Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Organized Chaos:Houffalize to London to Sea Otter

Life has definitely felt like a bit of a whirlwind the last few days  It always does in the spring.  Travel seems it’s most intensive and nerves are high with the excitement of a new season and the uncertainty of winter’s form translating into racing results.

Since Houffalize the women of Luna and Canada have been busy.  Our race finished by 1pm on Sunday and by 4 we were en route to Brussels to catch a flight to London.  This was made more chaotic by the fact that I did not finish with podium, press conference and anti-doping until 3 and then had to drive back to our place to shower and eat.  Being spoiled however, I have an awesome support team that had a hot waffle for me post-podium (thanks Waldek, you think of everything!) and the option of flying without a bike as they drove my bike to London so I could go with just a carry-on.  There was no time for a recovery spin, celebrations or phone calls home.  Quick texts and a recovery regiment of sitting in cars and planes were prescribed.

On Monday we were at Hadleigh farm in Essex, England to check out the changes made to the Olympic course.  It was pretty cool to be analyzing lines through a rock garden with all of the fastest riders in the world.  Marie, Emily and I went out for a couple laps together which was fantastic, although post-race sleeps make me hazardous on a bike and I made the call for a short training day.

Monday night we finally got to relax for a bit and celebrate the Houffalize victory 
Left to right Luna mechanic Chris Mathis,  Luna Manager (& top notch TCOB man) Waldek Stepnioski, Team Canada mechanic Scott Kelly and my Coach Dan Proulx  

Tuesday, Emily and I were back out on course racing each other through the A & B lines and into corners for a better appreciation of how the race may play out August 11th.  The course is fast and a lot of fun with several gap jumps and rock drops as well as switch backing and power climbs.  Since the test event, there have been some significant changes with a climb being extended, the base on the main climb altered, 2 rock garden descents added and the course widened for passing.  I think it is a challenging course that will test the riders physically and technically and be an amazing show to watch.

Once again I sit in an airport, this time on my way to Sea Otter, feeling so incredibly lucky to have the support of two amazing teams, Team Luna and Team Canada, my family, to be able to call myself an Olympian, and to be inspired to pursue excellence in sport daily.  Dan, Waldek, Chris, Zak, Keith, mom, dad, Geoff, you guys are a huge part of my success on the bike.  Thank you.

Olympic trivia

Today, April 18th marks 100 days till the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics. 

Here and some interesting Olympic facts gleaned from “The London Evening Standard”

The Olympic rings represent 5 continents.  Every nation’s flag contains one of the colours of the rings. Since 2008 I have raced on all 5 Olympic ring continents Africa, Asia, Australia, Pan America and Europe.  I guess Antarctica is not included… but I’m okay with that!

During the depression the shooting events were timed with the start of track events in order to save on bullets!

Poodle clipping was part of the 1900 games in Paris. 

There will be almost 15 000 athletes competing in London

Only 5 people have medalled in both summer and winter Olympics.  Canada’s Clara Hughes is one of them.

The doors to the Basketball stadium were made extra large!

Anyone caught streaking during the games will receive a hefty 20 000 pound fine

Gold medals are made of gold plated silver

Rainwater collected from the roof of the handball facility will be used to flush the toilets there.

More than 1 million pieces of sporting equipment will be donated to charities after the Games.

Houffalize; A Classic in World Cup mtn bike racing

In 1992 Canadian mtn bike legend Alison Sydor won the Houffalize World Cup. One of many times in her storied career that she would set the bar high for Canadian women. 20 years later, that same honour was being presented to me.
A unique podium gift. Can't say I've ever won meat before. Ham of Ardennes anyone? (all photos by Rob Jones:

Houffalize has always been a special event. Before I ever raced there myself I had watched the documentary “Off Road To Athens” and wondered what it would be like to race such an historic classic. Not only was it known for it’s steep descents and steep cobbled climbs that raced you through the small Belgian town of 5000 people, but it was known for it’s huge spectator turn-out, fresh course-side waffles and La chouffe beer. Hot waffles and beer always make for enthusiastic spectators.

 Houffalize was the first World Cup I raced as part of the Luna Team, earning myself the nick name “John Deere” as I surprised myself by racing into 2nd position early in the race, leading a group of World Champions (Gunn-Rita Dahle and Irina Kalentieva) and 2 of the most experienced women in the race only to not-surprisingly bonk spectacularly and navigate my way through stars back to the finish line. But what an amazing thrill!

I have definitely become a more experienced racer since my first experience in Houffalize in 2008, but the thrill of racing a tough course with good legs, climbs lined with spectators and the smell of freshly baked waffles is still the same.

The Luna team is definitely on form with Georgia, Katerina and myself all riding top 12 performances. Frustratingly, massive chain suck took Katerina out of podium contention mid race. Georgia rode to 12th from a start position in the 40’s and me; well I had an excellent day too! You can watch the race coverage on red bull. tv
Luna takes top team at the second consecutive World Cup

Team Canada’s Olympic hopefuls were also all top 15 in the women’s race with Emily Batty finishing 7th and Marie Helene Premont 14th. Geoff Kabush rode an impressive 11th on the day.
Fudge and Viper navigating the start traffic on a killer opening climb.

 Look for me in white and black rather than rainbows at the next world cup as I don the World Cup leader’s jersey!