Canada times two

Mike and I returned to Martha's Vineyard after a two week trip to Canada for the fourth and fifth...

July 18, 2007

Mike and I returned to Martha's Vineyard after a two week trip to Canada for the fourth and fifth rounds of the UCI World Cup. This was an action packed 1,500 mile road trip to the Quebec province where we visited some familiar places, explored new ones, met new friends and had the chance to catch up with some old ones. We returned with some great memories along with a few new scars to help make sure we never forget.

This was our first big road trip in our "new" van and although it is a big improvement from other vehicles we have owned, it felt kind of limited without the luxury convienences that we have become accustomed to while traveling in our rented Euro RV. We split the eight hour drive north to Mont Sainte Anne into two days, stopping to pitch our tent along the way in a quiet campground. Luckily, the sweet Canadian summer weather held out for the night and though it wasnt the best night sleep ever, I can say that we were both rejuvenated by the overall experience.

It was a luxury to have a few supporters around to lend us a hand and especially to have Mike's mom, Emily, join us for a part of our Canadian travels. It is amazing how much a set of extra hands can help on race day, and it was especially nice to have some friends and family around to help celebrate my 36th birthday.

Mont Sainte Anne

Mike and I always look forward to the World Cup race at Mont Sainte Anne. It is typically one of the more challenging courses of the year though unfortunately we have seen it become less technical each passing year. It still it has good flow and plenty of entertaining sections to help motivate us up the short steep climbs. The organization and promoters really pull the stops to put on an amazing triple World Cup venue. The overall vibe with thick crowds, and all-night dance party help to make a festival weekend on par with the best.

Race day at Mont Sainte Anne was cool with overcast skies, just perfect for racing. My body felt good, I was optimistic to repeat a podium finish at this race. I started on the second row the gun went off, and I was part of the bustling pack with the leaders just in front of me. Just 200 meters into the race, a rider on my left drifted across my line and clipped my bars, sending me down hard, skidding across the gravel. Stunned and in pain, but fueled by fear from the sounds of the nasty pile up happening behind I got back up as fast as I could. a group of eight made it through the mess made a big effort and were pretty much gone for the day. I chased hard and felt strong, despite the crash moving up from the 20s and after five good laps I ended up ninth. Not quite the stellar result that I was hoping for but I was ok being in the top ten after such a serious start loop crash.

After my race, I was happy to relax knowing Mike would have the same great support as I had from Stan Koziatek and his crew and from the Notubes.com family. Big props to those guys who drove all the way from upstate New York to see the races and support their athletes.

As always, it was exciting to watch the men's field duking it out. Mike had a solid day he moved up every lap from the typically bogged up start loop making moves at critical moments, just before the technical sections, where he was putting time on his competitors. Mike fought hard and at the end of the day settled for a 52nd place finish.

The volume of riders is up a bit this year presumably due to a bit of the Olympic fever. It is pretty cool to see so many countries being represented by their cross country athletes. Of course I am a bit biased but I think the coolest of all to see the numbers of American women at the races and doing so well. Three in the top ten at the past three World Cups is a great thing! As a nation, we are ranked number two in the world, just a few points behind the Chinese women--on track to have maximum start positions (two) in Beijing next year.

My crash left me pretty sore, and I was extremely glad to have a few days to stay at Mont Sainte Anne to recover and enjoy my birthday. We even had a few dinner parties to take advantage of the lakefront, pedal boat, bon fire pit-equipped house we somehow manage to be staying at. It was a mini vacation to be staying at this home an extra three days after our races and made us realize how much we have been on the move this season. We took advantage of our time to rest up, watch the gravity events and sample some of the sweet cross country riding all around the Sainte Anne area.

Saint Félicien

We made the drive four hours north to Sainte Felicien purposely taking some gnarly remote roads to get to our destination on Lac Saint Jean. Even if most of it was basicaly a big pulpwood farm, we were really happy to see so much open space after traveling all spring in busy Europe.

