La Bresse World Cup Recap

World Cup racing is savage. No matter where you are in the field it’s a fight – sometimes literally. Not that I can account for racing anywhere near the front end of an elite men’s WC, I’ve just watched them and been beaten by them. Albstadt and La Bresse marked my twentieth and twenty-first WC races. I’ve raced multiples as a junior, under-23 and now elite; the races have only gotten harder and somehow that continues to lure you in more.

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There’s always a lure to come back and conquer when races don’t go well. The racing is crazy at the back of the field. Apart from from the speed there are bikes, fists, feet and people flying all the over the place.

Start

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

A WC start goes something like this: gun goes off, front guys start, back guys wait about 5 sec to even clip in, 150 guys are sprinting around you, one guy brakes and a chain reaction begins and someone usually crashes, everyone come almost to a hault swerving around a wrecked person or stand-still, guys are sprinting into or over you, some guy always goes for a stupid pass and catches his bar in the fencing and eats $hit, hopefully you swerve around him, then comes the bottleneck at the first single-track. Now you’re walking, running if you’re lucky, bikes are above rider’s heads to tomahawk past everyone else, then you get in a pushing battle with some other racer (yes, aggression in spandex), and now you get back on your bike and start riding again. That’s only the first 5 minutes.

Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory Team)

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

If you’re like me, you get past by 125 lbs dudes floating up the climbs – only to then catch them on the descent and get held up. It’s ends up being an uphill battle both ways. Sometimes you get a clear trail for a bit and ride your rhythm, which is hopefully at your potential. Usually there’s 5-10 guys just up the road to chase and the same amount just behind chasing you down. Every inch is fought for in these races. In North America someone can crash, flat, mechanical, and dab all over and usually still be in the race. In Europe or at a WC you can be passed by 4 guys by simply dabbing. A flat tire can mean not finishing the lead lap. A chain break or a start crash, well I can tell you all about that.

Bouchard beats Vogel for 20th

Congrats to Canadian Leandre Bouchard for 20th

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

The first finish of the day is making it through the start loop unscathed with a working bike. There isn’t any friendliness in the back of the field to other races, unless maybe you’re country mates or proper buds. I’ll always give riders the respect, as we’re chasing the same thing, but as soon as someone gets out of line and tries to get physical I’m confident my clydesdale weight and size will only backfire their plans.

At Albstadt I had the unique opportunity to, once again, be DFL after only 100 M when my chain broke. Whatever it was I was ready to take on the ‘how many people can I pass game’ again. I hate quitting and will do everything possible in a race to continue. This was just a test of that. It was a 400 M run to the pits while being cheered on by fans with pretzels in their hands (which I was jealous of). I was reminded with this scenario that the bike community is amazing. People from Scott/3Rox, the Canadian National Team, and Aaron Schooler (my personal helper for the day) all came to help once I ran into the pits. I set a new personal passing record of 53 riders. $hit happens sometimes and you just have to make the best of it. I really wanted to workup the appetite for my post-race schnitzel and Milka bar.

Bike racing is tough. Winning the personal battles for me means just as much on days like that.

Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory Team)

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

In La Bresse I just needed to get past 250 M without issues and that was a win. That happened. The legs didn’t show up this day but with one of the best courses to date. This course had people in, on, and around every nook and cranny yelling and screaming. It was only natural to to get buck wild on the descents with chains saws revving (Long live Chainsaw) and bells ringing. Make sure to check out the women’s race – it was incredible to watch those ladies throw down. The Frenchman – Julian Absalon – schooled the men’s field to win on home soil.

All smiles, Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing XC) and Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team)

Both Emily (L) and Catharine (R) had amazing races to finish 3rd and 2nd.

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

Now I’m back in Horseshoe Valley, Ontario for the nest two weeks for some Canada Cup races. More updates to follow.

 

Photo essay from the trip:

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Cairns WC recap

After a successful Sea Otter trip it was time to head down under. Cairns, Australia was host to the first World Cup of 2016. I travelled down with my Norco teammates Evan M and Andrew. Haley also came but was with the national team for this race.

Air New Zealand – fantastic airline and I highly recommend to anyone travelling down this way.

The temperatur in Cairns, well more the humidity, was the craziest I’ve ever experienced. I used to think the east coast was bad but this took it to a whole new level. I think I was sweaty the entire 9 days. No complaints of nice weather though. We experienced wind and rain storms that hardly seems like storms because it just felt like you were standing under a warm shower stream.

The course was unbelievably amazing. I love riding mountain bikes and I can hardly contain myself when the trails get that good, especially for a bike race. Not often do we race really fun trails. This one was hard with one main, long climb and one long descent with a flat loop at the bottom. The start would prove to be crucial in the race with the long single track climb.

In the days leading up we enjoyed riding the course, relaxing by our pool and sharing the excitement of being in this tropical paradise. We were full privateers at this face; supporting ourselves in everyday but also enjoying having just our races to focus on.

Come race day the teams spirit was high and on a personal level I was ready to rumble, in the jungle of course! My world ranking still isn’t quite where I want it to be and that means starting 71st of 90 riders – not great. I wasn’t worried about that as I felt good and the course was going to be a good one for me. Unfortunately after 250 meters of sprinting from the start a crash happened and after cruising through the dust I rode right into my teammate Evan who was on the ground and I went down too. Not the way anyone wants to start the fastest races in the world. After getting up, dead last with Evan, I got on the bike and was back at it. My bar was twisted sideways from the impact, so I stopped quick and forced it back into place. Once rolling again I caught the pack in the first bottleneck section and start the “let’s see how many people I can pass” game.

