U23 Women XC: 16th
Three different flight itineraries later and I finally find myself in Mont Saint Anne on Thursday afternoon. We grab some groceries, and drive the hour to the venue. I build up my bike in record time in order to get on the course that evening. 6:30pm and I am rolling!
I am delighted at what I discover. Slick rock faces, rock gardens, gap jumps, rooty descents, pump track sections, creek crossings, and the infamous Beatrice feature make up the downhill portion of the course. The uphills follow a similar tangent of gnarliness. “This can’t be right,’ I think as I come to one of the climbs, ‘There’s simply no way we are supposed to go up this.’ But I am wrong. It is right. We will be going up it. Every lap. One thing is for sure: Mont Saint Anne is not a course for the faint of heart. This race would absolutely relentless.
I ride laps in the dwindling dusk until the forest sections become entirely dark. I feel flawless on course. Then, happy, sweaty and exhausted, I make it back to the hotel to decompress. Friday is my 19th birthday and I have a nice spin with Haley, do some yoga, read my favorite book and then head to the local waterfalls with Haley and Cole. Turns out its more of an ice bath then a soak but its lovely all the same. As we get out, the weather rolls in. In seconds, it is pouring. It rains into the night.
Saturday, I get back on course and discover the technical element of the course has been three times amplified. Woah. The dancing feeling from Thursday’s preride sticks: my bike is another limb. I float over Beatrice and glide over the rest of the A lines. Not everyone is so lucky. The energy on course is electric as riders explore new lines. Riders everywhere seems to be on edge, apprehensive about our battlefield the next day. Many friends are nursing new bruises and two USAC riders get concussions and won’t be able to race Sunday.
I close my eyes and visualize the floating feeling. I am ready. Sunday is here before I know it. A 5:30am wakeup call shoots me out of bed. I can hardly wait to get going. A peek out the window confirms my suspicions, it rained all night and is still drizzling. Ooooh it's going to be exciting out there.
A good warmup later, we are on the line. The whistle blows and the group explodes forward. My legs don’t. I fall to the very back but then quickly settle in and start moving up. Through the pumptrack, through the first single track climb, over the gap jump, onto the rock garden… I grab a couple more places. I pass Nicole Koller, ex junior world champion and keep moving forward. I’m sitting in a pack of seven girls. I come into Beatrice and it’s like ice, I slip. Off my bike! I attempt to run down the slick rocks. It is not my most graceful, but I’m back on, charging. I lose the pack but close back in quickly.
Lap two. I am sitting in 17th, then 16th. I can see a pack of six girls a couple seconds up. There it is. The top 10 I want desperately. The legs feel good and my strategy to keep moving forward is working well. Focus Kelsey, I tell myself. I dig deep and catch two girls battling it out on the climb. One makes a messy pass and it quickly results in a crash in front of me. Their bikes are badly tangled. After some scrambling, I slip by.
I come into a garden of wet rock slabs and my tires are out from under me. Bam. Back up, deep breath. I hop on but something is wrong: my seat is missing. I can’t afford to lose that pack again but I am definitely a little slower without a seat. I get to the pits as quickly as possible. Julien changes the seat as I get a drink of Osmo and watch girls stream by. Back on! Now I just want to move up as much as possible. I catch the Canadian National Champion quickly and push past the leg burn. I come down hard on the new seat and my heart sinks as it tilts forward at a downhill slant. My mind races: Should I go to the pit again? No. This is fine. An angled seat is better than no seat. Plus, I have a race to do ;).
Go, Kelsey, go!! My legs scream but I grab another position, and then another. Suddenly, I realize that I’m on my final lap. This is it. One last chance to give it everything. At last, I am back in my preride flow, riding smoothly. I cross the line in 16th, my best World Cup finish to date but wishing I had avoided the trip to the pit.
Huge thanks to Team USAC for all the support this weekend! It’s always an honor to wear the red, white and blue.
Now home for the first time in four weeks!
Pro Women XC: 12th
Pro Women STXC: 7th
Post Nationals and I was back in the car, for another long day (12 hours). Finally, the small, winding roads turned to freeway and I found myself in Providence, where I would be staying for the week. I finished settling into the hotel when the bug bites that I had noticed first thing in the morning seemed to appear all over my body. Pretty soon, I have welts crisscrossing every surface of my skin. Still, I think: bad reaction to some bug bites, I’m fine. However, a restless night of sleep, and a feeble attempt at an endurance ride tells me otherwise. I feel awful. Something is wrong so I head to a clinic. They tell me I’m having an allergic reaction and that the welts are hives. Some strong antihistamines later, the swelling starts to subside. I take the next couple of days pretty mellow so I can race the coming weekend.
Friday dawns and with it, the opportunity to ride the course. Awaiting me is a track full of rock gardens, swooping corners, roots and a drop. Although it starts on a fire road, it quickly funnels to single track and remains so for virtually the whole course. I know passing will be a challenge. Tomorrow can’t come fast enough.
Sure enough, tomorrow does come. An HC event means that the start list is deep and stacked. I line up alongside women from the Costa Rican National Team, New Zealand National Team, Canada, Australia, and Chili. Among the ranks are newly crowned National Champions from Canada, US, Australia and New Zealand. I’m ready
We are off! I get squashed in a corner and fall back but then move forward. I take the inside line into the single track and gain a couple more places. We are flying. Through the rock garden, through the rooty climb- faster, faster, faster. I can hear the gasping of the women behind me. I am riding in a group of six women. I patiently wait for a chance to pass. My legs feel great. Up ahead, I see the Australian National Champion, Rebecca Henderson. I make an explosive pass and push forward. Off the drop and I am almost done with the lap. ‘Wow,’ I think, ‘That was a really smooth lap, and I feel good. I am riding well.’ I quickly catch myself, ‘Stay focused,’ I tell myself, ‘The lap isn’t over yet.’ We come into the last rock garden on the course and BAM. I don’t get my front wheel up enough and I slam down, over the bars. I’m fine and recover quickly. Back on, chasing the group of girls I was with but can no longer see. However, I quickly discover that my brake levers are not only severely out of alignment but also knocked in completely different angles. By the time I figure this out, I am back on winding single track and don’t have the terrain to fix it. I ride a slower lap over the technical sections before coming into a straightaway, and hammering the levers back into place.
From there, I stay on the gas as much as possible. At one point, Lea Davison, recovering from a mechanical passes me, and calls for me to stay on her wheel but her pace is a little too stiff for me. Before I know it, I’m on my last lap. I catch a glimpse of a rider ahead of me and dig even deeper to catch her but don’t quite get there. I cross the line, gassed in 12th.
My best friend from Stanford, Julia, who is kind enough to let me invade her home for the week, takes me to her favorite beach for sunset and a swim. A perfect end to a perfect day.
The next day is Short Track. A good warmup later and I am back on the line. The whistle blows and everything slows down for a second. I am determined to have a better start than yesterday. I inch my way up the outside and am soon sitting in the top five. Up the first (and only) climb at full sprint. I mistake the first right curve as the turn onto single track and slow down, losing positions. I fight to regain spots and move back up as best I can. Pretty soon, I am sitting in a pack of 5. I glance at my Garmin, six and a half minutes in (out of twenty plus) and I am already hurting. Oh man. A woman attacks and I follow. I follow all the breaks in the group and before I know it, the race official signals 3 laps to go. More attacks. Smooth over the rock garden. Into the last lap. Full gas. Sprint into the finish line but pinched off around the corner. Can’t quite get up to fourth but across the line in seventh.
Looking back at my earlier season races at the other US Cups or HC events, I am excited about the growth I have experienced this year. This year has been full of new challenges but also abundant in opportunity to develop. I am so thankful for the people who have supported me on this journey. To Dario, Josh, and my parents who may not have been physically present, thank you for being there in spirit every step of the way. Also a special thank you the Schaepe's for welcoming me into their home, showing me around and all the support pre, post and during the races.
Next stop, Mont Saint Anne World Cup!
U23 Women Cross Country: 3rd
Elite Women Short Track: 16th
The drive to West Virginia winds us through snaking countryside roads where we pass through tumbling rivers, jagged rock formations and finally, the Appalachian Mountains. I finish unloading the team van when a crack erupts through the air, so close to us that we consider a gunshot. Wrong. Thunder announces dumping rain and lightning: weather that will plague us all week.
The rest of the team arrives and we settle quickly and easily back into our race routine. I finally get on course. I can hardly contain my delight at finding slippery rock gardens, a couple of brutal climbs, and flowy descents. I dial in my lines and my mind. I cannot wait to race.
