September 02, 2010

Windham in Words

So much happened this past weekend that I will not be able to cover it all. It really was an amazing experience though and my race was just a small part of it all. I submitted a petition to race the Windham World Cup Junior XCO in July, thinking I had a few good results, but not much of a chance of actually getting to race. Each country only has a few discretionary slots available and I knew that I was far from being one of the 5-10 best kids in the country, so when I got the e-mail from Gully saying I was in, I was shocked, but definitely excited. I got over to the mountain on Wednesday and stayed until Sunday. The week leading up to the race was odd, my mind wasn't nervous, but my body was. I got three pre-ride laps in before the race and on one of them, I was passed by Julian Absalon on a muddy, technical uphill. The Frenchman said "hi" in English and didn't give me any attitude about being associated with Scott, the sponsor of his main rival, Nino Schurter.

When race morning came, I was relaxed and excited - ready to go. Warming up, there was a fantastic camaraderie between all the USA and Whole Athlete guys. For most of us, this was our first World Cup, or international race and we all knew what we were in for. I had my first ever call-up and got a sweet last row spot (I wouldn't want to hold anyone up!). Everyone was amazingly relaxed at the start. We had pre-race instructions read to us in three languages (one of them was French...but there were no French riders).

Okay, so on to the bike race: The gun went off and we were at the singletrack in no time.
On the startline

Heading up the first climb 
An unlucky Whole Athlete racer broke his chain right off the gun. That is just a testament to how quick the acceleration was. Despite having only 19 starters, there was a bottleneck in the first woods section. I was surprised how long I was able to keep sight of the main group, I thought for sure they'd be gone after five minutes. The sweep moto (or lead moto for the girls) rode behind me for the first lap or two so I couldn't just give up and stop. I felt like I was holding him up, so I tried to ride fast. Eventually the main group did disappear ahead, but a Hungarian was riding steadily 15 seconds ahead of me. My plan was to keep that gap until the last lap or two and catch him. On the third lap, I'd pass him walking his bike with a mechanical. Earlier on lap two, as I had feared, a Junior Woman caught up to me. The Chinese rider was a steady climber and a decent descender. I had seen her coming up on me for a while and when she finally got close enough, I just pulled over and avoided any chance of sketchy passing. I rode with her the entire decent and she slowly rode away on the third lap's climb.
Headed down through the fun singletrack
The fourth lap was tough, but easy knowing the end would come soon. Cramps were coming on. I had many friends, teammates, people I didn't know and course marshals (USA, USA!) cheering me on, which was pretty cool. I crested the hill, excited to pin the downhill and finish. About a third of the way down was a fast rock section. The preceding laps I went a little slow through it, but this was the last lap, so pin it I did...and slice my sidewall I also did.
Flying through Kabush Falls

 It was unbelievable how many Pro's flatted on that course. Nothing is crazy technical, but there are some fast sections. Going fast is good, but being smooth is also helpful. No problem, I brought a handy-dandy CO2 inflator. I loosened the valve...the whole valve - the valve core. At that point I just decided to run the technical sections and ride the rim on the grass sections. I didn't get passed since I was the last rider on the course (two kids were pulled with mechanicals). UCI records lap times and it looks like I only lost 3-4 minutes on the fourth lap, based on my other lap times. So, that was the race. 17th out of 19 starters. I will probably talk about the other happenings later. See my last post for some pictures.
Thanks for reading,


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