The Rio Olympic Mountain Bike test event
This last off season trip was absolutely epic and probably rates as one of the best trips so far. It started at the Olympic test event in Rio. Here, we got to preview the Olympic course with two days of training and a race on Sunday. We stayed right on the beach so it was great to be able to jump right in the ocean after a long overnight flight. We went for a spin along the coast and then the next day it was immediately on the course. This course is fast and technical. The majority of it is manmade, and it is made well. There are a lot of man made rock gardens, a drop, some jumps, and some more rock gardens. The course starts out with a short one minute climb and then is capped off with a significant climb around five minutes. After spending a long time getting the lines dialed in each of the sections, I finally rode an entire lap with some flow and had a lot of fun.
The next day was more training on the course and a race prep day. It was interesting to try and get back into the racing groove with no racing since World Championships in Andorra. Actually, I did do a race at the Clif Bar CykelScramble in September, but I was wearing angel wings and riding a cruiser bike. So I'm not exactly sure I was fine tuned for this event. Regardless, I was excited to actually get a race effort on the course despite what my preparation was like. And the mixed preparation was what made this race one of the weirder international I've ever done. Some people hadn't race since Worlds and were shut down, and others had raced cyclocross world cups and kept their fitness going. It was a crazy mash up of motivation and fitness to bring a weird race dynamic, but it doesn't matter. There was a start and finish line, and it was a race. It was a test event for the Olympics nonetheless. How exciting!
I didn't get the best start. It's a fifty meter sprint straight away into three downhill, 180 degree corners, and I kinda struggled. I was in the back half of the pack, and there wasn't much passing room. We came into the first rock garden bunched up and all the lines funneled into one line, and this is a problem. My U.S teammate, Georgia, demonstrated how big of a problem it could actually be. There was traffic here, she didn't have enough momentum, she went over the bars, and she took this rock garden to the face. She made sure her right cheekbone was still intact and finished the race with a black eye. This was one of the toughest things I have witnessed. I was able to run around this crash, and, at this point, I still had hope I could bridge up the leaders. But, then I crashed in the next rock garden, and this left me racing in no man's land unable to bridge up to the lead girls. I still went as hard as I could in the hottest conditions I've ever raced in. I was able to ride all of the technical features smoothly and move up a couple of places to seventh at the line. At the finish line, I realized that finishing this race relatively unscathed was more lucky than I originally thought. Erin Huck, my other U.S teammate, crashed on the last drop on the last lap. She crashed in a place that makes me shudder to think about it. She had two black eyes and bruises everywhere, but the general verdict was that she was okay. Again, my teammates are tougher than yours. Those two weren't the least of the crashes. Sometimes crazy things happen when the word Olympic is involved.
This was a short, but packed trip to Rio, and it was great to fit so much in. The Specialized team did a Specialized concept store visit in Rio. This was one of the nicest bike shops I've ever been in, and we were warmly greeted by Specialized Brazil. We had a great question and answer session. The Brazilians posed questions to the team and they said, "the loud one should go first". That loud one was me. I was dying laughing. I guess my reputation proceeds me. The Specialized Brazil crew also took us out on the town in Rio after the race which was an absolutely blast. It was great to get a local tour and experience more of the culture. The U.S team also got to go to a Brazilian Barbecue, which was definitely high on my to-do list. Here, servers bring around large cuts of deliciously barbecued meat on a stick and cut it off for you onto your plate. There's a card on the table. The green on one side means you are ready to eat. The red on the other side means you're done. If the multiple types of meat on a stick isn't enough, there was a buffet with every type of food imaginable. I felt like I ate everything from the land and sea that night, and that's because I did. I started out the evening with a server putting about twelve chicken hearts onto my plate. I had no idea what they were, but I figured it out after one. Those weren't my favorite at all. I ate a clam, a leaf of lettuce, a lobster, fried plantains, sushi, sashimi, every type of BBQ meat imaginable, and topped off with chocolate lava cake. It was awesome and delicious. It wasn't my typical pre-race meal, but it was totally worth it.
Although I didn't get to see any of the typical tourist sights, I really feel like I squeezed as much as I could out of this trip. I love it there, and I really hope to go back come next August.
Fingers and toes crossed. Let the hard work begin. Thanks for following!