Friday and Short Track race day arrives. Although Pro Women are scheduled to go at 3:30pm, the schedule waffles all afternoon due to bad weather. Finally, we are in the clear. We will race at 5pm. The Short Track lap is not only about a minute longer than a classic course, but also has a large descent, a large climb and a gnarly rock garden that is certain to wreak havoc as only the first rider or so will be able to ride it smoothly. No matter what happens, it will be an action packed 30 minutes of racing.
Although initially the race official asks us to determine the call up order amongst ourselves, finally the actual list is presented. I am called up to the line 12th, in the second row. I know my chance at success in this race will be determined by the first lap: if I am able to be among the first to the rock garden. Bam! We are off. Everything slows. I sprint into sixth wheel and hold it there. The pace is already stiff. We hit the rock garden. I can hear the sounds of bars hooking and feet stumbling over rocks behind me but I don’t dare look back. Back on the bike and charging up the climb. My legs know what to do. I feel good. I am sitting in the front group of six as we enter the second lap. That’s when I feel it. My blood has stopped flowing. A rush of dizziness collides with me but I keep fighting. I hang with the first group for as long as possible, through the rock garden and up the next climb. However, I simply can’t seem to keep my pedals moving fast enough. I drop back. I fight with all my might and I drop further and further back. I can’t even seem to move properly. As I am passed, I try and hold my competitors’ wheels. No avail. Finally, I am pulled. Although I initially feel slightly gutted, there are good and bad days. That’s bike racing. I fought with my all and that’s what really matters. My start showed me where I can ride and the rest of my race is fuel for the fire for Sunday’s Cross Country.
Although I don’t race until Sunday, my teammates all race Cross Country the next day. Our house overlooks the most brutal climb of the course and Anders and I head down to heckle. I watch some of my dearest friends and teammates race their hearts out and I can’t wait for it to be my turn.
A 9am race demands an early wakeup call. I am up as the sun rises. The fog is so thick I can hardly see out of my window and the puddles are deep on the ground from last night’s rain. The course is guaranteed to be grueling and I cannot wait (the whole point of racing is the challenge, after all). On the line. Go time. Gun blows. I miss my pedal but somehow recover. I take the hole shot into the single-track and lead until halfway up the first significant climb. I settle into third, behind Clif Pro Team riders Haley Batten and Hannah Finchamp, planning on following their pace. We hit a rooty single-track climb and the rider in front of me is a little messy through it. Haley pulls away. There is no place for me to pass so I have to be patient. Next climb, I pass Hannah at the top, before the descent. I gap her on the descent and she has to work to catch up with me on the next climb. She puts the hammer down a little bit. My legs, although they feel good, tell me that at altitude, I won’t be able to recover from digging too deep so early. I let her go for now.
I settle into my own pace and focus on riding smooth on the descents and digging on the climbs. The lines have changed pretty dramatically from the rain since last time I rode the course and as a result, I am not as efficient in choosing lines as I could be. There are new, faster lines that I miss the first two laps. I am in a rhythm by the third lap and finally start closing down on Hannah- a little too late. I cross the line third, proud of having ridden a solid ride after a rollercoaster of a season.
Photos: Kenny Wehn
We race because we embrace the unknown, we embrace the opportunity to pour our hearts out, to take it one breath at a time. We race because there is nothing like the feeling of satisfaction when you cross the line and have ridden outside of your skin, with 100% of your body and 100% of your mind.
Although I have learned many things this season, the most important one remains simple: the bike is my ultimate happy place. The chance to race my bike means the chance to face new hurtles, to grow, to learn and to ask everything of myself, to live with my whole heart, to know what it means to be fully alive, to see the power of people united by one passion, and to be present.
Racing is not simple. It doesn’t just happen. Racing takes a village of people. “Thank you” does not even begin to be substantial enough to everyone who has made it possible for me to race. To the coach who has analyzed hundreds of workouts by the second with me, to the family who has sacrificed ‘normal,’ to the friends who lend an ear when I struggle to grasp perspective, to the teammates with whom I prep for battle, to the mechanic who makes my bike flawless and keeps me laughing, I appreciate you endlessly and thank you for enabling me to chase my passion.
Elite Women Cross Country: 5th
Elite Women Short Track: 5th
Finally! No more cafeteria food!
Back in my happy places.
Initially I had calendared two Pro XCT’s after Europe. However, after some brutal races, I did some revaluating and decided that instead of rushing out of town during the throws of finals week to race at altitude, it would make much more sense to get some hardcore training in before National Championships.
In the weeks following, I often felt like racing might have been an easier choice than the grueling training I was doing. Summer break quickly turned into a summer grind. I spent demanding hours on and off the bike working on my physical fitness, mental fitness, skills and health condition. After some solid weeks of training, I was more than ready to head to the East Coast for a block of racing (Williston, Vermont à Snowshoe, West Virginia à Boston, Massachusetts à hopefully qualifying for a World Cup in Mont Saint Anne, Quebec).
I arrive in Vermont late Wednesday night after a cancelled flight, two delayed flights and lodging plans falling through. It is a relief to finally curl up in the sofa bed and crash for the night.
Saturday’s race time rolls around and the thunderstorms have held off for us, if only for a couple hours. On the line: focused and excited for the next hour and a half which is guaranteed to push our field to the limits. The course is composed of rooty singletrack, rock gardens and A-lines. Every corner, every rock, every feature ridden smoothly is a time warp: ride it smoothly and gain a couple seconds but dare hesitate and the seconds quickly turn to minutes lost.
1:35pm, we are off. As the trail quickly turns to singletrack, I sit fourth wheel. Up ahead, through the twisty turns and dense forest, I can see Kate Courtney and Lea Davison already start to put in an attack. However, two riders sit between me and them. I quickly settle into a chase group of three riders but the technical nature of the course causes us to quickly spread out. By the end of the first lap, I am sitting in sixth.
I focus on emptying my tank on the singletrack climbs and staying smooth on the descents. With each lap, I feel faster and smoother on the course. With each straightaway, I can see fifth just ahead of me. Spectators yell “15 seconds,” then, “12!” then, “10!” I want that top five finish. I am already suffering but I grit my teeth and suffer a bit more. We head out on our last lap and there she is. Just around the corner, and just like that, I have caught her. As we hit the first singletrack, she stutters. She puts her foot down and dabs around the next couple corners. An explosive pass and I am around her. I can hear her behind me and decide not to give her the option to regain confidence. I bury myself up each and every climb and continue to do so long after I stop hearing her shifting gears in the trees behind me.
I cross the line in fifth and stand on my first Elite Women podium. Successful day.
Short track is the next afternoon. My mom and I can’t get a late enough hotel check out, so we pack up the hotel room at twelve and kill an hour or so in the local coffee shop before heading to the venue. The heat is penetrating and the humidity is cloying. My warmup is an attempt at spinning out the cobwebs in my legs from the day before.
Its 3:00pm and go time. The course is mostly singletrack and therefore, untraditional for a short track. The field is small, stacked and will spread out fast. I want to hang in as long as possible. The whistle releases us, I miss my pedal but miraculously don’t lose too much time. I latch onto the front group and hang on. I am again, sitting fifth wheel. I get dropped for a lap but grab back on. Repeat, repeat. Finally, I am off the back for good. I hang consistently off the back and cross the line in fifth again. Wiped but another successful day.
A 13 hour drive and soon to arrive in Snowshoe, West Virginia for National Championships! Wahoo!
We spend another day in the car, driving nine plus hours from Nove Mesto, Czech Republic to Albstadt, Germany. We arrive late but in time to walk in the cooling twilight to dinner. Haley and I make the discovery that we have black-out shades in our room!
Quick trip to the local castle!
Our bed and breakfast is classic Europe: quirky wind chimes, elegant curtains, flower bouquets spilling over countertops, and Elke, the owner of the bed and breakfast. Elke bakes us homemade bread. I head out on a beautiful spin solo. The forests here radiate green. Paths extend across every rolling hill. The hills burst with fields of yellow wildflowers and you can look out and see the whole city of red shingled roofs and whitewashed buildings. Yoga. Long walk after dinner checking out the city featuring lots of giggling.
I get on course for the first time! After finally dialing in tire pressure, I feel dialed on the grueling course.
A short spin and a long coffee shop expedition. More yoga. More laughter.
Last time on course- fluid. Legs are finally open. Castle adventure with the boys! We get to wear giant slippers inside so as not to damage the floor and soak in the 360-degree view from the top.
A good spin to the castle. Haley and I go watch the boys. Definitely a brutal day but inspiring to watch them ride with so much heart. The heat is commendable and a taste of what tomorrow will be like.
