It doesn't take long at home before I’m scratching to get back to California. There’s just something about twisting around in a redwood-dense forrest, or descending down to Highway 1 by the beach, or climbing smoothy up a single-lane, picturesque road that seems to have a consistent pull on me. But maybe that’s just me. Bags were packed and it was off to Southern California again for two more weeks of racing and two more weeks of living the greatest blessing I could imagine.
I was happy to wake up in our century-old, Great Gatsby-styled mansion in sunny SoCal, walk down stairs to greet everyone, and scoop coach Dario’s famous oatmeal in my bowl once again. As odd as it may be, that stuff never gets old…in fact I look forward to it because it means I’m on the road racing bikes, it’s kind of a homey feeling. The first race weekend came quicker than I could’ve imagined; we were in Fontana shredding some sandy, dusty, pumice-like trails.
RACE REPORT : "I was able to get a slow, lengthy warm up in—instead of being rushed as sometimes happens—which has seemed to do well for me in these first couple of races. To my surprise, I had a great random selection on the 3rd or 4th row. The race shot off and I was able to narrowly miss two crashes that occurred even before the first left turn. I found myself in great position, just outside of top 10, going through the pits and heading towards the first climb. I knew that this position wouldn’t efficiently stick for me so I settled into a pace that was seemingly manageable. The first lap or two actually stuck together well, but the pace was certainly quick. I started to feel the punishing heat about lap 3, midway. I tried to be conservative and pick my spots, hoping to sustain what I had, but it seemed my legs were beginning to hit a wall as well. Coming in laps 4 and 5, I was unsure if I was going to make the time cut-off, so I gave it a final push both times approaching the last climb and 2k of the race. I paid for it each time, but I was thankful to know I was getting to finish all 6. The wheels slowly came off for me at Fontana but having survived and been able to finish against this stacked field does make me happy.
Sunday served as a bit of redemption for me in the STXC. My legs felt tanked and I wasn’t sure how they would hold up in the ST, but I knew this race was a good opportunity for me. I settled in decently in the top 25 early on, battling back and forth with riders. I held as many wheels as I was able to, rarely being exposed to the wind by myself. The fatigue began to hit as we got out “3 lap call” about 16 minutes in and I emptied what I had into the next couple of laps. This was definitely one of the fastest and most brutal short-tracks I have done, but it was nonetheless fun to compete. Christopher absolutely killed it on the front end and I’m super happy to have shared this race with him.
This weekend has given me some amazing experience! I’m walking away with some super tough miles under my belt and I believe that Bonelli should be a good opportunity for a great race. I am so very thankful for the support of Dario, Josh, and Cammie at one of the toughest race weekends I’ve experienced yet. The experience of racing with this field is doing nothing but helping me to grow. I’m happy to spend a week fine-tuning here in SoCal in preparation for Bonelli!"
Following a heated weekend in Fontana, it was exciting to be able to relax at our vintage pad in the hills of La Habra Heights. We spent our days poolside, playing pool, in the theatre downstairs, and battling in way-to-intense chess matches. That week we rode decently mild in recovery and preparation for upcoming Bonelli. The food was phenomenal, the weather beautiful, and the memories priceless. We even had a rooftop view of the nightly, 9:30 pm fireworks from Disneyland. Other than the omnipresent lurk of smog, the outskirts of L.A. weren’t too bad there in our house. The best of times seem to go by the fastest, and we were getting our routine on again for the next round of races.
RACE REPORT : " I had confidence in my legs coming into the weekend and was excited about the layout of Bonelli. The punchy climbs, added technical sections, and race day monsoon was encouraging for an interesting race. I had a 61st call up, but used any opportunities early on in the start loop and first few climbs to gain a few positions. I knew that trying to climb up too drastically might put me too deep early on, so after gaining a little ground I settled in. The nasty conditions allowed me to gain some natural positions without having to put in extra work the first few laps, and I continued to pace well into the 4th lap. By this point, I had noticed that the patience paid off and began to ramp it up little by little each lap. Staying within myself early allowed me to empty the tank later in the race.