Cooler weather and a blinding thunderstorm greeted us as we pulled into our farmhouse B & B accommodation. We were a bit shocked to learn that a B & B in Quebec is more like staying in a room in a family home rather than a luxury accommodation. We found ourselves in a windowless basement below the noisy kitchen and entryway shared by 10 or so other racers who were stuffed away in other rooms throughout the house. This was a true test of tolerance but on the positive side, our hosts were really nice, genuinely interested and respectful about our needs for what we were doing. No one even complained when I set up my camp kitchen on the front patio and cooked three meals a day out in their front yard. Here, we were missing the RV tremendously.

The race course in Sainte Felicien was situated just outside of the tiny town in an even tinier ski area, we made it half-way around the course before we were sure that it was our favorite World Cup track so far this season . The hilly trails were very technical and rooty with dark cool forest overhanging black fertile soil. The course layout was very interesting with several loops back thru the venue and thru cool rock features with some bridges and berms which made for great riding and spectating.

As I was warming up for the race, the drizzles began, then the baking sun came out, then it poured. The only thing steady about the weather was that it kept changing as tremendous black clouds blew across the blue sky on their way across the giant lake St Jean. It definitely made for interesting racing as the already difficult riding became slippery. Many riders were crashing and having mechanical and mental problems as surviving the course and holding the gear together became almost as important as having good legs.

I did not have a great start up the initial steep open climb, but was in the mix somewhere in the teens. On the first lap, I got caught behind several riders in the rooty single and was unable to pass and just had to sit in World Cup style. Eventually I got around and was able to settle into my own pace, but the leaders were already out of sight.

You just never know exactly how you are going to feel on race day no matter how methodical your preparation. This day for some reason my legs were feeling a bit heavy, but I rode really well and made few mistakes and moved forward throughout my five laps of racing . I ended up ninth after my effort and even though I was not completely satisfied, Mike is always reminding me that no matter what the outcome, the cross country athlete is probably never going to be satisfied. It's like you make the podium, and immediately you want to have the win. You win one and you figure should have won it by a few more seconds. Sometimes I have to take a step back and remind myself that a top ten is solid.

Mike was just loving the course and was even more excited that the terrain had become slick and muddy by the time the men raced. He had a good start and felt really strong, able to keep the pace with the top 40 riders and feel an explosive power that had him making moves to advance his position whenever the narrow course opened up. One big problem... when he came through still on the first laps, I noticed his spare tube dangling down from where he had it taped to his seat post. I screamed something but he did not hear or react until twenty feet later when his tube became completely tangled in his cassette and he came to a quick stop. luckily he caught it before anything broke, but it took some time to unravel the tube and straighten everything out. By the time he got rolling again, he was dead last. damn! Playing catch up is not easy or fun and of course, it can be very frustrating. Mike did his best to move forward but as he made each big effort to pass a rider he would lose momentum just as quickly getting caught behind the next. I watched, feeling his pain, as he was getting stuffed just before critical flow sections. Somehow he remained positive throughout the six lap race and managed to move up over 60 spots to finish 48th. I know he was disappointed because this could have been a really good result. I am proud of my Mike for his willingness to go for it and ride his best no matter the obstacles.

We were glad to break up our 13 hours of driving home with a pit stop to visit our long time racer friends Adam and Marilyn in Warren, Vermont. There we got in some great training and even had the chance to attended the Fourth of July parade outfitted with sweet cruiser bikes. We enjoyed a morning of funky floats, strong political statements and parade candy. After the festivities we broke out the race bikes and the four of us burned off our sugar buzz as we pinned it to the top of 3,970 foot Sugarbush Mountain, basically straight up a service road from the mad river valley, ouch!

We got back to the island just in time to unpack the van and get me sorted out for the Pan American Games that are taking place on July 14th in Rio, Brazil. I will be back next week to join Mike for our next trip up to Mt. Snow for the US National Championships July 20-21. See you there!

Hope you are all doing well and enjoying the summer.
Mike and Mary
Team Kenda/Seven Cycles

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Mike Broderick & Mary McConneloug / Team Kenda/Seven)

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