Crawling into camp at 11:30 PM

A late work day meant a late arrival. Ryan and the rest of the TSE crew stayed up to make sure I could navigate to my cabin!

I had no idea how many people I would be with or where they were sleeping.

I didn’t want to wake anybody up [the door creaked] so in a state of awkwardness I decided I would be fine sleeping in my sweatpants and t-shirt and did not unload the car.

It was pretty cold so I used my pillowcase as a micro-sleeping bag.

Turns out nobody even heard me come in and took all of about 10 minutes for our floor to basically become an instant family! One of my favorite parts about each day was spinning back to the lodge and hearing about everybody’s races. Seriously, this crew was amazing!

The Eagle Lodge 1st Floor Crew! Marlee’s “awkward podium arm” post is for sure my fave!

On Stage 1 Bob charged ahead at the start as I buried myself to stay with him and the leaders. After about an hour of XCO pace he called out and said that it was not sustainable and we slowed up a bit. Good thing we did because at the 90 minute mark my back seized up and it was my turn to ask for a pace change.

Bob charging at the start of Stage 1! Photo by Bruce Buckley

We were able to rally and with rain pouring down and thunder clapping, we finished strong with nothing but smiles on our faces.

Photo by Bruce Buckley

The rest of the stages went by crazy fast and we learned more about how to pace without blowing each other up, which is something I haven’t had to think about when racing before. I would pull us on the gravel sections and Bob, a more experienced technical rider, would help guide me through some gnarly sections. Teamwork was definitely making the dream work!

Here are some of the stage highlights:

  • Stage 1: Finishing the race in a thunderstorm. This made it dramatic and exciting! Four more days to go.
  • Stage 2: Eating 3 GU gels + drinking a bottle of drink mix per hour. I may have gone overboard, but man did I feel energized on the ride!
  • Stage 3: Nabbed 5th in the Enduro Timed Section. I have been working on my descending skills so this felt like a well-earned victory!
  • Stage 4: Conquered the Three Bridges of doom. These were slippery bridges with a 16-ish inch step-up to get onto them. Physically it was hard, but mentally is was REALLY challenging!
  • Stage 5: Helping an injured rider off the trail to get to a road where she could be taken to the hospital. Bob and I ended up missing the GC podium but it was well worth it to help the rider get out safely. Completing this stage meant I completed my first stage race!
Photo by Icon Media Asheville

The week was definitely challenging as I learned about how to be a good partner and manage my pace and expectations. Not going immediately into the red meant that I was able to see technical sections more clearly and gained a whole new sense of rock-riding confidence.

While my legs and mountain bike skills (especially riding rocks!) will come out of this week stronger and more capable, I feel like my mental strength and balance as a competitive athlete have shattered a ceiling I didn’t even know I had.

See you next year!

I am still processing what I put my body and mind through on Sunday. I went through many emotions, but surprisingly most of them were on the happy side. The Belgian Waffle Ride is the BEST event I have ever done. From the recon rides to the race itself to the after party, every aspect is meticulously planned to give the rider the best experience. I am in awe with how awesome the crew for BWR is. Some say this is the most difficult one day event in North America. Regardless of difficulty, it is certainly one of the most fun!

I absolutely suffered out there but my headspace was in a place where I was just stoked to be out there! My Pivot Vault ended up being the perfect machine. My Shimano gearing was just what I needed and I suffered ZERO flats thanks to my Kenda tire and Orange Seal combo. This in itself was a major victory as I passed more people with flats than I could even count.

I ended up finishing 14th in the largest and fastest field of women in the history of BWR! The field more than tripled over last year and I bet it will increase even more next year. In case you want to see how I stacked up, check out my Strava!

And now, a recap of my race and how it played out:

Start (0-20ish) – I WENT OUT HARD!!

To be honest, the start was terrifying! It was yo-yo’ing for the “neutral start” and my power was fluctuating a lot! I was committed to going out hard to get onto Lemontwistenburg, the first dirt section, in a good position. I did just that…and then unfortunately people did not go all of the way to the end of the U-turn and I ended up mid-pack going into the dirt. The first dirt single track was painfully slow. I will admit, there was some anxiety in those first dirt miles as I imagined the lead women gaining minutes on me just from getting in ahead of me. When I got back onto Del Dios Highway, I kicked it into high gear and got with a pack that was moving forward. When I say I went out hard, I mean it. I got my third highest one minute power EVER on this section. Near the end of the next dirt section there was a pile up in the sand. All of a sudden I saw two more women!

