It turns out I don’t know much French. I spent two years studying it so I thought I’d be at least proficient, but I can hardly even thank the people who serve me food here. And I really do want to thank them. I want to thank anyone who brings me food.
Yes, useful foreign words seem to flee my brain yet, as sometimes happens when I’m surrounded by non-english speakers, I tend to get other, totally useless words stuck in there. For example, in Germany it was “tchus,” which essentially means “see ya!” or “later!” I’d ride around for hours just savoring that one syllable on my mental tongue- for no reason. I didn’t even say aloud it that often, it just got stuck.
On the course yesterday my stuck words were “mais non” and “maintenant” which mean “but no” and “now” respectively. But I’ll come back to those later. First I have to tell you about the race.
The first lap was a chaotic, dusty tangle of fallen riders and broken bikes. I remember spending a lot of time running, a lot of time on the ground, and a lot of time trying to get clipped back in. Sections that I’d cleaned without thinking in my prerides suddenly threw me over my bars, and I found myself riding everywhere I didn’t want to go. I was hitting trees, people, rocks, tape- I feel super lucky that I didn’t break anything off my bike or body- and I definitely forgot my number one bike riding rule; “don’t panic.” I was freely panicking my face off, and as a result I found myself yo-yoing in and out of DFL.
In the second and third laps things got strung out enough that I was at least able to ride my own race. I started picking off riders here and there, and I felt much better in the technical sections. Still, the humidity was like a wool blanket- there was not a whisper of wind- and my legs felt unresponsive to say the least. I was sincerely surprised each lap when I didn’t get pulled, but I rode as hard as I could till the end. Total. Sufferfest.
In short this race went, unsurprisingly, like almost every other race has gone for me this season; I said “please?” and my body replied with some rude gestures and a solid “f**k you.” It’s true that I got crashed early on and spent a lot of energy fighting my way through the thrashing, struggling dregs of the pack, but in the end my bod was simply not on board with the game plan.
I’m not sure what I’ll need to do to reconcile things with my legs, but I have a feeling some winter sports are in order. I haven’t had a true mental or physical break since January, so I figure it’s about time to lay off the structure for a while. I can’t wait to do some real playing in the woods this fall; it’ll be a relief to put this season in the books and move on.
So back to those stuck words. As I was deliriously riding through humidity, Canadians, and malevolent rock gardens, those two french phrases kept echoing inexplicably through my head. “Mais non” and “maintenant.” Tack on a lap and a few crashes, and I was thinking not only in French, but thinking about Saints. Specifically the saint whose trails seemed so determined to rip holes in my cool white kit. Who is this Sainte Anne**? Does she speak French? What if she and my guy Saint Jude got together? (see my “favorite things” post if you’re confused)
As Saint Jude is the patron saint of lost causes, I think he was the one I was most in touch with, especially after that first lap. Yet looking back on my stuck words, I don’t think Sainte Anne was totally indifferent to me either. She truly put me to the test, and she made sure I finished knowing that I’ll have a good race here some day- but not now. “Mais non maintenant.”
If you want to check out my sweet post race interview, click here
And this seems like a good place to give a big thanks to everyone who’s supported me in my quest to become the 31st fastest u23 in the world- I feel so lucky to have raced in all the places I’ve raced this year, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the gear and good wishes I’ve picked up along the way. First shout outs obviously go to my Mom and Dad, the folks at Tokyo Joe’s and USAC, but it’s also worth mentioning my pals at Rocky Mounts, Giro, Hutchinson and Uvex, my coach Ann Trombley, and the many mechanics who have kept my ride running smooth all year. Love you guys- when I’m 21 I’ll buy you all some beers!
**Turns out Saint Anne is like Jesus’s grandma or something. Go Wickepedia!