After MSA, the Bear Dev Squad geared up for the drive to Windham, NY. We took off early on Monday morning, and made it to our host's (Steven van der Zwan) house in the evening. Luckily for us, Steve was kind enough to host us for the entire week leading up to the race. Thanks Steve!
With the week to kill, we focused on keeping our training ticking on time for one more week; Windham was the last ProXCT of the series, and the last race of the season for many of us!
With no short track, our full focus was set on Saturday's XC. The course featured a long (roughly 10min) climb, followed by a descent that took us all the way back to the start. This style of course, with the climb punctuated only by a very short descent, is akin to older XC courses. For us, this course was a change in pace from the short, steep climbing of more modern XC courses. We enjoyed the course nonetheless!
On race day, we enjoyed much cooler temperatures from the year before. Even though temps were still in the mid 80s, it felt wonderful in comparison to last years triple digit affair. The start went well for me; a good call-up, and great legs for the first lap found me in a great position. However, as the second lap rolled around, I started losing steam. Unfortunately, I had hit a 'wall', so to speak, and that lapse cost me time and positioning. Doing what I could, my legs slowly started coming around again, and I was able to finish on a good note, and grab a top 10 finish. With a UCI ranking of HC, my 9th place finish secured me quite a few UCI points. Overall, I was happy with the way I had persisted through fatigue in the early laps, and was glad to get a few more points towards my ranking.
To that point, I'll be lucky enough to use those points at World Championships in September! With my results this year, I'm excited to say that I have made the selection for the US Team, and will be racing one more time this season. I leave on September 1st for Carins, Australia, where I'll spend the week with USAC and the rest of the team preparing for my race on the 8th. Wish me luck!
Photo: Dinner after the race, courtesy of Steven van der Zwan!
The Bear Dev. team left straight from Boston to end up in Canada on Monday evening. A bit of a haul with an 8 person group, we took a majority of the day to make the drive and were ready to hit the sack upon our evening arrival.
With only air mattresses to sleep on, it was a little tough to get quality sleep (especially since Jerry Dufour and I were on the same 'queen' air mattress). Our 3 night stay in Quebec City was punctuated with day trips over to the course at Mont-Sainte-Anne (MSA), where we sussed out the course and got a feel for the venue. Thursday evening marked the start of our housing with the USA Cycling Federation - all of us were lucky enough to receive support from USAC for the race.
With proper beds and a sweet (and tough) course, the week was going well. However, with the promise of rain on race day, we were a little apprehensive to race the already demanding track in even more difficult conditions... Sure enough, the rain started Friday evening and continued until Sunday morning, making course conditions slick. The notorious 'Le Beatrice' was a great spot for spectators to watch the worlds best slide around on greasy, rocky, switchbacks (and occasionally eat dirt).
The race on Sunday morning started with a furious pace, and I quickly made a mess of my call-up. Starting on the second row had held the promise of a good start, but my legs didn't show up for the first 5min of the race, and as such I went backwards from the gun... I found some rhythm as the race progressed, however, and made my way back up into the top 15 (apparently within spitting distance of the top 10 according to spectators) before fading slightly back into 16th on the day.
Overall, happy with the result! I managed to snag some good UCI points on the weekend, further improving my start position in later races. On top of that, we rode top notch trails all week, and even made an appearance at the infamous MSA after-party.
Next, we'll be back in the States for the Windham ProXCT (UCI HC), a great opportunity to put in a last dig and secure some more UCI points before the end of the season.
Photo Credit: Juergen Gruenwidl
After Nationals, the Bear Development U23 squad went straight up to Boston for the last round of the US Cup circuit, the Boston Rebellion. The race was ranked a UCI HC, so there were a lot of points on the line. Additionally, with both the XC and STXC events attracting talented pro fields, the racing was sure to be good!
The weekend kicked off with the XC on Saturday, however, while pre-riding on Friday, I went down and hit my head pretty hard. Of course, I was wearing a helmet, but the hit left me feeling out of it and with a headache. I cut the pre-ride short, kept a close eye out for symptoms of a concussion, and decided to make the final call on whether I'd race Saturday morning. My head felt normal the morning of the race, so I decided I'd go ahead and race.
The race was flat and twisty with plenty of exposed roots; passing was difficult for most of the lap. This meant the start was especially crucial... Ultimately, the start was chaotic as usual and I was stuck behind quite a bit of traffic in the woods. Most of the day was spent fighting back to the front, with only the last couple laps being more tactical racing. I ended up 5th on the day, snagging some good UCI points.
Short track was a lot more open, but still flat, meaning that the race was far more tactical. From my experience last year, I knew that the one separating feature was a mid-lap, flat rock garden, so I worked to stay at the front of the race to ensure I'd be clear of trouble in the rocks. This worked well, but I ended up lacking the last lap punch to make it higher than 5th on the day - where I would finish again.
Overall, it was a good weekend and served much needed redemption after last years race there. Happy to have a few more UCI points, too!
Luke Vrouwenvelder - Head coach at lukeVcoaching and pro cyclist based in Charlottesville, VA