I LOVE racing in Arizona! Its always hot and sunny, the trails are totally different than my regular west coast rides and there are always cool plants and animals to check out. I headed to AZ right after the Fontana race as I wanted to maximize my time in the AZ sun. Unfortunately it had been a "wet" winter in the desert so all of the plants were blooming. It was gorgeous to look at but apparently I am allergic to some desert plant and my head felt like a big ball of ooze. I had itchy puffy eyes, a stuffed head and a constantly runny nose. I pretty much wanted to shoot my head off after the first day. I shelled out a lot of cash (and spent a lot of time on the athletes drug information database) to try to fight it. Claritin. Breath Right strips. Acupuncture. Vitamins. Saline spray. Neti Pot. In the end, the breathe right strips at night, the neti pot after I had been outdoors and eucalyptus in between seemed to help the most but only for short periods. I just had to deal with it like everyone else that was suffering. Its hard to believe that people with bad allergies used to move to AZ to get away. Damn the pretty flowering plants!
The likely culprit...it was everywhere
Other than the allergies, I felt great and had a blast riding in Arizona for the week. Our kick ass Japanese mechanic "Bassman" and I poached Sue Butler (Monavie/Cannondale) and Emily Van Meter's (Sobe/Cannondale) homestay for the early part of the week. We stayed with their Oregonian friend Paul, who has a place just outside Fountain Hills. Paul is 67 and is riding across the US with some of his buddies in May. CRAZY! He downplays it and claims they will take their time and only ride 50miles a day but how many 67 year olds can do that?!? Hell, I don't even know if I could do that. Paul showed us some great trails in the area and impressed us all with his downhill skills. I hope I am still ripping down the trails at 67. Even Bassman got to ride. He borrowed a bike from Sue's hubby Tim (who had to go back to Portland for the week - poor working sod). Bassman was pumped! Although after our 4hr ride Tuesday he said "no more biking!" when we asked him if he wanted to join us the next day.
After a couple of days riding outside Fountain Hills, racing the whiptail lizards down the trail, listening for the swarms of bees that would go by and keeping an eye out for rattle snakes (none - sorry Tim) I decided to go to McDowell Mountain Park to check out the race course. It was pretty similar to previous years - fast, twisty and fun. No huge climbs. A perfect Wendy Simms course. As if the allergies weren't enough I swallowed a bee while riding and got stung in the back of the throat midway through the long loop. I dont have allergies to bees but if ever my system would go into overload it would be now. I imagined my throat swelling so I couldn't breathe and someone finding me twitching on the side of the trail, but it was OK. Even six stings in the armpit after a bee flew down my jersey didn't put me over the edge!
Super D time trial
This year the race was a mandatory stage race. Unfortunately teammates Barry Wicks and Kris Sneddon were unaware of this so they showed up just before the start of the race. It was an Omnium format, but noone really seemed to know how they were scoring it. The super D was perfect for me, slight downhill with lots of power sections. The key was to not go too fast and blow out some of the loose corners. I find it hard to stay focussed during time trials. Ten seconds into my race I saw this crazy fast road runner type bird racing me down the trail and I almost blew out a corner. Focus Wendy! I got back on track and caught my 30sec rabbit, Catharine Pendrel (Luna) but I think that made me feel pretty smug so I may have let off the gas a bit. I still managed to get third place behind Luna teammates Georgia Gould and Katerina Nash. And I was place buddies with Ryan Trebon! But for some reason they did no podium for this event. ??. WTF?
After getting played by the Luna gals last week I wanted to race a smarter short track. The course was pretty simple except for a hill that had deteriorated so much it turned into a run up. I had a good start and found myself sandwiched between the Luna gals. Deja vu. BUT this week I was smarter and stayed second wheel! Everytime one jumped I would respond to get my second wheel. We had a pretty big gap mid race and I was expecting another jump so I looked back to see where Georgia was and buzzed Katerinas tire and went down. Dammit! When will I get my shit together for a short track?! I was pissed off so it took me a second to gather myself together and realize I still had a gap on the chase group so I jumped back on my bike and started to chase blue. Frustrated! The Australian National Champ Dellys Star (Spot Racing) bridged up to me and helped a bit with the chase but by the last lap I was in front. Uh oh. Not where I wanted to be. I tried to drop her a few times but she was super strong. She lead out of the last corner and we had a killer sprint to the finish but she snaked me. 4th place. Hard to swallow when you go from a perfect position to hamburger meat road rash and a lost sprint. I was OK but my ego was a bit bruised. No podium for this event either. ??. WTF??
According to the race organizers, call up for the XC was based on Omnium points so I was slated for 3rd call up. Perfect for the short sprint to singletrack. There was not a lot of passing on this course and a good start was essential. BUT some UCI official changed everything at the last minute and based on UCI points I ended up second row. That, plus a crash off the start saw Georgia Gould riding away on her own less than a minute into the race. When I finally got around a few gals I started chasing hard (too hard?) and flatted on the rocky backside. I used my sealant and it seemed to hold so I kept riding but the rocky section was too much and by the time I stopped to put in a tube I didnt have enough air left. I had a long hot hike back to the start/finish area. DNF. Its been a long time since I have not finished a race.... Ryan says I should have just rode the rim.
So with some bad tan lines and pollen residue in my nose I am headed back to the cold wet spring of BC. Perfect for my last week of training before I head off to the cold wet world cups in Belgium and Germany.