Monday, June 01, 2015

Albstadt: Round 2 Ding ding

After 11 days in Europe it was time to line up again for round two of the World Cup series.   Luna had spent an ideal week south of Albstadt on the Danau (Danube river) watching canoe and Kayaker’s paddle past, riding along the lush river valley under castles perched on cliffs and enjoying delicious fresh baked bread daily. Perks of Europe!

With more time away from travel and jet lag I was feeling mentally and physically much more amped to race.  There’s nothing like having 2+ minutes put into me in a race to light my fire!
Speaking of light, check out the magic tree Matt Delorme caught in the Black Forest
The start box reserved for the top 8 women, has the sound and intensity of a bee swarm.  8 women doing their final warm up, knobby tires on trainers, managers and media swarming back and forth, everyone focused on their role. With 5 minutes to go we roll to the line and our preselected start positions.

I was feeling ready to go and determined to see the front end of this race.  The gun went off, the bees were released and we swarmed the first corner.  Lining up on the outside to carry speed around the first left hander back fired, I got pushed out to the fence and lost positions, as we entered the corner a second time, having completed the start loop, for some reason I thought this time I would get through that corner using the same line, but again: fence, the price of not adapting.  

The first climb is only wide enough for one rider and so steep that down the line it feels like the pack has come to a halt.  Inevitably someone dabs and then you are all running.  Actually this would have been ideal, but we were walking.  By the time I summited that first climb, Jolanda, the race leader was already entering the next climb.  Although I committed to my plan of racing to lead lap 1 and worked my way through traffic making some passes on the descents and climbs I felt pretty proud of, and catching positions 2-10, I still lost a demoralizing 50 seconds in lap one.  
Always great crowds in Albstadt.  Especially with a sunny day.
Luckily wins aren't the only goal and performance of value in racing.  With Gunn-Rita in the chase group I knew I had a rider I could work with to have my best performance on the day.  Together we pulled away from the other chasers, accompanied by a time by a very talented u23 swiss rider Linda Indergrand.  Aside from lap 1, Gunn Rita and I together clocked most of the fastest laps.  Between the two of us we have 40 World Cup wins and 6+? World Championships (the lion share belong to her). We race to win, we race to give our best ride and we worked together equally and let our legs and gumption have the final say.  It made the 7 relentless laps satisfying.

In the end we were so evenly matched it came down to a pass in the final 100-200m.  Gunn Rita made the winning move and I came home for 3rd, satisfied with a big improvement from 1 week earlier and disappointed to not have another World cup or relentless challenge the following week to attend.
Setting up for the finale
So I'm headed back home, but rather than wanting to recharge I am energized by racing and want more of it! 

I’m a peacock.  You gotta let me fly;-)

Next stop: BC races, Colorado Springs US Cup finals and finally Lenzerheide World Cup first weekend of July.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

World Cup 1, Czech

It feels good to be back racing World Cups and everyone on the circuit was all smiles starting in Czech.  The season seemed to take forever to arrive. With the slow build up I was able build a strong foundation in my training, but for the top-end speed I need to win, I really need to race and there is no better place to start than in Czech.

What makes Czech special is both the crowds and the terrain.  Fans bus in from over Europe for their favourite racer, marathon athletes racing that weekend, fill the surrounding fields with their camper vans and locals arrive with costumes and creative noise makers (chainsaws).  

The trails are like coastal British Columbia, flowy and root strewn.  This is one of the few courses where you feel like you get to spend a substantial amount of time going downhill fast, and the climbs are technical, especially when the rocks and roots are wet, demanding attention as well as power.  You have to be on your A-game physically and technically to perform well.

I knew going in that I could be strong, but felt some of the other women racing all spring in Europe might have a step on me, which they did.

The course went from fast and dry Saturday to sluggish climbs and slick descents Sunday, but it was no less enjoyable.… ok maybe faster climbs would have been nice;-)    My body felt good, but not exceptional.  I rode consistently lap to lap, recovering from losing positions on the start loop by passing girls in the rocky descent and where ever else I could, but never quite tapping into that raw climbing power i have come to rely on.  Hopefully with more days on the time zone and a hard race in my legs I will find that this Sunday in Albstadt where it is all about climbing.

Railing the descents and striving to clean the expert climb each lap as well as winning the end of the race (cinched 2 positions last lap…a goal of mine to raise the back end of my racing) were the highlights.  So for the moment I am content with 4th, but have some work ahead to be riding at the front of the races.

