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.
"Montana Race Report:Missoula Race Report
UCI Jr 17-18
Teammates: Chris and Anders
Here we are, our summer block of racing, training, and traveling. To start off the most epic month long adventure, we opened up at Missoula, Montana. This is one race I've always heard about and had never been to, so I was excited to explore the course!
The preride went well as we made a few laps around the dry course and practiced some drops on the infamous Missoula Drop. Next on the agenda was nothing but to relax, eat well, and enjoy our view by the local river in prep for Saturday's race.
Excited to get a second place call up behind Chris, I was hoping I could keep my ground in the front pack off the start. As the whistle blew, we surged off at an expected fast pace and I held onto the top 3-5 riders. The immediate climb we headed straight into was a bit of a hit to the legs and lungs, but they held. Although 4,300 isn't much, I could still feel it a bit when I approached the red zone. The first lap took a toll on me and I slowed in the second. Being in the "recuperating" phase is a hard one, but I let it run it's course. This was a bit of a disappointment, but I checked back in mentally and slowed gained some ground. In the third lap I clawed back to 6th and then began dropping him on the last lap to go into 5th. I was excited to begin seeing Anders on the climb of the last lap because I knew this was a sign I was finishing stronger than I had been racing early on. Locked in 5th, I kept it smooth on the descent and capped off the podium.
Overall, it was a very, very tough and demanding race but I was glad to grab some points and to be able to stand on a UCI podium. My effort felt strong regardless and I know that there's only good things to come! The team absolutely crushed it in all categories. I'm stoked to get into the swing of things with the team and spend a solid month on the road getting to explore this country on our bikes! "
"Colorado Race Report:Colorado Race Report
UCI Jr 17-18
Teammates: Chris and Anders
After the dust settled from an amazing week in Utah following Missoula, we headed down to Colorado Springs...a course I was anxious to see. Surprisingly, they flipped the direction of the course and added in some techy sections, which I was excited about. We prerode some laps and got familiar with the new layout and before I knew it, it was race morning yet again.
Feeling a bit empty in the warm up, I was a tad nervous about how the day might end up, but once I was on the line I found a sense of peace and was ready to race. The race surged forward and we hit the start loop with a much appreciated slower pace, allowing me to wiggle my way into a group of 5 that I knew would be pushing the pace. We hit the first half and I found myself with Chris, Jerry, and two Canadian riders. Together we opened a small gap that significantly increased upon hitting the hike-a-bike and technical section on the second half. Lap 2 was consumed of Chris, one Canadian, and I pushing the pace and widening the gap. I took the reigns hoping to help our group but found myself gapping the Canadian...so Chris bridged and we were alone on the front.
Working together, we pushed the gap to roughly a minute on the chase group. Entering the third lap, Chris jumped approaching the hike-a-bike but I knew I wouldn't be able to go with him, so I sustained the best I could. On the techy descent to the road, I felt my tire get punched an awkward way and it began going flat entering the blacktop. I signaled Josh and Dario and they made the wheel change of champions. While I sipped on some water off the bike, Josh was finishing final prep and I jumped back on as quickly as possible.
As I headed back out for the last lap and a half, I was shaking the cobwebs off my legs when a pack of 3, including Anders, caught me. I hung with them the best I could and Anders and a rider from Mexico made a break. I aimed to pursue but the top-end speed had not found my legs again quite yet. I slowly dropped a Canadian rider and punched my ticket on the last half lap hoping to catch up, but with real estate running out, I came across the line 4th.
I'm far from disappointed about the race. In fact, I'm satisfied with how the race went and how my body felt. The cards were not in my hand to grab a much desired second place spot, but I know that is racing and I can only thank Josh and Dario for the speedy fix. I can't help but smile for the adventures and opportunities to come and I'm beyond excited to see (yet again) all Jr 17-18 men and women on the podium. That is a satisfying sight. On to the next chapter, Park City!"
"Snowbird Race Report:Snowbird Icup
Teammates: Anders and Cypress
After a lung crushing race at Missoula and a solid effort at Colorado with a flat, I was ready to have just a smooth, strong feeling race. The snowbird Icup was what I was hoping could give me this. It was a local race but at a good 8k feet, so I was excited to test myself at altitude and hopefully I could put together a good race on a techy course!
It was a weird but exciting feeling to hop on the front line with not only Anders, but Cypress and Dario. We all chatted and awaited the whistle, and then we were off! I found a decent position in roughly 8th or so and began working within the pack. Anders suffered an unfortunate early flat, then Jonathan Page, then a summit kid, then Cypress...flats were happening left and right. My objective changed because if you could avoid a flat or a crash, you were likely to contend.
I felt fairly strong at the altitude and maintained a good pace each lap with this little bit of a longer race. Pacing was key. Cypress made an expected leap back up to the front of the pack and passed me, as he did, another flat struck him. I hated this for him, but tossed him a tube and CO2 and hopped back on. I pushed on through the 3rd climb to shake one more rider and hit the last punch to the finish satisfied.
I am glad I stayed rubber side down and kept air in my tires on this course. That paired with decent legs at altitude is an encouragement. Now we rest and enjoy the epic area of Kirkwood. Time to recharge for a solid week at Mammoth!"
"National Race Report:Nationals XC Race Report
Teammates: Chris and Anders
Wait, nationals? How it got here so fast was beyond me. It seemed surreal as race day approached while we got settled in our final house and rode laps of the loose course at Mammoth. I was anxious, but also excited, as I was feeling strong coming into a race I had long anticipated.
After dialing in the course and using every possible extra minute of the days prior to recover, it was race morning. I found myself nervous, of course, but on this morning I was confident and excited about how the day could possibly end up. Warm up procedures were followed and I was feeling well. Chris, myself, and then Anders took the line...that was a sweet sight. The countdown began and it seemed like ages before the whistle released a some 60 racers.
I was in great position behind the right guys hitting the road and singletrack for the first climb. Together, Chris, Anders, Jerry, a couple others, and I paced up to the top of the climb together creating a small separation. I could feel the strain once we hit the top, but it was a reasonable pace. Entering the first descent I caught some loose sand on the edge of the trail and it took me down. I gathered myself, corrected the handlebar a bit, and tried to keep from losing any more spots.
We began lap 2 and I was coming through the pits while the leaders were approaching the top of the pavement climb. I knew the gap was dangerous but also, with smart pacing, reachable. I tried to close it on this lap but my efforts seemed to tank me. I tried again the 3rd lap with a little different strategy and the same result occurred. It seemed as if my body had created a cap of effort that I couldn't surpass. I became extremely discouraged because the mind was yelling "faster" and the body was yelling "this is all". So on the 4th lap I raced the pace I could and emptied the tank on the climb. I opened it up on the final descent to catch a rider and was able to muster enough strength to have sprint finish with him.
The dissatisfaction overwhelmed me as I crossed the line and was almost as painful as the race itself. I'm not sure what happened to me, but I completely understand that those things happen in this demanding sport. I'm not looking for excuses by any means and I'm very thankful I was able to crack top 15 with so many deserving riders this year. More than that, I'm beyond stoked for Chris and Anders. Although I desired to be next to them on the podium, I was more than happy to watch them receive the medals they deserved, as well as the rest of the team! This was the most remarkable trip and I couldn't be more thankful for the season I was blessed to have with the best team anyone could ask for. Thanks to Dario, Cammie, Josh, and Chris for all of their efforts and support as well as the amazing partners that we have!"
Carson Beckett, 22 // UCI MTB Racer // Coach // // Student // Outdoor Enthusiast