6am wakeup call to church bells. The sun is already beating down. My legs are open and I’m excited to give this hour and a half everything. I quickly glance around on the line, I am sitting at the very back of the pack. That’s fine. Plenty of time. The gun explodes and with it, pandemonium. I get sucked backwards and then have a chance to fight. I move up but pretty soon, we are standing still on the steep climb. Dizziness collides with me and hangs on. Off and running. I run the entire first climb, until finally, I am back on. I hit the first descent and am again, barely moving, waiting for lap traffic to settle.
Start lap is done and now five more laps stand in front of me. Traffic is still brutal and I give each climb my all to move forward. The descending pace is still painfully slow but I have to be patient. I fight my way up to the climbs and keep working my way forward. I stay hydrated and fueled in the brutal heat and do my best to close in on those in front of me. When I come into the grass section on lap three, the whistle blows, I am getting pulled. Although it’s a cruel to be pulled, I did my best and kept fighting. I built off my experience last weekend and can only hope to keep growing as an athlete. I moved up from my initial position at the start and I know I am capable of so much more as I learn to manage my health condition more efficiently and can focus on some of the things holding me back. I am confident I will be back stronger much stronger.
I am flooded with gratitude for the army standing behind me. To my family and friends who never stop believing. To my coach for working with me in the roughest times. For USAC for providing me with wonderful opportunity to race my bike at the most elite stage in the world. For the chance to learn and grow not only as an athlete, but also as a person. Thank you to everyone for making a difference.
May 21st, 2017
Cross Country: U23 Women
Sunset ping-pong tournaments.
Town exploring during our spins.
A bright Monday morning found Team USAC loading up the van and headed to the Czech Republic. After driving all day, it was a relief to finally arrive back to Nove Mesto Na Morave.
The week flew past- full of beautiful spins through the lush, rolling Czech hills, leisurely dinners outside, ping-pong tournaments, and most importanatly, lots of giggles with good company. Getting back on one of my favorite courses was a treat. I feel dialed on the rock gardens, drops, root sections and climbs. My happiness level soars, and I felt readier than ever to line up on one of the elite start lines in the world.
I get in a good spin and head to the course to watch the U23 men race. Haley and I have an absolute blast cheering the USAC boys on and watching them ride their hearts out. It is the perfect way to prep for tomorrow’s race.
Sunday morning dawns. After a good spin, my legs are firing. I am so dang happy to be racing and to have this opportunity. I am called up to the line. The announcer yells in Czech and I can’t stop smiling. Through the loudspeaker, the heart beat begins to thunder through the stadium. Adrenaline pulses through my system, the gun fires and chaos explodes. Right off the line, I swerve to avoid a crash. Bodies shove into me and I shove right back. Handlebars overlap. More close crashes I avoid. Chaos. Dizziness engulfs me and I push through. I am stuck behind a huge group of riders. Pass a few. Stuck behind more. I move forward and then fall back. I am off my bike running, then I am back on. I feel smooth and fluid on the descents but am held up by the traffic ahead of me. I follow this pattern for the entirety of the race. My legs are sluggish, my head is sluggish but I keep pushing. I am deep in the hurt locker. Everything is a little blurry but I keep fighting. I blink and I am on the fourth out of fifth lap. Finally, I can process what is happening. I move up a couple spots. The US boys chase me up the first climb heading on the fifth lap, and I keep digging. I cross the line 100% spent, having checked off my goals of giving it my all and staying focused. I have not finished where I want to, but I have controlled everything within my power and that’s all I can do. Keep learning and eyes to the future.
May 14th, 2017
Cross Country: U23 Women
The most beautiful spin.
After Sea Otter and finishing my initial block of Spring racing, I had some quality time back at Stanford to catch up on my studies, recover and then fully immerse myself in training. Before I knew it, I was all packed up again, this time with a slightly farther destination in mind: Europe. More specifically, I was headed to Obertraun in Austria, Nove Mesto in Czech Republic, and Albstadt in Germany. We would race the first weekend at an HC race and then head to the second two for the World Cups.
After a relatively smooth travel day, I was united with Team USA, consisting of six U23 men and two U23 women, including myself. Another four hours in the car and we arrived in the stunning, snowcapped Austrian Alps, with our hotel sitting right on an immense lake. I felt like I was dreaming, and after riding the course the next day, I was convinced.
The course was perfect, full of brutally steep climbs and challenging descents with all terrain, flowy berms, root labyrinths, rock gardens and drops. I was stoked.
In a blink of an eye, race morning rolled around. After a good warmup, I was ready. The gun blew and the race begun. After the first hill, a clouding blackness settled over my vision. I backed off accordingly but did my best to keep pushing. After a while, my head cleared and I focused on pushing myself on the climbs and descending smoothly. The course’s features were relentless and I barely had time to think. Crystal focus at all times was not a choice but a requirement. Before I knew it, I had crossed the line in 3rd, having left everything out on the course but also excited to improve. Now we head to Nove Mesto!
Even from a couple thousand miles away, my gratitude for my support system is overwhelming. Although racing appears to be an individual sport at times, I would be nothing without the people behind me. To all the people supporting me, you make the difference, thank you.
April 21st and 22nd, 2017
Short Track & Cross Country: Pro
Result: 14th and 17th
The week in between Bonelli and Sea Otter presented itself with some much needed recovery/chill time from a busy first couple weeks of Spring quarter. Arriving to the Sea Otter course on Thursday, I found the classic Sea Otter meld of all cycling disciplines accompanied with an explosion of tents containing diversity of cultures, gear and communities.
My weekend began with the Short Track race on Friday. Although I was sitting in the last line at the start, I was stoked to race. As soon as the gun blew, chaos erupted due to the nature of the course. The course circled the whole track and had some thick, muddy sections as well as a sand pit. Off the line, I avoided a couple of crashes and then become caught in a deep mud pit which took a while to pedal through. I was able to bridge back up to the main group and sit there for a couple laps. However, about halfway through the race, coming through the sand pit, I slowed to avoid the women struggling in front of me, lost too much momentum and lost the main group. I sat solo for a bit but then hung with the next chasing group to conserve energy. Coming into the last section of the course, our pack shattered as Evelyn and I picked up the pace. I entered the pavement sprinting Evelyn and got her, finishing 14th.
The next day, Saturday, was Cross Country. Since I would be racing elite, my course was new to me: carved by a lawn mower, full of off-camber, grassy twists and turns, a long tempo track section, a long climb, a couple rock gardens, and last but definitely not to be forgotten, an uphill sand pit! There was no doubt about it: this race would hurt a lot!
My legs took a while to warm up after the previous day’s race but I was feeling good. The gun sounded. I didn't start super hard but was riding with the enormous front group (20 plus riders). When the singletrack came around and the riders were forced to funnel, I lost contact with the top pack but was able to regain contact with them on the second lap. From there, I worked to pick riders off one by one. The wind made drafting on the tempo section crucial so I worked with Maghalie Rochette for the last half of the race to try and gain contact with the girls in sight. I finished 17th, left everything out there and had a blast.
I’m excited to keep working hard and take the lessons I have learned from these early races and apply them to the later races of this season in order to keep improving. Huge thanks to my parents, Josh, and Dario for helping me in every aspect of my racing to help me keep refining all my skills.
April 8th and 9th, 2017
Short Track & Cross Country: Pro
Result: 16th and 21st
Thursday rolled around and I was back in Los Angeles after a stuffed week of new classes, travel, training and events. I did my absolute best to recover after Fontana and during the week but life got the better of me.
Saturday found me on the line with Olympians and World Champions. I lined up at the back of the pack so I knew I would have to dig deep to have solid position at the start. The gun blew and I fought hard to get closer to the front. I was moving up when my autonomic nervous system disorder collided with me. My coordination slowed and I was forced to settle into survival mode.
Finally, at the end of the fourth lap (out of six), I began to feel a bit better. I was able to pick it up on the climbs, pass a couple women and ride smoothly to the finish. I crossed the line in 21st. Although it was a bit of a disappointing day pedaling in circles, I was successful in accomplishing all the goals I had outlined for the race. I know persistence and patience is crucial in my first year as an elite and I can only hope to learn as much throughout the season as I have the past two weekends.
The next day was Short Track and I was out for redemption. Again, I started at the very back of the group. I knew a good start would be crucial for this race as well. We started and my progress to the front was slow due to the nature of the course. Coming into the first climb, a massive crash unfolded directly in front of me. I did my best to avoid it but was pushed off my bike. I ran up the first climb and saw that the front group was long gone.
The next couple laps, I buried myself to make contact with the front group again. Finally, with three laps to go, I caught back on. Relief flooded me and I relaxed for an instant. In that moment, a rider swerved in front of me and clipped my front wheel with her back wheel. I was forced to jump of my bike again and run up the hill. I lost contact again with the group again. I did my best to catch back up but there wasn’t enough time. I crossed the line in 16th. I finished knowing the race was my best effort but a little bummed with my luck.
