June 8/12 11:44 am - Canada Cup #3, A Rider Perspective: What Happens in the Woods...
Posted by Editoress on 06/8/12
Sarah Moore, a regular contributor to Canadian Cyclist and Cycling4Women, raced the Canada Cup final at Hardwood Hills last weekend, finishing tenth, and scoring enough UCI points to meet eligibility requirements for the Mont Ste Anne World Cup. Sarah has written a first person description of what it was like to race on that muddy, wet day.
I looked over the start list on Saturday and counted ten to twelve girls who were either fresh off World Cups or had beat me in earlier races in the season. When it started raining on Sunday morning, however, all bets were off as to what would happen.
My goal at Hardwood Hills was to finish in at least 14th place. That result would give me the points I needed to be able to race in the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup. To race in World Cup races you need 20 UCI points. It doesn’t sound like a lot and, for many racers it’s nothing. If you come first in a Canada Cup you are awarded 60 points, just like that.
For those of us who don’t win Canada Cups, however, it’s a bit more of a struggle to get your 20 points. In previous years, the most I’ve received is one or two points at a time for coming in 14th or 15th. This year, I started off the season with a few more miles in my legs and, for my eighth place at Tremblant I got 14 points. Over halfway to the 20 points I needed!
At the second Canada Cup race in Baie-Saint-Paul I came 13th and so I only got 4 points. Four measly points! Less than a third of what I’d gotten a week before! I still needed two points to be able to race in the World Cup race.
Sarah Moore on Boneshaker
When the clouds rolled in right before the start at Hardwood Hills, I wasn’t sure whether to be anxious or excited. On the one hand, I’m not a West Coast rider who excels in slick conditions so I was worried I would lose time in the technical sections trying to stay on my bike. On the other hand, if you’re just able to finish a race in muddy conditions you usually do pretty well because you find out at the end that half the pack has dropped out because of mechanicals or from getting discouraged with the mud. Also, with the rain, there wouldn’t be a cloud of dust that leaves the riders stuck behind on the start hacking for days,
So I decided I could still get my two points whether Mother Nature was on my side or not! Ever since I started mountain biking my goal has been to race the World Cup race at Mont-Sainte-Anne. I wanted to make that dream a reality.
I was called up twelfth to the line, which got me in a great place right behind the number one ranked rider, Emily Batty. Hardwood Hills has a great, wide-open start so the whole women’s field can almost fit on the first two lines! Almost no time after the Elite men had left and we were called up, we were off for the first of five laps.
Somehow, I picked the perfect line off the start and moved from the second line to the first line on the first corner. The pace wasn’t fast off the start, but I was still really excited to ride next to Emily Batty for the first climb. It might sound silly, but all the way up that hill I was hoping that someone was on the sidelines taking a picture of me riding next to a World Cup champion.
It’s always a sprint into the woods to make sure that you don’t get stuck behind someone who makes a technical error. A couple of girls passed me before the first technical section, but I knew I was still in the top 14 so I just kept on their tails and hoped my legs, lungs or bike wouldn’t give up on me.
In lap two it seemed as if the ground suddenly stopped absorbing the rain, or maybe it was raining harder by then. Whatever the reason, the trail suddenly turned to mush. There’s a technical section right before the feed zone. On the first lap, it was a breeze and I took all the corners as if it were dry as a bone. On lap two however, I crashed three times in that short downhill trying to catch the rider in front of me. My tires weren’t too slick, but they weren’t all-out mud tired either.
After those crashes and a couple swear words to follow them, I decided that I would take the technical sections a bit more slowly and try to make up time on the uphills. Going carefully through the technical sections on your bike is faster than going fast and crashing!
Everything was going according to plan until the first steep pitch on lap three. That’s when I started to get “chain-sucks.” I would start pedaling up a steep hill and then my feet would suddenly stop. Sometimes I was able to pedal backwards quickly and get the chain unstuck, but other times I had to get off my bike and run.
Luckily, I was able to stay on my bike for most of the downhills, so I didn’t lose time there. On all the uphills, however, I had to put my bike in its easiest gear to try and avoid the chain sucks. On the more gradual hills my technique worked, but I still had to run up the steeper hills after multiple chain sucks.
After a muddy race like Hardwood Hills, racers always have some war stories. I didn’t hurt myself in this race but I had a couple near-crashes. One was on a steep uphill when I got a chain-suck and my foot unclipped at the same time. I somehow managed to rip my sock on my crank, but luckily was able to jump off my bike before gravity pulled me down.
My other near crash was when I skidded on the bridge before the Boneshaker. I came about a centimetre from crashing over the side of the four-foot high bridge. Luckily, I was able to refocus before the Boneshaker, where crashing would be incredibly painful because of the pointy rocks. It also helped that on that lap I didn’t have any mud in my eyes, so I was able to see where the rocks were. On a couple of the laps my eyes were so full of tears from the muddy descent before the Boneshaker that I had blurred vision.
Since I did the Fast and Female event the day before the race, I had a lot of encouragement on the course which made it much more fun. I also had both my parents and some family friends on the course, running back and forth between two uphills. I think my cheering squad got almost as much exercise as I did!
Their cheering, and a couple gels, helped me keep it up through the last two laps and finish my two-hour race in tenth place, earning me 10 UCI points, enough to start in the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup on June 23rd!