Who would have ever thought I'd be where I am right now? The UCI World Cup circuit. I've only ever seen pictures of it. Competing on the largest stage of the sport feels surreal, but in the same respect it is inspiring. In the last 2 months I've plunged head first into the world of professional mountain bike racing. That's not to say that I have become any more "professional" than before all this happened, but it has motivated me to try and make the switch, and bridge the big gap between being pro and being a professional.
Lets get down to the racing bit. My motive behind all this crazy racing lately boils down to UCI points. 2 or 3 years ago, the UCI mandated that all athletes have at least 20 points to qualify for the World Cup events. These points, especially in the US, are hard to come by for younger, developing riders, so USA Cycling offers spots on the National Team for these riders to get into WC races without having enough points. That is how I got where I am now. Next year I will not be a U23 anymore, which means there will be no more foot in the door, and I'll need my own points next time. So far its working. As long as I finish this weekend in Bromont I will just make the cut with 21 points, and be free to race WC in 2010.
This crazy block of racing started two weekends ago with the US National Championships in Granby, CO. With a starting altitude of 8200ft, my expectations going in were relatively low. For a while, I considered not going at all, but who doesn't show up to the biggest one day event of the year? In the interest of my financial well being, I opted for the skid in/skid out approach for the weekend with the option of racing the night XC at Marsh Creek, Michaux, or both in hopes of making my wachovia statements a little less embarrassing. The latter would not materialize. Less than 48 hours after flying in, I was back on a flight the Philly with a nice little satisfactory 7th place result in my pocket. I landed back home by 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, with plenty of time to make the 11pm start time in Marsh Creek. I started getting excited because eveything was going so smoothly, which should have made me realized something wouldn't go so smoothly. I made my way through the terminal and down to baggage claim and in a few minutes it cranked up and started spitting bags out onto the belt. I watched and waited as the number of bags and people dwindled until it was just me and the baggage claim. Then the carousel stopped and the lights shut off. I wouldn't get my bike until the next morning, just in the nick of time to not make either race. Perfect.
With that, I am going to take a nap. I'll tell you the story of my first world cup race tomorrow.