25 May 2012 | Race Reports
World Cup #4: La Bresse, France- Race Report
The course in La Bresse has been referred to as “old-school” meaning that there aren’t any man-made obstacles and it is all “natural.” That didn’t mean it was easy- far from it. The course was a mix of grassy double track, rocks, roots. The start wound through town before heading up a steep, switchbacking climb. At the top, it dropped down through a few technical sections, traversed the hill a few times on fast singletrack, climbed up a short bit of trail and then dropped down a steep, rocky pitch and into the finish.
It seemed to rain at least once a day, but the course also seemed to dry out quickly, so it didn’t seem like rain would be too much of a factor. When I woke up to puddles on our deck on race morning, I knew it had rained quite a bit the might before- the question was: would the course dry out in time for our race, or should I race on mud tires? I decided to head down to the venue a little earlier than usual and watch some of the junior men’s race. The last downhill looked super muddy and treacherous, and I watched as numerous guys crashed or barely made it down the hill. It seemed like their tires were packing up a lot, but their bike didn’t look too muddy, so I figured the last downhill was the only muddy spot on the course.
As I headed out to start my warm-up, the Orbea team manager told me I should race on mud tires. “The juniors said it’s very muddy out there! Even worse than yesterday!” Just what I need an hour before the race- to be second guessing my tire choice. I don’t like changing things at the last minute, but they seemed adamant, and maybe they were right. I decided to try the mud tires out on part of the course. The trail was a little greasy but not too bad, and although the extra traction was nice on the steep downhills, the tires felt a little sketchier on the rocky and rooty sections. The sun was out, it was already warming up and I felt sure the course would dry out fast. I decided to stick with dry tires.
I’m not a bad starter. Really. But after the bad crashes that happened near me in the race in Czech, I was cautious at the start. Too cautious I guess. It just seemed like I was trapped in position for the whole start loop (including the time I had to get off and run…). Coming through after the 4-minute start loop, I was in 34th and had already lost at least 20 seconds on the leaders. There wasn’t much passing on the bike path through town or on the singletrack climb, but I moved up wherever I could (I even made use of a sweet cyclocross line that allowed me to move up 3 spots- thanks Spencer for pointing that one out!). At one point, I passed a women who tried to block me as she said, “there’s no room to pass here, Georgia!”
“Ok, so…don’t try to pass me back!”
By the end of lap 1 I had moved into 9th, but the leaders were long gone. The climb was so steep and slow that the difference between riding it as fast as you could and as slow as you could wasn’t very much, and that made closing gaps even tougher. I was riding well on the technical sections, and my legs felt good, but there wasn’t much chance of me making up minutes. For laps 2, 3 and 4 I was riding with Katrin Leumann and together we caught and passed a couple riders.
On the last lap, I knew Katrin was going to try to go around me right before the climb (as she had on the last 2 laps), so I put in a good effort to get into the singletrack first- I knew I was climbing a little stronger and descending a little better too. When I got to the top of the climb, I saw that I was only 10 seconds behind Maja who was in 5th. She looked tired, I put in a big effort to catch her, and by the top of the climb I was only about 10 seconds behind her (so close!) but it wasn’t enough. I rolled through the finish line in 6th- just off the podium.
I’m pretty frustrated with my start, but at the same time I’d rather have a clean race and a decent finish than potentially crash out by making sketchy passes in the first few minutes of the race. Especially since this race was the last race to determine the Olympic selection. My 6th place finish bumped me up into 8th in the overall which means that I automatically qualify for one of the U.S.A.’s 2 Olympic spots for elite women. I am thrilled to get to represent my country in London this August! Things are heading in the right direction, and I am enjoying a few weeks at home before heading to the east coast for the next round of World Cups at the end of June.