No dull moments in Europe and California

There's a lot of exciting racing going on lately. I just returned from a successful trip to Europe to race my first World Cups of the season. Since I didn't race last year, I had to pay my dues and claw my way through the field to gain more UCI and World Cup points. I have absolutely no problem with this. I am thrilled to be racing World Cup events again, and I just view these races as part of the long "comeback" process.

I had to do a major attack from the back. It isn't the easiest task starting on the last row (number 79 to be exact) with the mass start and the track narrowing down into a single lane two minutes after the start. But, with some patience and my excitement to be back on the World Cup circuit, I was ready to take on the challenge.

Of course, my race was filled with some crazy snafus. I narrowly missed two crashes at the start, had to literally wait in line for the singletrack while two girls untangled their bikes in the air (I'm not quite sure how they got to this point), and got knocked off my bike before a large 15-foot drop.

There's never a dull moment out there, especially when you are racing from the back. I gave my best efforts passing as many girls as I could wherever possible and I'm pleased with the results. In Dalby Forest, England, I moved up from number 79 to finish 30th. In Offenburg, Germany, I moved up from start position number 72 to capture 28th. These numbers should have me starting more at the front (within striking distance) for the North American World Cups right in my backyard.

After the World Cup in England, I had the opportunity to ride the 2012 Olympic mountain bike course. They did a good job creating a course with what they had. The course designers added technical elements to this open meadow by trucking in large boulders and there's more than enough drops to keep everyone on their toes. It also is an aerobically challenging course with lots of punchy climbs with very little recovery. I want to RACE that course next year.

After an exciting Olympic pre-ride, it was off to the Heathrow airport to fly to Germany. Maybe I pushed the "scenic route" option because the GPS unit brought me straight through downtown London to get to the airport. I was driving on the other side of the road, shifting with my left hand, and narrowly missing double long buses. It was terrifying and truly an adventure. It pretty much went a lot like this: "Oh my goodness, I almost just got hit by a bus, wow, look, there's the Buckingham Palace". It was the most adrenaline-filled, sightseeing trip I have ever done.

Two days after my return from Europe, I flew off to Santa Ynez, California, for the third race in the US Cup Triple Crown series. Barring the muddiest short track I've ever done at the Sea Otter Classic five years ago (remember the one where Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa supermanned into a mud puddle wearing her white World Champion's kit?),

California racing is usually sunny and enjoyable. This cross country race turned into truly the most epic race I have ever done. It started drizzling halfway through the race and turned the singletrack into a clay mud bath. The hay and rock filled mud would muck up the bike so much that the wheels wouldn't turn.

If I hadn't been gunning for the Triple Crown title, I would have stopped to build an adobe house or make a clay pot to take home for my mom. I really put my new Specialized women's 29er to the test, and the mud clearance is good. I was riding for much longer than my mud compatriots before the inevitable bike dunk in a livestock-drinking trough.

Now, I'm enjoying some much needed rest and recovery at home in Vermont before building up into the meat of the season, US Nationals and the North American World Cups. I'm hitting up the swimming holes and eating a lot of soft serve ice cream. Vermont summer is in full force and I'm soaking up as much of it as possible.

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