Kerry and Becca Head North to the Pan Am Champs, Eh!

Becca: From the time we left my parent’s house in Ohio and drove up to Midland, it was raining. Into our pre-ride. It was raining. Kerry was pretty excited about this. I was not so sure how I felt. It was my first time at the Silver Goose race in Ontario, Canada, and though I had heard the course was fun, that is a pretty vague description. Preride proved it was suuuuper tricky – it made me think of NBX with off-cambers. Lots of line choices to avoid roots, rocks, and other oddities. Add in the slippery ground and the off-cambers were quite tricky, and finding the speed limit was a game of guess-and-check.

Kerry: We woke up to sprinkles and by the time we loaded up the truck we encountered a light dusting of snow. So the course was going to be super slick still.

We lined up on Saturday morning before the women, which is always a treat. I enjoy getting done and catching the end of the ladies race.

I had my mind set on the whole shot because there was a left hand swooping 180º, slick AF, corner right off the start straight. That was followed by a right 180º corner and a slippery false flat into another corner.

After the gun I found my pedals then promptly pulled my right foot out of my pedals (note to self, tension the pedals before Pan Ams tomorrow). I settled into the top 5 and tried to avoid the chaos!

In the first couple laps there was a larger group at the front taking turns and testing each other. It came down to Gage, MvDH, Stephen, Cooper Willsey and myself with two laps to go… Though the first part of the course was slick it wasn’t quite enough to make a huge impact. The second half of the course was tacking up so the technical bits weren’t playing a huge role on the outcome of the race.

Gage sent it off the front on a small climb out of pit 1. MvDH followed. Stephen hesitated and I was on the back of the group, not the best position to be at the end of a race.

After that move went I adjusted and decided not to go all in to try and bring Gage and MvDH back. Part of me thought Stephen was saving some for Sunday and if that was the case I was going to do the same.

Stephen and I came through with one to go and hit the slick bits together. I was pedaling on a straight part when all of a sudden I was on my ass! After I stopped sliding I watched Stephen ride away and the podium with him. He shortly bridged the gap to MvDH while I had to fight to keep Cooper off my wheel.

I was a little disappointed, I was hoping to have a good race and use that momentum to carry me into Pan Ams on Sunday. But this is a fickle sport where adjustments must be made from day to day. I put off my missed podium as a result of my rookie mud riding maneuver and convinced myself that it was a good opener and Sunday I’ll be raring and ready to rock!

Becca: Because I felt so tentative on the course I was happy that Saturday was a C2 and the big game of Pan Ams was on Sunday. But then again, I knew the big game was on Sunday and that was also lingering on my mind for all of Saturday. I told myself to give it my all on Saturday because I figured I wasn’t exactly going to win on Sunday, but that is easier said than done when the environment is one of stifled brewing energy, bubbling in everyone’s legs and chests.

Saturday, I pushed hard in the early parts of the race, but I found myself dabbing and bobbling often and it was making me get gapped off of 4th. I started to channel the need to ride smooth instead of race fast and at first, I got dropped a little but I quickly found a groove and settled in. Soon, it was a battle for 3rd between myself, Maghalie, and Clara Honsinger. I got a pedal jammed into a stake on a steep climb, blocking Maghalie. We battled up the steps but I let her have the first one into the drop because I knew she was going faster than me – having just climbed back into contention after a mechanical. I thought she was going to race away with it but instead just stayed there, dangling ahead of me.

We had 1.5 or 2 laps to go and I pitted for a clean drivetrain. Clara passed me. And, that was the race. I yo-yoed off of Clara’s wheel for the rest of the lap, all with Maghalie in sight. I finished 5th, within 30 seconds of the winner. It was a good race, and one I knew I could have done smarter and thus finished better. But that was fuel for Sunday.

Kerry: The team retired to a dinner of chili and fireplace conversation. The perfect way to shake the northern Ontario cold. I went to bed counting sheep and dreaming of a big stack of pancakes smothered in Canadian maple syrup conjured up from just down the road.

We woke up to a sunny and blustery morning. This made me frown. I knew it wasn’t going to rain but I was still hoping for some slick corners. With this weather hanging around all day our race would likely see a dry course.

Sure enough, I got to the track and told Dave to slap the Maxxis Speed Terrane’s on. Files it was! While I am a sucker for a muddy race I am also a sucker for a muddy race followed by a tacky, hero dirt, track where you run muds on Saturday and file treads on Sunday. 

