Greetings from Down Under! Mike and I are currently in Canberra, Australia, getting ready to compete at the 2009 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. We are super excited to both have made the exclusive team selection for this event and are looking forward to racing the cross country this Saturday, September 5 in Canberra.
Despite the daunting two-day journey (by car, bus, boat, plane, back to bus and finally back to the bikes), we are thrilled to be on the team and have the opportunity to represent our country, sponsors, and people at the event that we consider the highlight of mountain biking in 2009.
Our past months have been super busy and have slipped past with the assistance and focus of toeing to the start line seven weeks in a row -- from three weeks in Colorado out of a suitcase and rental car, to Canada, Vermont and New York, where we had the pleasure of breaking in our new (to us) camping trailer over a four-week East Coast road trip.
We navigated our 47 feet of vehicle to the back-to-back World Cups in Canada and then returned to New England to contest the final two rounds of the US ProXCT series at Mt. Snow, Vermont, and Windham, New York. It seemed as if we were in constant motion on this road trip, and it brought us a new appreciation of self sufficiency and mobile ease of trailer life - although it sure comes with its own special set of compromises! :-)
The typical summer rainfall that keeps the East Coast green, lush, and extremely humid brought a significant change from dry, dusty, high elevation Colorado and a special set of challenges to our mobile attack. Our lean operation was definitely challenged with all the extra mechanic and laundry duties that mud brings, but this style of racing is right up our alley.
Two weeks in Canada
The Canadian World Cups were really the focus of our East Coast mission and as is typical, they were a lesson in technical power riding. The classic Mont Ste. Anne course was especially groomed and primped in anticipation of its World Championship status for the 2010 season.
This venue is no doubt among the most worthy to host a World Championship event. Not only do throngs of spectators come to watch, but it has proven to be a really challenging, skill oriented mountain bike course in the seven years we have attended (of its 19 years of World Cup hosting!). It is the type of course that can frustrate some riders to the point of getting off the bike and taking it upon themselves to remove roots and rocks that make a successful ride seemingly unattainable - a shame since this is clearly what makes Ste. Anne a special place to race and ride mountain bikes.
World Cup #6 in Bromont, was especially messy, but successful for both of us. The climby technical track through dense dark forest with roots and rock slabs suited both Mike's and my riding styles. Despite my late race faceplant and crash, I felt really good. A solid start, legs willing to climb and motivation to have a good ride is a recipie for a good result. I think I was also feeling the positive effects of spending three weeks at elevation in Colorado two weeks prior. It seemed almost easy racing this day, but the soreness I felt for three days after tells me I was working very hard. I was excited to be back on the World Cup podium with a hard fought fifth place finish!
Sheets of rain came down, creating severe muddy conditions, which worsened throughout the men's five-lap race. Mechanical problems, crashes and mental implosions meant not being able to handle riding in the mess any more. As mud covered riders passed through and communicated their needs, there was a hustle, pass and grab. Whether it was a bottle, a clean pair of eyewear, a wheel change, new gloves, or water to clean the drivetrain, the level of excitement in the tech pits was intense.
Mike was in his element out there. He's really good at persevering in difficult situations. He battled the conditions and preserved his equipment to finish an eventual 34th. I could barely recognize him at the finish, mingling with the 60 or so completely brown riders that managed to make it through one of those races that will be remembered for a long time!
Back to the States for some domestic racing
Although clean up, repair and recovery took days, we relished the successful World Cup weekend and were able to appreciate a few days of down time and training with good friends in Warren, Vermont, before the next two weekends of national racing. Though slightly less stressful, these weekends were even more busy as we competed in not one, but three races each weekend: The cross country, Super D and short track. It is a lot to handle but we pulled off a few podium finishes and enjoyed racing back in the states at the national series, and we were stoked to see our homeland crew at the final two US ProXCT races.
Mike and I were happy to see the level of support that our primary sponsor Kenda has invested in the US ProXCT National series. Kenda continues to be a backbone for the American racing scene, supporting many riders and co-sponsoring the national series. We are more happy than ever to be a part of what they are doing for the sport.
Huge thanks again to all our friends who helped us out during the races: Tomy, from Quebec, who managed us in the all important tech pit and feed zone throughout our Canadian World Cup weeks. Chris the Team Kenda/Tomac mechanic in Vermont, and Mike of NoTubes at Windham. You guys really added to making our race days smooth and successful. Thank you!!
Mike and I were able to spend a short week at home on the island before getting on the plane to Australia. We were lucky to get some great weather at home and glad to enjoy some sweet summer activities on the Vineyard. It was brief, but we have a few sweet new memories, including getting in the water to enjoy some hurricane surf and an offshore fishing trip. We took those fondly with us to remember during our 36-hour travel days flying across the globe.
Two days until worlds
So here we are in Canberra, at the team hotel. The spring air is crisp and cold. Kangaroos show up when you are least expecting them, and we are well into training at the race venue. It will be exciting to see who emerges as the 2009 World Champion as we will all test our skill and fitness on the technical, dry, rocky course this Saturday.
After that, we are off to Europe to race the final two World Cups of the season. We'd rather not imagine what the 36 hours on the plane will feel like en route, but for now we are focussing everything on the race at hand.
Mary and Mike