11 July 2011 | Misc
World Cup #5: Windham Race Report
Finally! A clean race at a World Cup.
I was pretty fired up after Mont Ste. Anne and was ready to throw down in Windham. My pre-rides all went well, I was feeling good and everything seemed to be going well. But after the last couple world cup races, I have to say I had a nagging fear in the back of my mind that SOMETHING was going to happen. A good chunk of the Gould clan was out there cheering for me, and I hoped I would be able to pull off a good result, but I didn’t have the greatest confidence.
Luckily, after Mont Ste Anne I only dropped a few places in the overall (from 15th to 18th), and I was still able to squeeze onto the second row in Windham. I had a decent start, and had to be super aggressive to maintain position (I definitely leaned on a few women and threw a few elbows- I’m sick of being pushed around!) I was riding in the top 5, but somehow managed to miss the move Catharine and Julie made at the top of the climb. Instead, I was stuck a few places back when the gap started to open.
One thing I have learned about European racers- they love to do some blocking. It seems like a lot of women are content to race the people they are riding with rather than try to chase down the leaders. The minute you try to go around, they can somehow find some extra surge to stay ahead, so you have to be smart about how and when you make your moves. When we came through the start/finish at the end of the first lap our chase group had spotted the leaders 30 seconds. On a 5 minute downhill. I was frustrated, and I tried to move to the front of the group, but suddenly found myself being passed by 3 or 4 riders. What the heck? Everyone was hammering- but again, just enough to get into the singletrack first, at which point they would slow down. I knew the front of the race was riding away, and I didn’t have the legs to put in the massive attack necessary to move from the back of the group to the front on one of the short open sections. For the next few laps I swapped places with Blaza, Marie, Irina, Maja and Elisabeth Osl. Katerina was dangling at the back of our group- losing a little time on the climbs, but easily make it up on the downhill. I decided I would need to make my move at the top of the climb (the course pretty much consisted of a climb and a descent), get into the singletrack first and hopefully be able to bridge up to the leaders or at least distance myself from the rest of the group.
As we neared the top of the climb, I was sitting 4th or 5th wheel, and I started my attack on the right side of the fire road (which also happened to be a feed-zone). Irina and a couple other riders swerved in front of me and slowed down to get bottles, and Katerina attacked up the (completely clear) left side of the road. Dang it! That was where I should have gone…if I was smart. I watched her ride away as I cursed my poor decision-making and hoped it wouldn’t cost me a podium finish.
At the bottom of the downhill, we had reeled Katerina in a bit, but I decided that I had had enough. I certainly had enough left in the tank for one last time up the climb, so I punched it, rode around Blaza, Maja and Irina and got myself up to Katerina’s wheel. On the next steep climb I went around her and just drilled it the rest of the way up the climb. All of a sudden I could see Marie-Helene, and I could tell she was suffering. I was closing the gap down fast but not fast enough- I had just made it to her wheel at the top of the feed-zone when she put in one last surge to get into the singletrack first. I could see Annika too at that point, and we were reeling her in on the downhill. I tried to stay right on Marie’s wheel, knowing the climb from the bottom of the downhill to the finish was pretty short, but at the same time I didn’t want to ride too close and risk crashing and possible losing 5th place. We rounded the last corner and hit the last short climb. I was about 3 bike lengths behind, and though I laid it all out on the uphill to the finish, Marie had just enough left in the tank to hold me off. Still, I finished 5th which was a relief more than anything.
I finally got the monkey off my back. I have to admit, for much of the race I was thinking “just keep it together!” and hoping nothing would happen. To have clean race, where I was actually RACING the whole time was a great feeling. Sure, I was hoping for the win, but 5th place is solid and it’s nice to know that I AM riding well enough to be at the front of those races. I’ve known that all season, but I was getting kind of tired of saying “I would have had a great race, but…” So there it is, hopefully the end of my crappy streak of World Cups.
I am heading straight to Sun Valley, Idaho to spend the week visiting friends before racing the National Championships there next weekend. I can’t believe the season is already more than halfway done! But the biggest races are still ahead of me, and I look forward to the challenge.