In the depths of winter when my trails were buried under feet of snow I began putting my 2016 race season together. It was with utter delight that I saw a new UCI race venue; Angel Fire New Mexico! I grew up in northern NM and my parents still live in Santa Fe. I could not pass up the opportunity to race in the southern Rockies, have my parents cheer me on, and eat some red chile. I think I was the first woman to register for the race.
Recovering from the Missoula XC and giardia, I took the scenic road to New Mexico staying in a yurt outside of Pocatello, ID, catching up with my sister in UT, and finally returning to the high desert of my youth. Of course I stopped for blue corn enchiladas shortly after I crossed the state line. (Giardia is not a fan of spicy food…)
My folks met me in Angel Fire with their sweet camper van, which was a welcome refuse from the thunderstorms. My mom made sure I was regaining my strength
by preparing feasts and my Dad (a former cyclist) actually enjoyed talking to me about all things bike race that can put the
most obsessed bike enthusiast asleep. Friday morning I pedaled to the ski hill to pre-ride the XC course and check out the Pro GRT (downhill) seating runs. Angel Fire has hosted DH events for a few years and has a reputation for being a burley course so I was excited to gawk at the feats of gravity defying bike handling by over 70 pro downhillers. Wow.
The new UCI XC course at Angel Fire was a dream for me. A burley climb gaining 600 ft. in the first mile, a burmed descent through the ponderosas with two jumps near the bottom, and two very short sections of double track. The course would require patience and strategy to pass, the climb would spread the racers out, and the descent will make you grin. A perfect
course for me! My health was finally coming around and I had a solid training plan to account for the torturous altitude of the venue: 8500 ft. at the base of the ski hill.
Umpoinaqa, the Hopi Thunder God, must have been happy to have me back on New Mexico soil because the rain stopped
for the Pro Women XC race. Chloe set a blazing pace off the start line, showing us what it takes to be an Olympic Team Member, and I chased. I was in great position on the first climb in eyesight of Chloe, but somehow the pace picked up for the second lap and I was at my max. I fell back a few positions but felt strong in my third lap. But as I headed out for my
fourth lap, Koshari, the Hopi Clown God, tacked a parachute to my shoulders making the climb brutal. My breath was rapid and deep, but my low elevation heart could not get enough oxygen to my burning legs. My pace slowed, but the other women were suffering too and I gained on Hannah W. ahead of me. As we approached the top of the climb I could
accelerate and pass her, but decided the effort might tap my reserve and she could pick me off in the final climb, so I stuck to her wheel on the descent to pass on the next climb. But pass I could not! The fifth and final lap was an effort in consistency and looking forward to my family waiting for me at the finish line.
The Chile Challenge course made for easy spectating, my parents were able to see a grueling part of the climb and an open section of the descent where riders caught a little air over a jump into a burm. I prepped them with info on the other women; like who they ride for, who I admired and who I had my eye on to be shoulder to shoulder with. My Mom cheered
for my friends with such enthusiasm her cowbell blistered her palm. My Dad offered a critique of my start and had some tactical suggestions for future races. And on Sunday they got whiplash watching the Short Track race zooming around the ski base. Having a team to support you is pretty fantastic!
It was not until I reflected on my race did I realize this was the first Pro UCI race where I was not worried about making the lap cut-offs, instead I was focused on strategy and managing my effort. This is a huge milestone. Now to get completely healthy and crush at National Championships in three weeks (after I devour huevos rancheros (Christmas) like I was caught by Tsil, the Hopi Runner God who will chase you and pour chili powder in your mouth if he catches you.