Missoula was the 4th stop of the Pro XCT series. I love this town, I love the Goss family who kindly put me up each year, and I love the punishing yet fun course. This year, my goal was to be one of the few women who rode the A-line drop. I had dreamed about it. I had done laps at Valmont practicing the Medium and Large drops…I was determined.

Friday, I made my way to the course in the morning for a pre-ride. As I approached the drop, I got more and more nervous. I figured I should just do it and get it over with on the first lap. So there I stood. At the top of the drop, anxiously looking at the landing 5 ft below me. Long story short-I went for it. However, I did it wrong. I’m not totally sure what I did…I think I just didn’t come at it with enough speed. I landed it wrong, heard a huge crack! and barely managed to avoid hitting a tree…ultimately ending up in the dirt. I was relatively unscathed, but was certain that the large crack was my frame. It was actually my seat post-which had snapped in half. Also, my front wheel was taco’d. So, my pre-ride was over…and, sadly, so were my aspirations of riding the A-line.

Thanks to the help of some friends-I was able to find a spare wheel and a new seatpost. So grateful! I would have a bike to ride for that evening’s short track and for the race the next day.

The short track race was at 8:30 PM. This year, I opted to not take any caffeine supplements in hopes of being able to sleep at least a little that night. Don’t know if it was lack of caffeine or what, but my legs were void of snap-and, you kind of need snap in a short track. I was able to stay out of trouble and keep a high enough consistent pace that I was still able to sneak onto the podium in 4th. Not bad, and I had fun-short track is so painfully fun! Unfortunately, my hopeful abstinence from caffeine didn’t help me, and I spent the night restlessly rolling around in bed.

My legs were still a bit void of snap the next day for the XC. And, again, I was able to hold a high-enough steady pace to claim 4th. Chloe and I had been spending the last two laps sort of going and back and forth. On the second to last lap, I was right on her wheel through the steep, switchbacky descent, and I felt like I could have gone faster. So, I formed a strategy for my assault on 3rd place (dramatic)….Going into the last lap, I passed Chloe at the top of the open climb and made sure I was the first one going into the singletrack. My strategy seemed to work as I got a bit of a gap and had a few seconds as we made our over the Buffaloe Jump bridge and into the trees…

But, that damn Chloe was too good and recovered the time and was right on my wheel as we made our way through the parking lot, heading to the last climb to the finish. I knew I was in trouble…and I was right. Chloe put in an attack on the climb and as much as I pushed, I could not match her speed. I did not have that extra gear…I was fully gassed when I crossed that finish line in 4th. Which, is a great finish-to be on the podium at a Pro XCT is great!

And yet, I was still feeling the sting of disappointment. I felt like I had been mentally defeated. I am disappointed that I didn’t conquer the A-line drop-knowing that it was fear that ultimately held me back as I know I am physically capable…and I am disappointed that my “assault on 3rd” strategy didn’t pan out.  So, as I am wont to do…I have come up with a few takeaways. First, I have a fantastic theory (excuse the nerdity here)…I think every racer (or non, really) has a confidence/capability ratio. For some, this slope can be negative-i.e. they will attempt things based on high confidence even though they may not have the proven capability. For others, like me, they have to have an abundance of known capability before they pass the threshold of confidence to try something. I can either beat myself up about this…or I can accept it. So, I will try and accept it…and just work on growing my capabilities until my confidence catches up…which it does and will continue to do. Meanwhile, I will spend more time at Valmont practicing my drops, get a day or two doing shuttle runs in Winter Park, and keep racing-because this is my favorite way of improving my skills-racing with women who challenge and inspire me!