For those of you that read the title and cringed, thinking that I was turning this into a foodie blog that was all organic, kale, nutritional yeast, natural and gluten free…you can take a breath and keep reading. And for those of you who were hoping for all of that, I am sorry to disappoint you.
When I sit down to write these, there are times that it is super enjoyable and fun to share my last race experience, awesome people that I met because of the bike, the amazing bicycle event that I last attended, an unforgettable training ride that I completed or just some crazy thought that popped into my head. Then there are those times that I sit and stare…and stare…and stare some more with nothing but white staring back at me and instead of letters appearing that turn into words, it is as if I am playing scramble and have the worst letters possible that even Terrence Tao (who is apparently one of the smartest people in the world with an IQ of 230) could not think of a word. But this time, from the moment I sat down to type, I knew exactly what to write…I just was not sure I should write it.
There are times that we look at certain people, we admire them and maybe even wish to be like them because from the outside everything appears to be so happy, perfect and easy, when the truth is that it is really not all as perfect and flowery as we might think. Believe me, I am not at all saying that I am one of these people that everyone looks up to, but in our tiny world of mountain biking, I know Team ShoAir has their amazing and most awesomest supporters and fans who we are so thankful for. Its because of this and because I am a person who likes to be real…I thought that I should just truly write from the heart and forget trying to paint pretty pinks and yellows over a canvas that is not that bright at the moment.
This past weekend was Sea Otter and for anyone who has experienced Sea Otter will know that it is truly one of the most spectacular bicycling events ever. My injury forced me to sit last year out and when I drove into the venue last Friday and crested the top of the hill that had me looking down and into the venue…I remembered how amazing this event really was. Bikes were everywhere, cars with bikes on them were everywhere, people wearing clothes that had bikes on them were everywhere. When we walked into the expo area, every vendor that you could possibly think of or not think of was there. There were dirt jumps, contests, race courses, the most inventive bicycle creations, product launches, demos, samples, clinics, lounges and so much more for as far as the eye could see. It was a place that made you feel happy, made you smile and made you want to go ride your bike.
The moment that I crested that hill, that was the emotion I had..I was excited and could not wait to put on my fancy new Gaerne shoes, throw my leg over my shiny Cannondale F29 and go for a pre-ride lap around the course. The not so awesome two past races that I had, along with the reality of my new “normal” when it came to my riding, were immediately thrown out the door and locked out. I was anxious to ride, I was looking forward to racing, I was excited and a part of me felt that it may be a new beginning.
Saturday morning (race day) rolled around very quickly and before I knew it, I was standing in the little corralled area before the starting line. With 10 minutes to go, I could hear Larry’s voice over the PA, getting the crowd amped and beginning the introductions of the lady competitors. The call-up is always critical when it comes to XC races. Even when we think that we have so much time to move up, get around and pass people, the reality is that as true as that is…the more people that are in front of you, the more chance of getting caught up in a crash or a tangled mess of handlebars.
Needless to say, as I stood in that coral, I was not expecting the greatest call up, but maybe atleast A call up, but it never happened and I knew that I had some jockeying to do before the dirt.
The dirt finally appeared and it was as if someone opened the gates to the pinned up horses and it was full throttle. This first section was a short, steep hill and my “attack” may not have looked like an “attack”, but trust me, I was giving it everything I had and my position ended up being unlucky when the girl or two in front of me stepped off and quickly sent the dominos flying. I was off my bike and running while girls were passing me left and right. There was a rush of panic, but I had to stay calm, get back on the bike, keep pedaling and most importantly be patient (just as Johnny always tells me).
Starts were never my forte, but in the past, even with an unlucky or bad start, I could pull myself up towards the front and back in position. In my head on Saturday, this was exactly what I was going to do…I was going to ride smart, while being aggressive and patient (if that makes any sense) and move myself up. If it were last year or how it played out in my head it, it would have worked with no problem, but reality quickly came pounding at the door and my simple plan came crumbling down before me.
The only way that I know how to explain this, is that in my head, I can feel my strength and power that is so familiar to what I could do not that long ago (last year) and as I am racing or even training, the mind tells the body to do what it knows has to be done in order to get to the front or complete that interval or to simply go fast, but the slow motion button is hit over me and the body does not respond in the way I want. I do not think that the body is ignoring the mind, but it is simply saying that it cannot do what is expected or wanted. It’s not that it’s not doing everything in it’s power to try…it’s just that, that is all it has in it.
So, as I was riding, this was the battle that I was experiencing in my head and as badly and as much as the unfamiliar aches, pains, frustrations, and thought of pedaling off of the course that day crossed my mind… I gave it every ounce that I had until I crossed that finish line.
I did not want to share this with you or with anyone to create an excuse or feel sympathy, but I wanted to share it with you to be real and to be raw. I felt that it was time to pull away all the layers of what even I myself always expect for myself to be, how I expect myself to perform or how strong I always expect myself to be…the reality is that yeah, I am going through a funk and it simply put, it sucks.
It has only been a couple of months that I have been back on the bike and training and sometimes I have to remind myself of that, but it is hard. Anytime an athlete gets to the line, when they cross it again, they want to cross it first and that is always the goal…and I am an athlete.
