Monday, August 22, 2011

Raining Champagne at World Cup Finals

Phew, what a world cup season!  This year was a career best season for me with 3 world cup wins, 2 seconds, and a win at the Olympic Test event. Yesterday the World cup season wrapped up with me finishing 2nd overall.  This goes to show how amazing a year 22 year old Julie Bresset has had equalling my 3 wins and 2 seconds, but also never finishing worse than 4th.  I had an incredibly consistent season and for the first time this weekend won World cups back to back, a great mental and physical challenge.

After a few days in the Czech republic visiting with Katerina's parents the Luna team drove to Val di sole Italy for World Cup finals. The weather was hot and sunny all week and the organizers had made some nice changes to the course from last year.   Steep climbs were still the dominant feature of the course, but the descending had also been extended so that the course felt more balance between time spent going up and down.

After last weeks win I was feeling upbeat.  I knew the WC overall was pretty much out of reach, but that i could still go for another win. Last year in Val di sole I finished 2nd in a sprint with Maja.  I knew I could go early and hard on this relentless course and be successful.

Some early week start practice with Waldek and team Canada helped me move into a great position early in the race, wasting no effort getting to the front and from there I was able to solo away.  A race for 2nd-4th developed behind me between Julie Bresset, Gunn-Rita and later Maja.

Everything was looking good.  I was steadily pulling away bringing my lead up to over a minute when I had one of those Kika moment's similar to last lap in Mont Sainte Anne.  Loosing focus? or at least loosing my front wheel I went down hard on a seemingly innocuous corner.  The sound of my bike hitting the ground was gut wrenching. I thought for sure I had taco'd a wheel, but it was just the sound of my stem being forced crooked.  I tried to straighten it, but wasn't able to.  I reached for my tool, but it had flown from my pocket and was gone.  I hopped back on my bike, but my handle bars were so crooked I would for sure crash again.  Back off. Another reef on the bar with the wheel between my legs.  Straighter?  I hoped back on and cautiously rode to the tech zone where Zak was able to speedily straighten my stem as best as possible with me anxious to get going again.   My lead had shrunk to 15 seconds.  Dread.

Team canada staff was all over the course giving me time splits, so I knew I was still gaining on the climbs and had clawed back 3 seconds heading into the final lap.   I was desperately afraid that Maja would spring across to me from Gunn-RIta's wheel and close the gap in one climb, but I was able to fend them off and extend my lead to 30 seconds by the finish.

It was such a relief to cross the line, to have fought back for the win and triumphed and to have done my best to finish the world cup with Strength.  Maja took 2nd ahead of multiple time World Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle and Julie Bresset rode in to finish 4th.  Team Luna and Canada claimed many top 20 results on the day and we are set for our final preparation for Worlds in Champery Switzerland in 2 weeks.

So now a couple days in Italy and then we're on the train to Champery.  Whooo Whooo

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nove Mesto Na Morave World Cup

The first time to an unknown country and venue you never quite know what you will get.  In Czech we got a fantastic course, a well run race and amazing crowds which rivaled those in Quebec during the World Championships.  With riders like Katerina Nash and Jaroslav Kulhavy hailing from the Czech Republic it's no wonder.

After three solid weeks of training at home and in Europe, lots of driving across Europe and having Keith going home, i was feeling pretty tired and worn down.  My legs felt good, but I wasn't sleeping that well and knew that mentally I would have to be extra prepared in case the race didn't go the way I wanted it to.  That if I had a mechanical, a crash, got passed by too many women, that I would have to be able to regroup quickly.  Mental fatigue can cause most of the inconsistency you see in race results.  But I had a great sleep before the race and woke up with good energy.

I wanted to win here, not just because I always want to win, but because I want to win the World Championships and don't want people thinking that I won because the actual fastest women this year (Julie Bresset) has to race under 23.  Winning at these last two world cups could show I am the fastest woman during the 2nd half of the season.

I liked the course.  It reminded me a bit of Revelstoke, BC with loamy forest floor and lots of roots.  The descents were like pump tracks, the climbs wide, but wooded and rooty and some small rock garden obstacles were added in for variety.

We raced 6 laps plus the start loop.  I had a good start, immediately grabbing Eva Lechner's wheel.  Into the first descent I was 6th wheel with Julie leading, but as I had guessed this was too far back as Julie started pulling away and I was trapped a couple riders back and lost 15 seconds by the time I could clear traffic and reach the start finish.

Into chase mode I tried to claw back the gap.  By mid lap I had contacted Julie.  I trailed her into the descent and up the trickiest climb where taking an alternate line I passed her.  She didn't want to give up the lead though and raced me into a drop with us both airing off of it at the same time.  Pretty exciting.  Back following it was all good till we hit the rock gardens and I forgot how to ride my bike and lost 18 seconds with 2 awkward screw ups.

Chasing again and now with Irina and Eva chasing me hard.  Argh.  Mental regroup and chase.  Eva was gaining on me on the first climb, but the pace was too much and she had to back off.  I held steady and one lap later I was reeling in Julie. By the main climb I had caught her at the base and seeing she was fading I  attacked immediately.  I looked back at the top and had a good gap.  I built the gap to 35-40 seconds and held it for the rest of the race with Julie holding onto to second and Irina taking 3rd.

Katerina had an emotional 13th place finish in front of the home country crowds and Georgia followed her in in 14th.  Canadian women had a great day with Emily taking 8th, one position ahead of Marie Helene who was struggling with a sore stomach.  

So I have moved closer to the overall lead, but it would take another win by me and  Julie finishing outside the top 8 or 9 to get it so I may have to settle for another good single day and hopefully a great World Championship.

After the race the Luna team travelled with Katerina's family to her hometown of Prachachice for 2 days rest in the country.