Friday, May 08, 2015

It’s on

4 races down and still 2 weeks out from the first World Cup of the season! With early season high UCI point races and wearing the rainbow stripes, I knew there could be a danger of me coming out hot this season and fading towards the end.  So I have patiently (nervously;-) committed to a plan of a slower ramp into the season.  Although at the first events it was hard to come up a little short at the end of my races (2nd, 4th & 2nd at Us cups 1,2 &3), I felt good, had fun racing with my team and learned a lot about racing in groups, something my pin it from the start preferred strategy doesn’t offer:-). The importance of always having a race plan and commitment to a goal even if I’ve raced hundreds of times was also reconfirmed.  You do not show up and win without a fiery spirit and focused mind.

My persistence and learning was rewarded at US Cup 4 with my first ever Sea Otter Classic win, a race reputed for being a tactical game with large groups of racers typically sticking together for much of the race.  It was a punishing race that demanded putting it all out there in a final attack to edge away from Australia’s Rebecca Henderson. 

So race phase 1 is complete with some valuable lessons learned.  No onwards and upwards to the World Cups!

Luna 2015.  I'm loving the composition of our amazing team this year.  With 3 U23 women, Maghalie, Hannah-Rae and Andrea and 3 x 30-somethings;-) we are just the right blend of energy, enthusiasm and experience and continue to help each other raise the bar.
Look closely and you will see the suffer face needed to win Sea Otter!

Switching things up

For me, it’s important to keep switching things up in my racing and training.  The past two seasons I had change imposed on me by broken collarbones.  The recovery from these gave me the opportunity for some midseason reboot time and a refocus on being in the moment. It also made me grateful to be able to train hard and race.  Remembering how much of a privilege it is to do what I do and be physically able to, is a gift I never want to take for granted.  

In the past two years I’ve also taken time for a solo trip to Colorado’s mtns to see what living and training at 2800m feels like (ouch), relished 3 weeks training in France over famous mtn passes with my husband Keith before Worlds last year and most recently was able to share my “pro cyclist” lifestyle with him this past winter as he took a leave of absence from work to join me on the road to train.  We headed south in our sprinter van and logged some great miles on our road and mtn bikes.  The best part though was just getting to explore at a leisurely pace.  To go where ever our desires took us.  Places like Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Prescott, Moab and Sedona, which I had heard so much about gained a sense of familiarity and friendships were formed that will have us travelling back to these special places.

From a training perspective, I’m not sure yet what was better, logging more bike miles though the winter or my traditional focused routine of trainer rides and xc ski miles.  Time will tell. Both have their advantages.  The former being a large bike base and presumably higher efficiency that will carry me through the season, not to mention a fitter than ever training partner and the later the mental and seasonal variety of skiing with short and focused bike work.  My hope is that a very solid cycling foundation this season will have me strong throughout the World Cup season right up until the World Championships in Andorra.  There are always so many variables that go into having a successful season, but I think the soul candy and training variety this last season offered will be good for the big picture.

I’ve now gotten to enjoy a couple weeks back at home, got the garden in, taxes done, pear tree pruned as well as reconnected with friends.  As much as I loved the adventure of being on the road I am thriving being back home where home-life balances athlete-life and gives me energy, where I have my familiar routine, trails and climbs to get the most out of my efforts.  I was happy with the progress in my racing and form from US cup 1 to 4, but I feel even stronger now and look forward to one of my favourite courses on the circuit, Czech on May 24th, and another ride upon my freshly painted Orbea Oiz.
Love the spring flowers at my house!
                                    His and her work stations at a recovery week campground

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Getting closer to Racing

It is March already!  Time on the road has flown by and I wish everyone the opportunity to see the country as I have the last 2 months.  Having the freedom of a camperized van and friends stashed around California and Arizona has been wonderful.  Getting to log big ride days on the road has allowed us to get to know so many areas, get excited to find out what else these areas have to offer and excitedly plan our return trip with friends we want to share it with.
Oakley has started its One Obsession #LiveYours campaign.  I feel like I am!
We based our travel around training blocks, around great roads in Januaury when we wanted long road rides and Arizona and Utah in February when we wanted techy trails and skills work and discovered quiet campgrounds in the mountains make for the best recovery weeks and skills playgrounds! We loved California's coastal campgrounds and road riding and Arizona and Utah's red rocks are like Bc's Squamish or Victoria, awesome.  The difference being in BC you switch out red rock for red wood, sand covered rocks for moss and then add some roots, but the flavour is the same!

