Few things are worse than being sick right before the kickoff of a race season. Racing road bikes in the rain was probably not the smartest idea I have ever had. It had left me off the bike with a fever for several days. With a week and a half until the first Kenda Cup on my race schedule, that was one of the last things that I needed to happen. I had a weekend off in between the end of the collegiate road season and the rest of my mountain bike season. My coach, Ken Lundgren wanted me to get some speedwork in before I started campaign at the Bear Brook Kenda Cup. I was invited by one of my friends to a race on the UMass Amherst campus. It was an xc race but a little shorter and at the local level which was perfect for what I was looking to do as prep for Bear Brook.
The UVM van got to the campus and went out for a preride. The course seemed like a very good way to prepare my legs for a summer of bike racing. It had a mixture of everything from flowy singletrack and jump trails to steep climbs and grass fields. It was definitely a course that required a high level of fitness to get up the climbs efficiently but a fair amount of bike handling skills to be relaxed and recover on the descents.
They did call ups by registration order which was unfortunate for me as I was the last one registered. The gun went off and I snuck in between my teammate Sammy. We both powered up the start climb and got into the woods. Things tightened up. He was sitting second wheel and I was sitting in 4th. I focused on relaxing and riding the steep and twisty descent smooth making no mistakes. When we got to the first climb I was feeling good and I rode a steady fast pace up to the top. I was leading by the top of the first climb and just told myself to relax and ride smart. I ended up taking advantage of the terrain and using this a practice day for pacing on a course like this. Putting everything I have into each climb and getting a full and quick recovery in all the descents.
With each lap I was able to see my gap building. This fueled my fire. By the end of the race, I was able to develop a 6 minute gap to Sammy in 2nd. I can tell after coming out of a week of sickness, I am still very happy with my physical form heading into the season with a lot of time to build before my peak. Additionally I could not be happier with how I am riding. Over the winter we worked very hard to get the best sponsors on board with the Pro Factory team and honestly I could not be more comfortable on the equipment I am running this season. I can’t wait to get this season started at Bear Brook!