I am up in Mont Sainte-Anne, just outside of Quebec, Canada. They speak French here. Alas, sadly, I do not. My teammate, Jill and I, made the trek up north to race in the North American World Cups, Mont-Sainte-Anne this weekend followed by Windham, NY next weekend.
The Mont-Sainte-Anne, or just MSA, course is known as being one of the more difficult ones on the circuit. And, rumor is, they made it even slightly more difficult this year. After arriving in town on Thursday afternoon, Jill and I did one lap of the course. I can confirm that it is tough. It is tough technically and physically-harder than any other course I’ve seen. There are a few descents that at first glance made me literally whimper-good way to intimidate the competition, right?. The first, affectionately known as La Beatrice is a sharp (and I mean sharp!) and steep (steep!!) left hand turn followed by steep, sharp, slate slabs. We didn’t try Beatrice our first lap out, decided to save it for the next day. After Beatrice is an equally challenging section, but you are going up instead of down. I’m a pretty good climber, but this was testing my strength and ability. Should be interesting the 4th or 5th time around. There’s another intimidating descent known as La Pardoux, which was pretty reasonable once you got over the fear of the steep drop preceded by trees and roots, and made sure to clear the two trees waiting for you directly at the bottom. What makes the course truly punishing; never mind the overall rooty, rocky, slipey (yes, technical term), and steep terrain, is the wooden bridges that are like 30% grade and require momentum and quad busting pedaling to make it up and over. Thanks for that, MSA course designers.
Today, Jill and I went out for a few more laps on course. This time we did ride Beatrice, and while scary, I was following Jill’s wheel and she just went for it so that’s what I did too. Not so bad! The rest of the course we went through pretty well. I had to stop at a few sections to get the line right, but mostly everything was ridable. An “easy” lap had my heart rate solidly at the top of my lactic threshold and took us about 30 minutes to ride. We went out for a second lap to get things dialed in. This time I was leading as we approached Beatrice. Not gonna lie, it was ugly. Jill said afterwards that she was very scared I was going to crash at several spots and kindly suggested that I practice running it. I was rattled. We hiked back up and I made Jill go first so I could follow her wheel, it seemed so easy before! Yep. Nope. Couldn’t get it. I tried it twice again. Yeah…no. One more time…ok, got it. After we finished that lap, I was sort of bummed. Beatrice had gotten to me, she’s in my head. I know I can ride her…I’d done it 3 times. I just don’t know if I like my 50% success rate. As Lee McCormack advised me once, “nothing’s slower than crashing”. So, folks I may have to swallow my pride and ride the “B” line tomorrow, which is just as gnarly as Beatrice, but the penalty for failure is slightly less as you avoid flying off the precipice on Beatrice’s right side.
We are now relaxing in our condo with the AC blasting recovering from the 30 degree (Celsius of course) heat outside. Tomorrow’s thankfully supposed to be cooler. I go off at 11:30 EST and Jill is at 4:30. I am the 4th to last person to be called up. So, I’m hoping that I can improve on that placing. But, honestly I’d be happy to just have a smooth, clean race. I’m here for the experience. I’m excited to be able to ride this kind of terrain among a field of competitors that are the best in the world. So wish me luck for tomorrow.