I was battling with a couple riders coming into the last two laps and had actually gained a margin on them. Beginning the last lap, mud mixed with rock had dislodged my chain and I spent more time than hoped for putting it back on; the riders caught me but I used this incident as encouragement to go all in and was able to come back and eventually ride off from them. I fought off cramps on the last set of climbs and rode in satisfyingly to the finish. I’m very happy with how this race went. Staying off the ground, successfully seeing the results of riding my own race, and cracking the top 30 in an international field made for a great experience. The bike was flawless on one of the nastiest days and I’m very thankful for the encouragement and feeds throughout!
To my surprise on Sunday morning, my legs felt fairly recovered during our morning spin. I allowed for a lengthy warm-up and was on the line about 4 rows back before I knew it. This was definitely one of the most stacked and dense short-tracks I’ve been in, with 60 + riders on the line. We were off at an expected blistering speed and I was focused early in the race with getting through to the front group. The early expenditure paid off and within a few laps and I was sitting on the wheels on the lead group. We weren’t really disconnected from the main group but were almost 20 riders large specifically. As the race found its groove, and riders jumped back and forth, gaps began to open up and our lead group began to separate. For most of the race I was filling gaps and grabbing wheels in the group…we approached the final laps and things began to get more dicey. It was all-in on the last lap and I was able to squeeze in 11th. I’m SO happy with this race. The experience was phenomenal and it was such a blast to hang in there with world class racers. Major kudos go out to Chris for an amazing 2nd in that field!
I can’t begin to thank Dario, Cammie, and Josh for all their sacrifice and work. The product of what they do is a beautiful thing and I’m so grateful to be apart of it! Also, major thanks to all our sponsors and partners for what they do and produce. It was such an amazing trip and set of races for everyone. The experience of spending so much time together will be missed!"
I’m beyond stoked on how the racing has gone this year so far; this season has opened up in such a satisfying way. I knew stepping into the pro field would be no easy feat. I also know that its going to get harder before it gets easier. Although, I can easily say that I’ve learned more in these first pro races than I probably have in three years of racing. It’s a whole new ballgame, and there are faster pitchers and more innings. All this may sound daunting, but I’m thoroughly excited about this chapter. I’m pleased to get to race with Whole Athlete/ Specialized this year as I experience this step in racing. Here’s to the 2016 season and the experiences that lay ahead!
Coming into the 2016 race season, I knew I’d be taking a step into the big pond. This season serves as the bridge from junior racing to professional racing and calls for a re-evaluation of my goals and expectations for the year. Although, I’ve confidently set some expectations that mostly consist of and mean making this the most experiential year as possible. The racing will be longer, faster, harder, and deeper than ever before, but I couldn’t be more excited for this step. Being a first year U23 racer, (19-22 year olds) I’ll be separated in results but the actual racing occurs in one massive pro field. So sometimes I might end up creating a race within the race for myself. I’m so grateful to be able to represent Whole Athlete/ Specialized again for this season and very thankful for their support in one of the most crucial seasons in all of racing.
The Whole Athlete crew kicked the year off in early March with an awesome team camp. We rode the beautiful roads and luscious trails of Marin County, California all while bonding to our new set of teammates. The week was filled with photoshoots, sponsor information, our first healthy dose of team meals, and a NorCal’s winter worth of beautiful rain.
It was great to get some quality time all together and to gain some stoke for the 2016 season. Later in the week, we drove to SoCal to participate in the season opener at Bonelli Park. I’m not sure whether it was vibes of nervousness or excitement that was higher for us. The course, which is infamous for being typical SoCal (dry and dusty), actually received a gift from God in the form of a short monsoon…which created a tacky, perfect trail.
RACE REPORT : "Finally, race season is here. Long winter months on the bike gave way to spring racing once again and I couldn't have been more excited. A great week with the team in Marin had everyone excited for the beginning of a new season!
This year's season, however, is taking on a new face. Being my first year in U23 as a pro racer, my priorities and direction definitely change a bit. So I was eager to get a taste of what it was like.
