(I was hoping to have more photos by now, but I don’t!)
The start area was a little somber. Staging was 20 minutes before the start. We stood by our bikes in the pissing rain, jumping around to keep warm. Rookie error on my part to forgo the raincoat. In front of us, we could see a large downhill wood chute to the finish. It looked intimidating and very steep. I wasn’t sure if I could even ride it! A few minutes before the start, we were notified of a delay. There was a giant moose on the race course! Moose are one of the most dangerous animals. They are aggressive and stand 7 feet at the shoulder. They will charge and trample you. Apparently the moose tried to charge the park rangers and they used bear spray in attempts to deter it. So what can you do? The race was re-routed and the course was changed to avoid the area with the angry moose. Suddenly, slick woodwork was not at the top of my list of worries. By the time we got started, the rain had stopped. The course actually was in great condition. There were a few slick spots, but overall, the dirt was primo.
My legs shrieked with pain and locked up as we climbed up the steep service road. Every muscle in my legs were sore and cold from standing around for 30 minutes in the rain, but I flogged them with no sympathy. I knew the climbs were my only chance. I was actually riding better than I had been the last 2 days on the descents – my skills were coming around but I was feeling the high intensity efforts on the climbs from Stages 1 and 2. There was one downhill section I got out of control and was trying to stop and bail off the bike. A spectator actually caught me with an outstretched arm before I catapulted off my bike – so thanks to him! Sure enough, Sandra and Kate came by me together on the descent. I felt a lot more confident so I chased after them. I was losing only maybe 30 seconds on the downhill this time instead of minutes. Sandra escaped but was within view. Kate and I duked it out all day. I really enjoyed it! I would pass her on the climbs and only put maybe 30sec-1min into her, and she’d get me at the bottom of the descents. I was hooting and hollering as we got above treeline. It was fresh, colorful, and brilliant. There were head height purple flowers bursting everywhere. The 3rd climb was steep and painful. I passed Kate and dug deep knowing that it would come down to the final descent of the race- Rumplestiltskin – a downhill run. I was bummed that I didn’t have a chance to see it before riding it. No local knowledge! The entry to the descent was very steep and rocky, but I went for it. I had to. On one of the super steep pitches, both of my feet somehow came unclipped. I was balancing on my stomach on the back of the Ergon saddle with both feet out behind the rear wheel and hanging onto the bars for dear life. I thought for sure that I was going down but I somehow was able to hop off the back of the bike and save it. That mistake cost me the race for the day. About a minute later, Kate came around me just a few km from the finish and beat me by 26 seconds! The last wood chute wasn’t as bad as I thought, but I entered it without being able to see over the edge, let the brakes go and screamed “ohhh shiiitttt!!!” on the way down.
Even though I missed the overall podium by a mere 42 seconds over 3 days, I was happy. I was riding really well, I felt great, my descending on the terrain improved every day as well as my confidence, and I had high class competition. Of course, I would have loved a better placing; I realized that simply pulling over many times to let people by on the descents cost me that precious time. But no excuse – I missed the podium because I was outridden on the descents, not because I was pulling over to let other racers by. The only solution is to get better, and it’s going to be a fun challenge! Bring on the confidence building!
I was happy with my overall form. I leave for Mongolia Bike Challenge in a week. I’ve done a lot of traveling around BC since Trans Rockies (and now back in CO) and am absolutely fried, but I am hoping to recharge and unload everything left in me for 2013 onto the Mongolia Bike Challenge!