Okay, I have a confession. In the past 2 years, I had almost lost all pleasure in racing my mountain bike. However, luckily, I always loved riding my mountain bike and I always had a blast training. On top of that, my team kept supporting me and believing in me. So I knew I had to keep at it and give XC racing another shot.
The truth is, most of the races I've done in the last 2 years feel like a blur to me. I was negative, I was panicking and I was stuck in my head during the races, so I wasn't even aware of what was happening around me. My heart rate was stuck at 190 for the whole race and I was riding poorly. My body was on the race course, but my mind was in another dimension. After a race, I couldn't even tell you what had happened. David and I had a name for that horrible version of myself: Baboune la Vielle Poune. It doesn't really translate in english...
That being said, starting the 2017 season, my only goal for the MTB season was to find the fun I had once had in the races. Or the same fun I easily find in cyclocross races. At the end of the day, the races aren't much different in the two disciplines, so I thought it would be a good goal to keep the same mindset as I have in cross, try to recover my "mojo" and eradicate Baboune la Vielle Poune from the surface of the Earth.
After cyclocross worlds, I took a full month completely off the bike (except 3 rides in Sedona) and I started training again at the beginning of March. My strategy to achieve that goal of "finding the mojo" was to register in fun events and make sure that my personal self-esteem didn't rely on race results. The key would be to be aware and mentally present in races and make that my new racing habit. At the same time, entering some early races would help me get back in shape and help me find that competitive mindset I had left in Luxembourg.
With that in mind, I entered two 3-day events; The Cactus Cup in Arizona and Moab Rocks in Utah. The Cactus Cup was a great weekend and it was a perfect wake up call for my body and my mind. My fitness was not very good, but I was able to stay calm, aware and present during the races and I achieved a better performance (and had way more fun) than almost any races I had done last year when my fitness was much better. Success in my book!
The next event was Moab Rocks. This one promised to be a good one for many reasons; two of my teammates were racing, my dad, my boyfriend and many other friends were in town to race or hang out, the city of Moab has gorgeous views and we were going to race on some famous rocky and beautiful trails! Needless to say, I was pumped.
My weapon of choice for the event was the Orbea Occam. A trail bike with a 140/140mm front/rear Fox suspension (that I can fully lock, put in trail mode or fully open). I had a Maxxis Ikon EXO (2.25) tire at 18 psi in front and Ardent Race EXO (2.25) at 19 psi at the back. I was racing with a Camelbak with water in it, 2 Clif gels taped on my frame and a bottle of Clif juice. David prepped my bike everyday and was somewhere on course to hand me another gel or bottle. I think it was a perfect set up for that kind of racing and the courses we tackled.
Stage 1 - Porcupine Rim. 41km, 1100m D+. (25km Dirt road climb followed by a long and sweet downhill on the famous Porcupine Rim trail).
Result of the day: 4th
- Neutral Start
- Start the long climb. Catharine goes away.
- Not able to go with her. "It's fine, just keep up your own pace".
- Jena and Marlee pass me. "Let's hang on to them"
- After about 45 seconds... "Nope. I guess it's not happening today. Hang on to your own pace."
- Thinking to myself... "Man, this is a long climb.Keep it up Magh!"
- Eat a couple of gels. Finally make it to the top of the climb.
- Unlock all suspensions. Embark on chase mode.
- Ride like shit for the first couple of minutes. "Alright Magh. Calm down, look ahead, loosen up, ready position".
- Left eye contact pops out. "CRAP. CAN'T SEE ANYTHING."
- Eyes adjust. "I can see!" Keep chasing. "This is so awesome."
- Think to myself: "I hope dad is loving it!" "Poor Lea with her non-dropper-post bike". Mess up my line. "I should stop thinking about dad and Lea".
- End of stage. Everyone hangs out at the bottom and tells race stories. We all ride back together. What a fun day!
Stage 2 - Klondike Bluffs 42km, 700m D+ (More of a XC style course)
Result of the day: 2nd
- Jena is on fire. "Let's follow her!"
- Let a couple of guys go between her and I. One of them messes up, Jena gets a gap. "Not smart Magh!"
- "Go get Jena!" This turns into a tiny panic mode. Can't stop thinking about Jena's gap. I keep messing up.
- Mess up on a rock. Smash my shoulder in a tree. Crash in a corner, my seat flips around and gets stuck sideways. "Arrghhh!!!" Arrange seat, take a deep breath.
- Lea catches up to me. She says: "I knew you wanted to ride with me. Come on, let's do this!"
- Lea gets me back in the game! She sets a great pace. Ride together for about 1h.
- Dave gives me a gel and says we are 40 secs back.
- Lea keeps riding fast. We can see Jena! THANK YOU new teammate!
- "Okay, I'll try to get her in the downhill"
- Both eye contacts pop out! Blink, blink, blink, blink!!!! "CAN'T SEE ANYTHING!!"
- Better now. Keep chasing. Never pass her. "Man, she is strong!!"
- Stage finishes. That was fun. Thank you Lea! My contact lens is glued to the inside of my Oakley glasses!
Stage 3 - Mag 7. 46km, 800m D+
Result of the day: 1st
- Heading into the last stage, I am about 1min30 behind Jena, who is the race leader. Lea puts a rotten carrot in her Camelbak for the race. She's going to be my carrot for the day. Good motivation! Lea and I are pumped!
- Staging. Everyone jokes about the carrot!
- Go! Climb the first hill. "Hmm, I feel surprisingly good today".
- I'm spun out in the fire road descent. Jena passes and drops me.
- 150 RPM!!!!!!! "Stop being stupid Magh, you are not going any faster. Just tuck down and relax"
- See a sand trap at the bottom. Think "Ooohh Cyclocross! :)"
- Float on sand, catch Jena. Get a little gap on next climb.
- Follow the guy in the fluo kit all day. Remind myself "stay smooth, look ahead, relax."
- Every now and then, I panic. "Arghh, she must be right there!!" "Just stay calm and ride well" "Look for the green lines" (Some green lines were painted on the rocks to help you see the trail better).
- Enjoy the super fun trails of the day. Get out of the trail, hit the energy-sucking sand trap. "Ouch".
- Hang on to the Kona guy's wheel as long as possible. Finish stage.
- Yay I won! And I snagged the overall! First MTB win of the year (and first ever appart for a couple AZ regional races).
- Lea gets second!! THAT LUCKY CARROT WORKED!
- Eat cookies. Celebrate with Lea, Dad, Katka, Dave and Geoff at the finish! (BTW, my dad killed it all weekend!!)
All in all, it was a great weekend. I had so much fun riding the trails, racing, pushing myself and hanging out with friends. Baboune la Vielle Poune didn't even make an appearance, so I guess it was a success!
I think it will never be easy to overcome that bad side of myself and I will always have to fight against my own demons, but this weekend sure was a step in the right direction in having a good mindset and creating new positive racing habits.
After the weekend, I only have one conclusion: Moab does Rock.
I would totally suggest doing that race in the future!