Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Off Season!

 Andorra Mountain Sculptures
 Cadaques
 Little Bellas first night ride


Can't get enough of Mediterrean water

The off season is here, and Sabe and I kicked it off in fashion with five days in Andorra and Spain.  Sabe came over to worlds to support me, and we started the 'off' season the day after the World Championships with one of the coolest climbs I've ever done.  Sabe had scoped out a climb that she only made it one third of the way up earlier in the week because it was forty degrees and raining.  One of the coldest days I've been on a bike in a long time.  So, when it was sunny, we climbed and climbed and climbed for about two hours snaking our way up a valley and to one of the most beautiful ski areas I've ever been to.  The Andorra mountains are rugged in their very own way, and they are stunning.  We rounded a switchback, and, around the corner was a massive 'O' metal sculpture framing the landscape.  I've never experienced anything like it.  We were hanging out around that and then, all of a sudden, five guys on three wheelers, what looked to be adult hot wheels came flying around the bend.  They were descending the whole pass.  It was incredibly random.



The next day we headed to a gem of a town on the coast of Spain, Cadaques.  We stopped over in a medieval village on the way called Besalu.  This town still had a castle bridge, gate, and a moat still intact.   And, it even had tiny little streets that were more narrow and cobbled than your average European town.  The whole thing was incredible.  But, Cadaques really stole our hearts.  For a town on the Mediterrean, it's relatively quiet.  It had trails etched into the side of a cliff going to an overlook (which was technical and I rode on my mountain bike and Sabe rode on a road bike).  It had a one lane paved road out to a lighthouse.  Gaudi had a home in Cadaques which inspired quite an amazing art scene there.  We spent hours wandering around the streets.  I also got to experience paella and sangria for the first time, and I was thrilled.  Sabe just kept say, 'you will never have paella like this again.  This is incredible'.  I guess we have to go back to Spain.



On our way out, we spent a day exploring Barcelona by bike.  We were lucky enough to see the Sagrada Familia, and this was the most incredible church I've ever experienced.  Gaudi set out to construct a natural experience, and he really succeeded.  I felt like I was right at home in the woods.  The church pillars branch off at the top to look like tree branches and the top of the church looks like different layers of a tree canopy.  This combined with the colors coming through the many stained glass windows is simple breathtaking.



I have continued the off season momentum at home.  I met one of my best friends at the Tunbridge Worlds Fair this week.  I've also been going on some great mountain bike rides with my sister and my coach and even got to a new Vermont swimming hole.  This was a momentous occasion.   Swimming holes are my favorite past time. Tonight, I joined the Little Bellas older ride group for their first ever night ride.  It was adventurous and a blast.  The quote of the night was, "I really didn't see that coming".  Tonight, failing to see a line or roots and rocks is actually a legitimate excuse.  We talked about our next adventure, and the girls came up with some phenomenal ideas that got me really excited.



The off season continues with a trip to California for a Clif Bar event this Thursday and Saturday in Marin county.  Let the good times roll.



Lea



 New Vermont Swimming Hole
 Hanging out with my bestie's kid at the fair was the best


 Cadaques, Catalonia Paddling
 This was one of the coolest and most exposed trails I've ever been on
 Even the door to Sagrada Familia was incredible
 That light is natural in Sagrada Familia
 Gaudi's other creations in Barcelona
 Sagrada Familia looks like a forest
 The best trail in Cadaques


 Sabe owning this trail on her road bike


 We actively had to lay down on the beach and try to rest
 Besalu
 Besalu


 Besalu
 Besalu


When you round a corner and see this!

Monday, September 14, 2015

The World Championships

 Photo: Michal Cervany
 Photo: Michal Cervany


The World Championships.  It's the one race each year where we race the same girls we have been racing all season, but everyone freaks out about it because the World Champion is crowned.  There is something absolutely magical about it.  If one wins the World Championships, the rider gets to wear a white and rainbow jersey for the entire season.  And, each world champion gets to wear the rainbow stripes on their jersey sleeves for the rest of their life.  Beside the Olympics, it's the ultimate goal.  So, it's justified to freak out a bit.  This was a main goal of mine all season, and we (it takes a village…you know who you are, coach, USAC, family) nailed it just right.  I was peaking and, since the race was at altitude, I was acclimated.  I was psyched.



I raced the World Championships relay on wednesday before the race.  This is a race where one elite man, one elite woman, one junior man, and one U-23 man each complete one lap of the course and hand off to the next team member.  It's a crazy and really fun team event especially since mountain biking is so individual all season long.  Last year at World Champs, the USA Cycling relay team barely missed out on a podium with a fourth place so we were all really excited for the relay this year.  We had a solid opening lap, and, unfortunately, our second leg got a flat tire.  This took us out of the medal race, but, luckily, I got tagged around a solid group of elite women that I could test myself against before Saturday.  I had a great lap, and my lap time was fourth fastest out of the elite women and only ten seconds off of the fastest lap time.  Everything was lining up.



The course had been dry all week long, and then, the day before the race, the sky opened up and it poured rain.  My U-23 teammate, Kate Courtney, raced in gnarly, rainy conditions.  It was epic.  I did a lap of the course while it was raining, and it was surprisingly grippy.  On the day of our race, the sun came out and turned the entire course into a jar of peanut butter.  It was so slick out there, so much so that we couldn't ride up the majority of climbs.  We had to get off our bikes and run for the first couple of laps.



The opening five minutes of the race were a dream come true.  I had a solid start, and I moved into the lead on the first climb.  I went for it.  I was dropping the field.  By the time I got to the first descent, I had a ten second lead, and I felt absolutely phenomenal.  I was thinking, 'Oh my God, I feel so good.  I'm going to win the World Championships today'.  And, then the dream turned a bit into a nightmare.  I crashed really hard on the first slippery descent, nailed my knee, and fell down a bank.  By the time fifth place passed by, I was still trying to scramble up the bank.  I finally got back on my bike, and I was still in contention.  But, the crash knocked me out of my rhythm big time, and I came unraveled a bit.  I crashed in the same spot on lap two, and then I proceeded to crash and make more mistakes than I have all season combined.  At one point, I high sided into the crowd and they lifted me and my bike back onto the course (thank you spectators). I finally figured out how to ride that section on lap three thank goodness.  But, I toughed it out for a tenth place finish.  All considered, if that was my worst result all season, it's been a good season.  And thank goodness my sister was there in Andorra to cheer me through the challenging race.  I really needed it.  After a race like that, it was a welcome change to go on a Spain adventure trip with my sister to the coast for a couple of days.  It was so much fun and a great way to decompress.



The Olympic test event in Rio is my only race left for the season, and I have a lot of fall adventures lined up.  Next up, a trip to California for a Clif Bar event, the CykelScramble.  It's going to be a blast.



Thank you so much for you support!

Lea



 Photo: Michal Cervany
 The fans in Andorra were awesome.  I signed autographs for two hours after the race
 Photo: Michal Cervany


 Relieved to cross that finish line. Photo: Michal Cervany
 Christoph Sauser, the Specialized performance coach, helps with shoe set up pre race Photo: Michal Cervany
Andorra was a gorgeous place for a bike race photo: Michal Cervany