We came south anticipating great riding and lots of it, but even better than the trails and roads have been all the amazing people we have met along the way.  Thanks to everyone that has made the first 2 months of 2015 incredible from Corvallis to Temecula, San Luis Obispo to Sedona!

Team Camp starts for Luna March 11 and then it is off to the races!  Looking forward to our new Orbea bikes decked out with Shimano Di2 and Fox icd!  And after 2 months on the road the PrAna and Capo clothing refresh will be particularly appreciated;-)

Friday, January 09, 2015

Feeling Fortunate

Keith and I have just started a 3 month road trip/training camp.  With news of an impending snowstorm we packed up our camperized van early and hit the highways before we got snowed in (and a good thing too as Kamloops experienced road closures after we got ~50cm).  
What arrived within 24hrs of leaving town!
Our sadness at leaving ski season behind diminished 2 days later as we met up with friends in Corvallis Oregon to do some spectacular road riding.  This state definitely deserved more time exploring but we were in search of sunshine and double digit temperatures so continued south.

We found what we were looking for in the Napa Valley of California.  After stocking up on some Clif Family wines and ridding travel fatigue with a couple nights and rides in the St Helena area we made our way to ClifBar to say hi and stock up on the food essentials; mojo bars, kits organics and luna protein top the list.
The Good Stuff!
This place is magic.  We have spent team camp in the Napa Valley the last 2 years and I finally got to show Keith why morning coffee is so good!

Also on the to do list was to meet our new clothing sponsor Capo and try out some pieces.  Wow, so excited to be in this stuff next year.  It is the nicest lycra I’ve tried.…and that says a lot .

We’re now settled in a block from the beach in Santa Cruz where you can smell the sea and huge cedars on the same ride. 

Life is feeling pretty good! After 10 years of base training at home through the winter it’s a fun switch things up and share the adventure with Keith.  It is one thing to travel for racing, but a entirely different experience to travel to train, explore and discover.
Checking out a cool little surf town called Capitola

Thanks to our awesome house/kitty sitter Jeanine for making it possible!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Apparently blogs take an off season's the off season recap

The fall and winter were awesome.  Now in California I think I'll use the past tense for winter;-)

After a busy September, October was play month and we did it well with a road trip to Moab, Utah, Fruita and Grand Junction...A very worthy 40hr detour on our way to Cross nationals in Winnipeg.

The last time I was in Moab (2000) I had gone with 4 guy friends from University on the Greyhound bus.  Starting in Bangor Maine it took us 3 days each way for a week of riding.  I was a totally different rider 14 years ago and although I appreciated the unique scenery of petrified rock and tumbleweed rolling down the road way I couldn't make the most of the trails.

This time we shuttled the Whole Enchilada and were giddy..well still are from the 3000m descent through alpine, Aspens and desert.  So happy to have my 5" Orbea Occam and Fox dropper post with me for all the rock ledges!

Cross Nationals
Winnipeg did an amazing job hosting this event.  The course was fast and challenging with double sand pits and steep run ups.  The downtown venue created a great vibe and the fast and female event kicking it off introduced me to some rad rippers.

Racing was fast and tough with my luna teammate Maghalie charging hard for us to go 1,2 at nationals and then having Gabby Durrin push me in the Grand Prix on Sunday
Loving disc brakes and DI2!

This trip also brought me back to the Province I lived in for half of a 7 month exchange trip I had done with Canada and Cuba (Canada World Youth) back in 2000/2001.  After 14 years I got to see my amazing host family again.  So lucky!

Cincy 3
I haven't done a lot of Cross racing outside Canada and this was definitely a cool event.  3 races, 3 different venues in 3 days.  We raced in the mud, rain and near freezing temperatures Friday, At night under lights Saturday and in Sun and over steep run ups Sunday.  Each course was unique and fantastic.  The quality of racing was top notch (I think 5 women from here placed top 10 at the following world cup and that was with many of us missing in Europe) so women's cross racing is on fire in North America and was a pleasure to be a part of.  Form was waining though so it was great to get home to recharge....for Hawaii

My first time to Hawaii did not disappoint.  I have never ridden somewhere where it was so easy to do 4-5hr rides.  The constant supply of banana bread stands definitely helped.  In one day we did an epic road ride, swam in a waterfall and went snorkelling.  Not bad.

And of course we climbed Haleakala the World's longest paved climb.  After driving up 2 days earlier  to hike we discovered it was 0 degrees at the top!  We went home and pre packed our jerseys with a down jacket (pockets busting at the seams!), rain jacket, winter gloves, knee and arm warmers, 800 calories of Clifbar goodies and enough water for a 3hr+ climb to 10000+ft.

