I arrived in Durango, Colorado and headed up to Purgatory Ski Resort about 30 minutes out of town. Purgatory resort is at 9,000 feet elevation and coming from sea level I could definitely feel the lack of oxygen just by walking up a set of stairs. Once I got my bike all set-up and unboxed, I headed out to do a pre-ride. It was snowing pretty hard, and the course was covered with a few inches of snow already, volunteers and race officials worked hard to try and keep the course clear but ended up having to shorten the race loop because of how much snow there was on the upper section. This meant that we would be racing 2/3rd’s of the course. The course was a 3 mile loop that climbed about 900 feet per lap, during the pre-ride, most of the course was still frozen, but as the day went on it began to unfreeze. By the time I finished my pre-ride, much of the snow on the trail had melted and turned to a mixture of mud and slush. I tried to prepare for tomorrow’s race by lowering my tire pressure (giving me more surface area and grip) and getting on some more water-resistant clothes. The club division was the last to set off for the Cross-Country race, meaning that the women’s varsity and club teams, and the men’s varsity teams had gone before us. This softened up the snow and hard packed dirt turning it into ankle deep mud around nearly the whole course. The race started fast, but by the first corner people were already dismounting their bikes and trying to run around the muddy sections. I tried to stay on my bike as long as I could but eventually my chain dropped due to the sheer amount of mud stuffed in my bike. I tried pushing and running but the mud was clogging the clearance between my frame and the wheels, so I had to clear off my tires and then carry my bike up a hill covered in mud. This theme continued all the way up the hill, constantly on and off the bike either fixing my chain or carrying my bike. The quick and easy lap that I had ridden during the pre-ride the day before was getting progressively slower and more difficult each lap. I managed to catch a group on the descent who wiped out in the icy corners, then continued to reel people in over the following laps. By the end I had finished 18th, with 15+ chain drops and one whole lap where I couldn’t clip into my pedals.
Short Track Club Men:
Going into this race after the XC the day before was a little stressful. I was worried that I would have similar mechanical problems due to the amount of mud on the course, and probably place worse since I tend to do better at longer events. I checked the course about an hour before my race started and saw some good lines around some of the major mud patches and technical sections. This course was a lot shorter (hence the name “Short Track”) and took about 5 minutes per lap. It started with a short uphill, into a steep corner that led to either running your bike or taking a wide line and muscling through. I opted to stay on my bike (since I hate running), which ended up saving me time and energy from mounting and dismounting. The race started fast, and I found myself in the front group of riders. I decided to try and stay out of the red zone since it’s much harder to recover at altitude from hard efforts. My consistent pace meant that I often fell back a few places in the faster parts of the course but made up for it by keeping power over the top of the technical features and corners. As the laps ticked by more and more people got pulled from the race and eventually it was just the top 10 left out on course. I managed to catch a rider who was really struggling in the mud on the last lap and hold him off to the line to take 8th place. This was much better than I was expecting to do in such a short and high intense event.