Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down.
Kentville was my last “race-race” of the season. All I wanted from the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup this year was to come to terms with the course that brought my run-away debut season to a halt last summer. If not for the opportunity to go to the World Cup supported by the team, Andrew and Matt, I probably would have found a lot of reasons not to go.
It took a lot of energy, deep breaths, promises to myself that I’d be OK – that I have the skills to ride the rocky, unforgiving features on the slopes of MSA, and that all I need to do is stay calm. And things were OK, only a couple small moments during my first full pre-ride, and after a clean last course check, for the first time I didn’t feel paralyzed when I thought about heading out to race on Sunday.
Friday evening presented a unique opportunity to line up for the Short Track (a 20minute crit-style prologue which acts as seeding for top finishers for Sunday’s main event). For me, it was a good opportunity to get some start-practice in and some jitters out. The number of messages I got from people who were psyched that they could see me near the front of the pack (for a couple laps at least) as they watched on TV back home was almost comical – but mostly made me smile; being reminded of how many friends I have looking out for me, especially when I’m in way over my head.
Saturday I did my last check of the course in the morning, then in the afternoon caught up with friends I won’t be seeing for the rest of the summer as they head off to Europe for more racing.
Nerves didn’t hit me until the last couple hours before the race as I sat alone watching the U23 races on livetiming. They weren’t as bad as I expected though, I think it’s because I knew I had already more or less made peace with my fears born from mistakes made last year.
I have a lot of respect for the course in MSA and for those who can race it in proper. Knowing I’m not quite there yet, that while there are sections I can race, there are also sections where I’m just doing my best to ride calmly and consistently. With that in mind, I came to the start line ready to play the long game – build into the 6 laps, really aiming for 5 to make the 80% cut off. It felt very different starting out knowing I was going to need to make up time later – a contrast to having raced all summer with the opposite mindset of “pin it to win it” and just trying to be as close to the front as possible, for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, the end came early. After a first crash initiated by avoiding another rider running down the bottom on the Beatrice, I was on edge, tense. I can only describe it as feeling shook, rattled. Despite my best efforts to regroup and stay calm, after a hard, unexpected trip to the deck on lap 4, I wasn’t going to make any more positive progress or impact by pushing on with the race. While I’m disappointed that I didn’t have full closure with MSA, I do feel markedly better and more at peace with the course than I did a year ago and feel like I’m capable of riding it well in the future.
Now – some chilling, some training, some working, some fun local racing, and staying away from rocks.