I am grateful for the small wins of the season so far and to have the learning opportunities this season has presented. It truly takes a village to support me and my appreciation for everyone involved cannot be put to words.
Since Nationals, I have been very busy with all good things! I wanted to include a few photos of a couple of my adventures in the past months. I have been loving my time on the bike more than ever but also doing lots of new things as well.
I started school at Stanford this past fall and have met some wonderful people.
Enjoying my favorite mountain.
Stoked to be part of Whole Athlete for another year.
April 1st and 2nd, 2017
Short Track & Cross Country: Pro
Result: 6th and 15th
After a long base season full of challenging rides and long hours of strength work, I knew I was as ready as possible coming into Fontana.
Friday morning found me back at the venue - mounds of jagged rocks incongruous with the surrounding congested freeway. I was thrilled to be reunited with the wonderful humans of the cycling community and felt strong and smooth preriding the course.
The weekend of racing would be my first-time racing Pro at a Pro XCT and I was excited to take on the new series of challenges that come with an upgrade in categories. Minimizing fatigue as well as staying focused and smooth would be crucial aspects in a race longer than I was used too.
5am Saturday morning, I woke up to a blaring alarm and a black night. Although still dark, the morning was already warm. My warmup went flawlessly and soon, we were on the line. They called 15 seconds and then immediately sounded the start gun. After some confusion, we were rolling. Although I had a solid start off the line, I let myself fall back a bit coming into the first climb to conserve energy. On the long pavement climb of the course, the group split, the girls directly behind me falling away. I made it onto the single-track climb, and was riding smoothly. I didn’t want to follow the rider in front of me too closely so I could stay clipped in. I was also cautious about digging too deeply right off the line and not having anything saved for later. As a result, I let riders in front of me pull away
In hindsight, I should have stayed with them. I didn’t pass, or get passed once throughout the race. The course is largely tactical, especially on windy days. Being alone on the windy sections meant time sucked from me and also meant it was nearly impossible to close gaps on other riders solo. I crossed the line in 15th, knowing I had ridden a solid race but also knowing a different start would have changed my race.
The next day was Short Track. After a morning spin and a leisurely warm up in the dusty afternoon heat, it was go time. The start gun sounded and I took the hole shot. I eased up and grabbed Kate Courtney’s wheel. The race shattered and it was six of us for the rest of the race. I sat at the back of the pack to conserve energy and watch. In hindsight, this had the reverse effect. Riding at the back resulted in expending more energy than my counterparts over every section. On the last climb of the last lap, I finally dropped off a little. However, up ahead, closing in on the finish, I could see Evelyn Dong and Shayna Powless had also been dropped. I put my head down and began to sprint. Coming into the finish, I had more momentum than them but not quite enough time. I crossed the line in sixth.
My first weekend of Pro racing is in the books and all in all, it went well. My legs felt strong, I stayed smooth, and most importantly, I learned tons. I know I can keep improving and I’m excited to see what this season holds. I feel blessed to be part of Whole Athlete p/b DNA Cycling again and have my mom, Josh, Dario and John running such a flawless program. On to Bonelli this weekend!
July 15, 2016
Cross Country, UCI 17-18
July 16th, 2016
Short Track, Cat 1 17+
A week after Worlds, it was back in the car for a 6-hour drive to Mammoth, California. Returning to the course, I quickly remembered the brutality of the course: high temperatures, steep, relentless climbs, one bone rattling descent and lastly, 9,000 feet of altitude which is always a challenge, being from sea level
I had one hard training ride before the race and I knew my condition was as ideal as possible in light of the recent traveling. My 2016 season had been my most trying yet and I was eager to put everything I had into my shot at the Stars and Stripes. I had one goal: to leave my entire heart out on course
When race day dawned, I was readier than ever to give an effort that represented my season’s work. After a pleasant morning spin and some relaxing, I headed to the venue and found myself immersed in 100-degree heat. I got in a good warmup and found myself on the line. The gun sounded and I found myself in sixth wheel up the climb. Ahead I could see the turn to the single track. I knew it was essential to get there in top three positioning and I was worried I would get edged out by the pack closely following my wheel. I spotted an inside line to the corner and on a wild hope, took it. I passed all five girls and found myself in the lead. I felt smooth and effortless as we worked our way up the climb. As the trail opened up a bit, Haley made a quick pass and I grabbed her wheel. We gapped the field and worked our way farther up the climb. On the second to last climb of the lap, my system decompensated and my blood flow was reduced. I began to fall back, disoriented. My eyelids began to shudder violently and I focused on keeping the pedals turning. In that moment, I seemed to be surrounded by a large group of girls. I assumed I was passing girls that were in the U23 category as we had started a little ways behind them. However, as I would find out later, these girls were in my race. Although I thought I was sitting in third, I was actually sitting seventh.
The last two climbs stretched to an eternity as I anticipated the downhill that would give me a small chance to recover. Finally, I made it to the descent. I was able to make up a little bit of time there. However, as soon as we started climbing again, I was passed by another two girls. I chased them up the climb, my stomach now cramped and my vision blurry. My mantra was merely to keep turning the pedals at the same cadence as them. As we hit the descent, I passed one of the girls and focused on reeling in the other. My body screamed at me, but my mind screamed a little louder with sheer willpower. "Just a little harder for a little longer," I told myself. Spectators were yelling at me now that I was closing the gap between me and the other girls. As I came through the feed zone, my mechanic shouted, "There's more race left and more girls to catch!" I put my head down and suffered
On the steepest climb, I saw a pack of girls. I hadn't believed I would catch them until this moment; determination surged over me. With every last fiber I had left, I launched an attack. I dropped the girl I was with and bridged up to the next couple. I didn't look back. My head pounded and each pedal stroke brought knives. I carried the attack through the single track climb. I could hear a girl on my wheel. In the short descent, I braced myself for the final tempo section before the descent into the finish. I knew I had to get there first for my best shot at a medal. As soon as I hit the flat spot, I surged. I gave it everything I had, but I couldn't hold it. I fell into the descent a little ways after the girl. There was one short pavement stretch before the finish line and that would be my last shot. Hitting the pavement, I hesitated a moment too long, not wanting to sprint to early again. Then, I let loose everything I had. It wasn't quite enough. A medal was out of reach by less than a tenth of a second.
Although it's always a bummer to miss out on a medal, especially by so little, I couldn’t be disappointed because I had completed my goal to leave everything I had on course. In that hour of racing, I had never felt worse in my entire life. I suffered as much as I possibly could and crossed the line knowing I had given the race my absolute 100%. Not only did I leave everything I had on course, I also learned a bit more about myself and how to really dig deep through my symptoms.
Switching off pulling with Haley.
After a 4pm cross country race the previous day, my body was a bit shell shocked to be warming up for another race just 19 hours after. I got in a leisurely warmup and made it to the line for our 9am start. On the line, I looked around and spotted not just junior racers but also older racers since our category was 17+. The course was short: a pavement flat section, a rough fire road climb, another flat section, two gnarly wood chip corners and an awkward dirt corner. The gun popped and I found myself sliding into the hole shot. I allowed myself to fall back into third wheel and conserve energy. On the second lap, a woman made a solo break and opened up 20 seconds on the pack. The next lap, Haley and I made a split as well. We alternated pulling each other and slowly worked our way back up to the initial breakaway. I sat in a bit and a fourth woman caught us. I was still feeling good and could tell the rest of the pack was hurting a bit as the pace dropped off. I hopped in front and pulled a few laps to maintain our gap on the rest of the field. With a couple laps to go, Haley and the other lady dropped from our group. I attempted to work with the woman from the initial breakaway to open up the gap but she was fatigued and I wasn’t willing to do the work solo. Haley bridged back up. Entering the last two laps of the race, we were a pack of three. Coming into the wood chips, the woman yelled at me to get out of the way from behind so she would have an easy pass. I heard the sound of metal and body colliding as she crashed into the fence before the turn behind me. Haley pulled into the lead and picked up the pace. I followed her wheel smoothly. She worked up the climb and onto the pavement and I was right behind. I knew it would come down to a sprint on the last pavement section. We hit the pavement, and once again, I gave it everything I had. I pulled besides her and then passed to take the win.
After we crossed the line, Haley turned and smiled at me. I was still winded from the sprint but happiness flooded me. I was ecstatic to take my first national title but also to have had such a fun race in phenomenal company.
The 2016 season is now officially over for me. As I head home, I am filled with overwhelming gratitude for my coach, Dario, family and teammates who lent me their shoulders to lean on in those moments when I stumbled. I can't believe I was lucky enough to be part of a program like Whole Athlete/Specialized for the third year in a row. This team is truly one of a kind. Each year spent with Whole Athlete, I feel as if I have continuously learned and transformed entirely as a rider. I am beyond honored to have worn the jersey for another year and cannot thank Dario enough.
