Tracy Moseley needs no introduction – when it comes to racing she has done it all… National Champ, World Cup Champ, World Champ (all in downhill) and lets not forget that she is the current Enduro World Champ too. Here is part 3 of her monthly Pro Diary for Dirt…
Photo: Matt Wragg/EWS, and ‘various’.
Preparation for the EWS race in Crested Butte had been on my mind for months. Earlier in the season I wasn’t sure that I would even travel to the North American rounds as I hadn’t been feeling 100% at the start of the year. I was worried that two weekends of racing back to back with one of them being at over 3000m of elevation would be too much for my body. However I had been feeling back to normal throughout June and July, and now leading the series I really had no good reason not to go.
I chatted to my coach about the best approach for this altitude and we made a plan to try and stay as high as possible whilst I was out in Europe the month or so before this race. Most of the time whilst in the Alps we were above 1200m and on a few occasions we drove the camper up to the top of a few passes and slept at over 2000m, all to try and help acclimatise a little for the trip to Crested Butte.
Many people chose to fly straight from the last EWS race in Samoens, directly to Crested Butte to have an extra week there before the race to help adapt. I however just wanted a few days at home having been on the road for six weeks. I felt like that would be better in the long run for my sanity and body just to have a few days to regroup, catch up with family and friends, feed the cat and head off again for another three weeks on the road. However in hindsight that probably wasn’t the best plan, as a limited time at home just meant a crazy few days cramming in as much stuff as possible, a few short intense training sessions, a coaching session with the kids at my local club and a few hours weeding the herb garden that had become a little overgrown!
I spent the first few days in Grand Junction, a small town four hours west of Denver, before heading up to Crested Butte. There is great riding close to town, it was at 1500m of elevation, so a good stepping stone from my home at 100m and Crested Butte at 2700m!
James (Richards, partner) and I spent three days enjoying the cool little town, the 40º heat and a couple of fun rides in the area on and off-road. I always forget just how dry and loose the riding is in Colorado and it was good just to have an easy ride to get a feel for riding again. Finally we arrived into Crested Butte on Tuesday evening and I felt excited to be there and fresh and ready to ride.
The race stages were announced on Wednesday morning at 8am and from then on my relaxed, rested state was over! It was into full-on race mode with my team mates Justin Leov and Rene Wildhaber chomping at the bit ready to go and practice as many stages as we could. This race was always going to be a bit different as the stages were spread across a huge area and each day was a big day out and not always easy to find, get to, and ride if you weren’t familiar with the area or didn’t have a 4×4 to access some of the dirt roads. I decided to not try and ride too much as I already felt the affects of being at over 3000m on the first day. I really struggled as soon as we climbed any small gradient and I just hoped that I would feel better each day as my body adapted to life without oxygen.
Thursday was official practice day and we set off at 7.30am to try and be finished early enough to have chance to recover before day one of racing began. Five hours later we got back to where we started and I was ruined. The first hour was OK as we slowly climbed up the valley on a gradual fire road, but the next 1.5hrs involved some riding and mainly pushing as we climbed up to 3500m to the start of Stage 3. I started to realise that I was going to struggle. Another 1.5hr transition of pushing and carrying finally got me to the top of stage 4. I had been through a fair few emotions on that transition as my head started to pound, I was running out of food and water and the boys who I can normally stick with when practicing just walked away from me as I found myself with just one pace, and it was slow. Just focusing on getting one foot in front of the other and keep moving was the only way I knew I would get back to where we started. Fortunately after a short break at the start of stage 4, I felt a little better and loved riding the stage, it was for sure going to be my favourite of the weekend.
Day one of racing started with an hour drive in a van to get us out into the trails, we jumped out of the shuttle and straight away crossed a river, so I decided to take off my socks and shoes and at least start the day with dry feet. The first climb wasn’t too bad, around 45mins of super steady pedalling. Day one was going to be blind racing for me, so I tried to pace the stage. I knew it was around 17mins long and had a 1–2min climb just from talking to people who had ridden it. The trails were just so fast and straight a lot of the time they it almost didn’t seem like you needed to pedal, or could pedal as your were nearly always in a rut that could catch your pedal at any moment.
