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.

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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.

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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

On June 9th and 10th, I raced the Pro XCT and short track in Missoula, Montana. I spent a lot of time on the dirt in that week and soaked in the views. It is wildflower season in Montana right now which means the trails are lined with Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, and other beautiful, colorful flowers! I took way too many pictures because I was not sure how much I would be able to appreciate them come race day when I was cross-eyed!

Having not raced for several months, I was nervous to come to a Pro XCT but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to hang out with Paul, Theresa, Natalie, Jack and Tickle! What’s even cooler is they opened their house up to my teammate Fairlee and her husband, Evelyn Dong, Sofia Villafane-Gomez, Ryan Standish, and Howie Grotts for wonderful dinners filled with great conversation and good times. Making memories like these are a large reason why I love racing so much!

With only 13 registrants, it was going to be a small race. It ended up being even smaller when only ten women lined up on Saturday for the cross country event. Of those ten women only eight of us finished the race.

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Fairlee and I pre-riding!

I had a great race. I was able to finish on the lead lap, which means I happily suffered for all 5 laps of the insanely steep (up and down) course! In UCI races, they have something called the “80% rule”. If you are not within 80% of the leaders lap time as you cross the finish, the UCI official will pull you from the race. You are still included in the results but it is a milestone to make those lead laps! This was a big feat for me since last year I only completed 4 laps before being pulled by the UCI official. Though my 2018 race season has been short due to sickness, I have been able to finish on the lead lap every race this year, even in the HC races that were filled with Olympians! This is big progress for me and has changed my mindset and boosted my confidence!

Besides training hard and improving my fitness, a huge part of being able to finish on the lead lap of these races is the equipment I am racing on this year. The Pivot Mach 429SL is the most capable bike I have ever trained and raced on! The geometry is so efficient for climbing. The best part though? The Pivot is equipped with a KS Lev CI Carbon seat dropper post! This dropper has been a game changer. My confidence has sky rocketed and my descending has improved an insane amount! Missoula is known for it’s steep descents and this year the course was no problem with a dropper (last year I raced with no dropper). That was an exciting feeling! Finally, I chose to run a 29″ 2.2 Kenda Tire Honey Badger Pro/Kozmik Lite Pro combo which gave me great traction on the steep ups and downs. Feeling 100% sure about my race bike is a really great feeling!

Missoula KS
The KS Lev CI Carbon Seat Dropper has been a game changer for me this season!

For those who don’t know, I had some tough luck this winter and spring- first the flu, then bronchitis, followed by a bout of pneumonia. I am still getting tested for allergies and asthma, but the pneumonia is officially cleared and I am finally able to add intensity to my training after missing three large races over the last few months. Unfortunately, Fairlee woke up the morning of the race with a stomach bug. After much debate, she made the decision to not race. Though it was a difficult choice, I am proud of her for looking at her long term goals and knowing that racing could have made her even sicker, however, I definitely missed having her on the start line with me! Luckily, we were able to spend time together the day before drinking coffee, pre-riding the course, and cheering on the junior racers.

As I crossed the finish line exhausted, I was stoked to find out I had finished 7th– in the points and money and my best Pro XCT finish yet! The podium was made up of super strong women whom I look up to and I am proud with where I landed. Based on last year’s results, I would have been right in the mix for a top ten finish with a solid group of women. And then something interesting happened. Someone back in California made a comment that I got second to last (since the results show only 8 of us finishing). It has made me think: did I get second to last? Or did I get 7th?

In my mind I got 7th. I had a solid race, even splits, and a competitive time. Women’s cycling unfortunately has small fields. What if only six women had finished? Heck, what if there were only two women? In my opinion, EVERY woman out there needs to know that they are a badass just for finishing the race. Part of what needs to change is that we need to have a much more positive mindset about women’s cycling. Instead of criticizing women’s performances because of small fields we need to celebrate their performances for even showing up. Every woman starting a Pro race is significant. Someone has to finish last just like someone has to finish first.

