As the infamous “base” season transitions into a demanding Spring, it is easy to be “chamois time is training time” oriented. Fellow athletes on STRAVA are rolling out the miles and boasting huge days in the saddle. Preseason anxiety builds and I find myself worrying about hours on the bike-or rather if I have got enough of those hours under my belt. Long, monotonous days on the bike certainly do their part, but there are a few key aspects of training and everything-else-off-the-bike that are crucial in preparing for the coming season. It goes without saying that sleep, nutrition, and hours on the bike are important to “gains”, but I want to point out some aspects of training that are as important as anything else. These focus points have been huge for me and I want to share them-
whether they serve as reminders, encouragement, or just a time-killing read.
What I like to do, and has been advised by my coach, is include some of those traditional workouts (regular squats, leg press, deadlift…) with others that are targeting stabilization muscles and/or isolating a body part-like including a balance pad or board. I usually make circuits that include an upper, lower, and core exercise. Tossing in a couple side planks or swiss ball core exercises in between leg sets is super easy to do and helps add that little bit of attention to the core and back. As far as upper body, it is often neglected by cyclists because they feel they “don’t need the weight”. XCO racing demands a lot from your upper body…and if you can’t answer that demand then riding becomes sloppy and it can ruin your recovery throughout the race, or leave you trailside picking yourself up. (not to mention overall injury prevention!)
*For a bit more on strength in the gym and the science behind it, I highly suggest this podcast by Mark Sisson and Jacques Devore.
Of course it is important to be flexible! Cyclists aren’t gymnasts, but being able to move with and around your bike is crucial in racing. When you are a bit more flexible, this allows your body to work more efficiently and effectively on the bike, especially in techy sections. I always try to get in a light stretch right after training rides, but I can vouch for the fact that it’s not always what I want to do as soon as I get off the bike. However, it is super easy to get in a good 10 min of basic stretches right before bed and this is usually my go-to.
One of the single-handedly most important parts of XC racing is being able to handle the bike. Rough, steep, technical terrain is prevalent in every single race. Whether it be a Southeastern NICA race or a World Cup, basics like cornering and technical skills are vital. The more comfortable you are, the faster you are, and the less energy you spend.
Adding a session of skills to the weekly regimen has been super important for me as the race season builds. On recovery days, I’ll often take the mtb out and session a section of trail just focusing on basic technical skills. It is easy for people to get glued to the road bike saddle while trying to put in more hours, but I like to incorporate workouts on the trail or on my mtb just to keep that feel and flow.
Train Hard, Rest Harder
Training makes you slow. Recovery makes you fast. What? Yeah that’s right, training does nothing but break your body down-so why do people neglect the recovery? As training accumulates, it becomes more and more important to pay attention to how you feel and how you are recovering. The adaptation of your work is where all the gains are made. When you have to go hard-go hard, but when you have to go easy-GO EASY.
Controlling the Controllable(s)
Last but not least, DO YOUR THING. This one is what I have to remind myself weekly. It is so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. I personally catch myself getting anxious as the season approaches and social media can be the root of that. I love to stay tuned in to what is going on around the world with different friends and athletes. It is a fun thing to get excited about, but when you see people racing in SoCal, training in South Africa, traveling because they aren’t in school…it is easy to get caught up. If you’re on the trainer most winter nights: sweet, get it. If you are snowed in a lot and cross training with skiing or something else: sweet, get it. I have learned (largely in part to clinical sports psychologist Kristin Keim) that no matter what, control the controllable(s). That being: focus only on what you can do and put your mental and physical energy into that. Above all, enjoy your process.
Saying that I both had a great time and learned a lot at the Bear Pro Team Camp is an understatement. I was so amped to kick off the year and officially get back together with the team. It was so exciting to be packing the bike again and getting things together for another travel day, something I’ve missed over the long winter months. Partnered up with the boys, Jason Jablonski, Shaums March, and Stephen Ettinger, our team camp commenced on Friday afternoon.
