25 June 2012 | Race Reports
I Almost Won a World Cup: Race Report from World Cup #5 Mont Ste Anne, Canada
Two days ago, I came as close as I ever have to winning a World Cup. And at Mont Ste Anne no less.
Last year I had a rough race on the Mont Ste Anne Course- I had a few scary over-the-bars crashes, and some of those demons stuck around through my pre-rides this year. The course was very similar to years’ past but with a few tweaks and changes. It is very demanding no matter what the weather conditions: there are multiple steep climbs, and the rooty, rocky downhills make it tough to get any recovery. This year there were a few bridges that were so steep you had to sprint into them to make it over the top. It was going to be hard.
For a few days before the race it seemed we might actually have a dry, dusty race at Mont Ste Anne, but of course the skies opened up and it poured the night before. The rain actually seemed to help a lot of the course as sections that were loose and a little sketchy were now tacky and fast. It rained again at the start of our race, and though some of the sections in the woods got a little slippery, it never turned into full-on mud.
I knew from experience that leading going into the technical singletrack sections was far preferable to being stuck in traffic (you might assume from my last few world cup race starts that I actually ENJOY racing in traffic, but that’s not the case…), so I put in a good effort to get to the front in the start loop. As we headed up the first climb I knew Marie-Helene was right on my wheel, but I just focused on riding my own race at my own pace. After the first section of singletrack it seemed like I had a few seconds gap, and I was pretty surprised. The first time I came into the man-made rocky downhill that I crashed on twice last year I was pretty nervous and had a death-grip on my handlebars, but I made it down fine. I had a slight bobble at the bottom and put a foot down briefly, but I didn’t let it distract me- the course is so busy that if you aren’t paying attention, it’s easy to make lots of mistakes and lose your rhythm.
I settled in for the next steep climb, and pretty soon I found myself heading into the second lap with a 30 second gap. I was still pretty surprised- it was really weird to be riding by myself at the front of a World Cup because I didn’t feel like I was riding over my head or going crazy out there. Every time I would get splits it seemed like I was growing the gap, and I started to think I really might have a shot at winning the race.
I felt like I was maintaining a manageable pace, but with 2 laps to go, my legs started twinging and then began to cramp. I had to slow down and spin a little easier gear, but I still harbored the hope that I could make it in for the win. That hope began fizzling out as I came through for the last lap: the cramping was getting worse, and I had a sinking feeling as I continued to slow down. I kept pedaling, doing everything I could to maintain forward momentum, but I could see Catharine was closing down the gap. With a half lap to go I knew it was over, and when Catharine caught and passed me there was nothing I could do- I put it all out there but it just wasn’t enough.
I can’t even really explain the mixed emotions I felt. Well, actually I probably can: I was disappointed that I was SO CLOSE to the win, but I was thrilled to be riding strong on the climbs and riding well in all the technical sections. I made a few little mistakes, but nothing major- nothing that caused me to lose the race. I just had to slow down in order to make it to the finish. It sucks that I was cramping, but once it happened there really wasn’t much I could do. It was frustrating to be so close to the win, and yet I find myself more motivated and hungry for the next race. Now more than ever, I KNOW I can win a World Cup.
I want to thank everyone who was cheering for me from behind a computer screen or over the Twitter feed or while you were stuck in traffic or out on your ride. I really appreciate all your support and all your kind words. Really. Thank you.
I’ll get another shot next weekend at the World Cup in Windham, NY.