Can you spot me in the chaos? Photo by Chris Cox, courtesy of BWR.

Mile 54ish – I CRASHED AND HAD A DUDE LAND ON TOP OF ME

Black Canyon was sandy! It was graded a few days prior which left massive sand piles everywhere. All of the dirt was the same color so it was hard to tell where the sand was. After the first section of the long climb, we started descending. After passing a man who was very unsure about this section, I went into a sandy section and started sliding. Boom! The man rammed into me, flipped over me, and landed on top of me. My chain was stuck in between my derailleur and my chain ring, my kit was torn at the hip, and I was bleeding at my elbow, arm, hip, knee, and shin. Yikes! As a mountain biker I am used to crashing so I got up and kept on going without thinking twice.

Mile 54-59ish – I CRACKED SO HARD

I was in a dark place here. I was cracked. Bonked. Done. I thought my power meter was malfunctioning because the power was reading so low. Nope, I was just not doing well. I got passed by countless women. It was a bit demoralizing. I kept looking at my mantra bracelet that says, “Be where your feet are.” It helped remind me that it didn’t matter who was behind or in front of me, I needed to be present. I drank fluid as much as I could going up that climb in an effort to stick to my nutrition plan.


GÜP Aid Station (mile 60ish) – BACON AND COCA COLA BROUGHT ME BACK TO LIFE

Tomas of GÜP saved my day! He hand fed me turkey bacon and several cups of Coca Cola… and I came back to life! What?! Over the next 20 miles, I continued eating, took an electrolyte pill, and continued to focus on hydrating. I was with two other riders and we were going at a decent pace; not too fast and not too slow. A faster group caught up and I was recovered enough to hop on!

Tradition of waffle breakfast at BWR helps prepare for a long day. A total of 4000 meals were prepared by on-site catering for breakfast and post-ride. Photo by Wil Matthews,
courtesy of BWR.

Mile 80-100 – ALL OF A SUDDEN I FELT AMAZING

Out of nowhere, I started feeling really good! This was a huge, welcomed surprise! These miles included a lot of dirt and I was able to pass people along the way. During this part of the race I started to notice that every aid station (they were spaced about 20 miles apart) had women at them as I stopped quickly and kept going. I was moving up! The crazy thing about this race is that you have no idea where you are in the field. It truly is a race against yourself.

Mile 100-133 – I KICKED BUTT AT THE END

This is the part I was most mentally prepared for. I had such a positive attitude and I am so stoked on my performance during these miles. I continued to pass people while encouraging them, was able to get in with a fast group, and I was still taking pulls! I raced in fear for much of the race because I didn’t want to get a purple card/jersey, which means you were sitting in and not doing work. Thanks, MMX (Michael Marckx, the race director) for the scare! Double Peak was grueling but I was able to turn the pedals over, with a max grade of over 20%. Ouch! With less than a mile to go I caught up to two more women. On the last little kicker of a hill I got out of the saddle and and was able to get a big enough gap to finish ahead without a sprint finish. The crazy part is, I would have been ready for it.

Finish – THIS IS THE BEST PARTY OF THE YEAR!

This year’s BWR fell on Cinco de Mayo and with an event held less than 40 miles from the border, the race organizers did not let that go unrecognized. Photo by Wil Matthews,
courtesy of BWR.

At the finish I was greeted by Nic and MMX. I got a big hug and a congrats from both. Having part of my tribe at the end was really special to me! I chugged a recovery drink and went straight for the waffles and ice cream! Next, I had a delicious Cinco de Mayo meal with a Lost Abbey Cinco de Drinko Mexican Lager. Pure epicness!

The BWR is hands down the best day I have ever had on a bike. It is everything a bike event should be. As MMX said before he sent us off, “this is a parade of bikes with your friends.” We are here to help each other out, before during, and after. I am already looking forward to lining up for the 2020 BWR. You should join me!

This past weekend I took a whirlwind trip…to Arkansas. I made the trek to compete in the final round of the Epic Ride Series, which also happened to be the largest mountain bike payout ever in North America. Oh, did I mention I missed the other three races due to pneumonia, bronchitis, or the NICA National Conference (two of those were awful, one was fantastic)?! This made the event even more special to me and to top it off I got to spend the weekend with Emma, who was about to complete the entire series! Being an Epic Rides Coin Carrying Badass is a really big deal (the prize you get for finishing the series). I keep mine by my bed and am damn proud of it!