Sunday we rose to meet Shaums and work on skills involving drops, jumps, and steep terrain. A good dusting of snow and frigid temps didn’t keep us held back. We started with cornering in the street, then moved to the trails to work on our drops/jumps–progressively working up to bigger ones. We got a quick lunch after this session and then headed out with Stephen to rip some phenomenal Bellingham single track. Working on applying those steep skills, this day was a huge help to all of us involving comfort on the cross country bike. My “dinner partner” and I (Eli) made burritos for the crew and we finished off Sunday with some nutritional, training, and Q & A talk with both Jason and Stephen.
Our final morning came quicker than imaginable, and we packed everything up Monday morning to be ready to go after an AM trail ride. Shaums treated us to some pristine (and frozen) single track to close out the trip. After heading out of Bellingham, we had a good bit of time at the SeaTac airport to reflect on what was a phenomenal weekend. Along with an amazing group of resources, it had the full spectrum of skill work, mental work, and strength work. Not to mention the fact that it was a total stoke builder for everyone on the team. We are completely blown away by the support from sponsors, USA Cycling, and those involved in this coming season and this team camp just amplified our excitement. Time to get the 2018 season rolling!
PLEASE check out this slideshow below to see even more stellar photos!
PHOTOS: Ian Stowe // many thanks
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.
Please visit and/or share my page! [https://usacycling.rallyme.com/rallies/7399]
I am beyond excited and grateful to have been selected for the next round of World Cup races in Europe! These races will be in Andorra and Lenzerheide, Switzerland. It has been a long work in progress and I am stoked to see the work and planning fall into place. I know I will benefit from the travel and experience of racing at the highest level and am eager to get this trip kickstarted.
With an amazingly supported Canada Cup fundraiser, I am looking to keep the ball rolling. Typically, USAC athletes have to raise funds for airfare in order to take part in international races, with funds not available to cover all the expenses of these trips. I am hoping to use this Rally Me fundraiser to cut the costs it will take to go and compete. The USA Cycling crew will cover all on-ground expenses, but it is my job to get over there-covering flight costs and other airfare fees. With flights costing me and my family nearly $2,000, it would be incredibly helpful to get any aid in this process, and I can not explain how grateful I would be to receive any.
If you would be so gracious to assist, your help would extend well beyond just this trip!
A special thank you to Julia Violich and Bear Development, coach Dario Fredrick, USA Cycling, and those who have supported me to this point. I am unbelievably thankful for the continued love and support as I pursue this awesome cycling career and I look foward to what is to come!
Though it may not be necessarily far away, the airport customs line and french culture made going to Canada feel like I had gone over seas. After arriving in Montreal, a couple of Bear Development teammates and I made our way over to the Mont-Tremblant resort. The beautiful area and architecture was similar to that of a french village, bustling with tourists. We spent a couple days there on course dialing in lines, eating dinners in the village, and enjoying the scenery. Before long, we had to set aside our tourism and it was time to line up for race number one.
A 4:00 pm race start was a little unsettling, but at the least it gave us some time to keep resting. The race wasn’t super deep in numbers, but was definitely stacked in names. This combo made for a stellar race because we weren’t being lost in the mass and it allowed us to actually compete up front with some big guns. We surged off through the village square, descending sets of stairs, making our way up some doubletrack that funneled into technical single track. The course was wet in a few places, benefiting me as it made the rocky sections a little sketchy. This made getting up front pretty crucial. I got myself within the top 10 and found some flow through the duration of the race. I fought “mini battles” within the race with a rider every now and then, keeping it smooth on the techy descents. Thankfully I was able to stick it on the last lap, placing me in a very satisfying 6th position. This race served as a kickstart to my trip in Canada, providing some encouragement about the week and race ahead!
We made our transit a mere 4:30 hours over to Baie-Saint-Paul…and I thought Mont-Tremblant was french. Our quaint village by the Atlantic thrived on its old french heart and served as our home for the next week. With the course a quick 10 minute spin away, we were able to get on course plenty early and often. This race actually rewarded line choice and smooth riding, as it was very technical and raw. It featured well-spaced sections of double track climbing in between steep, techy single track climbs and descents. I absolutely loved it. A true mountain bike race course resembling that of a World Cup. Our week full of baguettes, brie, and Netflix came quickly to a close as race weekend came upon us.