Bonelli quickly rolled around and it was race day once again. This time I spent most of the day trying to be conservative as the race wasn't until 2:45 pm. Although, before I knew it, it was go time. Starting at the back of the pack, I intended to slowly use draft on the start loop to gain some spots before the single track without taxing myself too much. The first lap was basically smooth sailing, although the pace was quite strong even 30 riders back. Pacing myself early on was difficult to do with the flow of the race. Other than paying for my early race expenditure on the 2nd and 3rd lap, patience paid off and I gained some legs back.
The race strolled on and I found myself moving forward, which was to my surprise and also was the best thing possible. Ticking the last few laps off, I emptied the tank and crossed the line. I knew my form wouldn't be prime for this time of year, so finishing top 20 was definitely more than satisfactory. I also found success in being a patient and persistent racer. I can only look forward to more experience and progress as the season goes on!
HUGE thanks to Dario, Cammie, Josh, and all that participated to help make a great start to the 2016 season. Couldn't be more thankful for the support!"
All in all, I couldn’t be happier with how the season opened up at Bonelli for my first Pro race. There’s a lot to be learned but I’m grateful to be able to do so. Here’s to the season and to my family of Whole Athlete/ Specialized for a successful and amazing season!
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!"
Here it was, a trip I'd been hoping and praying for since the planning and excitement of the 2015 season. Excited to accept, I was granted the opportunity to join 5 other juniors (Kelsey Urban, Haley Batten, Ksenia Lepikhina, Cassie Ross, and Christopher Blevins―aka. the fastest group of youngins in the U.S.) on a 2 week adventure in Austria and Germany. Yes, I was beyond stoked to hop on a plane and head across the big pond for some rough racing, cultural food, and beautiful views.
Upon arriving, it finally hit me I was plunged into my excursion as I heard nothing but German being spoke around me. I quickly found a currency exchange, grabbed a chai latte, and met my American friends and we were on our way. As we drove deeper and deeper into Austria, it came to me that "oh, we are literally in the alps". Sure enough, we popped out in-between a range of snow crested alps; we then grabbed the keys to our "hobbit-like" cabins.
The scene that we had been blessed with was surreal and I couldn't believe that the Lord, USA Cycling, and my bike had brought me there. Not only did we get to ride in the alps, but we also got to tackle our daily income of homework in the alps. Taking a deep breath every now and then and looking up, it came to me that keeping dedicated on the homework all us kiddos had was worth it for views like this. We were about 5km from the course, so we spent a few days riding it and getting tuned to battle it out in our first European race of the year! Combined with both anxiousness and excitement, I felt ready to go on the punchy, technical, Austrian course with over a hundred others.
"Beyond excited to race in Europe, I woke up race morning with a better attitude approaching the race than any race this year. But, at the same time, how can you not be when you look around and all you see are the snow-crested tops of alps? There is a little pressure when you realize the jersey you are wearing, but there's also a little less pressure because of the competition you know will be present. Chris and I got dressed after breakfast and rolled down to the course to make some final preparation
After warm up, we got organized into our call-up boxes. Although, after a couple of delays, we were told their were a couple of cars blocking the bridge we were supposed to go under and the delay ended up being over an hour. Everyone rolled around while the nerves got a chance to drop and as the sun warmed things up a bit. Finally we were ready to roll, Chris a first call up and I a third.
The start was long but we eventually made it to the woods. Other than the first chaotic downhill that was filled with flying bikes, people yelling, and kids running who were made to ride, the race somewhat settled in a bit. I slowly found a place I could hold and the gaps began to find their way into the field. I focused on racing the pace I needed and without settling too much. I was riding super smooth, felt comfortable on the technical course, and was happy with how my legs felt. The crazy punchy and physically demanding course didn't allow much rest, but I took what I could. I battled with an Italian kid (who I believe was named Antonio) and eventually passed him on the final shear climb to the descent/finish to secure 25th.
I'm more than satisfied with this result because I played a smart race and battled the best I could. Everything felt fluid and the race went gracefully smooth, even while suffering. My first euro race back here in Austria served as a great tool for races to come! I'm excited for a week of riding and exploring and for next weekend's race in Heubach, Germany."