The reality is that this is my life right now and is another hurdle, another challenge another test and I have a couple of options: throw in the flag or overcome it. Being that I am not and never was a quitter, my choice is the latter. It is not going to be pretty, nor is it going to be easy, but I am going to continue throwing my leg over that shiny top tube and doing everything that is within my power to get through this. My dad always says “At night, before I go to bed, I ask myself, was that the best I could do?” And when I ask myself that question, I will never have to question my answer.
The Sho-Air/Cannondale team had a bumpy Sea Otter this year. The push to get back in shape after post Fontana illness had me fairly pleased with my form and fight.
Pow the gun went off and I comfortably made the lead group but a lost chain on an early downhill derailed my start. I fell back into the 60s and fought SO hard to catch the front that I burned a few matches. It was awesome to feel strong again so I wasted no time attacking the front group going into and out of the race way.
By the middle of lap two I was fighting but feeling my short track type chase to regain the front and was gaped off the leading group of 8 or so. I battled it out with Stephen Edinger and rolled in ahead of him in 9th I think. The effort and sensations were good and the action was sweet carving turns fighting for position and dropping the downhill with reckless abandon into a dust cloud of riders! It is the type of shit that gives you goose bumps and feel happy to finish in one piece. I sure left nothing out on the track and was cooked like an over done Christmas goose by the end of our 36-mile battle.
The rest of our team seemed to have challenges hitting paydirt, the strong character of our team and its core group of great people are its real asset and it is why Team ShoAir/Cannondale will be working hard on the comeback.
We all did our rounds Pua and Tinker meeting with Cannondale’s VP Dave Manchester. I announced the new Virginia NICA League and even did a live cast of an interview with famous
announcer Richard Freeze and even had time to catch up with Bikes belongs Jen Dice. Alex visited sponsors like Enve and SRM to say thanks for all the great support.
There where team dinners bowling and of course sighing autographs for fans and posing for pictures with kids.
Sure I can wax philosophic about how results aren’t everything. Truth Is I know our team is fired up and hungry to get back the winning groove so I am confident well hit a great summer season.
All did a great job this weekend and put in the college try we had a good time, made people smile and enjoyed our time there. The culture history and imprint of Sea Otter was strong. The people, bike culture and the crazy buzz. In the middle of a car track like a giant oval bee hive of people who love bikes the energy was up at Sea Otter.
Team Sho-Air/Cannondale too is a classic team that will bounce back to prove its metal at the coming races! Stay tuned fans!
It seems like yesterday but two weeks ago I was loading up the car for a serious racing road trip, heading to California for the USAC US Cups presented by Sho-Air. It’s actually a surprisingly easy drive from Salt Lake to Southern California and I did it in two shifts, taking a break for the night in St. George. Thursday I rolled in to San Dimas, site of Bonelli Park, and sensed the excitement in the air as soon as I got to my hotel. It was the Extended Stay America and naturally there were plenty of other racers there, and everyone was fired up for the HC category race, a first for the US. I spun over to the course to ride a few laps and work the driving out of the legs, and was greeted by a super fun and demanding track that had some cool new tech features built in. I even saw Scott Tedro, Johnny Muller and some other Sho-Air staff out taping the course. Not only do those guys run a first class team, they put on races and do some of the course dirty work. Hats off to you guys it was a blast to race and I know the live coverage was a hit!
I think everyone that raced would agree that the event was top notch, the depth of the field was as good as we have seen here in the states besides the World Cup in Windham.
That led to some super tight and hard racing, which is also super exciting to watch. When the dust settled after a hot afternoon of racing I landed in 9th place, which I was super happy with. I had done Bonelli once before and liked the course a lot, and was motivated to put in a goof effort on the team’s home turf. I think that is my personal best XC result, moving up from a start spot in the mid 20′s steadily through the first four laps. I got in a group with Jeremiah around the midpoint and was able to hang in there with him until the finish. We were definitely motivating each other out there. I also earned some valuable UCI XC points with that and hopefully can build on them this summer and improve my start position for next year. Hats off to Geoff Kabush for taking the Bonelli win for North America in a commanding fashion.
We had a week in between races and hung around to do some media and photo days at Sho-Air HQ on Monday and Tuesday. It was great to get together with the CFR team and hang out at an Irish bar on St. Patricks day and shoot some pool, which I am terrible at. Better stick to bike riding….
By mid-week we were gearing up for Fontana, which was going to be another super stacked and hard race. The course over there was a little shorter this year for better live coverage which also makes for some fun racing. Six laps really lets one get to know the course; where to try to attack and make time. We had a couple more of the word’s top riders in attendance for Fontana a Dan McConnell and CFR’s Anton Cooper made the trip over. I watched the live replay of the race and it was awesome, came down to a 3 up sprint between Marco Fontana, Manny Fumic and Dan McConnell. There were battles all through the field and everyone was involved in a race within the race. I ended up battling with group in the latter half of the top 20 after getting shuffled back at the start. I never blame a bad start, but for some reason the side I was on went slow through the first corners and we got shuffled back a bunch of spots. If you have the legs you can always move up though, and mine were good enough to get me to 18th that day. I’d hoped for more but can’t be too bummed in that field. It was also god enough to hold on to 9th overall in the US Cup with one more round to go. That’s in Colorado Springs in June, which should suit me, higher altitude and three more months to train!
For now it’s time to get back to some riding and training after some much needed rest, I’ll pick things back up this weekend and get ready for the second half of the spring racing.