World Cup #4 - Vallnord, Andorra - May 31, 2008

(l) My best buddy - Sid Man! (r) Me with a big, muddy post-race smile!

The course in Andorra was a new one on the World Cup circuit, and it was a good one! I felt my training camp in Italy had prepared me well for the effects of altitude on my body. The course started at over 1800m and climbed to around 2000m. About half of the climbing took place on grassy, steep ski runs, but the other half was on rooty, rocky singletrack, which made the elevation gain more interesting and technical. The downhills were also fun. With lots of rocks, berms and roots, it reminded me of Whistler.

The course was a little bit slick during my first pre-ride on Thursday, but the weather stayed dry and the course followed suit. It was dangerous to underestimate the course, however, no matter how dry it got. While pre-riding they day before the race, I was confidently flying along a rooty, singletrack descent, when the “Hand of God” smacked me down. I crashed hard, cutting open my knee, and bruising my hip and sternum. I was sore, surprised and angry. I got over it, though, and focused on my race.

The morning of the competition was cloudy and a slight drizzle began early. I wasn’t ready to give up my fast-rolling Vredestein Black Panther tires just yet. It would have to take a real downpour to get me to change tires. My “wish” was fulfilled about an hour before the race, when the skies let loose a torrent. Luckily I was sheltered by the big red SRAM tent and supported by the SRAM boys – John, Mike, Martin – when I made the call to bring in the heavy artillery – my Bull Lock mud tires. John gallantly helped me change tires, and I was able to jump on the trainer with sufficient time to warm up before the wet and wild start.

The super-steep climb where Mom asked me: "How are you doing?" How does it look like I'm doing?! Absolutely smashing, baby!

I had a pretty exciting start. I bolted off the line and was moving to the front, when a woman suddenly made an error on a loose gravel bit in front of me and stopped dead. I skidded to slow down, slid sideways, but managed to veer around the obstacle and get moving again. I had lost momentum, however, and had to deal with a lot of traffic in the first lap, which was a little frustrating. Perhaps being forced to start conservatively was a blessing in disguise, however, as I was able to pace myself throughout the race, so that I didn’t fade, and actually reeled in a number of women. The race wasn’t long enough – or I just didn’t have enough in the tank – for me to overtake the group I had made contact with, but I was glad to be moving up the field and not down.

Thanks to SRAM for the phenomenal support, my Mom for running up the hill beside me, and Sylvain for the feed. Big props to my pals Catharine and Nathalie for achieving their career-first World Cup podiums. You girls rock!


Elite Women :

1. Margarita Fullana (Spa) Massi 1:44:34
2. Eva Lechner (Ita) Colnago 1:42
3. Marie-Hélène Prémont (Can) Rocky Mountain 1:54
4. Catharine Pendrel (Can) Luna Women’s MTB Team 2:18
5. Nathalie Schneitter (Sui) Colnago 3:16

29. Sandra Walter (Can) X.O-Felt Women’s MTB Team 12:32