I felt like I had rode OK, I paced the climb completely wrong, as I expected it to go on for longer, but otherwise I felt like I had ridden well, but I was in fifth place around 30secs off Anneke Beerten. The transition to stage 2 I knew was long as they had given us 3.5hrs to get there. I thought I would have loads of time, but I quickly realised it was going to be a long day for me… I just had no energy, I felt dizzy and uncoordinated and just not myself. I walked and struggled to push my bike and only just made the transition to stage 2 with around 5 mins to spare. Racing in that state was not fun as I just felt unsafe on my bike. Again I rode the trail blind and had so many scary moments that I was just relieved to finish the day. I ended the day in fifth and just had to hope that I would feel better the next day.
Sadly my hope quickly faded as I found myself at the back of the women’s field again on day 2 and slowly got passed by everyone on the long push. I just felt horrible, but thankfully I had time before the start of stage 3 this time and I hoped that a good rest and some food may help me ride better and claw back some time. However when I arrived at the top of the pass there were still loads of people, and I was told there had been a crash and there was a delay. If I am honest I was so out of it and feeling so awful that it took a while before I realised that it was more than just a crash. This was serious and the next hour as we waited for more information will be an hour I don’t think I will ever forget.
News began to circulate that there had been a serious crash and the rider had been unconscious for some time, first aid and CPR were being administered but the whispers were that it had not been successful. Finally a helicopter arrived and I felt positive that they could be taken away and saved, but soon after we were told the day had been cancelled and we were to make our way back down the way we had climbed. I was still feeling pretty awful and the reality of what I thought had just happened did not really sink in until later when it was confirmed that a rider had died on stage 3. Racing bikes has been my life for the last 20 years and although I know there is a risk and it’s a dangerous sport, you never consider that it may be your last ride…
It was such a sad day for our sport, the organisation, who I know were so excited to be hosting an EWS race, and for the whole mountain bike community. I think the organisers made the right decision and the race was cancelled and we all meet up for a memorial ride in memory of Will Olson the following day. Over 200 riders rode a 1.5hr loop on trails around Crested Butte. It was one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen just seeing a line of riders on the trail ahead as far as I could see. A very special moment and one that I think brought everyone together and united in their love for our sport and showed us all that there is a much bigger picture out there beyond bike racing.
I was feeling worse each day and was keen to get to lower elevation as soon as possible, so we left on Sunday night and I felt better as soon as got back down to Grand Junction. Monday afternoon we were up in Whistler. I felt so much better already, but it took a few steady rides for my body to really come around and thankfully by Wednesday I felt good, and did a nice XC ride and some runs of Stage 5 in the Bike Park in the pouring rain. It felt so good to be in the rain and able to breathe, I was loving life again.
I decided to take Thursday off completely just to be sure my body had a chance to recover fully and be ready for a big weekend. Friday we could practice the stages outside of the Bike Park and I rode with Justin and Rene and had a big day doing two runs on stages 1, 2 and 3. I really enjoyed the trails, super physical and technical and no chance to rest in any of them. By the end of Friday I was tired, but I then only had to practice Stage 4 on Saturday so I finished by lunchtime on Saturday and could rest up for Sunday.
All week the weather had been looking ominous for the weekend and right on cue on Saturday afternoon it started raining. Fortunately by race morning it had stopped and we had a great day for racing, but the damage had been done. It was just enough rain to turn the millions of roots in Whistler’s trails to ice and the inconsistency of grip and no grip was the theme of the day. Finding the right pace was so hard, I either felt like I was going too slow and cautious and riding tense, or I would get a bit too loose and crash. I somehow managed to keep the crashes to just stage 2 and had just enough pace to edge out Cecile Ravanel for the win. Great to see Isabeau Courdurier on her first EWS podium too. It feels so good to get a win at Whistler, it’s such an iconic place and I think one of the most technical enduros of the year, so it’s a special one to win.
Now I get a few weeks to be at home and refocus ahead of the final 2 rounds of the EWS in Spain and Italy in six weeks time.