Another 4:30 pm start time had me anxious all day. The race at BSP surged off at a much more brisk pace than that of Mont-Tremblant. We were jostling for position all the way to the first single track section where everyone was forced to scramble into line. Apparently someone up front wanted to keep the heat on because the first couple of laps were HOT. We battled every where there was a slight opening from the single track, thus the race stayed tight the whole time. The technical climbs and rocky off-camber descents in the course kept us on our toes. If you weren't mentally on tap, the demands of the course could cripple you.
The style of course played to my hand and I felt strong early on. I began to fade towards the middle of the race but trying to minimize my losses I was able to keep steady, consistent lap times...giving it one last push on the final lap. I came within about 10 seconds of one more rider in front of me on the top of the final climb and was able to close it down to mere feet on the descent. The finishing sprint didn't go my way but I landed a very satisfying 14th on the day-a top 15 in an international UCI C1.
Overall, my first trip to Canada was a true blessing. Being able to travel again kept my soul happy and getting to race on two of the finest examples of cross-country courses made me more than pleased. Two teammates and I organized the logistics and day-to-day planning while there, making it an interesting but satisfyingly independent trip. The experience was priceless and the UCI points I gained through racing are going to be so valuable going forward! Experiences like this are why I love what I do and am grateful to God to be able to do it. Thank you to all who make this crazy journey possible.
Experience at Canada Cups and More!
[please visit my page!] https://usacycling.rallyme.com/rallies/6699
I am Carson Beckett, a U23 XC racer for Bear Development. I am beyond grateful to be granted the opportunity through Bear and their resources to go to Canada to compete in 2 UCI races, one in Mont Tremblant, QC and one in Baie-Saint-Paul, QC. This is a huge opportunity for me to be able to gain experience and get some vital UCI points at an international level as a U23 racer. Not only that, I know I would benefit from the travel and experience of racing in another country.
I am very eager about this trip because I am looking to make later World Cup trips as part of USA Cycling. To better compete both nationally and internationally, every single UCI point matters and this trip could be a huge opportunity to gain those points for later in the season.
Typically, USAC athletes have to raise funds for airfare in order to take part in international races, with funds not available to cover all the expenses of these trips. I am hoping to use this Rally Me fundraiser to cut the costs it will take to go and compete. I am looking to have to cover flight costs and other fees it will take to stay there for a two week period. In light of that, it would be incredibly helpful to get any aid in this process, and I can not explain how grateful I would be to receive any.
If you would be so gracious to assist, anything would be helpful in getting me to Canada to compete for valuable UCI points and experience! Your help would extend well beyond just this trip!
A special thank you to Bear Development, USA Cycling, and those who have supported me to this point. I am unbelievably thankful for the continued love and support as I pursue this awesome cycling career and I look foward to what is to come!
[please visit my page!] https://usacycling.rallyme.com/rallies/6699
Coming off of a compelling race at Fontana the weekend before, I was more than eager to see what I could make out of the HC events at Bonelli. The U23 boys of bear spent the week between the two races together and had a stellar time riding, eating, and doing a whole lot of nothing before Bonelli. We got in some early laps on the new course and were anxious to be back on the race scene with the whole team. The stoke was high.
Jerry, Luke, Steffen, and I set up a mock, one-lap race to get things opened up and I was feeling very good coming into Saturday’s XC race. A quick morning spin and it was go-time before I knew it. We filed out of our corrals, got lined up, and the race surged on. I had a really good prologue and first lap and was sitting well in the group. However, my first lap confidence didn’t save me from the nuclear-like explosion that occurred a lap later. Unsure of whether I should totally back off or not, I decided it would be best to try to trudge through and savor what I had left. I’m not sure what led to it, but I stayed in that red the rest of the race. I managed to pull things together and fight off for an acceptable 34th on the final lap.
While I definitely did not feel like I was hoping, Bonelli’s brutal course lacked mercy-making it even tougher to come back from. The Bear guys had a couple of phenomenal showings for the season openers and I am proud to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to bouncing back from this and fine tuning things before next weekend’s races at Sea Otter!
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.
Carson Beckett, 22 // UCI MTB Racer // Coach // // Student // Outdoor Enthusiast