In case y’all didn’t know, it’s been a hell of a year. It’s been a roller coaster! I’m not be going to...
The Baie-Saint-Paul Canada Cup and the National Championships at Saint-Felicien
As many of my friends at home know, over the past two weeks I’ve had quite the adventure in Quebec. The Cyclesmith Junior Racing Team had planned for a bigger project with five riders, but suddenly circumstances changed and the numbers came down to one athlete and one coach – myself and my Dad. Lots of driving and father-daughter time later, I completed two very successful races!
Baie-Saint-Paul (BSP) was only my second Canada Cup ever, after a 6th place finish at Mont Tremblant a couple of months earlier. I still had confidence coming into the race thanks to my previous result, but also from the excellent training and racing I’d been doing back home. Doing well in road races, MTB and the local short track hosted by the Cyclesmith Junior Racing Team every week had made me very excited to go race the best in the country! But because of my limited experience with national events, I was nervous about the start of BSP, and it affected my reaction off the line.
In the first lap I was very close to last place, but fortunately it’s easy to pick up speed when a course is so much fun! BSP is very rooty and old school, a lot like the trails in NS. I made my way up the pack and eventually finished 5th. I was very happy with this result because my goal was top 5 going into the race, and I did it.
I did the MTB Criterium (XCC) the next day, and it was interesting because I don’t usually race two days in a row. Needless to say, I did not have the endurance and power that was needed for this event. I did, however, finish the race with some wheel to wheel racing and had a lot of fun doing it!
We stayed in BSP for another day, doing a recovery ride down a scenic country road and farmland. Then we made the 4-5h drive to Saint Félicien for Nationals. We stayed in a chalet… but not as close to the course as we would have liked (40mins). At least it had Internet though, unlike the cottage we rented in BSP.
The week leading up to Nationals was great, and thanks to a suggestion from Lespy, I would attend an open invitation national development camp for 2 days. Ian Hughes led this camp and it involved improving basic skills like cornering and manipulating the bike as well as course reconnaissance. This camp also let me see and ride the course with a group of motivated young girls.
The Thursday and Friday before the Saturday race were left for my Dad and I to ride the course even more and really dial in the technical sections. Saint Félicien has a number of features and it was very encouraging to be able to ride the course this much.
So Thursday was great, and Friday was awesome until apparently it was too awesome and I had a nasty crash on the last technical descent of the lap. It was painful and scary for me, and also for my Dad (I assume), since he had been riding with me and could only watch me go over the bars from the top of the descent. I ended up with a lot of scratches and bruises, but thankfully no major injuries.
However, that doesn’t mean that everything was completely fine. My right thigh had impacted the ground very hard and the muscle was now traumatized. I went for a soft spin to try to loosen it up after awhile, but it wasn’t helping. I had wanted to ride back up the hill to redo the descent to make sure I could do it in the race the next day. But that didn’t happen because I could not ride up the hill and I had to trust that I would able to descend safely in the race and not crash again.
Because we were almost an hour away from the course, there was no point in driving back to the chalet and then back to the course before the coach/athlete/team meetings in the evening. I ended up staying for the U23 NextGen meeting and the coach’s information meeting about the race the next day. So I basically sat there covered in dirt looking like I had just gotten beat up (by the ground) for a couple of hours.
Friday night, relaxing on the couch watching the Pan-Am Games, I was very worried about racing the next day, wondering if my injuries (thigh, and I also had a deep gash in my knee) were going to hold me back from racing my hardest. I was not happy, even as I was trying to change my mindset about how I might have just ruined Nationals, so I messaged my mentor and friend, Jamie Lamb. Jamie convinced me that no, this was not the end of the world and even if the crash did affect my performance, that it would still be a huge learning experience and would give me confidence for any other trials I might encounter in future races. Either way, I was going to give it my best and overcome what had happened. (He also pumped me up so that by the end of the conversation, I was ready to race then and there!)
I wasn’t worried at all about the race when I finally tried to sleep and actually had a very good sleep, which helped immensely for the race.
Saturday morning we woke up early for the 9am start and packed into the car. When we arrived at the venue, I was dreading the warm up because it was absolutely pouring. So it was a bit miserable, but it was also motivating in a way because it seemed so hardcore to go out and get soaked and ride back and forth just to get warmed up for the race!
It might seem brutal to race in the rain, but it’s actually fun with all the adrenaline. Warming up, on the other hand, is much less exciting but it is necessary and I actually think I aced my warm up because my legs worked very well in the race!
Yes, I did finish the start lap in about 10th out of 12, but I stayed with the lead group and managed to pick up a couple places on the second climb. By the end of the first lap I was in fifth place, feeling strong. I felt great for the rest of the race, finishing in 3rd! It is my best ever result and it was incredible knowing that I would stand on the podium!
There were still a few hours until awards because Junior Expert would share the ceremony with the Elites, so we had to hang around for a couple of hours. After the excitement died down about an hour later, I was absolutely dead tired. It’s amazing how post race can feel worse than anything you felt during the race, exhaustion-wise, as it all catches up with you. From upset to elation, it had been a long and stressful couple of days.
It was incredible racing those girls and I can’t wait to race them again – especially our top 4 who are part of the World’s Selection Pool and who I will be joining in Mont Sainte-Anne, QC. I have been invited to the National Junior Familiarization.
Thank you to all of my sponsors, friends, and family for your support! Thanks to Steele Ford for our transportation, Cyclesmith, Cyclesmith Junior Racing Team and Bontrager! Finally, thank you to Dad who fed, coached and took care of me throughout these past two weeks – love you!