Fun Friday- Fat Tire Crit

I arrived to the South majorly lacking sleep. After a 1 a.m. flight on Friday out of Ontario Airport in California, I landed in Bentonville, Arkansas at 8 a.m. I drank a coffee, put my Pivot Mach 429SL bike together (I also added some slick honey to my KS Suspension seat dropper), and headed to the Pro Rider meeting with Emma, Nic, and Fischer, my Yorkie (he attends many races, including the Whiskey 50). A few hours later, I found myself fumbling at the start of the Fat Tire Crit and missing a pedal for the first 30 seconds. It was embarrassing, but also not surprising after such a long venture to arrive! I found some good wheels to draft and put in some hard efforts in the Crit. Later in the race, I ended up cheering on Emma as she killed it and covered attack after attack with the top women in the race! Excited about our efforts, we cooled down together and went back to our house to cook a delicious Pesto pasta dinner. We caught up in person and went to bed at a decent hour before we turned into pumpkins.

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Emma and I were stoked to be racing together in Arkansas!

Saturday- A Day to Hang Out at the Venue

After 12 hours of sleep, I awoke feeling much more refreshed. Emma had been up for hours and had a very productive morning. I ate a good breakfast, savored a mug of coffee from Backporch Coffee Roasters (thank you, Emma!), and got ready to go. As soon as we got to the venue we took off our Kenda Flintridge tires and swapped them for the 2.2 Honeybadgers with the KSCT casing. We rode the beginning and end of the 50 mile course and even met up with Jenn Jackson for a bit. Emma knew her from the other Epic Rides. She also met some of her crew at the Quebec Single Track Experience! At the end, we couldn’t help but stop a few times at the awesome features to ride them, film them, and snap a few pictures! Once we finished our ride, Emma and I made sure to hang around the venue to chat with locals, cheer the amateurs finishing, and soak in the vibe. Epic Rides does such an awesome job with the atmosphere, which is one of the reasons that Emma and I keep coming back for more!

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Emma snapped this shot of me playing on one of the many features on the All-American trail, which leaves straight from Bentonville’s downtown!

Sunday- 50 Miles of Backcountry Mayhem

On Sunday we woke up at 6 a.m.…. or to be more accurate, we woke up at 4 a.m. our time. Pre-race breakfast included coffee, bagels (gluten-free and gluten-ous), and eggs. We headed to the venue at 7 a.m. so that Nic could begin warming up first. Emma and I warmed up together on the empty, peaceful bike path. This is one of the coolest parts about having teammates at races! Our easy spin was similar and then we did efforts on our own. It is relaxing to wake up the legs together before splitting off to do what is best for ourselves. These rituals have become more and more a part of my routine and I hope they continue for a long time. There is something to be said about warming up with a teammate who has big goals yet remains cool and collected!

The race was epic! After a nice start, attacks started to happen on the dirt road. For the first time ever, I was able to remain with the lead group until the single track. From my point of view, Emma was nicely settled into the middle of the pack and was at a relaxed pace. When I am in races with her I often look at her to see her positioning and place in the pack. I am constantly learning! Once we reached the single track the race split up. I went at a hard but realistic pace. The course required a lot of pedaling which means it also required being mentally “on it” at all times. Sometime into the single track it began to thunder…and then pour…and then pour…and then dump! As the rain lightened I entered a new part of the singletrack that was amazing! I looked around and saw the leaves were a beautiful mix of green, yellow, orange, and red. At one point, I remember thinking, “Holy Crap!!!! This is the coolest thing ever!!!”

I finished with a clean race and a huge smile on my face. I was 22nd and had a race that I was satisfied with! Even better is that Emma finished with a 12th place finish in a sprint finish. We celebrated with Onyx Café lattes and pizza! There is nothing better than having two stoked teammates because they raced their hardest, took chances, and most importantly, enjoyed the ride. As we each finished a pizza on our own, I looked around and realized that as much a racing is about results, it is so much more than that. It is the experiences, knowing that you gave it your all, having flawless equipment, and sharing the stoke with others!

Emma After Race Latte
After a stellar race, Emma celebrated with a latte and a Honey Lavender macaroon!

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Perfectly built gangways were on the menu today.