After a killer race and stay in Oetz, Austria, we spent a last rainy day riding and taking in the sights before wandering up to Heubach, Germany for a week there. Surrounded by farmland and windmills, our gloomy-weathered stay in Germany didn't quite compare to that of Austria, but it was of no disappointment.
At our new housing, we stayed with the cheery team of Great Britain and enjoyed the foreign company. We found ourselves, again, squeezing in homework time here and there after our rides and before dinner. The course was about 6km away and we were able to enjoy a small bike path with some dirt roads on the way. It was a simple course, up for about 12 minutes and down for a few; repeat. Although, the three days of rain we received made it a bit tricky...
"After moving out of the Alps, we headed North to Germany for a Junior World Series race in Heubach. As we made final preparations for the race a few days beforehand, we expected a wet race…but, it actually started raining Friday and didn't stop until Monday morning when we left for our flight back to the states. So, yes, a wet race was imminent. I wasn't really concerned about this though, I was actually excited to get to apply some skills in the mud. Again, another precious week flew by and I was waking up to a sharp alarm at 6:50.
Chris and I made our way into our multiple layers and began our departure for the course a nice 5 or 6km away. As an ominous sky and rain haunted our warm up, it was go time again. Chris with a second call up and I somewhere around 7th, we made it to the front of a pack of 160 racers―the largest race I've ever entered. The call up was graceful, but the start was not. An expected full-on sprint leapt away at the gun and we began our start loop up to the top of the mountain. I got my first taste of a couple of riders using my hip as a handle to get around me. I slowly dropped back into a settlement as riders passed me up the 9 or so minute road climb, but I knew this would be the case and I still relied on the pacing I knew I needed at this moment. We bottlenecked as we started the descent and so we jogged/slid down the majority of it. The mud could blanket you during the race, so it was give the rider a gap or pass them asap.
We climbed back up the doubletrack trail; this 10 or so minute climb back up was where the race was made every lap. If you hammered it, you might blow up on the top portion, but if you paced too much you might get lost in traffic on the descent. So I picked people off here and there every lap and mustered a sustained push to the singletrack descent on the last lap to gain an open trail. The open descent was relieving as I gained on other racers and secured my position to the finish.
The race went overall very, very smooth with no physical, mechanical, or mental problems. The body felt responsive and the bike (S-Works Epic) flawless amidst the chaos. This was definitely a race I'm grateful for because of the experience I gained. Also, both this race and the one in Haiming served as very useful learning tools. I know that I wasn't the fiercest competitor on the starting sprint or sustained power sections, but to be where I am in competition in right now excites me for the progress I can make! The USA Squad came to compete, and that we did. So thankful for the support we received and the experience we gained."
This trip will forever reside in my heart in the front of the line of adventures to remember. Everyone bonded well, ate big, laughed hard, and gave the euros a run for their money. The experience wouldn't have been made nor the opportunity had without Marc Gullicson and Jason Jablonksi of USAC and our French-Canadian mechanic Julien Petit. After the travel and fun, it has been good to get back and relax in my small-town community before racing commences again in late June. Just another experience I've been blessed to have while riding those two wheels.
As I stepped foot yet again off of a plane into a perfect mid-70s California, my excitement for the racing, riding, fun, and overall experience with the team rushed me off of my feet. It was lovely to be able to return to our team house from the previous camp for a few days while we prepped for the UCI race at Bonelli. Hugs and high-fives greeted each and every one of us. As before, that first weekend race comes VERY soon, but I felt confident and was ready to play bikes! We made our way to the preride and I liked the new layout of the course for us juniors (now it was the pro course, like it should have been). The preride and race went a little something like…
"…It was a welcoming feeling to be flying back into Ontario and to arrive at the same team house as last trip. Everyone was excited to be back together and quickly resumed our old sleeping quarters. As we settled in, that familiar "oh we race in less than two days" feeling made its way back. The preride Friday morning went really smooth and I felt very well on the new course layout. It seemed like it had more elevation gain but with choppier, shorter descents that deprived you of any recovery you might have. The course also seemed to require a little more attention to technical spots. It was comforting to be back on the course with my teammates though as we were just getting ready for the week and a half ahead of us.
