Despite being an Olympian and World Cup athlete, Mary McConneloug (Kenda/NoTubes) still learned a lot last week at the Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race.
"It's been a tough week with a lots of ups and down. There's been a lot of learning," she said. "There's so much that goes into the right equipment, the right tires, knowing the trails, etc. It's so difficult."
McConneloug has previously raced the TransAndes Challenge mountain bike stage race in South American, but said the experience was totally different. She raced that event as a duo team with her partner Mike Broderick, and the trails were much less rocky.
"It's different to do a stage race as an individual. When I raced TransAndes with Mike, I had a draft always, and we're working together. It's easier to slip into your dark, negative zone on your own. I'm learning so much about the mind and attitude this week. Everything is different."
On day six of seven, McConneloug said, "It's not fun to race a stage race. I'll love it after the fact, but right now we're suffering and we're working so hard to be there every day. I took two naps already today and I can't stop eating."
"What I'm seeing is how important a support network is for stage racing. You can't do anything but get on your bike and pedal. I'm struggling to cook meals for us. For an hour and a half race, you can cook for yourself, but it's harder for a stage race."
McConneloug ended up fourth overall in the general classification. One of her favorite parts of the week was reading the trails onsite.
"To be the best, you need to know the courses, study them and go in with a good game plan. I feel like I'm just kind of being here sight reading the whole thing. I don't know where any of the turns are. It's awesome though - I love it," she said.
"It's like sight reading music. One of my favorite things about mountain biking is picking your line on trails you've never ridden, where if you're off by one inch, you might endo. Yes, I've done that this week several times."
When asked if there would be more stage racing in her future, McConneloug said yes, it was something she'd thought of for several years.
Next up, after some recovery, will be US Mountain Bike Nationals, then the North American World Cups in Windham and Mont-Sainte-Anne and a trip to Europe for some cross country races.