I never thought winning a World Cup could feel crappy

So I’ll recap quickly to get to what you’re really interested in.  What happened in that final minute of racing?
                                           Luna goes 1,2,3...just not in expected order

It was a good race.  I had a crappy start again despite my best efforts and was playing catch up, trying to motivate myself to reach the front.  By lap 2 I had caught the chase group and only Katerina could go with me into lap 3, but Gunn Rita and Marie-Helene were always close behind.  After leading Katerina for 2 laps I started to pull away only to lose the precious seconds gained to a lapped rider on the final descent lap 4.  Again I worked all lap to build a couple second buffer for the final descent.  Georgia had been increasing her 20-second gap on lap 1 and was now up to 43 seconds on the final lap.  Coming down the last descent I was smiling.  It was going to be Luna 1,2,3 and Georgia had ridden the perfect race for the win and I had fought a hard race for 2nd if I could just hold it together till the finish.

As I came out of the final woods with only grassy corners to the finish, my heart sunk as I saw Georgia riding a flat tire in front of me.  That was the last thing I wanted to see.  It felt as crappy as leading a world cup and seeing no one feels amazing.

For the final climb she had to get off and run and I was left paralyzed with indecision.  I actually pleaded with her to be able to do something, to somehow be able to jump back on her bike and kick my but to the finish, sitting up not wanting to take her win, but not knowing whether to stop.  I looked back to Katerina to see what to do, but she was out of the saddle attacking the climb eyes on the finish.  Indecision vanished and fight or flight kicked in and it was a wicked sprint to the line.  That was my race, the sprint to the finish with Katerina that I had just spent the last 1h37 engaged in, but it should have been a sprint for 2nd with Georgia clearly having the better ride that day, just not the luck.

It was heart wrenching and easy to berate myself for doing the wrong thing.  Georgia was crushed and I had won, but what had I really gained and did that matter?  But who is prepared for that kind of situation where you have to make a split second decision to stop racing for a World Cup podium after being heavily invested in racing the last 1.5hrs, the last year, the last 6 years?  When how you would race if it weren’t your teammate that flatted, but rather someone from another country or trade team would be a no brainer for both you and those watching no matter how much it sucked for the rider of the day?

On Luna we have always been proud of what we do as a team, but we have also faced each other as our stiffest competition domestically and internationally for years.  The idea of giving up a win or being handed a win does not sit well with any of us.  We are good because we are all strong, competitive women that want to earn our results and aren’t afraid to fight for them.  The only possible exception is winning your first world cup at home and being caught by two teammates in the last seconds of racing … but I guess this scenario never came up in conversation.

On retrospect I would have loved to jump off my bike and have Katerina follow my lead and challenge the three to an even fielded running race.  This would have showed the unity and competitiveness of our team and given Georgia a fair chance at maintaining the lead she had won, given Katerina a chance to score her first World Cup win, all with out us having to sit up and neutralize the race, all getting to feel we had the chance to give everything.  But you only think of this afterwards while you punish yourself for being a competitor above a teammate.  


Tom R. Waters said…
It's a helluva dilemma. I really admire that you even gave sitting up a thought. Racing is racing and anybody that understands racers, whether car, motorcycle, horse or bicycle knows that above all we are trying to win.
Cycling is truly different and certainly is a more "gentlemanly" sport. What other type of racing affords competitors the opportunity to "chat" with one an other during the heat of the battle. Cyclist share side by side, nose to tail in their suffering. This alone creates a bond you won't find on other race courses. Once strapped in, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhart or Gilles Villenue and Alain Post could rely on horsepower and guts to power past an opponent without a second thought. Those guys never know what it's like to hear your closest rivals breathing so hard they're about to vomit, or to feel the burn in they're quads or cramps in they're calves. Trying to hold onto a lead or close a gap.
My point is, cyclist really do "feel each others pain" and that brings us closer.
Thank you Catharine for being a wicked tough competitor and for being a wicked good person. Maybe Contador could take a few lessons from you.
Unknown said…
Catharine, what a nice blog. I choked up reading it. I know exactly how you feel, is hard especially the way things ended up yesterday and so sad that Georgia had a flat so closed to the finish line. You are such an awesome person, a TRUE champion. A very strong competitive rider with such a big heart! That's why your are the best and the CHAMPION!!!
Its sad what happened yesterday but in races things can always happen and sometimes not the way we wish for. Your World Cup winning is so well deserved as you fought so hard for it, not only yesterday but in many races. You have been racing so strong and it is the best out there for sure. Is hard no to think about yesterday and how you wished for a different ending/finishing.
You are an amazing teammate and they know that. Congratulations on such an amazing season so far and this big winning. Is so great to see you showing the competition why you are wearing the rainbow color.
Take care, Jackie
Anonymous said…
If the situation had been reversed, I'll bet you would have yelled at your teammates to ride if they had pulled up.

Congrats on the victory for the Team. Nice post and good luck in the next big event! ;-)
Anonymous said…
You embody sportsmanship and grace.