Last weekend I traveled to Montana for the Missoula XC. This year they had 3 cross country races and a short track, all UCI races and part of the Junior World Series. I was only able to make it out for two race days, but I made the most of my short trip.
After a long flight delayed by severe thunderstorms, I arrived just in time to assemble my bike and do my openers before sunset (10pm in Missoula!). Although it was rainy and getting dark, I was able to get out on the local trails and have some fun. I settled in with my host family and got ready for two back to back race days.
Although my start was not until 5pm, I rode to the venue and did a course lap during warm-up. With trails built on the side of a ski mountain, the lap has over 1000ft of climbing in just 4 miles. The course was almost identical to last year, but it was good to remind myself of the lines on the high speed descents. I had a good start, and worked to defend my position despite a controlled pace set by the leaders. I entered the singletrack inside the top 10, and completed the first lap with the lead group still in sight. I found two good riders to work with, and we motivated each other on the climb and ripped down the descent to gain a few seconds every lap. Coming into the last lap we caught more riders and it was a battle for position. After getting dropped halfway up the climb, I slowly fought back to the wheels while resisting twinges of cramping in my legs. I managed to make a few last minute passes at the top of the climb, railed the descent, and sprinted in to finish 6th. Although I was just seconds off of the podium, my cramping legs told me I had given it everything I had.
24 hours later I was lined up again for the biggest race of the weekend. While some elite riders had decided to skip either of the previous days, all 52 showed up for Saturday’s C1 UCI race. I had a second row start position, but the rider in front of me missed his pedal, causing chaos at the start. By the time I got around I was back into the twenties, and I had to work my way through traffic on the first lap. Luckily I found a friend who was in the same situation, and we rode consistently to move up a few spots every lap. Given the heat and altitude it was important to stay on top of nutrition, so I took two bottles in the feed zone each lap: a half full bottle with carbohydrate mix for drinking, and a water bottle to dump over myself for evaporative cooling. Some of the top riders had gone out too hard and blown up, and we started to catch them. By the last lap 5th-12th places were within a minute of each other, and it became a race to the top of the climb. As the pace accelerated I dug deep to hold on to the wheels. The all out effort finished with a sprint into the singletrack descent, where I got around one last rider and opened a gap on the descent. I sprinted in to finish in 10th, just 30 seconds back from the top 5 in one of the tightest and most fun cross country races I’ve ever done.
I am thankful for the opportunity to race in such an amazing place with support from my friends, and glad I could make it worth the trip! I am proud of these top 10 UCI elite results and the hard work in training that made it possible. I’m looking forward to making more progress this season and in future years, maybe back at the Missoula XC!