Exploring a local castle.
Views from the local carnival ferris wheel.
The day after racing in Missoula, Montana, I found myself back in the airport: this time bound for Nove Mesto, Czech Republic for World Championships, the biggest race of the season. All that strength training, stretching, core, sauna time, sacrifice and training on the bike had been for this. I knew that I was as physically prepared as I had ever been and was excited to see what I would be able to do.
My mom, Christopher and I arrived a couple days before the rest of the USA National Team in order to get settled in. We spent mornings training and afternoons recovering while still incorporating carnivals, boating and some sight-seeing. The course was full of gnarly rock gardens, unrelenting, punchy climbs and some swoopy, fast descents. I loved it and felt dialed over the technical features.
Race day rolled around with lots of excitement and nominal nerves on my part. I was determined to prove to myself that it was possible to have a phenomenal race despite a disappointing season in regard to my health problem. I was convinced that I could hold my dizziness at bay through some of the adaptations I had recently learned and, mainly, sheer grit. I had put all the blood, sweat and tears I could into this season and I wanted to feel proud of a race again.
After spinning the legs in the morning, I felt ready to go. My warmup went flawlessly and I stayed cool despite the humidity thanks to my ice vest. I was called to the line in tenth, just barely missing the first row. On the line, I was relaxed and ecstatic to race. The gun released us and I literally moved backwards for a couple of seconds as I was swallowed by the crowd in an attempt to get going. Immediately, a familiar cloud of dizziness began to engulf me. I did my best to push it aside and finally, I began moving through the racers again but my progress was slow. Although my start was far from ideal, I knew I had plenty of time to move up. I fought hard and my legs felt decent however it had become impossible to ignore the dizziness that was present. I again pushed it aside and fought for position. The first single-track climb found us all running. I slipped and lost my balance along with a few positions but quickly was back moving.
The rest of the race, I moved up pretty consistently and focused on emptying my tank on the climbs and flowing on the descents. I felt decent but I also knew that clouding dizziness was shackling me from real easing the high power I had trained and knew I was capable of producing. Before I knew it, we were entering our last lap. I passed a couple more girls and then on the final climb, had closed in on three girls in front of me. I put my head down and attempted to give it my all but faltered when I slipped out of my pedal. I was forced to run and the three girls disappeared while a Canadian passed me. I mounted and followed her into the finish but couldn’t quite catch her. I finished top American in 25th, not by any means the result I was looking for or knew I could produce but knowing I had ridden a clean race.
Although my race had not been what I was hoping for, I am honored to have the opportunity to race my bike on one of the most famous and fun courses and to represent my country in such a prestigious event. Flying home, I am filled with gratitude not only for the incredible support from the small village behind me, but also from having a chance to learn and grow with the best athletes in the world. Although I could describe myself as being the nail instead of the hammer this season, my condition has only reinforced my immense love and passion for this sport alongside with my desire to be immersed in it for as long as possible. After all, “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” – T.S. Eliot
Next stop, National Championships!
After racing in Canada, Jason and I headed back to the hotel, ate a quick dinner, packed bikes and got ready to fly out early the next morning. After a fourteen-hour travel day due to some flight delays, we finally arrived in Bend, Oregon. We built up our bikes, got in a quick spin, and helped load the team van for the ten plus hour drive the next day to Missoula. Needless to say, when we finally pulled into beautiful Missoula, I let out an audible sigh. I spent the week in Missoula soaking in the beautiful sunshine, wildflowers and occasional thunderstorm.
The rest of the team flew in Thursday and I was thrilled to be reunited with my teammates. The course was in beautiful condition with tacky hero dirt and I was happy to have the opportunity to ride such a fun course again.
I felt strong and confident on the bike come race morning. After killing a few hours before our 2 pm race start, the day had first warmed up and then started to drizzle lightly. By the time we had lined up, the course had gotten another perfect smattering of rain to keep the conditions loamy. When the whistle blew, I took the hole shot. Instantly, I could feel something was wrong and my dizziness hit. I dropped back to second wheel, Canadian, Sidney McGill. As the fire road turned to single-track, my vision clouded and I slipped to third wheel, fourth wheel and then fifth. My only focus on the removal I now felt and the sluggish speed in which I was processing. My pedal stroke slowed and I could barely turn the pedals. The laps drew out the same way: on the long downhill, my head would clear slightly and I would close the gap to fourth place, however as soon as we hit the climbs, the feeling would knock me back down and my pace would once again be painfully slow.
On the last lap, the muggy heat turned first to rain and then to hail as I reached the top of the climb. Within minutes, the trail was river-like with thick mud. I rode smoothly enough to reel in fourth place on the descent. Since there was no passing on the descent, as soon as I got the chance, I began to sprint. I opened up a twenty second gap and finished in fourth. Although it was certainly not the race I was hoping for, it was what I was capable of producing while still being dizzy. I am excited to be getting a better grasp on learning how to race with my condition.
Huge thanks to my coach Dario Fredrick and my parents for backing me every step of this amazing journey! Next stop, World Championships in Nove Mesto!
June 12, 2016,
I was happy to arrive home from Europe smoothly and have a little over two weeks to settle. My time home was filled with doctor appointments that cleared up a lot of questions about my autonomic nervous system disorder. I felt like for the first time, we had a way to monitor it with data and some solutions not only within medication timing but also minuscule adaptations that I was confident would add up. Before I knew it, I was packing my bags again, this time for a bit longer of a trip. I had recently been named to the 2016 World Championships team as one of three women and five juniors. This meant that from Canada, I would head first to Missoula, Montana and then fly from there to Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic for Worlds.
I landed in Toronto on a balmy Thursday night and met up with my teammates Anders and Jason. After building up bikes, a light spin and grocery shopping, Saturday found us on the course. The course was far from disappointing with endless features, rock gardens, gap jumps, park-style ramps and even some fast and flowy singletrack. One thing was for certain, it would be impossible not to have fun on a course like this. I dialed in the A-lines and was riding as smoothly and cleanly as possible after only two laps on the course.
Race morning was leisurely and after a nice spin to the venue and then a quick warmup, I was ready to race!
We would not only be racing at the same time as the Elite women but also as the Elite men and Junior men with only a few minute splits between the groups, destining lap traffic to cause some trouble. However, nothing could daunt me on a day like today when the sun was shining and the soil beautifully tacky. The whistle blew and we were off! I missed my pedal and fought to clip in. By the time I had, the group already had a small gap. I pushed myself to sixth wheel on the long climb and held it into the single-track. Suddenly, the girl in front of me slipped on a root and sprawled entirely sideways. I struggled and failed to find a route around her and by the time she was back up, the front group was gone. I was riding smoothly but fought to find a rhythm that would have enabled me a couple more seconds of speed. I focused on pouring icy water down my back and arms while also pedaling constantly to keep my nervous system from decompensating.
Rachel found my wheel and for the end of the first and start of the second lap, we rode together. Coming into the third lap though, I felt as if I finally found my pace, dug deep and was able to open a bit of a gap. I crossed the line in sixth. I knew I had ridden a smart race without any symptoms- the biggest small victory itself. Although I certainly cannot complain about my race, having a decent day makes me hungry for a good day and I can't wait for the upcoming races to have a chance at that.
As I sit on the plane now, on my way to meet my family and team in Bend and then make the drive to Missoula, I am so thankful to all the people that have continued to believe in my dreams as much as I do even through some pretty rocky spots. It was absolutely wonderful to share this trip with Anders, Jason and Sue. Onwards and upwards!
Event: Cross Country
Category: UCI Junior Women 17-18
Exploring endless fields of wildflowers.
Enjoying an easy spin with a view.
After Ussel and a ten-hour drive later, we pulled into Albstadt, Germany. Our little house was embedded somewhere in the middle of a glowing forest. We spent the days leading up to the race frolicking in fields full of wildflowers, wandering the town, snacking at bakeries and playing with goats. I was ecstatic to find a course full of long climbs that were guaranteed to be leg-wrecking and fun, fast but technical descents. Although it poured the week before, the sun made a special pre-race day appearance to dry out the course to ideal conditions.
Race day found me more ready than ever. I had a feeling it was going to be my day. My legs felt good, the course suited me perfectly and I was riding smoothly. Warming up, I could not stop smiling; I was so excited! I was called up ninth to the line and sitting in the second row, right where I wanted to be. The gun shot sent us off, and for a second, everything was still. I was perfectly aware of my body as I slithered into the front row almost effortlessly. Coming into the first climb, the road in front of me was open and with a little push, I was leading. I felt smooth as we ascended farther. I took the top line in the split in the fire road and came out in fourth wheel, a perfect spot to settle in to.
