A new bike, time penalty, and top five stage result...
It's been some years since I've been in Snowmass Colorado. I raced here during my DH days and always enjoyed the atmosphere and style of course. Fast wide open, usually dusty and high altitude make it an interesting race. Because I've been at home in NZ leading up to this race I had to prepare a bit different to how I would if I was overseas. It's winter in NZ and with cold temperatures, I did some heat training which involved extra layers on my rides and sauna sessions after my gym to help adjust to more summer like conditions I would face.
With the altitude in Snowmass and Aspen, it was going to be all about looking after my recovery and keeping the body healthy. I found getting a good night of sleep was the hardest part as sleep was more broken with the lack of oxygen and vivid dreams would interrupt my usual sleep patterns as well.
At the last race in France, Larry had shown me a concept drawing of a Strive with custom paint. I had given him some ideas for a design and the plan was to receive it in Finale at the final round. I got quite the shock to open a bike box here in Colorado to see the finished product. I was blown away, what a surprise!
With two days of practice, I was still adjusting to the altitude but I felt solid on the bike and comfortable apart from my breathing. Working with Larry my mechanic to setup the Strive for the style of racing here I wanted a lower front end for the corners. We dropped my Lyrik from 180mm to 170mm to achieve this and the bike felt great. Onto race day and with start times already sent out the night before I had it in my head when I needed to be ready. An email was sent out informing there was a 35-minute delay and that would be added on to all stages of the day. I assumed the timing sticker given to me just before I sent off at the start was with the updated stage times printed but I was wrong (first mistake).
Heading up on the gondola I then misread my start time only looking at the minutes, not the hour (without adding on the 35-minute delay) all this confusion on my behalf led to me missing my start while warming up and getting myself a 1 minute time penalty. I was gutted to say the least but with nothing I could do to fix the problem I had to try and get on with my day.
It had rattled me a bit and I was finding it difficult to really find my flow so I finished out the three stages with low to mid 20th positions leaving me 51st overall with the penalty added. A discussion with my team manager at dinner helped to get the mistake talked about and we both decided to reset for day two and just race hard.
This day I found my flow and with the most demanding stage of the weekend I managed to ride to a 4th place in the stage.
Two more stages of 13th and 14th made for a much better ride and 33rd overall.
It's such a mental game this racing and how things can interrupt your rhythm is a challenge to overcome. I definitely learned a few lessons this week. One I hope never to repeat and the other is something I'll push some more in Whistler. That one being my speed is there I just need to ride in a way to show it. Words: Justin LeovImages: Sebastian Schieck