Today’s stage of the Quebec Singletrack Experience took us to Mont Sainte Anne, home of the World Cup since the early 90’s (and getting ready for it again this coming weekend). Fortunately, we took the télécabine (I’m being helped with my French; this is a gondola) to the top and took in the 360 views. But don’t be fooled into thinking this was a downhill stage! Even though we dropped 1,950 ft. in elevation from start to finish, we still climbed 2,850 ft. The course took us on a tour of a huge array of amazing trails from a DH off the top (we rode the “chicken” lines), what the locals call “old school trails” which are narrow and unmanicured, flow trails with drops and banked turns, a spin along the river bank, and up some of the XC course. This sampling of terrain and trails makes me want to spend a week exploring.
My race today encompassed yet another thing that I love about stage racing. Ranking over the stages is a combination of fitness, bike handling skills, ability to manage set-backs, and bonne chance. This is one reason I’ve been relatively quiet about the fact that I hold the overall women’s lead, things can decisively change in a moment. Today was a stage race.
After a start loop around the mountain top, we dove onto a DH trail. Up first was a nice rock drop and I launched it for the camera. As I pressed my bike into the air, my pedal went flying ahead of me. I was able to land it (with Matt the camera man already running to save me), pull over, find my pedal, hand tighten it back on, then get back to the fun. I then carefully passed riders on the DH to resume my place with those who hoped to stay with for the ride. At the bottom of the DH I was almost back up, then my pedal flew out again. I must not have tightened it well enough. I could not find it. Sam stopped to help me look for it in the bushes, then three SQuad (trail support riders) joined the Easter egg hunt. As time was ticking away it was looking like I would need to borrow a pedal and cleat from a generous SQuad rider, I bent down to take my shoe off and my pedal was still attached to my cleat. I was mortified. Crazy race brain did not think of the most likely thing. With my pedal tool tightened back on my crank, Sam and I worked together to make up some of the lost time.
I settled down several kilometers down the trail and realized that I was going too hard for day 3 of 7. The time was lost, and I would loose even more if I cooked myself. But like magic, the course put us on those old school trails and my bike handling skills moved me ahead of rider after rider. Bad things happen in threes they say. After exiting these trails and turning onto a gravel road, I had a safe place to take in some food. Happily pedaling and munching along, I started to think it had been a while since I saw a trail marker. The course is excellently marked, and they put a confidence flag at least every kilometer, so I decided to pedal on for one kilometer then turn around if I didn’t see another flag. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go that far before Lynn and a few other riders were pedaling toward me having missed the trail too. Back on track. The rest of the course was a blissful blur of spectacular trails, riding with other racers, and making it to the finish line with Laurance.
Yes, today was the full package experience of stage racing. I was able to hold onto my GC lead; BONNE CHANCE!
I’ll be back to Mont Sainte Anne again