The start, I'm behind Mary McConneloug in an almost identical riding stance. I had a good start position as I was called up for the front row.
Salut! Yesterday I kicked off my pre-Worlds North American campaign with the Canada Cup final here in Bromont. I was fourth. This was OK, not brilliant. Which is exactly how my legs felt in the first 1-2 laps, OK but far from brilliant. Whilst I was pushing hard throughout I wasn't able to contend as I would have liked. Top American & very accomplished World Cup rider Mary McConneloug dominated from the outset as expected. I was 8mins down at the finish, I had hoped to be a good bit closer than this. Amanda Sin of Canada was 2nd & Mikaela Koffman third, 30sec ahead of me. Jenn Smith (NZL) rounded out the podium in 5th a couple of minutes behind me.
On race day I woke early to a bluebird day, clear skies and the mercury already on the rise. With a start time of 12pm & 30deg the predicted temperature I was immediately concerned about racing in the midday heat. I promptly filled extra bottles with water to dump on my head and help cool me down during the race. I also set about ensuring I was extra well hydrated (like peeing every half hour) and I intentionally reduced the concentration of my carbohydrate sports drink (Balance Elite Restore + Caffeine) to increase the absorption rate of water from my gut into my bloodstream during the race.
For those that are interested in a little physiology...
During exercise the vascular system distributes blood to skeletal muscle with the greatest immediate demand for oxygen (my leg muscles) and away from areas that have less demand i.e. the viscera & major organs. However, during vigorous exercise in a hot environment there is an increased urgency to dissipate heat in order to regulate our core temperature. To do so, blood is shunted to the skin to promote heat loss largely via sweat (evapouration).
An increased sweat rate contributes considerably to a decrease in blood plasma volume, making our blood more viscous (thick), and in turn our heart rate increases to be able to maintain a high cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart in 1minute). Our heart rate cannot compensate enough and as a result there is a progressive decline in cardiac output. So exercise intensity increases considerably in the heat, and so too does our percieved level of exertion and sometimes exercise performance (if we are not well prepared or heat acclimated).
Anyway... that is why I wanted to try to keep my body temperature down (water immersion) and drink a more dilute drink (maintain blood plasma volume from sweat loss).
The course was in great condition. It starts with a lengthy climb to the top of the course, punctuated with short steep pinches throughout. We had changed my front (XX) chain ring combination prior to coming to Canada with this in mind & I sure was grateful we did.
I started well, but by halfway up Mary & Amanda were creeping away from me and I was not capable of their pace. I felt pretty awful up the climb the first two laps, the harder I pushed the more my heart was going to beat a hole in my chest & my legs were protesting. However, brain and body managed to agree on a good steady pace and I was able to ride reasonably well here-after.
Going up the climb in the final lap I had a little dig to see what else I had and got sight of 3rd place. Confident of bridging up I let rip into the traverse tech single track section, only to find myself making errors and losing time hand over fist, including a dropped chain. Perhaps more fatigued than I realised I got it together again to finish 30seconds off 3rd. Next time.
Full extension of my arms, fork compressed. Initially I thought my position was bad, but apparently I was going fast through this section. Let's hope so anyway.
It is notably harder to ride smooth and fast on these trails, particularly when you are puffing like a little steam train from a good hard climb and then dive into a rock/root infested descent. Suddenly your fatigue is more apparent as your body position, upper body strength, reaction speed and overall co-ordination are all tested at once. Typically in a race in NZ you can be lacking in one of those area but still descend OK b/c the trail is much more forgiving. Riding and racing here are obviously providing great practice, and I am certainly working on improving in this area.
So in summary I really enjoyed the race, and it is great to have the first one under my belt. I was a little tense lining up, having not had a major XC race since May (Offenberg World Cup) and following my strength block at home it was always going to be interesting as to how I went. I have also enjoyed a couple of hard training blocks since arriving in Bromont and as this race is in the plan to build for Ste Anne in 3-weeks time, things are good.
Post race last night we had a pleasant evening with all the Kiwi crew here (10 of us!) plus friends of Thierry & Melissa's here for a BBQ. Thierry generously cooked a beautiful peice of lamb on the BBQ (rotisserie style) and we enjoyed a good few laughs. This morning I went out for a nice recovery swim in Lake Bromont and this afternoon a spin on the bike is in the pipeline, or just a play down at the BMX track perhaps :) Maybe a French lesson too (got a bit distracted with the race toward the end of last week).
Finally a BIG THANK-YOU to our generous hosts & friends Thierry & Melissa for feeding us, doing tech support and the XPREZO support in the lower tech/feed zone for me. This is very much appreciated. Big congratulations to Melissa on her second place in her category yesterday too! Thank-you Sebastian for taking some great photographs and giving them to us, they are awesome to have. Merci beaucoup!
Thanks for reading, check back soon. Cheers! Au revoir pour maintenant. Nic :)