I knew that Simon would be bringing the rainbow stripes back, but I also knew that there would be an even deeper stacked field for this race. Race day was a bit different this time because we didn't start until 4:30 pm, so the preparation was a tad different. I spent the morning relaxing with Chris, Anders, Kelsey, and Haley until roughly 1:00 when we headed over to the venue and sat around a bit while watching Nino Schurter lay down some smack. I kitted up and worked my way into and through my warm up and the 10 minute call-up period was cracking off.
I was excited about a 3rd position call-up right behind Chris and Simon, a. position I'm definitely not used to. The race sped off and I tried keeping a safe position in the first group as we rounded the start loop and began the first lap. I practiced a little harder, less reserved start this time and my body responded surprisingly well. I was probably 10th but quickly settled myself into 5th behind Jerry again and together we strolled out of the pack behind Egan, Chris, and Simon. After Simon flatted, caught back up, and then attempted to drop Jerry and I, I was hot on his wheel. The three of us kept the throttle on and rolled on through a few dusty and demanding laps.
Simon and I began breaking roughly on the second to last lap, and at this point I was pulling Simon around the course and he had no desire to lead. So I kept it pinned starting the last lap hoping to weaken Simon and keep distance between any one else. Every punchy hill was nearly a sprint as I dumped the tank hoping the timing was good. As we approached the peak of the final climb into the last single-track, Simon gave a quick surge to get in front of me and he kept the sprint on for the last couple of hundred of meters. My counter was only enough to keep him about 10 yards out as we approached the line.
This race has been probably the most satisfying race yet this year because it gave me some great feedback and I was more than happy to give the World Champ a run, even if he wasn't feeling the greatest. I enjoyed the technical, demanding course and was very excited to see Whole Athlete taming the podium yet again. Chris had a killer race and I am glad I could join him on the podium. The support of the team and those involved are what make these races such an experience. Now, I'm off to experience the famous Sea Otter for the first time! "
From there, we made our way up to Marin County (aka Heaven of singletrack County) where we spent a wonderful few days riding behind the trail pioneer Dario for some 3-4hr extravaganzas. These rides in the birthplace of mountain biking itself reminded me why I ride…
We departed Marin -sadly- and headed down to Monterey for the Sea Otter Classic; the largest cycling event in the country at the least. It was exciting to finally partake in such a historic race and to get to experience the equivalent of Interbike. We had a beautiful home to stay in and it proved to be a nice welcome to the Sea Otter Classic. Here's my report of the race!
"After a swift 6 hour drive up to Marin, I spent the following few days soaking in the landscape and drooling over angelic singletrack. We developed a sense of how things were and began to feel like we could squeeze by as locals. Before any of us knew it, we were packing up and preparing for our trip to Monterey, for me it meant my first Sea Otter extravaganza. The venue was big, and I knew it would be, but it was really big. The opportunity to be at the event was truly awesome. We used Thursday to preride the course, Friday to connect with sponsors and see the venue, and Saturday to do some final race prep (which I for one overlooked).
The alarm clock sounding off at a wonderful 5:00 AM was the calling of race morning. We shuffled off to the venue in the dark and began warm up with a slight drizzle and a fog. I was quickly on the line, feeling anxious but confident, and soon taking off on the racetrack...which seemed like we were in cars because of how the pace erupted on the track. We made the first climb and I was in the top 10, right where I wanted. Although, on that climb and the following, I noticed a sort of lack in spark. I fought the discouragement off for a bit only to be reminded again by my legs and lungs that, "hey, I'm not going anywhere". Slowly I drifted back and back trying to grasp the next rider and the next for a few miles, but ultimately found I couldn't touch the speed I was hoping to have on this course. The lungs flatlined and the legs got heavy, there was no digging out of this cave. Trying to keep contact with riders here and there, I crawled into the finish roughly 20th.