Then we woke up to rain...a no go day for a 3000m Volcano, riding the West Maui loop was a darn good consolation prize though.
Homemade fish taco fuel!

Keith tests out one of the contenders, but Julia really does have the World's Best Banana Bread

Atop Haleakala 0 degrees

The next day we had clear skies in Kihei and headed to Paia to start the climb...where it was pouring rain...but hey we were there so decided to try.  After an hour we got above the rain and wind and climbed into sunshine for the next 2000m. I knew the fastest women's time was a 3:17 so of course hoped to go under that!  It was a fun (okay..not all the time) goal and I squeaked in under 3:14, but records are mean't to be broken and by Canadians so within a month young talent Karol-ann Canuel rode an impressive 3:10.47.  Watch out for this girl, there is some talent.
Matt refreshes after the climb, we got amazing weather for the final 2hrs of climbing but enjoyed it too long and ended up descending 9000ft in pouring rain.  After hauling up a down jacket and winter gloves I was happy to use them!
December was about packing in winter and family and both were awesome!  

Ohh and an Olympic Preparation Worksop in Ottawa too.  It was really inspiring to get together with coaches, athletes, COC and IST staff and see how huge of a collaborative effort the Games are, how much work everyone from every aspect does to make them an amazing and successful experience and how much support we as athletes have to do our best.  The 3 days were full of amazing speakers and people 
NB girls unite.  Boxer Mandy Bujold on NB/ON was my roommate

Olympian and humourist Jean Luc brassard will be the Chef de mission in Rio

We even got in a little food competition

Talking Rio, Sport and getting the most out of Performance at the games

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The sweetness of desire, relief, pride, exhaustion; It’s hard to put into words just what it felt like to Win the Mountain Bike World Championships on Saturday in Hafjell, Norway.

I often get asked what race victory is sweetest and I think I now have a clear answer, Worlds 2014.  Every victory, be it your first World cup top-20 or a win at any level is sweet, the reward & validation of your efforts; but this win was 2 years in the making.  After a heartbreaking ride in London, It was a 2-year process for me to return to the rider I am capable of being.

In the beginning of my career, winning was easier. Not because the competition was weaker, but because I didn’t know better.  I didn’t have to get results, I just had to do my best and I always wanted to give my best. I loved it. It was fun. I raced with desire, confidence & belief.

Sometimes the key ingredient of success is the thing we do unconsciously.  Loving doing something so much that it does not feel like sacrifice or work, it is life, the life we choose.

With success comes the expectation of success and with that somehow we warp our minds into thinking that Success is a stress, a weight on our shoulders, something that requires more seriousness.  We can lose that sparkle, that central puzzle piece that connected all the other pieces. Before the race my confidence went through ebbs and flows, but by race day I was ready for battle, Ready to embrace the challenge and ready to do a race I would be proud of no matter what the finishing position.

Crossing the line as World Champion in 2011 was exciting, being able to repeat it 2014, knowing where to look for that missing puzzle piece so that by race day everything fit together flawlessly was an even bigger accomplishment.

Wearing the rainbow stripes is an honour I embrace. I will continue to have great days and days where I make mistakes, but I will always give you my best on each day.

I look forward to having fun wearing and racing in the rainbow stripes everyday of next year!

There are so many people that made this ride & my career possible.

My husband Keith, key to keeping mtn biking fun and my head on straight and life in balance
Waldek and Dusty from Luna who were in the pits to save my race with the fastest, most quietly confident wheel change ever.  Staff cannot win a World Championship, but without the professional competence of these two it most certainly could have been lost.
Dan Proulx, who coached me for 11 years and now mentors me as I coach myself

Mom and Dad, who travelled to Norway because they still just love watching their little girl race.
My mother and father-in law Sues and Grainger for cat sitting for 2 months so that Keith could travel with me!

Luna; the team with the vision to give women, just like out male counterparts the opportunity to support themselves and race professionally on mtn bikes

My teammates on both Luna and team Canada, especially Maghs and Sandra, for believing and dreaming with me and inspiring me with their own riding and attitude.  I feel so lucky to spend my life surrounded by great people!

So Thank you Thank you Thank you Family, Friends fans and Sponsors.  You are the best!

Pink bike photo epic

Take a lap with Claudio Caluori and Jose Hermida
Watch the whole race here