40 days, 4 big races, 4 big wins and Rainbow stripes
I couldn't be happier with the way this race season has finished. World Champion. I will have to repeat that to myself many times and keep staring at my jersey and medal to make it feel real.
This season I have matured as a racer. Having a competitor as strong and consistent in performance as Julie Bresset forced me to look at what I could change in my racing to come out on top. How do you win against an equal?
In the past I have had so many races where I felt I was the stronger rider, but somehow missed out on the podium or lost the battle for position at the end of a race. The continual progression of my training from year to year and some insights into racing more efficiently have left me feeling more confidence in my endurance and power and in my ability to race with diffent tactics. That I don't necessarily have to solo away to win a race. I can be patient and wait for the right moment.
That is what happened yesterday at the World Championships in Champery, Switzerland. I knew the start and position into the first single track would be critical and that most of the races this week were won by early moves, but so did 2010 World Champion Maja Wloszczowska.
I had a good start and had the legs to move to the front on the big climb. Only Maja showed the dangerous climbing speed I was watching for and she held me off to lead the descent. Through the start finish we were away with Lechner and Kalentieva chasing. All the women I had pegged for medal threats were at the front.
I wasn't sure whether to make a move on the next climb or try to work together with Maja. Still a creature of habit, I decided to test out her strength on the next climb, but she was ready and determined to not have me leading the single track and surged the crest of the climb for first tracks into the drop. From there it was a bit of back and forth, trading up the lead. I knew she was a real threat on the climbs, but felt I had the edge in the single track.
With just over 3 laps left of the 6.5 lap race I was able to claim the lead into the longest, roughest descent of the course and I attacked it, quickly gaining seconds. At the base of the descent where the course loops back on itself I saw I had opened a gap, but she was still in sight. By the time I reached the start finish line however the gap was larger than expected and as I headed out towards the feed/ tech zone I could hear the announcers mentioning her flatting, being overtaken by Lechner and needing a wheel change in the tech zone.
I stayed on the pace and grew my lead over Maja and Eva to over a minute. Champery demands focus and a mistake, as Maja discovered could be costly. My goal out front was to be as smooth as possible, minimizing mistakes and conserving energy to finish strong. With over a lap to go my quads started cramping, but I forced it from my mind as I started getting time splits from Dan that Maja had repassed Eva and was closing on me quickly.
I drew on the inspiration from my Luna teammate and 2001 World Champion Alison Dunlap that you have to treat the last lap of worlds like it was a tt, that you haven't just done most of a bike race. That year she moved from 3rd to 1st in the final lap. I knew Maja would be thinking similar thoughts and began my tt.
The last time through the double tech with one climb and descent to go my mechanic Zak was pounding on his chest. I knew it meant one of 2 things. I was giving him a heart attack or I had to race with heart. I raced with heart, I had to.
That last climb was one of the most painful climbs I have done. If not for the amazing energy coming from my Canadian team mates who lined the climb yelling and screaming for me every lap I would have climbed much slower. It was the most amazing support I have ever felt in a race and I feel in debt to them all.
I made my way safely down the descent and as I was about to enter the stadium team Canada was there to yell "flag on your left". I had to hold back the tears, realizing that the finish line was so near and I had done it. I think it was actually my brother that passed the flag, but i was so fixated on the finish line i am honestly not sure. I grabbed the flag and held it over my head all the way to the line and quickly hugged anyone I recognized. It was amazing to see the smiles of my team mates as I got wrapped in bear hugs and high fived.
Changing into fresh kit for the podium only the cramps every time I lifted a leg brought me back to reality. We were on the podium before the race was even finished and I got to watch my teammates cross the line and see their smiles when they heard the Canadian anthem playing. It was amazing. I could not have been happier to share the podium with such talented riders as Maja and Eva.
After the fact the media kinda muted my moment by asking me if Maja's flat took away from my win, as if it should have.
No. Had she not flatted I still feel confident I could have won, the race just would have played out differently. In bike racing you sometimes take risks to stick with a faster rider or to get away and sometimes that ends up costing you, but you still have to take risks to win. There is no question that Maja was on great form and the race would have hurt more had it stuck together, but I was ready to win.
Congrats to all of team Canada on a stellar week of racing!