With a good night of sleep and breakfast cassoulet in my belly, I was ready to tackle the final stage of the Quebec Singletrack Experience.  Today, we rode the Enduro focused trail network at Sentiers Du Moulin.  Mercifully, it was a shorter course built up with wooden gangways (even one over a chalet), ginormous ramps, and huge slab rocks to roll down that were as steep as your stomach could handle.  The fun factor was high!

Stage 1 voluneteres
Some of the support crew to make this all happen, including putting me and my bike back together.

My bike was expertly repaired by Hype Ski Velo, the local bike shop providing mechanical support for all the racers, and I lined up for the start ready to go. Somehow my fellow race car riders (we get a race car sticker on our number plate to mark that we are in the first wave at the start) had legs to blast off the start.  It took me a little bit to warm up, but I did just in time for the punchy technical terrain.  With a significant time deficit to retake the GC lead, I decided to ride smart and efficiently to see if that may add up to a fast ride.  On the climbs I spun in my smallest gears only pushing it to get up a technical feature and on the descents, I tried to pedal and brake as minimally as possible.  It was a game for me and it created a ride with flow that did take me to the finish as the first woman.   

S7 big air
I played it a bit more safe today than Florian did.

As all the riders came into the finish area elated, I watched as they as I had some sadness for the moment.  Tomorrow I will not be getting on the bus with my friends to ride rad trails, challenge myself in new ways, and sit by the campfire in the evening swapping tales of the day.  Bike camp is concluded. Well, we still have a big party tonight, so I won’t shed a tear yet!

S7 Finish Beers
Sam and I celebrating becoming Que-Bikers at the finish line Tiki Bar.

MTB stage racing is humbling.  It is exhilarating.  It is a challenge that’s boast worthy. It has brought out the best of me and pointed out spots where I can improve.  These lessons are not just on the bike, but it my engagement with myself and others.  Obviously, I really love to ride my bike, but I get just as much joy helping other riders have success.  I am afraid to fail or quit but calling it a day when I need to is not shameful.  For me it brought a level of knowing my limits and motivations to connect myself more deeply with my community.  Stage racing, it’s about so much more than the bike! Thank you, Quebec, for the “Singletrack” and the “Experience”.  I am officially a Que-Biker.  I’ll see you again next year!

S0 Crew
I expect to see all of these riders and some new faces next year.

S6 sam
Sam getting ready to rock the Shannahan

To get to Quebec Singletrack Experience stage today, we abandon the lux coaches for a school bus that would be capable of getting up the Shannahan.  It instantly set a playful mode to the day.  Nicola was singing, “the wheels on the bus go round and round” and we were giggling at being launched off our seats over the big bumps.  The omen was right!

S6 E rocks
It was hard to keep my eyes on the trail it was so picturesque.

We quickly spread out on fast, but technical singletrack that was perfectly tacky after a little rain last night.  Bridges between boulders with a drop exit, rock slabs to traverse that were tilted 30 degrees, boulder skinnies to cross creeks, and even a waterfall crossing were on the menu.  The Nelson is a jungle gym for mountain bikes.

S6 Nicola
Nicola navigating a creek crossing.

I was feeling strong this morning and was savoring navigating the obstacles.  A technical stage is always a good one for me to pick up time and claw my way back from a 5-minute deficit on Laurance.  Flying down another bridge, I did not realize until it was too late that it made a sharp turn around a boulder instead of going strait.  I leaned my bike and resisted the brakes, but my speed and the wet planks put physics out of my favor.  Fortunately my bike took the brunt of the impact and I was only scraped and bruised.  However, this put me in stage racing adversity management again.  My rear brake lever did not survive being pounded by a rock at high speed.  The rear brake is more to finesse maneuvers and slowing, but it is your front brake that has a majority of the power.  If in a tough spot, I had a tiny nub of a lever left I could just access, so I continued albeit a little more conservatively with really only my front brake to use.  The trails were so fun, it would take a much more massive mechanical to make me call it a day.

S6 Annik
Annik confidently climbing

Then, the big summit of the day approached.  115 switchbacks in 4K to reach the top.  Honestly, I lost count before I got to the 8th switchback, but I do believe there were 115 of them! A big reward was on the other side, a perfectly developed descent full of berms, bridges, drops, and even a giant down tree to roll down the length of.  Up next, 12K of flowy single track with no major climbs or descents to the finish line.  But, wait.  What is that? Is my saddle wiggling? I thought all the giggling may have loosened the bolts on my saddle, but it was worse.  I must have smacked it hard in my fall too.  Again, I was so glad my bike took the impact, not me! I rode on, but soon my saddle simply fell off. 