Wham! Out of nowhere, my “dizziness” collided with me. I could almost feel the blood drain from my face as we hit the first descent. I held the top four wheels on the swooping, muddy corners but as soon as we hit a tempo section, I started moving backwards. Well, not literally but I certainly stopped moving forwards. By the third out of four laps, I was close to dead last.
I certainly had not put in months and months of sacrifice and training to end up at the bottom of the pack, with absolutely everything. However, it was everything I had. I did my best to keep my pedals turning on the climbs and found a bit of flow on the downhill. I discovered for the first time that I wasn’t racing for results, but instead directly to prove to myself that I would not quit. The fourth lap, my dizziness was still raging but subsided enough for me to pick off a couple of girls by catching them on the descents and spinning the pedals the best I could to hold it. I finished 45th out of 60 starters.
As I crossed the line, overwhelming relief settled over me. Around me, other finishers were clung to their loved ones, tears spilling abundantly from their eyes and I made a small decision. If I was going to fight my dizziness, I didn’t want to feel sorry for myself. Every racer faces challenges, and this is going to be mine. At the end of the day, temporary hardship can only make me stronger and more thankful for all the incredible opportunities I do have.
As I sit on the plane, headed home, and write this, I can really only feel grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the United States of America internationally, line up against some of the best in the world and continue engaging in the amazing learning process of racing. In my few weeks home before heading to Canada for a race there, I plan on continuing the battle in solving my autonomic nervous system disorder with ferocity. I can say with confidence that I will figure out a better solution than my current one and be back fighting in no time. I can’t say thank you enough to my family, coach, boyfriend, teammates and sponsors for sticking by me through this crazy journey.
Events: Cross Country
Category: UCI Juniors 17-18
Late Tuesday afternoon found me arriving in the Amsterdam airport, exhausted, hungry and relieved to finally be in Europe after months of anticipation. I met up with the rest of the US junior team that would be joining me for the travels in the Netherlands, France and Germany for the next two weeks. After a couple hour drive, we arrived in Sittard for two nights at the USA Cycling base. We explored the countryside and spun out the legs. Before I knew it, we were back in the car for a 13 hour drive to Ussel, France. Scattering cabins in the French country side awaited us and I was more than comforted to finally have a space to settle into after a few rough days of travel.
We arrived at the course and I was thrilled to find a slick course with punchy climbs, rolling drops, clawing roots and lots of fun drops awaiting me. Although I had recently found out that I had a sinus infection and was still on antibiotics, I had done months of preparation for this event and I could not wait to race. I felt smooth and confident on the course. The night before the race rolled around and despite being in bed at 9:00 pm, a combination of the time change and excitement kept me up pretty late. A 7:00 am wakeup call found the girls and me in the van, race ready.
I was a little groggy but I got a good warm up in and felt more ready and relaxed than ever. I made my way to the staging and was surprised to find that not only were we starting with the juniors, but also the U23 and Pro women, and instead of separating the groups, they had mixed us all together. Although I was fourth call up in the junior category, I was third row combined and could only see a few juniors around me. The announcer was speaking French and before I knew it, the whistle blew and we were off. I had good positioning off the line but quickly fell far back. Coming into the third corner, I was about 30 people off the junior leader. I was surrounded by racers and desperately fought to keep moving up.
My legs felt powerful but there was so much traffic I had a lot of trouble moving forward. I would pass a group of girls but get caught behind another, and be forced to unclip and run. I got into a rhythm of passing, running and pushing on the climbs. I passed a few juniors and was working with a junior in red for a while. On a steep rock drop, the girl grabbed her brakes and I was forced to skid out. Two junior girls passed me back, along with the girl in red vanishing. I had to work to reel back the other two but the girl in red was gone. Finally, on the third out of four laps, I stopped stopped changing position and was caught in no-mans-land. I focused on settling into a rhythm of pushing hard on the climbs and descending smoothly. I still felt good but couldn’t make progress. I crossed the line in tenth, feeling like I rode a good race but disappointed I didn’t have a chance to compete with the girls in front of me.
I feel so lucky to have such an amazing support team from my coach, Dario Fredricks, my sponsors, my parents, teammates and USA Cycling. Now onto Albstadt, Germany for my first World Cup!
Event: Cross Country and Short Track
Category: UCI Juniors 17-18 and Pro Women
Result: 3rd and 18th
The week in-between Fontana and Bonelli was spent in Orange County with good company and training. Before I knew it, we were back at Bonelli. After some great training, I was confident in my legs and myself. Although Fontana had presented 90-degree weather, Bonelli surprised us with rain and thunderstorm forecasts and did not disappoint. Not only was the Bonelli #2 course a little sloppy, but I was also delighted to find lots of long but punchy climbs and a technical feature that I felt suited me. Race day rolled around and I felt more ready than ever to tackle the challenge of racing.
Enjoying our time off by the pool.
Lunch at the Anaheim Packing House.
After a pleasant morning spin to get my legs pumping, 4:30pm found me back on the line. The clouds hung dark and heavy in the sky, as ominous as ever. The whistle blew and I immediately fell back in our group of twenty. I fought for position and by the first climb, was third wheel into the first single track. I moved into second and although my positioning was ideal, a familiar feeling started to settle over me: clouding dizziness. I did my best to shake it off and when our pack hit the next climb, moved into first, opening up a small gap. I knew if I dug deep, I could open a larger one, but my vision had started to spot. My autonomic nervous system dysfunction had set in and I knew this meant I had my work cut out for me.
I dropped back to second wheel. Haley and I worked together to pull away from the field and pretty soon it was just us. Lap number two began and my vision slowly worsened. The blood flow to my brain and the rest of my body slowed. I could feel my movements turn sluggish. With the end of the second lap closing, I slid out in the off-camber mud. I scrambled to get back on my bike and a feeling of panic overtook me. I found I was too dizzy to even swing my leg over the frame, and when I finally managed that, I slipped again. I couldn’t even walk straight. My panic engulfed me, gobbling my thoughts: I had fallen into its vicious cycle. I stopped and forced myself to relax, taking several moments to regain my calm. Slowly, I began riding.
Although I was riding and a bit calmer than moments before, I was now tremendously anxious. This same dizziness had previously forced me to pull from World Championships and I was convinced that was what I had to do now. I descended with painful tentativeness to the feed zone, but my mind didn’t stop racing.
After Worlds, my autonomic nervous system dysfunction had been a large enough factor where I was threatened with the prospect of having to quit racing. I had worried that it would never allow me to perform to my aspirations and my parents worried about safety. My mom and I had spent endless hours with doctor after doctor, attempting to diagnose my symptoms. Finally, we figured out a diagnosis and worked through medication trials to find a supportive treatment which would allow me to continue racing, as I simply could not let go of my favorite thing in the world. I knew this health hurdle was something I could jump.
The defeat that I had felt late last season surged through me, and suddenly I didn’t care what it took to conquer that: I would finish this race, and I would give it everything I had. During my internal struggle, Haley had disappeared from my sight and Rachel and Fiona had zipped past me. But I knew what I wanted, so I put my head down and fought. Entering the feed zone, Dario screamed at me to never give up, the exact words I needed to hear. I caught Fiona, passed her and soon had closed in on Rachel’s wheel. However, right as I caught up, the mud dislodged my chain. I stopped and fixed it, but Rachel was long gone. I crossed the finish line not exactly happy, but satisfied that I had pushed through and shown myself that my condition was conquerable.
What is mountain bike racing? Mountain bike racing is crying in the shower post-race. Mountain bike racing is six awful race days for one good day. It is crossing the line having given everything you had to your race, not just physically but also mentally. It is pouring your heart into being able to spin two wheels just a little faster. It is incomparable- heartrate pulsing, the sound of the start gun, the world standing still as everything falls into place. The excruciating pain is more than worth it in exchange for the unmatchable joy of giving my best effort as I cross the line. Cycling allows me to reach past the stars. It sears me with the agony of failure, the taste of dusty tears. But it never fails to reward, teaching me joy, and that perseverance and passion will always triumph. Beyond all, it is my favorite thing in the world and I feel blessed to have the support to be able to do it.
On a lighter note, Sunday found me back in the Pro Women field, this time joined by a couple of juniors. When the gun went off, I struggled to find my pedal and fell to the back. I rode as aggressively as possible and was able to move to the end of the front group. However, I was too far back to make the top pack when the group splintered again. I dropped the women I was with and was back in no-man’s land by myself. I reeled in person after person, and caught Haley. I was excited to have the chance to work with her to catch the front group, but she dropped off my wheel. I spent the rest of the race focusing on moving up and finished 18th. I was happy to have a shot at a little redemption after the cross country race and thrilled to have lined up with some of the fastest ladies in the world.
