When I received the email that I had been accepted to the 2015 Worlds Team, I was overjoyed and ecstatic. Going in 2014 was an amazing blessing and great experience, but after a stepping stone season with Whole Athlete, I was hungry and dying to go back. Thankfully, I got that opportunity and I was headed to Andorra (yes, Andorra: a country about 1/3 the size of the Nashville area).
I finished up one last training block and made final preparations in the weeks prior, and before I knew it, I was on the big plane going across the big pond again. Small things like hearing languages I couldn't understand, televisions on the seat in front of me, and the anticipation of flying to Europe sparked my excitement. Once on the ground, I was meeting up with long lost teammates and friends (it was awesome to bring 5 other teammates from Whole Athlete). After I purchased an "authentic" Barcelona futbol shirt, we hopped on a bus and made the drive over to Andorra. Upon arriving, we couldn't resist the urge to immediately build our bikes back up and go explore a bit of our new, foreign home for the week.
Once again, Europe doesn't disappoint by providing another beautiful place for us to visit and ride/race our bikes. Nestled in the pyrenees, Andorra quickly assured it was suiting for some world championship MTB races. Us junior riders weren't all too far off of our race day already though, we raced Thursday. So, we spent Monday-Wednesday shaking off jet-lag and dialing in the course.
The super steep, technical, and unforgiving course followed suit of UCI races there in Andorra. A lot of abrupt climbs with limited to no recovery in between. Although, the setup (with rain moving in for a couple days) actually fit me quite well, all I could do was hope and pray my legs were ready race day. Although the moderate elevation of 6,000 ft shouldn't have taken a major toll, fighting off a cold before I came and feeling bad during that weeks rides had me in a bit of a dump.
We joined the exhilarating, olympic-style opening ceremonies Tuesday night with nations from every edge and corner, and before I knew it...Worlds had begun. The event and trip I had been praying to attend since last winter's (lovely) base miles. Just like the trip had snuck up, so did race morning, and I was finalizing my normal routine. We finally (FINALLY) got dressed and on our bikes after what had seem like a year-long morning and strolled down to the overcrowded line for the gondola. With the girls finishing up their race, we began to warm up for ours. As I hopped on the rollers, I noticed my legs had felt lighter than they had all week. This was an encouragement regardless of how the race was about to go down because I wanted, more than anything, to at least just feel good on this day. The warm up went smoothly and, despite the hail, rain, and chaos, we began our call-ups.
19th. That was my call-up this year: a drastic improvement from 53rd last year. I was 3rd row, packed inside with the world's fastest junior men. The countdown had begun and the infamous heartbeat soundtrack began at about 45 seconds till race time. Thump thump, thump thump..."15 seconds"...thump thump, thump thump...BAM. The gun had just unleashed 100 vicious racers. I found myself in good position on the first hill and, despite how I was feeling, knew I had to give it the gas the first lap in order to stay out of the congestion. Risking blowing up, I throttled it about anywhere I could early on knowing it was the only option. Upon reaching the first decent, we slipped, slid, and ran our way down the mountain. I was beginning to get passed noticeably later in the lap and starting the second, something I was hoping I'd have the fitness to avoid. I knew I wasn't at my best, but with a race like this, you can always battle for every position. So, I did.
I enjoyed hearing small english phrases mixed with the violent gibberish of other languages. Something that oddly excites me about European racing. I battled with all my legs would give me for 4 laps and I rode as smooth as one could in the nasty conditions. I was enjoying the race. With Simon Andreassen fast approaching, I was of the first group pulled for the 5th lap . I wasn't shocked, but I was disappointed. I was expecting this was a possibility since I hadn't had the legs I wanted that day, but it disappointed me because I just wanted to cross the finish line with a full Worlds race under my belt. Deprived of a better race, it was done and dusted. It had come and gone, just like that. I was hoping to represent the USA, Whole Athlete, and myself much better. On the other hand, even racing with and at this level of competition was a blessing. Being able to wear the red, white, and blue again while being surrounded by the USA's best athletes was an insurmountable feeling. Everyone fought through thick and thin to give their best and I was more than thankful to be apart of it.
The only thing in my future now was cheering for the rest of the team and (of course) a plethora of cappuccinos and chocolate filled croissants. It was officially offseason and I still had three days in Andorra. I soaked up the rest of that amazing week with friends, family, and foreigners and capped off the 2015 Worlds trip. It was possibly the best experience of both racing and good times of the year. Although my race didn't exactly pan out like I had hoped, I can't rest the entire season on this one race. Overall, it was the best season my bike racing has ever offered. I'm more than excited to see where I continue to end up. More coffee shops, mountains, rivers, and two wheeled adventures to come.