Speechless. A dream and goal of being invited to compete in a World Cup had come true.
After receiving the invitation, I was ecstatic to begin prep for a new European tour. It had been awhile since my last trip over the pond so staying excited, even on two day-long travel, wasn't a task.
I met up with the team in Barcelona, a quick 8 hour flight and 7 hour time change later, and we began our drive to Andorra. It was a welcoming feeling to return to the last place I had left Europe, like I had left something to be picked up again. Our trip began, the routine became expresso, ride, massage, lay around, eat. Although it wasn't the most touristy of plans, I was more than fine with the experience and opportunity I was getting.
Race day came, quicker than my jet lag wanted it to. However, there's no rest for the weary and it was time to saddle up for my first World Cup ever. A deep field had me sitting around 80th in it for a call up. As we surged at gun shot, the field tore up the first grassy, open climb. Diving into the woods it was almost immediate that we began to walk/run through the first single track section...and then the one following. This was to be expected, so the name of the game was picking riders off consistently. It quickly dawned on me that the thin air and travel was taking more of a toll than I expected it to. I could feel a massive lack in power, like I couldn't get oxygen through my body to start turning things over. From here I tried to minimize my losses and hold on to every spot. I ended up losing some ground and finished two laps off the leaders—a discouraging start to the euro trip. It was no good to dwell on what was, so I had to gather myself and move onward and upwards for the rest of week and trip. One last salute to Andorra with a day off following the race and it was time to move on.
We departed Andorra Tuesday morning, with two days of trekking to do until reaching the venue of World Cup number two: Lenzerheide, Switzerland. We split the drive into two, six-ish hour drives, spending most of the time in the rolling hillside of France. However, the scenery drastically changed as we rolled deep into the Swiss Alps. There are the Smokies, there are the Rockies, and then there are the Alps—a breed of their own.
It didn't take too long to settle into Lenzerheide for the week. With stunning views, a course-side hotel, and comforting Swiss culture, the week was second to none. Being there on Tuesday evening gave our crew plenty of time to learn the course and dial in lines. As the little village became populated during the week, World Cup number two was on.
Downhill was first on the schedule for the weekend. There is something special about sitting next to the finishing drop of a World Cup downhill race that you're used to watching on red bull tv from the couch at home. It was an awesome experience, but the focus was back on us. Saturday we dialed in lines on course and put in some efforts to open up the engines—it was race day again.
Overnight rain didn't ruin the party, it just made things even more exciting. I snagged a quick breakfast and then before I knew it I was kitted up and mounting the rollers for warm up. I knew I would have some work to do, being called up 96th, so a good start was going to be crucial. The 140 deep field surged off at gunshot. A few pedal strokes later and there was a pile up to avoid, and then stragglers trying to fix their bikes. We pushed on up a paved road before dumping into single track, where things got hectic. Trying to fit 140 riders into one track works for the first 15 who stay on their bike, after that we were walking...and I mean literally barely walking. Things were a bit more zesty with a fresh coat of mud on course, and there were two or three other spots in the first lap where I had to dismount and run. By the time lap one had come around I was already about four to five minutes down on the leaders. The next few laps it was just picking off and holding on to riders. Small line changes here and there might save you two or three seconds, but over the course of a lap could mean two or three riders. I found some rhythm and a bit more strength than the previous weekend, pushing it at every little opportunity. I knew I was losing more and more time each lap, so I went all in trying to avoid the time cut. Unfortunately, I finished one lap down, moving up about 10 spots from where I started. Although it's not the "numbers" I was looking for, I'm satisfied in knowing I found some rhythm in my race amidst the chaos.
I'm beyond grateful and happy to have had the opportunity to return to the European scene. It's a whole new ballgame on their side of the pond, so every race and trip is a learning opportunity. The experience benefited me so very much. I'm grateful for all who donated to making this trip possible and to the coaches, mechanic, and people who made it so amazingly smooth. Pulling on the Stars and Stripes is an amazing experience every time.