The adrenaline is pumping hard at that point and you’re just seeing the tunnel vision. IN the beginning you pass a lot of riders but as you get in to the field the riders are faster and faster, which means less passing and then finally you reach a point where you’re in with the pack. I didn’t know how far I could push back through, so to finish 57th is decent, but knowing that I did that after a crash and being way off the back and the field out-of-sight in the beginning is frustrating. I don’t know how the race would have played out otherwise but I do know the placing would have been a lot higher.

The race, once I got into my rhythm, was good. I was happy with how I rode, happy how the body felt and happy with my technical ability out there. That is what I take home for the next two weeks of training before heading to Europe for the next two World Cup races in Germany and France. To get some redemption.

Post race I decided to stay an extra 3 days for a mini vacation. Something we don’t usually do or even think about but after flying half way around the world for 5 days I felt like an extra 3 was necessary. On day 1 I did a Cairns exploration ride then went to a crocodile zoo in the afternoon with other friends who stayed. We watched crocs, pet koalas and wallabies, and learned about all the dangerous Australian animals and insects that don’t actually kill many people..

Day 2 was a 13 hour jungle tour and waterfall exploration with a friend. We rode the bus out into the old volcanic lands, swam in volcano lakes and waterfalls, saw the world largest fig tree and saw hundreds of kilometres of beautiful rainforests and jungles. Day 3 we took a boat out to a little island that backs on to the Great Barrier Reef and we snorkelled around. It was an action-packed few days and I am spent now. Playing tourist is hard! I did my last ride up the coast to Port Douglas. I’m not in the airport and heading home.

Thanks to everyone who made this trip happen and supported me along the way. It’s a big year and I’m looking forward to the races ahead. Here’s a few links to race reports, photos and results:

CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/summer/fleury-pendrel-mountain-bike-world-cup-1.3550844

Pinkbike: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/rise-of-the-olympians-cairns-xc-world-cup-2016.html

Pedal Magazine interviews: http://pedalmag.com/uci-mtb-world-cup-xc-cairns-elite-mens-results/

Canadian Cyclist photo gallery: http://canadiancyclist.com/photos.php?cc_event_id=563&title=cairns-mtb-world-cup

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Mid race. Photo: Antoine Caron

Photo story from the trip

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Windham World Cup

Windham, New York is a unique place in the Catskill mountains, some two hours north of New York City. After making a couple day stop in East Burke, Vermont to ride Kingdom trails with the team, we arrived in Windham on the Wednesday for some course prep.

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Kingdom Trails, Vermont.

This was a classic style course with one steady, long climb and one descent. Quite fun in my opinion, but that eight minutes of climbing to the top really hurt the body. The 5 minutes of descending was wonderful and played great favours in my hang, though I wasn’t able to capitalize on the climbs as on the body just wasn’t ‘going’ today. There was more suffering and less power, which equalled a poor race in my books. I never gave up fighting and pushed it right to the end. 57th isn’t anywhere near what I was shooting for, especially after a 45th in St Anne following a good cold I had..

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Windham’s famous red dust.

Right from the bat with a few brake checks and scary moments to avoid crashes I was then at the back in the cloud of dust and just praying you wouldn’t be riding and plow into something you couldn’t see.

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St Anne’s ‘La Beatrice’ rock line. 

That said, World Cup racing is as hard as it comes and if you’re not on you’re A games then it’s not going to be a pretty day. Every weakness is exposed and that included my climbing. Luckily, in the descents, I was able to tell people in and leap frog through some groups still but just not enough to be moving forward at a good enough rate for a good result.

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That was by far the weirdest start I’ve encountered with so must dust it was really tough to breath.

Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory)

Starting Lap 2

It was a quick pack up and off to the airport for a 4 am wake up on Monday to fly back west. I managed to be at home for a touch over 24 hours. Just enough to squeak in a ride, do some laundry and pack the vehicle for Crankworx in Whistler. Friday is the final race of the Canada Cup series and I’m looking to end the season with a bang there. Last year was a close battle with Geoff Kabush and I came out in 2nd and locked up the overall series, this year other Evan has come to take on the series overall, though our teammate Peter Disera is a currently leading but he’s not making the trip out for this race.

Yes that is Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory) through all the dust

Yes that is Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory) through all the dust

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Mcneely showing off the dust.

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Spent some of the day battling with Geoff Kabush.

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The crowds were fantastic. I could hear them start to wind up the cheers as I approached the rock garden.

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This is a picture that says a 1000 words. I couldn’t be in this without the support of my team, Norco Bicycles, on days like this. They keep me trucking forward and our team is something special. 

The team did a fantastic job these past two weeks and the help, as always, from Kevin Haviland, Jonathan Duncan and Josh Toohill was amazing. Massive shoutout to Haley Smith who scored her first World Cup top 5 with a 5th on the weekend. I don’t know what to say other than holy shit! Raphael Gagne also deserves a round of applause for this 6th place in pro men. That is beyond legit and shows his upward trend to the top. Proud of this guy and wish him the best of luck at the Olympic next year! He spent a lot of time hanging out with me at my first World Championships back in 2008 where he took 7th in the under-23 race there.

After this weeks XC race in Whistler I will be transitioning over to Enduro racing for the rest of the year with some BC Enduro and Enduro World Series races on the calendar.

Pinkbike Photo Epic: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/iron-lung-windham-xc-world-cup-2015.html

Results: http://canadiancyclist.com/dailynews.php?id=29960&title=windham-world-cup-elite-men-xc-results

Photos: http://canadiancyclist.com/photos.php?cc_event_id=529&title=windham-world-cup

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/365386135

Trailforks: http://www.trailforks.com/ridelog/view/192153/