Monday, May 30, 2016

Ouchy

 There were my spirit animals in Germany that I visited every day. 

 The view from the La Bresse course was a pretty one. 
La Bresse World Cup
It was the best of times, and it was the worst of
times.  The third world cup of the season
and the last Olympic qualifying opportunity really was all over the
spectrum.  I was feeling really good and
confident leading up to the race the week before.  Since I already had a world cup effort in my
legs from Albstadt the weekend before, I tend to do better.  I build on effort to effort.  I was sitting in a great position in terms of
Olympic qualification.  To qualify
automatically for Rio, I would either need to win the La Bresse world cup,
place in the top three at the La Bresse world cup, or, at the end of La Bresse
(the first three world cups of the season) be ranked in the top ten of the
world cup overall.  After I really dug
deep in the Albstadt world cup the previous weekend,  I moved up from a very less than ideal start
position and start in twenty-sixth position to eighth place.  This effort improved my world cup standing
incredibly after my trouble with flat tires in the opening round in Australia,
and I was now sitting in eleventh position in the world cup overall.  I was merely six points away from a top ten
ranking, and I really believed I had a great chance of satisfying at least one
of the automatic Olympic qualification requirements. 

The course is La Bresse is naturally technical and
steep.  The French built a world cup
course on the side of a steep hillside and it’s literred with steep rocky
chutes, roots, rock drops, and steep climbs.
This was the site of the last Olympic qualification race in 2012, and it
was shaping up to be an equally epic showdown for the two woman Olympic
team.  I was determined, confident, and
riding some great laps on the course.
Thunderstorms rolled in the night before making the course really
slippery, but I was still confident with my tire choice and bike set up.  I had a phenomenal start.  It’s about a five minute grueling start on
open pavement and then narrowing down into a singletrack climb.  I felt totally in control and was sitting in
the top five when I decided to lead it out and take up the pace a notch.  It was awesome.  I was leading a world cup.  Jolanda Neff, 2015 World Cup winner, snuck in
front of me right before the slick descent and descended like a mad woman to
put in about twenty second lead by the bottom of the course.  I came around with Emily Batty and my good
friend, Katerina Nash, and we started working our way up the second lap
climb.  I got gapped a little bit, and
the next laps, I was slowly floating out of the top five. 

On the lap four climb, the caffeine started to kick in and I
finally started to make up ground on the top five.  It was looking really good.  I attacked and dropped the girls I was
with.  Then, there’s a small descent in
the middle of the climb where one can recover a bit.  There’s a rock face rollover with a tree root
across it.  I must have come to inside
and my front wheel slipped on the root and it took me out faster than I could
even think. My left side and elbow took all the impact and I pile drove into a
rock face on the bottom.  Then,
Alessandra, a Swiss girl that I had just dropped, rode over the blind rock
unable to see that I have crashed.  She rode
right into my bike and crashed on top of me. 
We untangled our bikes, and I looked down to see a very deep gash in my
elbow.  I was in a lot of pain and just
making noises at that point.  I tried to
straighten out my handlebar and I rode one armed up the rest of the climb.  I had one and a half laps to go.  The last thing I wanted to do was navigate
the technical descent two more times with a gushing elbow, bent handlebars, and
a wobbly front wheel.  This was not
ideal.  But I did it because it Olympic
years, you do anything.  And when you
pour your heart and soul into training all year long for a number of race
opportunities that you can count on two hands, you gut it out.  I stopped at the tech zone and got my
handlebars straighten out.  I gingerly rode
another lap taking my shaken self down the b lines and playing it as safe as I
could.  I crashed at the bottom of the
last descent again but it was into soft mud.
It was okay.  I crossed the finish
line in a lot of pain, covered in mud, and bursting with emotion.  It’s scary to see a hole in your arm that
big.  I couldn’t even look at it.  The medics cleaned me up, and I went to the
hospital.  The day ended with six
stitches in my elbow and lots of scrapes and bruises, but luckily everything is
still intact.  I feel very grateful for
that especially when I still have some big races to come.  I was still first American on the day so my
second Olympic berth is looking very, very good but nothing is official
yet.  USA Cycling names the team on June
24th. 

I’m on a flight home focusing on the positives.  These stitches couldn’t have come at a better
time since I already had a little rest period planned.  I’ll convalesce and the focus is on the World
Championships at the beginning of July on one of my favorite courses ever, Nove
Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic.

Sometimes it hurts to literally have skin in the game.  The struggles and the lows make the highs so
much higher.  These races make me
appreciate how smoothly previous seasons have gone.  Time to smooth it out.

Onwards and upwards.




































Lea

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