I grew up across the street from Sea Otter. No, literally, I did. I have been going to the festival since before I could walk and I even had my first bike race there. So it is safe to say it has been a constant in my life. The funny thing about it is that when I was younger, running through the expo scouring for free stickers, I always imagined how cool it would be to be one of the pro’s racing. I would see them hanging out in the back of the tents, talking to mechanics, taking a moment to relax, laughing about their race… And I didn’t think that I would be one of them.
This year I was. And it was incredible.
Arriving in Monterey on Friday afternoon after a long but easy drive south from Humboldt, I was eager to get to Laguna Seca and visit with my friends. First I made a couple stops and visited with family, a huge perk of attending a race in your home town, I might add. That night I caught up with my parents, had a beer in the hot tub, and ended the night with my usual foam roll and stretch routine.
On Saturday I hit the scene early, stopping by the Kona tent immediately with my friend and teammate, Jimmy Luchessi. I was immediately greeted by friendly faces, some familiar, some new, and was overcome with relief knowing that I had the support of an awesome company this race weekend. After settling in I slipped over to the Deity tent to meet Eric and Sadie Davies and Jake Kinney. Let me just say, these people are INCREDIBLE. They were not only extremely nice, but they also gave me some outstanding support this weekend as well as really valuable feedback about our growing rider/sponsor relationship. Even with racing aside, the weekend was full of good vibes and positive connections with my new sponsors.
Me with Jimmy Luchessi after our races. Jimmy pulled off a 1st place in CAT 1 Downhill on his Kona Process 111. He is also from Humboldt and it is our first year riding with Kona, making the experience fun having a friend to share it with.
So. The racing. Ah yes.
Considering this was not only my first race of the season but also my first PRO race ever, I set some attainable goals. Top 10. I really wanted to fall somewhere in the realm of top 10. Although the competition was fierce with a pool of 25 women, 5 of which being World Cup racers, I was feeling like I could get in the mix of heavy competition.
Practice on Saturday wasn’t great. The track was super dry and blown out which kept me from sticking the berms quite like I wanted. I was having some trouble holding my line in the one rough off camber section, and casing jumps seemed to be my favorite trick of the day. The Pro’s shared practice with CAT 1 on Saturday which meant long lines and a busy track. I got 2.5 runs in and felt like anymore would have stressed me out. So I rode away and watched Dual Slalom finals.
Saturday night brought me some nerves and some excitement. Sometimes one more than another, sometimes both equally churning my stomach into anxious grumbles. Sleep wasn’t easy.
And then there is race morning, oh how I hate race morning, choking down eggs and toast pretending like I am enjoying breakfast. But the food settled in my stomach so I geared up and headed up the hill, though not before taking a moment to pet my favorite Blue Heeler, Lola, she always calms me so.
Pro practice was mellow. The course was open and it was easy to session. I started relaxing and settling into a flow in the top jumpy section, and I had no trouble holding my lines in the “technical” sections.
Sidenote: for those of you who do not know, Sea Otter is not known for it’s DH course. More so for it’s “glorified BMX Track” that makes for a close and fast race without a lot of typical downhill flavor.
My family and their friends started showing up along with some of my Humboldt friends who had been racing earlier that weekend. Another benefit to racing in your hometown is having a nice size cheer section encouraging you down the track, or at least putting enough pressure on you to keep you from making any embarrassing mistakes in front of them.
Before I knew it I was in the gate. My run was clean. Perfect, really. I know there are some sections where I maybe could have pushed a littler harder or scrubbed a little better, but I am really happy with it. I came across the line 5 seconds off Micayla Gatto, the Canadian World Cup racer, which put me in 2nd. As the girls came across the line I continued to hold my place, which was an awesome feeling. By the end of it, Jill Kintner, Anneke Beerten, Claire Buchar, and Emilie Siegnethaler knocked me into 6th…which is still a crazy thing to me. I was a tenth of a second off the podium behind Siegenthaler, the Swedish National Champ. I raced my heart out and it paid off!
Racing with these incredible athletes was an absolute honor. They pushed me into a new realm of competition and I can’t wait to see where it will bring me. I have a lot of room to grow and so much to learn, and I am lucky to be doing that amongst such supportive and experienced racers.
The racing was incredible, the experience was perfect, and the women in the Pro category are the cherry on top. They are friendly and easy-going, but they are also very serious about racing and about mountain biking. Nobody is scary or unkind as we size each other up on the track, but instead we all support one another and celebrate the sport together. Its super-duper cool and I am beyond stoked to be apart of it.
Huge and massive thank you to Kona Bikes and Deity Components for offering me a place to sit and some words of encouragement. And also thank you, Kona, for providing my mom and dad with tequila infused beer, they really appreciated that. Also thanks to my other sponsors e*thirteen, Revolution Bicycles, and Fit NorCal. OH! AND Jake Campbell for all the race prep and for putting up with my nervousness, Aunt Tina for making my jersey less of a flying squirrel suit, Justin for being my calming force of energy, to all my friends and family who screamed their heads off at my race, and to MOM and DAD for doing everything and more. Love you guys!