Huge thanks to Dario, my mom and Josh for running a flawless team that I am honored every time to be a part of. I also feel beyond grateful to have incredible sponsors like Oakley, Specialized, Osmo and Probar that keep me fueled and running smoothly. Without them, none of this would begin to be possible.
Events: Cross Country and Short Track
Category: UCI Juniors 17-18 and Pro Women
Result: 2nd and 10th
Post Bonelli #1, I spent a few weeks back at home putting in some solid training before venturing back down to Los Angeles where the two big United States races of the year would be: Fontana and Bonelli #2. These are crucial races for the season because they have UCI points, ranking you in the world and giving you a call-up for World Championships (if you qualify).
However, due to Whole Athlete’s phenomenal support, I settled right in and the stress was minimal. We arrived to the venue on Friday to find a pile of rocks in the middle of strip mall and freeway galore, otherwise known as Fontana. The course waiting for us was loose, dusty and hot hot hot. We started on a long pavement climb that quickly turned to punchy, off-camber single-track, which allowed almost no time to recovery, and then turned straight to a demanding but fun descent and finally finishing on a long tempo section.
4:15 pm, 85 degrees, Sunday afternoon on the line. Glancing around, I could see not only the top girls in the United States but also Canada and Japan. Due to a misunderstanding at registration, I did not get my second place call-up and instead started dead last of 23 girls. That was okay though, the whistle blew and I moved to the front before the first climb. As soon as we hit the pavement climb, our pack shattered. I found myself hitting the single-track climb following Haley and Rachel, right where I wanted to be. We rode as mini-pack until the final descent, where Haley and I broke away from Rachel and opened up a bit of a gap on the long tempo section.
Heading on the second lap, I was feeling good and when we hit the pavement climb, I put in an attack and opened up a bit of a gap. On the single-track climb, Haley found my wheel again. Before the second single-track descent, she slipped around me and led. Hitting a loose, blown out corner, my front wheel slipped and I fell hard. It took me a minute to regain my calm and by the time I did, Haley was long gone. Although I was totally fine, I rode the rest of the lap a little shaken, focusing on remaining smooth. I crossed the line in second; my throat sucked of any moisture due to the heat, covered in dust and a little bit of a blood, wheezing but beaming, satisfied with my performance because for some reason, that’s what mountain bike racing will do to you.
The next day was the Pro Short Track which I opted to do for the experience. It is an amazing feeling to line up next to some of my biggest idols. Since I did not have a call up, I lined up in the back. The whistle blew and we were off. Coming around the first corner, I got stuck behind the group and had to slow way down. Then, on the first climb, I took the inside line as three girls locked bars and started to go down, into me. I narrowly escaped. By then, the lead group was long gone. I spent the rest of the race chasing down the front group best I could. I finished in 10th and was more than happy to be “along for the ride.”
Another solid weekend of racing is in the books, and it could not have been possible without Dario, Josh and my mom. Every race is a reminder of how lucky I am to be part of such a phenomenal team. Now for a week of recovery down in Los Angeles before Bonelli next weekend!
Junior Women 15-18
After worlds, it was time for a few weeks of the bike and then to submerge myself in base training. Base training means long hours on the bike and days filled with yoga, core, and strengthening exercises. Finally, after five months of base, it was time to race.
But first, team camp. The week before Bonelli, the team flew out to my home turf, Marin, for a week of training. It was amazing to be reunited with some of my best friends and have some training buddies again.
Power testing at Marin Spine & Sport
On Thursday, we drove down to San Dimas and got settled into our new house- something that looked straight out of Great Gatsby. I was ecstatic to be back on one of my favorite courses and discover it in better condition than ever due to recent rain.
Bonelli has always been one of the more grueling races- full of steep, punchy climbs and rutted, exhausting descents with limited time for recovery- so I prepared myself to be back in the pain cave. Race morning rolled around and I was ready. I knew the five months of hard training had paid off and my legs felt better than ever. The race started and I found myself leading. I dropped back and grabbed a wheel, settling in to race pace.
On the first climb, I slipped ahead of the other girls and found myself first on the singletrack. I felt strong and confident as I picked my way through the rocks. On the next climb, Sienna pulled ahead and I stuck her wheel. Sienna and I had now broken away from the pack, being followed by Rachel, a teammate at World Championships.
We worked our way through the first two laps together, trading off pulling, the pace growing a bit stiffer. I attacked on a climb before the single track and opened up a small gap. On the next climb, the girls caught back up and Rachel passed me before the next descent. She was able to pass a man in a different category before I could and opened up a couple second gap on Sienna and I. By the time I got around, Rachel was just barely in sight. I fought to close the gap but couldn't. Sienna dropped off my wheel and I rode the rest of the race alone, fighting to catch back up.
I finished second. Although the base training has certainly paid off, I realize I have some mental fine tuning to do before the rest of the races begin. Overall, it was great to be back racing and I am honored to be part of the Whole Athlete/Specialized Team for the third year. The team's support never fails to amaze me. A huge thanks to everyone involved in making the dream work.
Next stop, Bellingham, Washington for a USA Team Skills Camp!
Opening ceremony parade for all the nations.
A few shots of the course
The past month in Andorra is drawing to a close now that World Championships are over. It's hard to know what to feel after an unsuccessful day for me at the biggest race of my life. Due to an autonomic nervous system problem (resulting in dizziness) which I have been struggling with, I was unable to finish the race. After training for the past year, pulling myself was one of the most challenging and unsatisfactory decisions I have ever made. However, I knew it would be shortsighted and naive to deceive myself into thinking it was safe to continue.
In cycling, there are the good days and the bad days, a large part of the sport's beauty. Although this past race fell more towards the latter end of the spectrum, it doesn't take away from the incredible learning experience and opportunity of the trip. I am beyond honored to have represented my country with some of the people I love most. My heart swelled with pride watching my teammates battle out their races in some truly brutal conditions.
If my race wasn't everything I asked for, I was so proud to cheer on my Mom to her first World Champion title, my dad to a top ten finish and my teammates for battling it out.
The 2015 season is officially over for me as I fly home now and I couldn't be more thankful for the unrivaled support I was gifted with from my family, sponsors and coach. The 2016 season is looming fast and after I have some time at home to better understand my health issues, I can't for it to begin.
A few short weeks at home after our U.S. trip and I was off again, this time Europe-bound! More specifically, Andorra (located between Spain and France, smaller than Marin), for World Championships in September. My family and I arrived a month early, not only to have a family vacation but also because my parents are racing a few weeks before me.
I spent a week exploring the beautiful country before packing up a rental van and beginning an 11 hour drive. Destination: Montgenvre, France, where the last race in the World Junior Series was taking place. The trip out of town didn't go as smoothly as planned... We spent hours in a local bike shop dealing with a mechanical problem until early afternoon. Finally, we got back on the road, only to get stuck in three extra hours of traffic and drive straight into a thunderstorm, setting our arrival time at midnight.
Our hotel was beautiful
The next morning, we were greeted by an ominous sky and rain. The course awaiting us was different than anything I had ever seen. Picture a soccer field in the rain. Now picture that field pitching straight up and down with nasty traverses across. Add a few hundred bike tires chewing it up, toss in some rocks and you pretty much have the course.
It was messy to say the least. I had never ridden conditions like it and struggled to get off my front brake enough. After a few slide outs on the mud, I brightened at the realization falling didn't hurt! Nonetheless, I was intimidated by the unpredictable nature of the terrain.
Race day dawned and I was back on the line. However, my nerves left me: I knew that chaos would ensue imminently in these conditions and all I could do was my best. We started fast, predictably. I quickly fell back to mid-twenties. Within the first climb, I was running. As soon as I could, I was back on my bike. I nailed the first downhill but the traverse after was clogged and I was back on my feet. The rest of the race continued in similar fashion: run, ride, ride, slip out, run, ride and push, push as hard as possible on the climbs. I held my initial position more or less throughout the race.
I crossed the line in 29th, certainly not the position I was looking for, but all I had to give on a challenging course. Instead of the technical aspect of the course working to my advantage per usual, this time, the technicality cost me. For whatever reason, I wasn't riding with the confidence and skill needed to excel on this course.
All in all, it was a phenomenal learning experience and I was thankful to have my dad and brother with me for the first time during an international race.
Of course- not to forget the delicious French cuisine...
The race was an adventure- the right amount of challenge- and never boring... Later that day, our rental car broke down, and since it was both a holiday and a weekend, everything was closed until Monday. So we got a few extra days in the French Alps to explore, and it turns out there are worse places to be stranded. Now, I head back to Andorra for a few weeks before World Championships!