S6 creek rocks
Brilliantly built trails on the Neilson.

Lucky for me the trail was built taking advantage of all the dips and mounds to make it ride a bit like a pump track.  The SQuad riders caught up to me while I was standing to pedal, and I was so grateful for their encouragement.  I turned it into a game, trying to gain as much speed as possible working the features, never touching my brakes (I did twice), and picking the perfect gear when I had to pedal.  When I got to the finish line one of the SQuad riders told me he lowered his saddle and tried to ride the trail standing up but got too tired to do it for long.  That made me proud!

S6 beautyMechanicals happen. So do crashes.  No one is immune to this.  What makes us “stage racers” is that we accept the challenges that are thrown at us and find the way to use it to our advantage.  Today I learned more about my strength as a rider; confidence in my ability to ride demanding terrain and the ability to dance with my bike to manage momentum.  Some of my weaknesses were illuminated too; when I am fatigued from 5 days of racing I do not look down the trail as dutifully as I normally do and get lazy with my core causing me to put too much weight on my handlebars.  I also savored the best part of stage racing; embracing an adventure with friends and loving every minute of it!

S6 E road
How can you not smile here?

Today’s Quebec Singletrack Experience stage took us to the resort town of Lac Beauport where permission was granted from 68 private land owners for us to ride a circumference of the lake up in the surrounding mountains.  But don’t think this was a quaint pedal around a pristine lake where I nibbled on pan au chocolate and sipped rosé…today was a beast.

S5 maps
Just a little navigation and logistics for today.

After the initial 5K of frenzy for position, I settled in with a group of 4 riders. I was happy to be in their company.  My legs were feeling good, for stage 5 that is, and I was enjoying the technical climbing (that felt endless). I was a little ahead of my comrades where there was a down tree on the trail.  In my enjoying all things challenging mode, I used my Bend, OR skills to bunny hop the tree. A few feet from that I popped out on the road, a volunteer at the crossing waved me onto the trail and I was back to climbing.  My ego was in full swing as I didn’t see the guys behind me and figured they ran the down tree like a barrier.  And after climbing for a few kilometers, I recognized a feature and knew I had somehow looped back onto an earlier section of trail.  Frustrated at myself for my boastful error, I turned around and found my mistake.  I was to turn at the down tree, not go over it!  The course was marked, but my showing-off distracted me. 

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Finding my grove back on course.

I knew that Laurant, the woman in second, likely got ahead of me but I knew that going hard to catch back up would zap too much energy.  I have a significant time lead and decided today I would cash in some of that time.  I was isolated, which is tough for me on a hard day, so I found my stoke working the most efficient lines on the twisty roots.  More climbing.  Some hike-a-bike.  Slow, high tech descents that I was not able to recover on.  I will admit, I am tired.  The last climb was grueling for me.  When my cadence fell to 60 RPM in my smallest gear, I walked.  Just when I thought I was at the top, the trail turned for an upward trending traverse.  And then the trail looked familiar.  Again. Somehow, I missed another turn and ended up on another earlier section of the course.  I’m not going to lie, I felt defeated.  I turned around again to find where I missed my turn but could not find it.  I found some volunteers whose job was timing, so they did not know the course well enough to point me in the right direction.  I was approaching riding 5K more than the course should have been and decided to go down the timed climb that would take me to town and the finish line.   

S5 Showing off
I’m glad I’m not the only one showing off.

It was the right decision for me.  I am here to race bikes, challenge myself, ride amazing trails, meet great people, and have fun.  I do enjoy being in the hunt for the women’s GC win, but it is the hunt that I love, not the accolades of a prize.  This is stage racing.  It is the fact that the winner of the race is not necessarily the most fit, best rider, or most familiar with the terrain.  It is the rider who rides smart, within themselves, and embraces the adventure that usually ends up on top.  And some good luck helps too.  I told the race official and director of my decision to cut to the end of the course, missing the final descent.  They will figure out how impose a time penalty, but I get to keep racing!  Time to soak my weary body in Lac Beauport, eat some tasty lunch and watch my fellow racers in Dragon boats!

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Well deserved lunch at the lake.

S4 E legs
When I look like this at the finish, you know it’s been a fantastic day!

