Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sea Otter Classic 2015

 Getting the hole shot at the beginning of the short track. Photo: Etienne

Specialized hosted another Lemonade Social on Saturday after the cross country with the Specialized Women Photo: Etienne
This year's Sea Otter Classic was the most success one yet.  This year marked our fifth anniversary of running the Little Bellas national camp at the Sea Otter Classic.  It just seems like it keeps getting better and better over the years.   My Sea Otter Classic began on Wednesday when Specialized Women launched a new bike, the Rumor 650b.  The Specialized women, Kate Courtney, Hannah Barnes, and myself joined a great group of female journalists to ride and check out the new bike.  I was thoroughly impressed with how well all of these women rode.  It was supposed to be an easy ride, but it was hard to hold back with all of these ladies pushing it.  It was a blast.  Kate and I also got our new matching national champion kits, and we got to wear them together.  This is probably the best kit I've ever owned.  I was so excited about wearing it for the first time that I only went on an hour spin, but I probably wore the kit for a total of three hours.  There's something about literally wearing an accomplished goal.  I'm really proud to be wearing the stars and stripes on my back.

Friday was the first day of our Little Bellas Sea Otter camp.  The little ladies lined up to watch the women's short track race.  This was twenty minutes of short two minute laps around a flat track with a mixture of pavement and dirt.  The nature of the course made it a really exciting and tactical race, and the Little Bellas cheered for me every lap.  There was a group of about ten ladies riding together with some attacks going off in the twenty minutes, but nothing really stuck.  I was towards the back of the group trying to recover and follow wheels.  Then, in the last three laps, I made sure I was in a better position at least in the top three of the race so I was able to respond to attacks.  I timed it right and followed an explosive last lap attack by swede Jenny Risveds.  I followed her wheel and so did Australian Bec Henderson.  I was able to hang on, and I got to stand on my first podium of the season in third.  I am thrilled to get this result in front of the Little Bellas and at such a big event as the Sea Otter Classic.

After the short track, it was time for my favorite event of the season, the Little Bellas lemonade social with the pros.  Every single year, I am completely humbled by how many pro ladies show up to answer questions from the girls and sign autographs.  Every pro rider's time is in high demand at Sea Otter Classic with each minute taken with marketing initiatives, events, or racing.  The fact that each lady carves out an hour for the Little Bellas is really moving.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by such great women and role models on the mountain bike circuit.  We answered questions about everything from our favorite food to who inspired us to start riding.  We learned that avocado was a popular favorite food.  One of our little bellas gasped in excitement when one of her favorite foods was also Chloe Woodruff's favorite.  Kaylee Blevin's brother inspired her to ride.  Kate Courtney started riding with her dad on the back of a tandem with a pancake reward at the end.  The Little Bellas got to see what a world champion jersey looks like when Catharine Pendrel showed up.

Last year, Maghalie Rochette challenged me to a rap battle at the lemonade social, and we ended up battling at the World Championships.  This year at the lemonade social, Maghalie came prepared with some amazing rhymes to officially challenge me again to another rap battle.  I was extremely impressed, and the Little Bellas loved it so much that they kept asking for more.  So, Kate and I rhymed a verse from our World Champs battle, and then Kate, my secret weapon, dropped some fresh verses right off the top of her head on the spot.  It was amazing, and, with all of the fifteen pro women and their personalities, the Little Bellas were completely entertained for an hour.  This is not an easy task with eight year olds.  I didn't think it could keep getting any better, but it does.

 The Little Bellas Lemonade Social
 Kate shows off her wounds from a tumble in the short track
 The Specialized Women Lemonade Social
 Hannah Barnes signs a jersey
 Sea Otter STXC
 Kate making it happen after I got the hole shot in the short track
Teamwork makes the dream work in the STXC.  Kate and I work together. 
I raced the XC the next day, and this race is much longer than the normal XC races that we do.  We raced two eighteen mile laps on the dusty, exposed course.  It was windy so hiding and recovering in a pack was key for the day.  My legs weren't feeling up to snuff on the first lap, and I thought it was going to be a really long day.  I got dropped from the lead pack of nine riders on two separate occasions on the first lap and then clawed my way back up to the lead group.  I was with the lead group for half of the second lap until a crash separated the pack and I was caught on the wrong side.  I started to come around  at that point in the race, and I bridged up to the chase group.  The three of us started working together to catch the lead group until I popped off the chase group in the last fifteen minutes of the race.  I rolled across the line in eighth place in a two and a half hour race.  This was a solid effort considering how I was feeling that first lap.

Now, I'm catching my breath back in Santa Cruz, and beginning a great training block in earnest until the first world cups towards the end of may in Europe.  Let the training begin!

Onwards and upwards!