*UPDATE: I just recieved a HANDWRITTEN THANK YOU card from the race director thanking me for putting Missoula on my schedule. This is such a simple thing but it made me feel really happy. I will definitely be coming back next year and hopefully with my other teammates!

 

 

So, you signed up for a MTB stage race; now what?

Lucky you! These events showcase a community’s best trails, local cuisine, and hospitality, all while bringing cyclists together from near and far to embark on an adventure in a festival atmosphere. It is no wonder MTB stage racing is growing! You should be excited, maybe a little nervous.  Let me, Emma, take you through a tour of my preparations for a MTB stage race. Better yet, sign up to do the Quebec Single-Track Experience Stage Race (QSE) with me and we can prepare together!

What have you signed up for?

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QSE Racers being serenaded along the trail.

MTB stage racing consists of several back-to-back days of cross-country style mountain bike racing.  Riders depart each day with a mass start and contend for the fastest cumulative time over all the stages.  Expect stages to take strong riders three to five hours each day on courses that typically start and finish in the same location.  Many MTB stage race participants are not racing per-say, but are challenging themselves to a big mountain biking undertaking with course support and kindred spirits. There is a place in MTB stage racing for all mountain bike enthusiasts.  Aid stations are along the courses and are stocked with water, snacks, and mechanical and medical support. Riders still need to carry hydration, nutrition, clothing for inclement weather, maps if a wrong turn is taken, and tools to manage mechanicals due to the distance between stations and the remote nature of the stages.

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I can’t wait to ride these trails!

I have registered to race the Quebec Singletrack Experience (QSE). I chose this event because I have heard whispers that the mountain biking in Eastern Canada is a little-known gem and Quebec is a providence of natural and historical treasures to explore.   When I am researching a MTB stage race to participate in, I take a close look at the logistics and support the event provides.  QSE has anticipated and made available all the features I look for to make my experience smooth.

Fig4
Make sure your transportation and bikes are sorted out before you depart so you don’t get stuck for hours waiting at passenger pick-up like I have.
  • Travel
    • Proximity of airport and shuttle service that can transport your Evoc Bike Travel Case if you fly with your bike.
      • Get in two days before the start date if possible, especially if flying so you can handle travel delays.
Fig5
Fairlee and I post-ride social media bragging in a cozy hotel room at Fontana ProXCT.
  • Housing
    • You will get the most out of the experience if you stay at the housing recommended by the race. These are discounted, plus it’s fun to share stories and get advice from the numerous other participants staying there.
    • Being at the site of post-race events lets you take advantage of all the extra-curricular activities: music, rider meetings, celebrations, etc.
    • Ability to charge electronics. You are going to document all this fun to brag at home, right?
  • Transportation to and from the start/finish of each stage.
    • Driving a rental car without a bike rack in an unfamiliar area or country while trying to find a trailhead early in the morning can be epic… and not the good type of epic.
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Jen is creative at washing and storing bikes in hotel rooms, but utilizing event services will keep your team mates happy and un-stinky.
  • Bike storage and transportation.
    • Don’t roll your muddy post-stage bike through the hotel lobby! Sign-up for bike valet services and bike washing. Knowing your bike will be there to race is not just peace of mind. It’s hard to ride a stage if your steed is not there.
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Leave the derailleur adjustments to the experts and go celebrate a great day! Thanks Win!!
  • Mechanical service available.
    • TSA may take your bike tools and wouldn’t you rather relax at the lake after your ride than run all over a town you don’t know looking for a replacement rotor?
Fig8
Fairlee enjoying a tasty race meal, relaxing, and catching up with other event participants at Bonelli ProXCT.
  • Meal service.
    • Grocery shopping and cooking while tired is not practical. Plus, it’s fun to sample the local cuisine and get tips at the table from riders who have done the race before.

Yeah, QSE is a tight ship you want to board!  Want to join me for this one?  Of course you do.  I have three 50% off codes to register.  Message me and I’ll hook you up.

Now comes the fun part: looking at the stages and beginning your preparations.  Take a preview of what is to come in this video.  Talk soon!

Emma