Sunday, July 12, 2015

The European Mountain Tour

 Jumping for Joy in Switzerland on a training ride
Specialized Women are leading the world cup team overall standings Photo: Michal Cervany

The past two weeks have been phenomenal with ample time spent in some of my favorite places in the world.  The first week, I traveled to Sella Ronda in the Italian Dolomites for the World Marathon Championships.  The World Marathon Championships is a longer race than I usually compete in.  This race was sixty kilometers with twelve thousand feet of climbing.  The cross country world cups are an hour and half of racing compared to this four hour effort.  I had done the amazing Sella Ronda ride with my family about five years ago.  My sister led bike tours for Trek Travel in this region and treated our family to a trip of a lifetime.  The Sella Ronda is a huge rock massif among the jagged Dolomite peaks, and five mountain passes complete the ride around Sella Ronda.  For the Marathon World Champs, instead of climbing many switchbacks up paved roads (read: easier grade climbing), we just climbed straight up dirt roads on our mountain bikes.  It was epic and incredible.  Although I didn't feel great on race day, this race still goes down as one of my favorite experiences on a bike.  I couldn't have picked a better place to have an off day, and I still ended up in ninth place.

And, just when I thought it couldn't get better, the trip skyrocketed.  We drove over through the dolomites and the alps to the World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.  We were treated to the drive up the iconic Stelvio Pass, a climb which is one of the top on my 'to ride' list.  My sister also has guided many bike trips in this region and I finally got to have a famous sausage sandwich at the top of the climb. Lenzerheide, Switzerland didn't disappoint.  Team Specialized stayed in fantastic lodging in the town nestled by a lake and towering peaks.  The landscape was breathtaking the world cup course was so much fun.  It was unlike any other course I've ridden, packed with technical single track and flow.  In short, it was a blast, and my racing reflected just how much fun I had been having.  Happiness is fast, and I had stocked up on happiness watts for two weeks.  When it came to race time, I was ready to go.

Like the previous world cup, I had a front row start in eighth position.  This is a huge advantage in a mass start race.  Unfortunately, I came out of my pedal about ten pedal strokes in quickly erasing a front row start advantage.  It wasn't ideal but not all was lost.  I got stuck in some traffic that I desperately got around as fast as I could, and I just set out to pass as many people as possible in the opening laps of the race.  Luckily, I felt fantastic and I was able to ride onto podium position in fifth by halfway through the lap.  I was trading leads with world cup points leader, Jolanda Neff, for third position for the majority of the race.  Neff also happens to be Swiss so I felt like I was battling an entire country.  On the last lap, I attacked Jolanda on the opening biggest climb, and she didn't respond.  Then, World Champion, Catharine Pendrel appeared in front of me, and I was closing.  To have my best world cup finish twenty seconds in front of me was extremely motivating.  Halfway through the lap, I caught Catharine and passed her.  She then passed me right back so I stayed on her wheel and tried to recover for a decisive attack.  I sprinted as hard as I could in the final feed zone, and I didn't stop sprinting until I reached the finish line.  With a last lap filled with all of this excitement, I also clocked the fastest lap time of the entire race.  I am just so excited.  Combined with the women's world cup final game and my result, I didn't sleep much that night.  To clock that kind of result on fourth of July weekend, wearing the national champion kit, and to do it on the same day that the U.S women's soccer team won World Champs, it's a weekend that will be remembered.

Thank you to everyone for all of the cheering, comments, and support.  I hear you.  It makes a huge impact.  Thank you!

 Teammate Christoph, Howie, and myself were there for a Specialized store opening in Italy.  Red carpet and all
 Training for the World Marathon Champs

 Top of the final descent at World Marathon Champs
World Marathon Championships Photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany

 I LOVE mountains…especially these ones

 Team Specialized took a gondola to the top of a peak after the race and played in the snow!
 Passo Stelvio
 Lupines in Lenzerheide
 Photo: Michal Cervany

Photo: Michal Cervany