This was disappointing because I knew I would be able to compete well for the top step because of the tactics in play on this course and the abundance of climbing. Although, I'm happy that this hit me here at Sea Otter and not at Bonelli, nor next weekend in Europe. I can take this race as a lesson on race prep and can use it for future racing. The team crushed Sea Otter and couldn't have done it without Dario and Josh's guidance. Now, it's off to Europe to test myself against some foreign competition and I couldn't be more excited!"
I am currently sitting in between the alps in Austria in a house that resembles something from The Hobbit while trying to keep up on homework and get some rest before tomorrows race. I couldn't be more excited to be here with the fastest group of juniors repping the United States.The course is very technical, steep, and punchy and should be a blast. Stay Tuned!
Just two weeks ago, I spent an exciting 4 day retreat in San Anselmo, California where I met my new teammates of Whole Athlete and spent the weekend riding hero dirt on the beautiful west coast. It was great getting to meet and greet with such a great crew and I left feeling not only welcomed but excited to start my adventure with them.
That adventure started with the first team race camp of the year: Bonelli-Fontana. Upon arriving that Thursday afternoon, I got to catch up with everyone and check out the (AMAZING) team house we'd be spending the next 10 days in. My teammate, Cypress, asked if I wanted to join him and coach Dario for a spin and I gladly accepted because I wanted to shake off the travel legs but also was eager to get out and see the beautiful surrounding. We got to make rooming arrangements and settle into our new home later that night and before we new it, the first team race camp was underway.
Bonelli Park pre-ride came SO quick...I mean, yes, it was the next day, but the fact that I was doing my first pre-ride of the season for the first race of the season in California was a mysterious rush all at once. No need to summarize again, so here's the Race Report I wrote for Bonelli:
As the team geared up for the pre-ride at Bonelli Park, it hit me that this was the first race of the 2015 racing season. After a long, unusually snowy winter where basically 80% of my training rides were indoors, it felt more than amazing to be out under the sun getting ready for the first race. It is hard to have expectations this early, but I felt I was in the position to compete pretty well. The course was super punchy, dry, and had some areas of sketchy rock and off-camber turns. I rode one lap smoothly to get a feel for the course and then did one hot lap. The hot lap caught my body by surprise at first when I hit the first couple of climbs, but I eventually settled in and found that "race rhythm" that I hadn't felt since last fall. I fell back into the pattern of learning to recover in between those punchy climbs. Following that, I did a smooth cool-down lap with Anders and rolled into the Whole Athlete Expo area as ready as I knew I would be for my first race on the team.
The 5:00 AM wake-up call came even earlier than it sounds. After an oatmeal breakfast, we rolled to the venue, set up, and got dressed. I started to recall what it was like to warm up and then made my way to staging. I was probably the second-third row and was able to calm my nerves by chatting with some friends. Before I knew it, 15 seconds, then "GO!" and I was off for the first time of the year. As expected, they started super fast, but I knew that wasn't necessarily what I needed, so I fought the urge to battle everyone passing me when we hit the first climb. I flowed with the group and tried to stay as idle as possible until we hit the open, powerline climb. I felt strong and ready so I took the right lane and passed about 7 guys swiftly. Then, I spent the rest of the first lap connecting with Daniel Johnson who was in 4th; we then connected with Jerry Dufour and another kid to make a strong group of four…Simon Andreassen was off the front by a minute + already. We worked to gap the field and then found a rhythm on the 2nd lap and set it in cruise control; the calm before the storm. Coming through to start the 3rd and final lap, we hit the first climb and I gave the group a little "teaser" attack and led them to the next climb where I hid back in the group behind Daniel. As we approached the infamous powerline climb, I knew what I had to do. I attacked and kept the gas on well over the top. On the downhill following I was spent and trying to recover and rode recklessly through the corners. I kept the gas on the next few hills and was surprised to see my body react so well. Without a moment to recover, I kept pushing every little roller and punch because I knew a couple of the guys in the group I broke from had strong roadie engines and could make up time on the flats. Approaching the last climb and super d downhill, I knew I could keep them off if I kept my bike upright. Completely spending myself on every last punchy climb coming into the finish, I was beginning to get excited because I knew I had secured 2nd. The podium spot behind Andreassen was more than I had imagined or even hoped for coming into this race. I was just hoping to feel things out, so this race definitely exceeded my expectations personally and excited me because it still is early in the season. Once I was out there, it felt good to be back in the groove again."