Sandwiched between two big days of the Quebec Singletrack Experience was Stage 4 at Lac Delage.  Have you heard of it? Yes, then you must be a fat biker. The trails here are reputed to be the best fat bike trails in North America!  I’ll tell you that they are the real deal mountain bike trails too.  Our fearless race director, Francois, told us today would be an easy day, one where we could restore some energy.  The stage was the shortest so far in time and distance, but I was on my A game for 19 kilometers of single track.

S4 rocks
Mud. Roots. Rocks. Oh My!

Being from the Northwestern United States, I often ride trails that are steep, muddy, rooted, moss covered, slick rocked, tight or twisty; but all together, this is something new.  I am enjoying playing on this type of terrain.  A sense of humor when my bike slides sideways down a trail, believing in my skills to just let go of the brakes and allow my Pivot Mach429 to do the work, and embracing the fact that my skills apply here too is making me excited every day to ride again.  Today the new challenge was rain.  It was not a downpour, but the already mucky trails swelled with the added water.  Giant puddles of unknown depth, trails that more resembled a creek bed than single track, and slime mud that had me aiming for the off-camber roots for traction was a whole new challenge.  Challenge accepted. 

S4 Matt bridge
Matt catching his breath and taking in the scenery.

I started off the day charging in the front and quickly dialed it back.  In a tight bunch, I was unable to look down the trail and if I slowed the rider behind me would run into my rear tire making me stiff and not riding my best.  It was a great call, because as soon as I could go my pace and see several feet ahead of me I started to figure out how to pilot my bike.  Before I knew it, I could discern mud with grip from mud that was like sheet ice and would even use the sheet ice to whip around a boulder or switchback.  Roots became allies to match my wheels and preferred lines.  Boulders became launchpads.  Suddenly the unpredictability was predictable, and the fun was exponential.  Don’t worry, my legs are tired, and I was always thrilled to be at the top of a climb!

S4 Bevin
Bevin peeking at the other side… giant puddle?

Aside from a mountain bike skills lesson from Mother Nature, my stage was uneventful.  And that is always a good thing in stage racing.  Two of the SQuad riders followed me for the second half of the course, I’m not sure if they followed me because they were worried I would have problems or simply because they enjoyed chit chatting while I was gasping for breath cleaning an uphill obstacle, but it was nice to have company.  I believe my stoke to play on trails that are challenging for me was the key to my crossing the line today as the first woman!

S4 plane

Expect the unexpected at Lac Delage

S3 view
View from Mont Sainte Anne

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.

S3 Emma 2
Moments before my stage race became a game of management

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.

S3 fast
Some sections were so fast and so fun

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.

S3 Emma Chasing
I’m on the hunt

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.

S3 Laurance
Laurance, my carrot for the day

Yes, today was the full package experience of stage racing.  I was able to hold onto my GC lead; BONNE CHANCE!

S3 pre race

I’ll be back to Mont Sainte Anne again

S2 Emma Roots
Spiritual climbing (Surge is right behind me). PS – My Kenda Honey Badgers are perfect for these roots!

Stage  2 of Quebec Singletrack must have known my legs would need a little boost, so we started off with a switchback climb to a chapel.  I’m pretty sure every rider asked the Patron Saint of Cyclists for good legs as they rode by.  I sure did!

S2 heading out of town
Heading out to the trails

After some position jockeying early on, I settled into my race and connected with Surge, who was right on my wheel.  Surge and I chatted on while we climbed each peak which kept us in a reasonable effort.  Surge has ridden the trails here at the ski town Saint-Raymond and was giving me updates on the lines coming up and if we were really at the top of yet another climb.  I felt like I had a bike tour guide today, and this is one of the things I love so much about stage racing; you get to meet up with riders and work together to make the day a success!

S2 Nicole smile
My room mate Nicole really loved todays trails

The course today was up and down and up again through dense forests and root mazes, but these trails were polished.  Burmed corners, little jumps/ gaps/ table tops, plank bridges, and optional B lines.  I’m pretty sure my hooting and hollering kept the wildlife at bay (except tigers, giraffes, penguins, and other stuffed animals lining one section of trail).  Surge was a gentleman and insisted I pull into the finish line ahead of him, then we both celebrated a solid ride that restored our energy to tackle Mont Sainte-Anne tomorrow!  I feel my moment of worship today paid off.

S2 wildlife
Wildlife keeping us moving