After a few wonderful weeks in Park City and Kirkwood exploring the beautiful lakes and phenomenal trails, it seemed all too soon we were pulling the team trailer to the Nationals venue at Mammoth. Stepping out of the car, it finally hit me: Nationals. So much depended on this solo event- a season of work for an hour to shine. Although it had crept up ridiculously fast, I also felt reassuringly ready for this race.
The course would be grueling: endlessly steep climbs, rocky and dusty with thick piles of dirt pooling in corners which seemed to reach out and grab your wheel. It was clear due to the terrain that it would be a brutal course for every rider.
Race morning rolled around and I found my nerves surprisingly low; I knew I had done all the preparation possible and that was all I could do. The gun fired and we were off. The pace was aggressive but I felt strong and jumped into third position behind Haley’s wheel onto the single-track. I was riding smoothly but a glance behind me showed that the entire pack was still following.
As soon as the single-track opened up, Tiziana sprinted around me and Kseania attacked with her. Haley and Rachel were directly ahead.
The course narrowed back to single-track and Tiziana allowed a gap to open between the leaders and my group. I wanted to plead with Tiziana to remain with the lead group but as I pushed the pace on the climb, the all too familiar feeling of my nuerally mediated syncope dizziness settled over me in a haze. I could feel my legs start to complain with the workload. I ignored this development as best I could and instead focused on hydrating before the next fire road climb.
The course opened back up to allow position battles to be waged. The leaders could be seen about 30 seconds up. Tiziana and Kseania opened a small gap on me while two other girls sprinted to pass me only to fall immediately back. I wasn’t too worried as I knew the pace I was riding at was plenty aggressive considering we were only 1/3 of the way through the race. I entered the descent in fifth and made up enough time to catch both Kseania and Tiziana.
Entering the second lap, I moved past Kseania to ride Tiziana’s wheel. On the first fire road, I passed Tiziana and rode the remainder of the lap by myself. By the end of the lap, I had made up some time and could see Rachel ahead of me on course. For the rest of the race, I focused on narrowing the gap between Rachel and myself. I finished in third.
I was happy to podium but disappointed to not feel like myself while racing. However, there simply isn’t an excuse. Every racer faces a hundred challenges while out on course, and my dizziness problems this season have simply been one of mine. It isn’t the defining reason not to be able to perform; adversity is part of the sport and the best athletes learn to overcome it.
Even if my race wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, I was ridiculously happy to see my teammates finish the day with such strong races. I was so proud to wear the Whole Athlete jersey and watch the team ride to three national titles and five medals. The support from the team has been truly unparalleled all season. My bike ran flawlessly thanks to all of Josh and Chris’ hard work, and I can’t even begin to thank Dario for the phenomenal mentoring, coaching, and time he puts into our team.
UCI Junior Women
After some sweet training and trails in Huntsville at teammate Anders Johnson’s house, it seemed too soon that we were packed up and headed to Colorado Springs. I was thrilled to find a rolling course with some technical, off-camber, sandy rock sections- reminiscent of Marin and Baja riding. My medication was approved by USADA and UCI the afternoon before my race so I was able to begin my dose again, which was a huge relief.
On the heels of a series of discouraging races in the Spring (whether it be my dizziness in my European races, breaking my frame in Canada or a bad fall in Missoula), I was determined to have a fun, clean race in Colorado. I knew the altitude, at just over 6,000 ft, was significant and that I didn’t have a steady dose of my medicine in my body yet, both factors restricting the performance I was desperate to give. With Dario’s encouragement, I made the focus of this race fun instead of result driven.
It was race morning and after a good warmup, I was on the line. The whistle blew. There was plenty of jostling for a top position but I placed myself in the back of the pack. I knew half the girls in front of me were struggling with altitude as well and due to my initial conservative pace, I was confident I could reel them in later.
After the initial start loop, the pack dwindled to Haley, Ksenia, Rachel and I. Ksenia and Haley pulled away, Rachel following suit. I was reluctant to let them go. However, I knew that pace wouldn’t be sustainable for me this race. For the remainder of the race, I rode alone. I opened up a gap on fifth place and rode the technical sections smoothly. I finished in fourth- happy to have had fun, felt strong and stayed on two wheels. It was awesome to watch the team ride to some fabulous finishes! Now we are onto the next chapter- Park City :).
UCI Junior Women
After just half a day home from Canada, we began a 20 hour drive to Missoula, Montana. I was stoked to arrive and find the fast, flowy course I remembered from last year. I prerode on a borrowed team bike because we had yet to set up my new Fate. My confidence wavered a bit when I found out the medicine I had been taking for my neurally mediated syncope was a banned substance for racing. I stopped my doses and the drug left my system in time for race morning.
I knew the combination of my dizziness and altitude meant I wouldn’t be able to compete at my desired level. Race day quickly arrived. 3, 2, 1 and we were off. Although my legs felt strong, I knew I had to pace myself. I let Haley open a small gap on the rest of the pack. I was second on the climb and feeling great. My strategy was to pick up the pace each lap to hopefully avoid an onset of my dizziness symptoms. Haley had held her gap, but at the top of the climb, we had closed on her and she was in close sight.
Entering the second lap, I was feeling good. I started to push the pace, two girls following me. A quarter of the way, I could feel my symptoms begin to act up, starting with a feeling of fogginess coming over me. I immediately backed off and let my competitors take the lead. I stayed on their wheel, but the damage had been done. As I picked the pace back up, the dizziness hit me head on. The fogginess enveloped me, my sight became blocked with black spots and I began to lose feeling in my extremities.
On the second lap’s descent, I lost control and fell hard. I hit my head pretty hard and stopped racing to head over to the medic tent. I was later diagnosed with a minor concussion, but was otherwise fine. I recovered from the fall fast, but was bummed.
UCI Junior Women
USA Teammates: Meghan, Lauren, Haley, Ksenia
After some hard training and resolving some health problems, I felt more prepared than ever for the upcoming race in Canada. Upon arriving, I was reunited with Haley who would be staying with me. We arrived at the hotel late at night and foodless: our only option for dinner was takeout pizza which arrived at 11 pm.
I felt much better the next morning after sleeping in until almost 10am. I was thrilled to find a course full of roots, rocks and technical A-lines at every turn. I felt confident and smooth on the gap jumps and other obstacles. My stoke level was soaring. On my second lap, I was distracted entering a technical section. I felt unsteady so I hopped off my bike and landed on my feet but my bike went flying ahead of me. As soon as it hit the ground, I knew something was terribly wrong due to a resounding crack. Upon examining my Fate, I discovered three cracks through my frame which make it completely unrideable.
Some of the A-lines.
The cracked frame presented a pretty big obstacle as I no longer had a bike. My parents, coach and I investigated options for a bike but to no avail. A fellow US racer, Savilia Blunk, was generous enough to lend me her bike for the race. Although we had flown in on Wednesday in order to get some quality time on the course before the Sunday race, I was restricted to spinning on roads since I was borrowing the mechanic’s bike up until the actual race.
The course was highly technical with minimal power sections so I knew the race would be greatly determined by technical finesse- a skill I wouldn’t be able to bring on a borrowed bike with no test runs. Aside from that, the other Canadian girls who I had raced a few times previously had grown up riding the course. However, I knew all I could do was to keep an optimistic attitude and hope for the best.
Sunday morning rolled around, bringing with it dark rainclouds. I spun to the race in the rain on the mechanic’s bike, where I grabbed Savilia’s bike from her as she crossed the line. Due to switching components, etc., my warmup was much less than optimal but it had to do.
We started fast and I felt strong up the first climbs. Turning onto single-track, my nerves came into play. I felt myself hold on the brakes and give up positioning to fall just out of top 5. I was frustrated at myself for this lapse of confidence but also knew my first lap would have to be tentative as I learned the new bike.
I rode smoothly the first and second laps, attacking on any power section but knowing I was losing valuable time on the muddy descents due to caution. The rain was absolutely torrential and as later described by US coach Jason Jablonski- “The most insane racing conditions I have ever seen.” Towards the end of the third lap, on a slick wall berm ride, a pro women slid out in front of me, causing me to ram into her. I lost several positions trying to untangle our bikes.
I rode into a 9th place finish- happy to have had the opportunity to race and score some UCI points but also disappointed to fail to bring 100% of myself to the race. Although the week’s circumstances were less than ideal, I learned an immense amount about taking whatever comes and making it work.
This trip truly showed how lucky I am to have such a supportive group of coaches and parents behind me and I couldn’t be more thankful for them. Next up, Missoula and altitude training camp with the team!