Just like that, my first race of the 2015 season was in the books and the stoke level was at an all time high. That following week, we explored the local park and were able to easily get in our training rides all the while enjoying the last bit of the beautiful mountain views as the infamous smog rolled back in. The weather was unbelievably warm and it was oddly amazing to be plunged into it after so much of Old Man Winter in Kentucky. The week in between races, even with my strongest efforts, seemed to fly by without my ability to control it. Time flies when you're having fun. We were graciously provided amazingly healthy and filling meals morning and night, a wonderful daily yoga/core routine, and were gifted with the best mechanic in the nation to keep our bikes primo without even laying a finger on them. The chemistry between this group is already unbreakable and we became as tight-knit as long lost friends. Between the rides, dinner time laughs, intense pool matches, and reggae music, we fell right into place together. Before we all knew it, the U.S. Cup at Fontana was already here and we were pre-riding the dusty, dry course in preparation for the first UCI race of the year. Here's my Race Report for Fontana:
UCI US Cup Fontana
Teammates: Chris and Anders
As quick as Bonelli came, so did Fontana, and everything in between was a blur of amazing bike rides, crazy-good weather, and even better food. It was great to have an entire park of both single and double track to ride and train on to get tuned up for the U.S. Cup at Fontana. The routine oatmeal wasn't bad at all, the rides/weather/view was killer, the homework time was well needed and spent, the yoga was on point, and the dinners were oh so welcoming. I began to love the pattern we fell in to during the week and grew close to everyone around me…before I knew it, we were setting up the expo for the race. Saturday's preride went as expected, one smooth lap, one hot lap, one cool down lap. All the meanwhile, I was taking in the character of the course. I felt strong coming into the race but knew the sustained flats would hurt me a little more; on the flip side, I could gain what I lost in the techy sections on the backside.
Again, a 5:00 AM wake up and morning commute in the dark took a little warming up to, but once we arrived and the sun was peaking over the Fontana "mound", I started to collect myself again. The warm-up was routine and before I knew it call-ups were commencing. After what I felt were strong results for me at Bonelli last week, I went into Fontana wielding the same strategy. The majority of the front group starts too fast for my liking, so I conserve much of the first lap (especially those heart-stopping first hills) and then turn the throttle up and begin picking my way up. This has just seemed to set on my body the right way. So, the gun goes off and I try keeping my position up the first main climb without killing myself to do so. I see Simon take off expectedly fast and then teammate Chris with a quick response. As we hit the techy top section of the climb the train immediately slowed, so I started picking people off from there and continued to ramp up the pace until catching Jerry Dufour. We were caught by Tofor Lewis and the three of us caught 3rd place and paced the rest of the race together. Once we hit the road climb, Tofor began picking it up and I stuck on his wheel; the two of us were able to break away in the technical rock and following a mistake by Lewis I was able to push through traffic and grind my way through the rest of the lap and into the finish. I was hit with the same exhilaration from Bonelli as I crossed the line. I was hopeful to compete at this UCI Jr. race, but I knew the competition would be stacked even higher. I was, and am, super excited to have been able to grab another podium spot in our field and this time I got to stand up there with Chris. All in all, it was a smooth race and I didn't hit the dirt, the legs felt very responsive and the support of the team was beyond amazing. This race camp was a solid week and really felt like an initiation into the Whole Athlete team and the 2015 race season."
This first race camp was beyond my expectations and I couldn't have been more blessed with the experience or the results. I am already excited to go back in just under three weeks and do it all again for Bonelli #2 and my first trip to the world-wide known Sea Otter event. The season sure has started off with a bang.