Angel Fire, NM feels like home every time I go there to ride or race and I was stoked for the Pro GRT event. The Angel Fire crew did an amazing job (as always) to build us a worthy race course. It was fast, rough, steep, had interesting features, and did I mention fast? The bike shop and race director worked hard to take care of everyone’s needs so a good race would unfold.
During my first day of practice I was slow to get up to speed, but by Saturday’s Seeding and then Sunday I felt on point. My Seeding lap was going well until I washed out my front wheel in a dusty corner, I knew we only had :30 gaps so I was quick to get back up to speed before I got caught. I was feeling fast and cleared a jump that I hadn’t sent in practice yet. I was glad to know that I could still learn new features on a timed run.
Race day practice was moved up to make sure we didn’t get interrupted by a big storm that was moving in. I’m glad Angel Fire was forward thinking to make this move. Pros and Cat 1’s practiced together and I was excited to have this practice time with my girlfriend to work some lines and jumps together. The surprising part was I felt great during that practice, usually hitting the course first thing leaves my legs hurting, but everything was feeling amazing today. I was running new tires this weekend, the Onza Aquila. You might remember that as Gwin’s specially designed tire. I had become accustomed to the Ibex for it’s grip in loose dirt, but the Aquila held up well in the corners and was definitely a fast rolling tire.
My race drop time was approaching so I headed up the lift early to give myself time at the top. I was feeling ready, I had my Glukos gel, my Smanie GP131 dropped, and was jamming to my ipod. I was called down as they were lining the ladies up. Race nerves weren’t a thing today, I was ready to rock. The official called me to the start gate and eventually gave me my five second count down. I was off and feeling good in the first couple steep sections. I let the brakes open and cruised across the ski runs and ran a smooth line into the rock garden I loved to charge. Pre-jump here, pedal there, I was moving. I was careful with my wheels when I came to the corner that got me during seeding. I felt confident on the fast fire road, I found a tiny smooth path that was the perfect line. I was sending all of my jumps farther and smoother than I’d ever sent them before. What a great run this is!
I entered Drops and Lollipops and let the bike fly, getting more backside on the long jumps and setting my wheels up in corners early. I sailed over the banner drop and sent the blind hip gap like it was nothing. It was then that I saw the next racer I was catching. Holy crap, I made up a minute? That’s awesome! I reeled her in quickly and started yelling so she knew I was coming up. As I got within striking distance I also caught up to the other racer who dropped first. We were both in a berm and she was about to cut me off, so I yelled out that I was riding the inside line trusting she’d stay high. I caught back up to the other racer and there was just a bit of track left. Tight corners, a big jump, and the flat high speed corners to the finish, I couldn’t fathom making a pass in all of that safely, so I yelled for her to pedal. I figured my best chance at salvaging my race run was for both of us to go fast rather than risk a high speed crash. It was hours until the officials at the bottom figured out that the officials at the top incorrectly sent us off in :30 second intervals instead of 1:00. Half way through the pro women’s race they corrected the timing gaps and sent everyone off correctly. Had I known this sooner I would have requested a rerun.
I’m disappointed at USA Cycling for messing up our starts, this cluster on the race track could have easily been avoided. But I know how well I raced and how great it felt to be in the moment where I no longer second guessed myself and I felt no pain. There’s something magical about a race run. I’m stoked at how well the other women raced, some seriously fast times were put down in both Seeding and Finals. It’s exciting to see and I’m glad we all came out in one piece.
Once again, big thanks to Angel Fire, they are good at what they do and know how to host a race. And of course, a big thanks to the brands that have my back.