I leave South Africa with a bag of mixed emotions. My trip down here was, to say the least, a little spontaneous. Marc booked my
ticket a mere ten days before travel, and only a couple prior to leaving for Sea Otter. This
race immediately, in my mind, became one of the most important of the season… the master plan was kind of thrown out the door as I started dreaming of World Cup podium finishes and success in the World Cup overall. Don’t get me wrong, in hindsight I still believe that these were good and fine goals, but I forgot to account for erroneous variables that I have zero control over… like bobbling Australians and broken derailleurs.
Jack and I arrived in Santa Cruz, I guess two weeks ago now, for a BMC product launch. We shredded some prime Redwood Forest singletrack on the new carbonBut I guess Sea Otter (or “Sea Donkey”, if you are one of the Wells brothers), would be a good place to start…
Trailfox 01 with some media guys, dealers, the sales rep team and some of the head honchos from Switzerland. Again it was soooo cool to ride that bike, its just handled so well, and riding along with the CEO Mike, and chief of International Marketing Frank Schneider, made it that much cooler. It feels good to be part of the BMC family, the fact that everyone at this company is as passionate about riding as we are about building the most
technologically advanced bikes, really sets us apart I think.
The short track was over before I knew it on Friday, I finished 7th, in what was a brutal, unspectacular, race of attrition, But it was Saturday in the XC that started the emotional rollercoaster I have been on the past week.
After poor starts, Troy Wells and I worked together to move through the 20’s and teens… back up to the lead group. Without his provocation I wouldn’t have ended up racing for 5th place against Sam and Jeremy… which is exactly where I ended up after Plaxton upped the pace our chase group and I was too far back to grab his wheel. It was incredible to be riding in such stellar condition, again against my teenage idols. It was the first time I had been in such a position at an XC race. The three of us were out by ourselves racing for the final spot on the podium. It was fast, brilliant and exciting racing! The kind that makes me love this sport! We worked well together for the middle part of the race, it wasn’t until lap 7 that I put the pressure on when Sam seemed to be cracking. Nothing really came of it, a small gap, but nonetheless it demonstrated to me that I could beat these guys if I kept playing it cool. What a rush! And that’s exactly what happened… I responded perfectly to attacks over the next lap and a half, coming into the final meters having been able to ride a tempo that neither of those guys could break! This wasn’t some cat and mouse shit, I was able to completely respond to and further prevent the attacks of former and future Olympians!
Only I messed up… in the closing 500m I decided it would be a good idea to take a new line… I now have no idea what I was thinking, but I bobbled and came out of my pedal, as I sat second wheel to JHK on the final decent…
What was I thinking! I couldn’t believe what I had just done as Sam rolled past. All that excitement came crashing down. They only got about 5m, but after a couple quick pulls into the headwind, they gained 5m more and I was relegated to 7th again! This was without a doubt my best ever XC race, and qualified me for an automatic nomination to the World Championships Team. But a race I should have been ecstatic about became a total disappointment in that instant. I would be bitter regardless of whether I was riding for 5th place or 20th place. I messed up, and ruined an opportunity. I will be back though.
I think this disappointment in some ways lead to my complete tantrum in South Africa, where my perfect start, and top ten position all shattered in 10 seconds when an Australian bobbled on one of the few technical sections, forcing me to backpedal, my chain to bounce off the chain rings, kink and jam in my rear derailleur. I had a perfect set up for the race. My legs were responding well, I felt fast in previews, Troy and I were having fun, the BMC World Cup team was there in my support! Everyone was watching after my Sea Otter ride and I had lofty expectations of myself. God was I ever nervous on that starting line. It had all fallen into place. But that damn Australian.
That’s all I could say while I stood next to the course watching the U23 field pass me by… its all I could think as I ran 2km to the tech zone… its all I could think when I saw the shock on Gee, the BMC mechanic’s face… ‘that damn Australian’… it was all I could think while I sat along course, watching lap after lap, the U23 race I should have been contesting, roll by.
I don’t hold it against him. This is racing. My chain could have balled up anywhere. It could have happened last week at Sea Donkey, it could have happened in the Fontana short track as I attacked on that last lap. It took me a while to convince myself of this however. JHK had reassuring words at the end of the day,
“dude we’ve all been there, it sucks when it happens after you’ve flown half way around the world, but you will be back”.
And he is right. My dream of a good World Cup overall finish this year is probably dead. But just to think that it may have not been far fetched is pretty wild. I can race inside the top ten at a World Cup. A year ago that was inconceivable, and as far as I can tell, for the past few years that has been unrealistic for any young American! Shit that is so cool!
I can’t control everything. But these past two weeks have taught me a lot. I can confidently say that I wont again be the one bobbling when in position to score big… I better understand how easily the best racing moments can catastrophically collapse. They need to be cherished, and exploited, but most of all respected.