|Kathy Burcham photo.|
Back to Bonelli for US Cup number three this past weekend, and what a change from our first visit. Most notably, the temperature was much more hospitable. Coming a close second on the list of positive changes was the course. Though it still had a heck of a lot of climbing (362') crammed into such a short loop (2.6 miles), it was definitely more flowy, and the added technical sections were of my favorite variety: log overs!
Morning of, I arrived nice and early, got registered and then headed out with a teammate to walk the course and see it for the first time. At first look, the log and rock features were definitely intimidating. But I decided to include a lap as part of my warm up, and that took care of that.
Although we've had plenty more time together since the last visit to Bonelli, my Rocky Mountain Vertex is still "new" and these were actually the first log overs I'd tried with it. Verdict? I felt like I was cheating. The bike has so much clearance I didn't need to worry about hitting the chainring, and it felt like it just wanted to get over stuff. That must be the magic of 29ers I've been hearing about. Super stable through the whole maneuver, and the wide handle bars really gave me the control I needed to get over smoothly.
|My fav part! Thanks to the cheering section! Michelle Allen photo.|
On my first attempt in warm up, I balked and had to redo. I realized I was looking at them as a set so I decided to just concentrate on the first one first, and then work on the second. A quick refocus and it was up and over, no problem. My third attempt I threw in the second feature, and rode away with fresh confidence. It was a great reminder that when you're working on skills, progression is key. Start small, then work your way up, and you'll be amazed at what becomes "easy." (PS: Here's more info on log overs from my fellow coaches at Ninja Mountain Bike Skills!)
Once I'd lapped the course once, I took the rest of my warm up to the road and the start loop. I love these moments before the race when it's still anybody's day. The energy is electric. When it was time for staging, we all gathered under the limited shade near the start line. I was in a gaggle with the US national champion, current US Cup points leader, Swedish national champion, and the World Champion, listening to them joke with each other and offering up my own comments from the peanut gallery. Young girls came up to have their picture taken, and the media was around snapping photos as well like paparazzi, calling out "Hi Catharine; Oh hi Georgia; Lea, over here ..."
On my first lap through the logs, I reminded myself to be calm and smooth. But I forgot there would be spectators! If I fell on my face, there would be an audience for it, at least. The girls in front of me got hung up, so I slowed momentarily so they could clear the way. The Vertex flew up and over both without a problem, and I pedaled away relieved. With every lap I gained more confidence, until by the end, I could hardly wait to hit those big log overs.
I raced back and forth with a girl I don't know except by her blond, curly pony tail. We seem to often be racing near each other so I focused on catching her. As the course doubled back on itself, I realized our time was running out: The front of the race was quickly coming at us from behind, with Emily Batty and Catharine Pendrel in a tight fight for the lead, which they maintained right to the wire. (Emily took the win by less than half a second.)
|Emily Batty 1, Catharine Pendrel 2 after a really impressive, tight race.|
Of course, once the leaders go by you, you can be assured you will be pulled thanks to the UCI's 80% rule, so that was my grand finale. I was happy with how it all turned out: I rode every part of the course smoothly without incident, I worked hard, and I got in one more lap than I did at the first Bonelli to finish just one lap down from the leaders. Good enough for 29th place, and putting me in 31st in the overall ranking.
Looking forward to Sea Otter this weekend for the final round of the US Cup that I'll be racing, on a course that I think is absolutely perfect for the Vertex. Not to mention beautiful!
|Rocky Mountain's Raphael Gagne finished second to Schurter|
Watch the whole race, announced by legends Bob Roll and Christian Vande Velde as well as US Cup stalwart, Colt McElwaine, for both pro women and men (you can see my pink shorts off the start and for a little cameo at about 1:23:52)
And here's a a few more photos:
|Super proud of my coached Cat 3 athlete Bjorn, here on the third step at only his second race ever! Congrats! #BCBR2015, look out for this ripper!|
|Pro Men's field gets ready to launch, including reigning World Champion, Nino Schurter|
|Future World Cup course? Bonelli Park. Michelle Allen photo.|
|Loving the Bonelli course! Michelle Allen photo.|