Bonjour from a campground in Quebec! The sun is finally shining after many days of rain. Mike and I have been on the move since US Nationals in Colorado two weekends ago... and finding ourselves to be a little fatigued from the Mont Sainte Anne World Cup a few days ago. So we are taking a bit of time to catch up with ourselves before heading south to Bromont for this weekend's sixth round of the World Cup (Sunday) cross country race.
Our three-week trip to Colorado was a bit of a whirlwind fun and over before we knew it. The challenge of adapting to the high elevation was interesting to observe and humbling to feel. Despite the discomfort from lack of oxygen and seemingly decreased ability to perform at high levels, Mike and I enjoyed our time at in the mountains. We flew in, rented a minivan, pieced together accommodations, moving around from week to week and riding our bikes in many new places. We stayed with some friends and rented some condos, finding great riding and hospitality in Breckenridge, Colorado Springs, Winter Park and Granby. It was nice to reconnect with many of our friends here in the USA and ride some incredible, high alpine trails.
The US National Championships were held at Sol Vista Ski resort in Granby, Colorado. Just up the road from Winter Park. Hundreds of mountain bikers came from all over the country to compete in their categories - all ages and skill levels were present. It was a good festival vibe with great spectating of downhill, four cross, cross country and short track.
The pro cross country loop was about five miles with one long, snaking climb up and one bumpy, rugged, newly cut dusty descent. The women did four laps and the men did five. It was pretty fun to ride, but harsh to race on with the pack turning up blinding and choking dust. The elevation ranged from 8,100 to 9,000 feet, and we climbed about 900 feet each lap. I knew it was going to be tough to defend my title with the high elevation, but did my best to prepare by arriving three weeks early.
For race day, I was feeling pretty acclimated (especially compared to how I felt when we arrived three weeks earlier). I was feeling good, climbing steady and motivated to give my best. The bike was perfect! My trusty Titanium Seven Sola had Kenda Small Block 8 tires, NoTubes 7000 series wheel set, the XX grupo and the other fine components. It was set up for the perfect light-weight ride with great traction, control and comfort. I felt really lucky to be riding such an incredible machine!
My start was good, but at this elevation, I have just one speed: Go and keep it steady. Thinking about moving forward and keeping a high cadence filled my mind. On the first lap, I was closing in on third, but somehow got blocked on the descent by a few amateur racers still out and finishing up their morning race. I had to wait and pause a few times for the trail to clear, lost my concentration and those few precious seconds I gained on the climb were gone. Two riders caught up to me.
I continued to dig deep on the climbs and luckily had a clear run at the downhill the next three laps. I moved away from the riders behind me, but was not able to close any gaps in front. I gave what I could, and managed to make the podium, finishing in fifth. It was not altogether what I had my sights set on, but I was happy to be there, and grateful for the experience.
Mike was in good form and made the most of the difficult conditions. He was riding within top five to 10 for most of the day, battling in the dust with the talented American men's field. Each lap was exciting to see as positions changed around with some guys blowing up, crashing, having mechanical issues. Some found their legs and close the gaps, moving forward. Mike had his share of challenges, with a mechanical on the final descent, but with a quick fix, still managed a ninth place finish. All in all a solid performance!
We did the short track the next day, which was a very short and painfully hard effort. I havn't done any short track racing all year, so I didnt get called to the front. Starting on the back row was not fun, but I managed to squeak up to the second row and worked my way up to the podium through the 25 minutes of grueling climbing and bumpy descending for another 5th place podium finish.
Mike suffered a critical first lap mechanical that ended his race almost before it began. However, the caffeine and carbo load went to good use as we had to pack everything back into the bike bags that night and make the long journey back to the Vineyard.
The weekend held much more than racing. We enjoyed being a part of the festival, connecting with our fans, friends, and US roots. Mike and I were also proud to be out there representing all our great sponsors. It was a special and memorable weekend.
After 16 hours of travel by car, plane, bus, and boat, we made it back to our home in Chilmark, Massachusetts. It was super sweet and grounding to be home for a brief day and a half before embarking on our next adventure. After unpacking, doing laundry, re-building bikes and loading up our new (to us) camp trailer, we were soon on our way to Quebec. The 11-hour journey took us slowpokes three days.
We couldn't pass by Boston without a visit to Seven Cycles. It was great to catch up with our friends at Seven and see how this incredible factory continues to produce the finest bicycles in the industry. If you get a chance, check the welding videos on their web page: www.sevencycles.com - Pretty cool to see the care put into EACH custom frame!
So here we are, on the road again-- We are digging our 46 feet of wheel estate, which feels like "home" whereever we are. I love my sweet little kitchen on wheels and the fact that there is room for Mike to work on bikes inside or space to do yoga as well is pretty convenient!
Just feeling recovered from the fifth round of the World Cup in Mont Ste Anne
Not only was the travel to get here to Quebec a bit intense, but Sunday's race was tough, too. We count our blessings that we made it through unscathed. Not only were the conditions super wet and muddy but the legendary Mont Sainte Anne course continues its reputation as THE most difficult and technical course on the World Cup circuit. There were a few course changes, including a new rock wall garden... which had many riders injured even before the race. With all the rain and subsequently slick rocks, they built a "chicken line" option, which was still challenging and a little slower, but less risky.
I chose to race my dual suspension, Seven Duo-lux which was perfect for the ultra bumpy and jarring course. Riding this sweet machine paired with the Kenda Nevegal tires not only gave me excellent traction and confidence, but also enabled me to rest on the technical descents so I could give it on the climbs.
I got a poor start, which had me suffering and clogged up in the pack early in the race. I had to work hard to get free on the first lap, burning my matches early to get by other riders. I settled into my rhythm and moved forward from the 30s to finish 18th. The mud got really slick as the rain continued throughout my race. Not my best result here, but lessons (re)learned. Gotta give it at the start to position myself better!
Mike was awesome - after undergoing the stresses of packing and driving our rig from Chilmark to Quebec, dialing and washing bikes leading up to race day, Mike put on a stellar race performance. He pushed through a raging mass start of more than 100 men into the tight singletrack for six laps on the grueling muddy course.
The rain stopped for the men's race but the course deteriorated as hundreds of riders passed over the same track. Even the "chicken line" got super sketchy, taking riders out. It was a race of attrition. I knew if Mike could hang on and keep his gear together, he would earn a good result.
As I watched the two-plus hour race unfold from the feedzone, the field size decreased as riders had problems and got lapped. Mike kept it steady, racing with National Champions from Europe... After almost 2.5 hours of charging forward, riding strong and smooth, Mike crossed the line in 43rd (winning his sprint too) - his best World Cup result this year.
Off to Bromont!
Wishing you all well!
Mary and Mike
Team Kenda Seven NoTubes