After a satisfying result at in the cross-country race on Saturday, I was pretty revved up for the short track race. Having spent a considerable amount of time on both courses ahead of the race weekend, I knew that the short track course was definitely more my speed. Like with the cross-country race, I had a secret goal in mind. It wasn’t one I was comfortable sharing aloud with anyone – in part because I was worried people would think it was far-fetched – but I knew if everything went right, it was attainable.
I wanted to podium.
(Spoiler alert: I did!)
The short track course was basically the bottom section of the xc course except that it was a complete loop. We came through the start/finish on each lap instead of heading towards the infamous climb featured in Saturday’s race. I described the course in detail in my previous report (read it here if you missed it), so I’ll spare you the details. There was one difference from the bottom loop as described in the xc report — the short track course eliminated the dreaded rock garden.
Thankfully, I had a better call up on Sunday than Saturday. Call-ups were based on the previous day’s results. Having finished ninth, I was called up ninth and lined up in the second row. I had a good start, but unfortunately we turned immediately from the line. I was forced to take the outside line through loose gravel. In at attempt to move onto the grass, I got pinched off in the narrow part of the turn. By the time the field had strung out, I was probably still ninth.
A gap opened on the front before I was able to pick my way past riders in front of me riding a slower tempo than I would have preferred. It was hard to pass on the course, so I was stuck in ninth for the entire first lap. I think I could have ridden with the girls at the front if I had been further up when the gap opened.
I followed my typical pattern that I’ve come to recognize from racing ‘cross where I don’t start off that fast but I come on strong as the other riders start to lose gas and slow down a bit. I think one of my biggest strengths in short track is that I can ride a steady race. That’s the endurance piece. Even though short track is an all out kind of race, I can do all out longer than most people can. It’s definitely to my advantage in short track.
The loop included a short kicker of a climb, and that’s where I was able to make up time on people. At one point, I tried to come around Heather Irmiger, and I got pushed out in a left hand turn into some loose gravel. I didn’t make it around her before the turn. She stayed ahead of me and two people passed me with that mistake. I eventually slotted back in behind Heather. The next lap, I knew better, and I came around Heather on the inside. This time she was the one that got pushed out, and I finally got around her.
Having come around Heather, passing Kelli Emmet became the next goal. With Kelli squarely in my sight, I picked her off on another straightaway, and just like that I had ridden myself into podium position. I actually was closing in on Chloe Woodruff, who ended up in fourth, on the last lap. She may have let up a little because she knew she had me, but it was encouraging to note that only ten seconds separated us on the line.
So, I ended up in fifth.
I was pretty stoked.
All in all, I exceeded my expectations over the course of the weekend. It’s not like me make that sort of declaration. Whenever a race finishes, I always look back and feel like I could have given more. I’m working on being better about what I do right just as much as I agonize over what I did wrong. I did a lot of things right in Sun Valley.
It was pretty cool to share the podium with two women who are going to the Olympics. Really, it was a cool weekend all around. I got to be in the room with Lea Davison the first time she saw her Strava commercial. I had a chance to catch up with Georgia Gould and hear her describe the disappointment she’s experienced in the last two rounds of the World Cup – and hear how fired up she is to get that elusive coveted win she deserves. I spent time with Reecca Rusch, who is someone I look up to and admire. She does a lot for the sport, in general, and women’s cycling specifically. It was a pleasure to be in her hometown and part of the events she organized throughout the week.
I walk away wondering what I could do if I raced my mountain bike all the time. I’ve trained on my mountain bike more this season than in past years, but most of my mountain bike riding came earlier in the season. I’ve had to work in more road riding – mostly road riding – as the season has progressed. I’m definitely wondering what I could do if I could focus on the dirt more.
I also want to give a huge shout out to Cal Giant, Specialized and SRAM. I appreciate the support they’ve been willing to give me even though I’m not a true mountain biker.