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Horseshoe and Hardwood

18th June 2016

Passing through Toronto

The drive to Barrie, Ontario from Nova Scotia is massive and this fact set the tone for the two Ontario rounds of the Canada Cup series. Massive speed, massive fun, massive competition.

We arrived at Horseshoe Thursday afternoon, and took a quick look at the course. Bit disoriented from being in the car about for the last 1.5 days, but getting the legs moving was a priority. Friday we did two more laps and by the final round on Saturday I had the course dialed! A-lines for the win. It’s a high speed course with lots of fast, smooth flowy sections that are unlike just about everything in NS. Most roots and any rocks were obviously put there as man-made gardens. Very cool, adds some excitement. The biggest feature I was concerned about at first was this giant rock that is steep on one side but a piece of cake on the other. I didn’t feel up to trying it the first day, but the second I hunkered down and gave it a try. It requires a lot of speed, but I managed and flew right over! #proudmoment It’s good to be patient and trust myself as well as take calculated risks. There was no risk of injury here at all so it was a safe bet attempting it. When I first saw it I was cautious, but made it a goal to ride in the next few days.

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Ontario temperatures were around 27 C when we arrived and this would have been a shock to race in, but luckily, there was rain and cooler temps predicted for race day – right up my east coast alley. It only rained overnight, so that turned the Horseshoe dust bowl into a fast forest of single track my Oakley’s guided me through with laser precision.

It looked like a pretty serious line-up and I was excited to pit myself against the girls with all I had. Only missing a few from the most recent World Cup. I knew who I was racing and with such a fun course it was going to be a hoot! That’s a word I’d been using for the past few days and I think it fits Horseshoe like a glove. A bike glove 😉

So I did still have school going on, but got the time off without any issue and I can say it was definitely worth it. Bringing homework on the road is a small price to pay for travelling and racing like I was. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. So here’s to conquering nerves and standing on the start line as someone who belongs in Elite!

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Race Day:

Green tea has changed my life. As an anxious person, it’s done me a world of good to have discovered this calming remedy. I think it made a big difference on race day- I managed to eat my breakfast without much trouble. Dad made blueberry waffles 🙂

I had a terrible start. I was called to the line last… Woo…  But for some reason my legs weren’t awake at all and it felt like I had zero power. Then I got stuck in traffic (last place does that to a person) for the first little while. I’m sure dad was pulling his hair out watching me flail.

But hey it didn’t last forever.. I completed all five laps (unlike Tremblant) with solid pacing which I’m very proud of. It feels so much better not only to have finished the race but to have finished 15 out of 24. It’s so cool to be out racing so many fast girls. It made me really look forward to the Hardwood Hills- I have a serious beef with those Hills; the last time I was there (Nationals, 2014); I spent almost all of the practice session in Emerg – getting my hip stitched up. Then I was involved in a start line crash which left me heading into the woods dead last.

Week leading up to Hardwood:

Tuesday there was a social ride at Horseshoe organized for the foreigners staying in Ontario throughout the week so we decided to give it a try. We had a great guide and along with a mix of riders from BC it turned out to be a super sweet ride. Felt so lucky to be able to do chill, exploratory trail riding while away. Would have gotten lost if we tried to do that ourselves!

The next day we did the Trek Wednesday night race at Hardwood. I was unsure of what to expect, but it had a strong reputation so I was still excited. We weren’t organized enough to ride the course beforehand, since it was one loop of 11km meaning a 30 min. race, but man it was a hoot riding blind. Quite different from the Cyclesmith Short Track where we have laps and more distance to put the power down and pass, but the single track here was incredible. The high speed cornering on the grippy soil is totally unlike our east coast riding. I had so much fun racing with Amelie and Florence from Quebec – I was grinning ear to ear by the end of it. I’ll definitely do it again next time I’m up there.

The weather for Hardwood turned out to be perfect. Definitely a strong ‘breeze’, but nothing that significantly interfered with the race. This isn’t the norm, but I was so excited the night before that I had a hard time sleeping. Luckily that didn’t interfere with the race either. I had a start that was the complete opposite of Horseshoe – I was over the moon. But… That didn’t last very long. I ended up in a familiar position near the back for a lap before I patiently made my way back up. But improvement! I did better at Hardwood than I was expecting to so I’m pretty happy with it. I cracked the top 10 with a solid 8th place. I felt really strong on the climbs, and my legs were reacting very well to what I wanted them to do.

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You learn something at every race, or at the very least you are reminded, but generally I’m improving and that’s exactly what these first few Canada Cups are for. I think racing the best is the best way to do it. Still have some work on technical skills to do, but I’ve made a lot of progress already 🙂 I didn’t do all of the features, but much more than the last time I was here in ’14.  Anyway, something to aspire to.

I’m also learning the Elite ladies are a kind and generous group; everyone I speak to is very supportive.

Onward and upward. And when you’re going onward and upward… It feels so good to look beside you to the people who have supported you and thank them for making the experience so much richer. So, a very loud and grateful THANK YOU to Mike and Maureen who were wonderful hosts to dad and I. You put up with us and gave us a place to stay for the whole time we were in Ontario and it was perfect.

Also thank you to my sponsors: Cyclesmith Racing-Bontrager Team and financial support from BNS and the Saint John Jeux Canada Games Foundation. Let’s keep the momentum going.

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I am an aspiring athlete looking to make my mark on the mountain biking world. I love racing and training with my teammates, and I am looking for new ways to be faster and stronger- the fun is always in a good race!