For me, the words “World” and “Cup” have always been tied to ski racing. To be a part of the World Cup, to me, still means conquering bulletproof ice, pee-your-pants pitches and a slew of powerful European skiers who punch their coaches or scream like animals in the start gate. At the most, it is the reward for all the hard, cold training days; and at the very least it involves foot-crushing plastic boots and shiver-inducing speed suits. In my mind the World Cup has always been the big leagues, but I somehow didn’t realize that for me the discipline (and the season) have changed.
See, for years I dreamed of skiing faster than those Swiss girls, but I still have yet to dream of beating any on a mtb. In fact, the reality of it didn’t even really hit me until I started chatting with my seat mate en route to Albany. That’s when I got to hear the words “World” and “Cup” come out of my very own mouth, along with the unfathomable addition of words like “I,” “race” and “going.” It suddenly gave me chills, despite the lack of speed suits involved. “I am going to go race the World Cup.” Unreal.
She, incidentally, was on her way to see a Shakespeare play in the Montreal. Sure we had different destinations, but I noticed we were both wearing Polar HRM watches. Hers was definitely cooler…. Big leagues. Fo sho.
Anyway, thanks to USAC it was pretty absurd how little energy it took for me to roll up to my first start. My bike got some lovin, my legs were feeling awesome, and I was stoked for a good hard ride. At the back of my mind there was still a little doubt, because I’ve always had bad luck at Windham, but things actually went surprisingly well- I did not go over my bars on the climb, I did not hit any trees, I flatted neither once NOR twice, I did not forget my CO2, and I did not experience even the slightest hint of full-body rebellion- it was a good day for Windham. Still a slow day, compared to Miss Pendrell, but that’s
something I’m willing to live with, for now.
I had a great time riding with girls from all over the world (they’re not exactly coach-punching types) but once the adrenaline wore off and my wheels had been stationary for a little while, the truth of the effort I’d made finally started to sink in. Or rather, my body started to tell me about it.
I noticed that my back in particular was pretty messed up, and by the time I started my warm-down spin I couldn’t pedal with my left leg at all. The muscles next to my spine had gone from from being mildly irritated to totally pissed-off in a space of about fifteen minutes, and suddenly every revolution caused some pretty nasty cramping on the whole left side of my body. I guess this is a pretty common side-affect of short punchy climbs and bumpy descents at insanity pace, but Bernard soon fixed me up, and luckily I was feeling less like a geriatric by the end of the night.
Not bulletproof ice, but something like it.
We spent another day in Windham, then packed up our stuff and hit the road for Quebec. It was a long drive. Because of the heat I’d opted to not wear recovery tights, and because of the extra jiggle I’ve been noticing in the rock gardens, I opted to bring just one sandwich. Both were bad, bad opts on my part; by the time we arrived at Mont Sainte Anne, my Iegs resembled two useless sausages and I was deep in the hunger cave (apathetic and just about ready to eat the van seats.) To say the least I was not a happy camper.
Yet once I’d gotten my hanger taken care of and a taken a nice, circulating spin for my cankles, I realized this place is pretty cool. I started off riding through a sketchy french-ish neighborhood, but after cutting through a backyard or two I found myself surrounded by a seemingly infinite network of sweet single track. I guess that’s why these people are kind of good at bike riding- they’ve got gnar wherever they look.
On the road to the venue I saw Jack checking out the course, sans bike. To give you a quick idea of what things look like- he needed both hands and feet to make it up the trail. World Championships, here we come!