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27 August 2008  |  Race Reports

Race Report: Olympic Games- Beijing, China

The last few days have been somewhat of a whirlwind. Here’s the update from the Olympics:

I woke up race day glad to be racing at 10am- less time to sit around and think about the race! I arrived at the venue with plenty of time to meet Dusty, Waldek and Ben at the gate and pick up my bike (Dusty had been working on it for me). I headed out to do 3/4 of a lap as a warm-up. I’ve gotten into a habit of doing this at all the World Cup races- I go out about 1.5 hours before the race and do an easy lap on the course. I find that it really helps me- the course is fresh in my mind and I get all the first lap jitters out before the race even starts. Also- if tons of people were pre-riding the day before the race, there could be new lines in some places. Usually there is no one out on the course and it’s a great way to get away for the hubbub in the pit areas and get focused for the race.

In any case, I headed out for my warm-up laps and I was surprised by how many spectators were out on the course already- there were people EVERYWHERE, it was very exciting. My lap went well, and I headed back to our pit area to pick up an ice vest because it was already very hot out. I decided to warm up on the paved road that goes around the perimeter of the venue, but as I started riding, I realized that the ice vest was too-bulky to ride in. I still had a good 50 mins before the start of the race, but I didn’t want to be riding for that whole time so I hung out for 20 mins in my ice vest and then headed out to warm-up without it. Tons of people were pouring into the venue, and Dusty Waldek and Ben were able to make it all the way to the start boxes with no problems.

I knew everyone was jittery and I didn’t want to get caught in any dumb crashes at the start so there was only one thing to do- get the hole shot… People were going NUTS! I have never started a race where the crowd was that loud- it was so cool. Anyway, a few women went around me on the first climb, but I wasn’t worried- I knew there was plenty of race left. Well, maybe I should have worried a little more because I had to get off and run up the last two climbs on the course after the women in front of me got off.

It was very hot and the feed zones were so fast that it was hard for me to take ice and have time to put it down my back. I was doing ok though. My biggest problem was pacing myself. I remembered how many women were blowing up at the end of the race last year (the test event on a similar course) and I didn’t want that to happen to me. The climbs were so steep and punchy that I felt like all I was doing the rest of the time was trying to recover. There wasn’t anywhere on the course where you could settle into a rhythm, and I really struggled with that. In any case, I knew that I had to save something for the end of the race. In the last lap I passed 4 people to move from 12th up to 8th. In retrospect I probably should have started punching it earlier, but it would have really sucked to have started cramping on that course- there was no WAY to soft pedal up those climbs. It was a very unique course and I’ve never raced on anything like it. Even Absalon told reporters “It’s the most complicated, difficult technical race. There were lots of stones and no time to rest.” So there you have it. Hard.

I am disappointed for sure- I know that I am capable of winning a medal, so 8th place isn’t exactly a great race for me. When you are out there representing your country, you want to have the best possible finish. At the same time, the end of my race was stronger than the start, so that was good. And the whole experience was amazing- the crowds were huge and so many people were cheering: GO USA! GO AMERICA!

After the race, I got changed and headed out to watch the men’s race and support our guys. The race strung out pretty quickly and toward the end of the race, there were some guys that were looking like what I felt like during my race. We were cheering on one of the longer climbs (“longer” meaning about 1 minute long…) and when the top guys in the WORLD look they are going slow, you know it’s hard. Absalon was about the only person who looked fast out there THE WHOLE TIME. It was impressive.

The next day I got to march in the closing ceremonies which was also an amazing experience. Marching in with all the US athletes and then being in there with all the athletes from other countries- there was such a feeling of camaraderie. I know it sounds cheesy, but it was so cool. Strangers from different countries were getting pictures taken together and everyone seemed so stoked to be there. The stadium was HUGE. I have never been in the presence of so many people at one time, it was surreal. I can’t even imagine how cool it must have been to compete in that stadium, in front of all those people. (Adam and I were trying to figure out how to build a mountain bike course in the stadium so we could race there too…) The whole ceremony was pretty cool with lots of dancers, singers, fireworks and of course the passing of the Olympic flag from the mayor of Beijing to the mayor of London. It was quite an event, and I am glad to have gotten the chance to take part in it.

Anyway, I am fired up for the last couple races of the MTB season- I race the NMBS series finals at Brianhead, Utah this weekend and then World Cup finals in Schladming, Austria two weeks after that. And then…it’s ‘cross season. I’m looking forward to some cooler-weather races. It’s been a long season, I can’t believe it’s almost over.


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