Well houffalize was a pretty amazing race! It was short and hard with a start loop of about 15minutes plus three full laps. The course sends you up a 16% grade climb for the first 700m -yes it is painful- before sending you into the woods. This year was dry and the woods were fast and a lot of fun.
Up the start climb I worried I hadn’t dug deep enough as it appeared the leaders were away, but then I could see a group of 4 including Irina Kalentieva just ahead on a switchbacking climb. I made an effort to join that group and sat in to conserver energy until the start of the next lap. Before the technical climb I could see Eva Lechner and Ren Chengyuan ahead. I jumped from my group to join them. Ren surged ahead, in what I now recognize as her trademark style of standing up for an entire climb. It was brutal to stick with her, but she took me past feloow Canadian rider Marie Helene and finally up to Marga Fullana and the very front of the race.
Next lap Ren started paying for her effort and faded on the singletrack climb. Unfortunately she was 2nd wheel to Fullana and by the time I found a place to pass in the woods Marga had a good gap. My goal that lap was to regain Fullana and thanks to the descents I was able to do it.
The previous lap I had heard her manager tell her in Spanish to attack on the climb from the finish last lap, so when she tried to get me to pull through I told her bluntly that I wouldn’t because she was going to attack me next climb. It worked and I was able to hold her wheel for a fast climb up the pavement. I was with her through the technical climb, but a gap opened on the next climb. I dug deep and hoped the descents would put me back on her wheel.
Although I did close on her it wasn’t enough. I pushed so hard on the last climb I felt like I had knives stabbing my legs, but she stayed ahead and claimed the win by 14 seconds.
The crowds were amazing, especially last time up the switchback climb when I was chasing Marga down. It was loud, exciting and awesome. I don’t think tasting the world cup podium will ever get old!