a small gap on Georgia and ended up defending my national championship by a mere fifteen seconds.  There's nothing like being taken out of the game to make me so extremely motivated.  This comeback win honestly surprised me and was one of the most meaningful and emotional wins of my entire career.



Here's my reaction to my National Championships Win.



I won the Catamount Classic in my backyard in front of my home crowd which again far surpassed my expectations.  It was another tactical battle, and I put in a hard charging last lap to get the win again.  I really couldn't be happier.  It was a great confidence boost to take these wins ahead of some strong competition, but still the world cups are the next level.  So, I entered the Mount Saint Anne World Cup weekend again as a bit of a wildcard to myself again. Would I be able to keep up with the world cup women's field?  In the Mount Saint Anne World Cup, I had a solid start in the top fifteen.  I ate some caffeinated Clif Blocks on the second lap and things just got better from there.  I kept saying to myself each lap, "this is great.  I'm in the top 15.  Wow.  I'm in the top 10.  Holy moly, I'm on the podium.  Oh my goodness, I'm in third place. There is literally only two girls in front of me in this world cup.  Don't freak out".  This is pretty much how it went down.  I just kept feeling stronger and stronger and found myself charging in third place on the last lap.  Katerina Nash just got me on the last climb, but, again, I was absolutely, completely, and utterly thrilled with my return to world cup racing.  This fourth place matches my best ever world cup result.



Because of Mount Saint Anne, this weekend's world cup race in Windham, NY was the first time I wasn't a wild card to myself.  I rode with confidence and higher expectations.  I had a great start sitting in ninth place at the end of the first lap and feeling good.  Then, I thought I had a rear flat tire so I stopped in the tech zone at the beginning of lap 2.  I started the lap in sixteenth after the rear wheel change and just tried to get my head back in the game and move up as much as possible.  I was able to catch a group in front of me on the last two laps and work my way back up to seventh place which I am proud of.  It turns out I didn't have a rear flat so I didn't need to take a wheel change and subsequently take myself off the podium.  This is a bummer, but, when put in perspective, riding into the top 10 in a world cup after hip surgery far surpasses my wildest dreams.



Thank you for all of the support.  This comeback wouldn't have been possible without brilliant strength workouts by Bill Knowles with HP Sports, Andy Bishop for crafting my comeback on the bike and all of the hours of motor pacing, Vermonth Orthopaedic and Brie Pike Sprenger and Emma, my PTs, for once again putting me back together.  Specialized, Oakley, Clif Bar  L.L Bean, and In The Arena for having my back during this entire comeback. Jojo, Sabe, my family, and my friends for keeping the faith alive and my spirits high, and the rest of my support network for cheering me on.  THANK YOU.  Each and every one of you deserve a national champion jersey.  I wish I had one hundred to give away.



Now onto World Cup Finals in France and the World Championships in Norway.  It's ON!



Lea



 Team Luna Photo Bomb Photo: Dave McElwaine
 The Lone Wolf Heckle Pit at National Championships is some of the best cheering I've ever experienced
 Lining Up at the Catamount Classic


 More Lone Wolf Heck Pit