Round 5 of the World Cup series has seen me fly half way around the world to Mont Sainte Anne in Canada. It’s been a bit of an adventure getting here; I’ve palled up with Scottish rider Lee Craigie and we’ve rented an RV. It’s huge but has everything we need including the essential coffee maker! We both flew into New York and travelled up to Canada during the week arriving for practice on Thursday morning. The venue is stunning, it is a ski resort so you can imagine the mountains that surround it. It is also a really chilled atmosphere and although it doesn’t seem quite as big as the European rounds the crowd that were out on the course were fantastic.
My practice on both Thursday and Friday went really well, it’s a very demanding course never giving you a let up. The climbs are hugely technical with rocks and plenty of roots to negotiate. The descents were equally as technical, a huge rock garden is the show piece, it’s named Bertrice as it’s such a bitch! It wasn’t quite as scary as La Bresse but certainly demanded a lot physically as well as mentally. By Friday evening I was getting excited for the race and really couldn’t wait to get out there.
Race day dawned and was a little damp. In some ways I thought that would make the course a little easier, dampen down the dust a little. We’re camped about 5km away from the course so we had the perfect warm up, zooming through some great trails to get there. Dave Henderson (GT MTB Team) is out here too and his wonderful girlfriend Becs helped us out doing our bottles. We were all sorted and were called to the start line just as it began to rain, perfect timing! I got a reasonably good start and managed to pass a few riders on the start climb, we hit the steep first climb and the inevitable running happened. The rain had made things rather greasy so it was a case of doing the best I could in difficult conditions, I had to run a few sections where I got the line wrong or my wheel hit a slippery root wrong. By the first complete lap I was settling into a rhythm and was tucked in behind Katherine O’Shea of Torq Australia.
Unfortunately disaster struck as I descended Bertrice, my front tyre burped sending me down in a clatter. I jumped up dusted myself down and put my tyre back up and carried on, much to the delight of the crowd. Even in such rubbish circumstances that made me smile a lot. I dug deep and tried to keep calm, I noticed I had a few streams of red down my arms and legs but the adrenaline was pumping so I ignored them! I was now racing pretty much on my own, Katherine had pulled away but I could sense others behind me. All I had to do was finish; a DNF doesn’t give you those valuable UCI points. Again I began to settle into a rhythm only for same thing to happen this time at the top of the rock garden and I was out of gunk to get it pumped back up. Luckily it hadn’t completely flatted this time so it was a case of nursing it home and hoping I could hang in there. I got passed by quite a few riders which was pretty galling as I just couldn’t do anything about it. I got to the end of the lap and was pulled but I didn’t get a DNF so collected some points to get a better gridding in the future rounds. It’s another race that has given me a bucket load of experience and as my coach said will make me a stronger athlete in the future.
I’m now sat in the RV feeling rather beaten up, I have a few cuts and bruises but nothing that won’t heal before we head to Windham, New York for the next round at the weekend. Lee had an equally tough race actually breaking her little finger but carried on to finish a fantastic 28th. We’re a tough lot us mountain biking girls!
As ever a huge thank you to my coaches and sponsors for making all this possible; Ian Warby and Mark Baines at Firecrest MTB, Velocite UK, Schwalbe UK, Sponsor UK, Ana Nichoola, Working Bodies, Whackjob Jim, Mavic and Baines Racing. I really couldn’t do this without the support of my family especially Pete so the biggest thank you of all goes to him.