The sandy gritty soil was not hanging on to moisture and a few corners were crumbling under the continuous stress of gripping tire treads. 

I ripped my Jakroo Hawaiian print flower pants off with 3min to go, dropped my jacket with 2min to go, and waited for the 30sec warning. Then I dropped the clutch on the whistle. I tightened my pedals so all systems were go and I hit the first corner in front. There was so much grip that the track was like a highway. Strung out from the gun!

With no technical bits or slippery parts to break up the racing, we saw a big group at the front for the first half of the race. 

The front group didn’t whittle down to four until about three laps to go. MvDH was doing a lot of work on the front. He had home soil watts and cheers of “GO, eh!” To propel him through the race. Curtis and Stephen were right up there. I was suffering though. 

With the course being fast and tacky there weren’t enough punchy parts for me. I find my fitness is better when the efforts are shorter instead of longer power sections, which is what the course comprised of. I did my best to hang on to the back of the group. 

There were 2.5 laps to go when Stephen rolled his ankle into the concrete stair set and hung MvDH up with him. Curtis skirted the pile-up and immediately got a gap. He put his head down and tried to pour it on. MvDH wasn’t having it. I tried to hang on to his wheel as he brought Curtis back but it was too much. I fell off his wheel with 3/4 of a lap to go and limped it in for 3rd.

Again, I wanted that win and jersey to go along with it. But I can definitely walk away and say I emptied the tank. It just wasn’t my day for the top step. Third is better then I did last year so I took some more UCI points home to help me stay top-ranked American for at least a couple more weeks. 

Becca: Where Saturday was slippy, Sunday was grippy. It was actually just like Cinci (but much less slippery on Saturday) and we went from muds to files. 

I had an okay start, but in the first lap, I found I couldn’t quite match the efforts of the front 3 or 4 and again found myself in 5th. We raced last but had been at the venue for nearly 5 hours, riding on and off and I think my legs were just heavy from the schedule. I knew they would come around, I just had to wait for it. The energy from the spectators was so strong that it actually kind of took me aback – I channeled it but didn’t really have a way to release again. I felt squirrely. 

Going into the second lap I slid out HARD on an off-camber turn – my tires skittering across a hard rut because I was holding the brakes instead of letting it flow. The group of four or so behind me passed by. I picked up my bike, gave it a look, and hopped on. The speeds were so high they already had a big gap on me. I took a few minutes to find my groove again and just kept churning away. Despite riding smooth (well, everything but the sand. Sand is my nemesis.)

I wasn’t gaining any ground on anyone in the group. After a lap of being alone, Catherine Pendral was coming along behind me and I felt a little extra gear to fight. With that, I passed one rider, and then she and I battled until we both passed another. 

I loved following her lines – Catherine is a multi-time mountain bike world champ and it shows. She has great flow and her line choices are less “hereish” and more “THERE THERE THERE THERE”. I can’t describe it better than that. When I would use a broad brush to outline where I hoped to roll, with precision she pushes her tires where she needs them to be.

For a lap I was actively battling holding her wheel and passing when I thought she may be able to outride me, acting as a blocker. When we had less than a quarter lap to go, it was my worst part of the lap: the loose corners and the tricky (for me) sand. It was the perfect time to be in the lead to block her from drawing away.

I botch a turn and tell her to just freaking pass me. I literally pause for her too. I could feel her sawing at my rear tires as I rode (not physically touching, just hovering) and I was feeling embarrassed by my inadequacies. Hell if I was going to let her see me in the sand. I took the few extra turns on her wheel as I would a science class. I took the loss in payout and UCI points as tuition. 

Eighth. Eighth place and I knew I had fourth. I know I am a podium contender. I know it is there. Recently all of my race reports are accounts of near misses, almost, excuses, and lessons learned. I know eventually, I have to shit or get off the pot. None of this is choice – I want to win, I am trying to win, and I know I can (not always, but, at least like, once, right?). I feel like I am due for a breakthrough, and I know it won’t happen by luck but it will happen with me putting these pieces together. There is no question that I am going for the wins in my next two weekends: Northampton and Supercross. If they happen, let’s all have cake. If they don’t, let’s still eat cake. 

The most important thing is this weekend is not a lost opportunity for Team Kona, but instead fuel for the bigger fire.