12 September 2012 | Race Reports
2012 MTB World Championships: Saalfelden, Austria: Race Report
My three weeks at home post-Olympics flew by. It didn’t help that I got sick almost immediately. I was so motivated by my Olympic race that I was ready to get some good training in at home and show up to Worlds even faster. But I had that just-on-the-verge-of-being-totally-laid-out sickness. After trying a few training rides I realized that training was only going to put my in a bigger hole. So I rested, but it wasn’t REAL rest, it was “getting over jetlag” rest. It was “maybe I will feel good enough to train tomorrow…” rest. Not real rest. That first week back included a fair amount of, as Ben puts it “recovery prevention.” Eventually I was able to get about a week of training before heading back over to Europe. It wasn’t ideal, but hey, it was all I had.
Normally I arrive at least a week before Worlds to get used to the time zone, ride the course a bunch, etc. This year I opted for some more time at home and arrived in Austria on Tuesday- 4 days before my race. Once again, Waldek managed to find us a great place to stay. We had an apartment on an organic dairy farm right outside the town of Saalfelden, Austria. It was beautiful, quiet, and only a 10 minute ride from the venue. And of course it also had the freshest milk we’ve had all season! The few days before the race went by really fast which was pretty nice- I didn’t have to do much sitting around. At the same time, I usually benefit from some extra time on the course, so I was hoping I made the right choice.
The course in Saalfelden seemed pretty straightforward: two longish climbs and two longish descents. There were a few roots and rocks thrown in, a rock drop and a pretty technical, steep and rooty section that claimed more than one rider during the pre-ride and race. I was feeling confident everywhere but the rock drop. I don’t know, something about it was just weird. I rode it every lap in the pre-ride, but it always felt sketchy and I couldn’t figure out how to do it smoothly. Blah blah blah.
I had a front row call up and a decent start, but as we hit the pavement I thought “maybe I should sit in,” and that moment of hesitation allowed some more women to slip around me. I was sitting somewhere in the teens or twenties as we completed the start loop and headed into the first lap. I don’t know what my problem was, but I just felt…foggy. It seemed like everyone had great legs and was riding well, and I only moved up a few places on the first climb. As we neared the top of the course I put in a big effort to get around a couple women so I would have a clear shot heading into the first and most technical downhill. It was very steep and slippery and at the bottom you had to make a 90 degree turn. (I had T-boned into the padding at the bottom of the descent a few times in training- making that turn was tricky.) I dabbed at the bottom, but was pretty quick getting back on course. Well, I guess not that quick since Katerina caught and passed me on the downhill, but I stayed with her, and we rode together for the next couple of laps. Eventually Katerina dropped back, and I was on my own.
All of a sudden people were telling me that I was riding in 3rd. Seriously? I never even saw the first 2- they were gone by the time I made it through traffic. It was weird. I just felt kind of “off” for the first few laps- like I was watching someone else race. It probably didn’t help that my glasses were immediately fogged up and sweaty so it literally WAS like I was in a fog… I thought about tossing them, but I always get stuff in my eyes if i don’t wear glasses, so I kept them on. With 2 laps to go I was still by myself, and people were telling me that Esther was only 15 seconds behind me. Well, telling me that wasn’t necessary…I could SEE Esther was 15 seconds behind me, and she was charging. So then there was that moment. The moment where you feel the person chasing you, breathing down your neck, and you know they are motivated because they can see they are catching you, and it seems inevitable, and you think, “well, she’s GOING to catch me…maybe I should just sit up a little and then ride with her when she catches me…” And then, for some reason I thought “Actually, no. I’m NOT going to do that, I’m going to make it as hard as possible to catch me, and if she does, well, I’ll deal with that then.” That kind of pulled me out of my funk and I started to feel better and more focused. I ditched my glasses, and it was amazing! I could see! I set a good hard tempo and the gap started growing a little bit. Soon I had 20 seconds, then 25, then 30.
Heading into the last lap I knew that 3rd place was mine to lose- I wanted to be conservative on the technical stuff but go all-out on the climbs, and that’s what I did. Unfortunately, I went too slow over the rock drop, my front wheel caught on a root, I went right over the bars and face planted in the dirt as my bike crashed down on top of me. I knew my gap was not big enough to waste any time or make any mistakes, so I jumped up and got going as fast as I could. I was able to hang on to 3rd place, which was awesome. I was a little ambivalent about my race though- I just didn’t really feel like I raced to my potential. Maybe it was because I was just riding around my myself all day, but it just didn’t really feel like I EARNED it. Well, I take that back: the last 2 laps I pulled it together and dug in, and I am proud of that, but I am disappointed that I didn’t spend any time at the front of the race. Well, there’s always next year…