As I sit upright in my bed in Finale Ligure writing, my teammate Anka and all my new EWS buddies are out battling in the mud on Stages 5 & 6 of the final race of the season. I had to call it yesterday – the shoulder injury I’ve whined about but never truly accepted got the best of me this week and I chose (after much agonizing) to cut my losses and head home with the aim of getting back into fighting shape for 2016. I figured I’d put together a short list of the things I’ve learned (and benefitted from) while racing my first EWS races in 2015 for anyone who might be thinking of taking these on next year (do it!):
Get ready to laugh your ass off, even if all you want to do is cry. When I showed up to my first EWS in NZ, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep up with the world’s finest mountain bikers on the transitions and I didn’t know if I would be fast enough to post any decent results in the stages. Instead of panicking (when that’s all I wanted to do), I laughed. I laughed when the transitions were tight, I laughed when I had cramping legs and I laughed when I made many, many mistakes. I used that attitude as best as I could last week in Ainsa, Spain, where the race wasn’t working in my favour but I tried really hard to have a good time out there.
Allan Cooke put it best to me over the phone this week: “if you’re not having fun, it’s bad for you and it’s just as bad for us [Juliana Bikes]”. I think I’m going to run that mantra as a sticker on my top tube from now on.
2. Roll With It
Hate the first stage of the race (like most of us did here in Finale)? Roll with it. We all have to race it. If it’s something you suck at, work at sucking less at it next time. Got a chest cold (like I did in Spain)? Run it – there’s no choice. Thought we were out too late on the race day because of timing delays? Ask yourself where you’d rather be – if the answer is right where you are, it’s time to roll with it.
3. Make Friends
I found this detail really easy this season. I seriously cannot get enough of hanging with the women who race these events around the world. From the world’s absolute best like Tracey Moseley to my 30-second buddies of the season (Mary Moncorge, Andreane, Raewyn Morrison and Nathalie), everyone brings an appetite for a good joke and insightful conversation on race day. They have all been the surprising highlight of racing these events (it’s not all about me, you know) and as I stood trackside yesterday cheering them all on in stage 4, I felt proud to know them all.
As I look back on my trip across the pond, my “performance” in Spain and then having to pull out of racing yesterday here in Finale, I could easily fall into a dark attitude and feel disappointed. Am I? A bit, of course, but after only a couple of hours of fighting tears and generally being a baby about the whole thing, I realized that I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I wrote about “experience” last month and how much it helps at these races; I know that this experience has brought me closer to finding the speed and technical prowess we all work so hard to develop over the course of our riding careers. I can’t wait to get home and get back at it: next year will be a whole new, ridiculous, funny and exciting story I’m sure.
These events are so hard in so many ways, but I’ve learned more about myself in a short period of time doing this than I have doing much else in my life. While Anka and I were standing knee deep in a flash flood at the end of Round 7 in Ainsa, Spain, it occurred to me: this is adult summer camp and it’s friggen sweet!
Thank you for an amazing season, Juliana, SRAM, the Enduro World Series and to the rest of our supporters. How lucky are we to be doing what we do and to be living our lives like it’s our last days on earth? Thank you also to JMK for advice late at night and for never losing your cool, even when I totally deserved it.
Let the gelato/pasta/pizza/burger eating commence!