NMBS #2 – NOVA Stage Race Arizona

Tenth is much better than twentieth… but it came at the expense of the entire contingent of talented Canadian women mountain bikers. I am SO sorry for stealing your points girls… there was a non-Canadian right behind me! The cross country was a tough race to keep tires inflated… so there was quite a bit of carnage in Sunday’s race. Not me, choosing the Maxxis Larson TT UST and Crossmark UST tires seemed to work very well. My problems all happened BEFORE the race and were handily solved by the time the gun went off. Read on for the story of Mel’s weekend…

The cross country event was the third stage at the NOVA Stage Race, an event held at McDowell Mountain Park near Fountain Hills, Arizona. The race featured a super D (downhill-ish time trial), a short track criterium event and a cross country. It was the best thing possible for me. Get boot smacked for three straight days on flat and fast trails so that by the end of it, I could almost ride pretty fast. Thanks to Ross for giving me a butt kicking through the telephone… without him, and my homestay buddies Debi and Kevin, I might have continued to ride around making excuses for why I am not fast rather than just giving it everything I have to try and get faster. I always start the season a bit intimidated by the mountain bike girls because I train so differently now. I start with less confidence and struggle a bit to get back on track so I am lucky to have friends that call me on it and set me straight!

The week in Arizona went by very quickly. I had five swims planned, a long ride, a couple not too tough interval sessions, three runs and three stages of the race. I did a fun ride on Red Mountain with Kevin and got lots of photos of the gorgeous blooming cactus and flowers, which were giving me a sore throat as if I was going to get sick, but  really wasn’t sick only scratchy. The flowers are very nice to look at but are horrible to breathe. We got some fun video on that trail and lots of photos. Throughout the week I was super busy so before I knew it I was already lined up for a time trial downhill.

My bike was perfect for the Super D since it was pretty much a downhill road with very few bumps so hammering a BMC Team Elite 01 hard tail was going to be ideal. Unfortunately, I had a limited ability to turn over a large gear so when the course tipped slightly uphill to come into the finish I promptly blew to the moon. I saw a rattle snake, a rabbit and a bunch of lizards on the course. All the critters come out at night. My 30 second person nearly caught me and everything I had netted me 21st place. Georgia Gould is AMAZING right now. She took a little over a minute out of me in 20 mins. Seriously, that is cool. Plus her Luna team mate Katerina Nash was awesome in second and Wendy Simms, who is our Canadian super champion cross racer/Olympic mountain bike team hopeful took third. Also notably awesome again this weekend was Mical Dyck, a younger girl on the circuit who has won the Canada Cup mountain bike series was fifth. To fill out the roster of Canadian awesome that was at this race (Note: I didn’t check results before writing last week’s report so I couldn’t mention all of these people. Had to get the report done so Ross and I could chillax for a couple days but this week, I have the results!) so Canadians included Wendy 3rd, Mical 5thth, Emily Batty 19th, Catherine Vipond 20th, Me 21st , Catherine Pendrel 29th and Amanda Sin was 31st.

The short track ended up being a cyclo-crosser special. A short uphill became pretty much unrideable by the time every other category had gone through so we were treated to a little run up on every lap. I was okay but not great in this regard but what I was suffering with was riding a false flat into the wind. I am pretty sure I forgot to train to push hard on flat terrain this winter because I am suffering at this point VERY hard in the flats. Good thing I am here. At one point I tried to flog myself to do some work at the front of a small group I was in that included about 14-20th place. I kept pulling to make sure I was working as hard as I could. I pulled off and wanted to stay on second wheel and this small girl to my right was charging up and getting ready to push me off. I said something catty like “if you aren’t going to pull then at least give me that wheel” or something like that which I am not proud of and it turns out it is Emily Batty, this 19 year old Canadian girl who is just killing it right now at these US events. I felt like the biggest poo in the world.. I mean, who can be bitchy to someone 19?? Honestly, sometimes you really are not thinking when you are racing. I felt like such a loser after that plus I was blowing up so I went to the back. When we all wound up for the finish, I just let them go. That was one of the lamest races I have ever raced in my life. I was bitchy AND I gave up at the finish. I needed to sort my stuff out for the final event. Katerina Nash won her second short track with Georgia Gould in second and one time XTERRA girl Dellys Star in third. Wendy was fourth, Catherine 7th, Mical 9th, Emily 14th, Catherine Vipond 18th, me 20th, and Amanda Sin was 28th.

So the cross country was going to be a short-ish race so it was perfect XTERRA style mountain biking. The day was sunny, I had my feed zone chick Debi and my own videographer Kevin who was going to get some photographic evidence of the suffering about to take place.

Debi was ready, but was I?

I warmed up on my hot new Powertap mountain bike wheel and realized my shifting was a bit shifty. Upon closer examination I realized I had twisted my chain something awful. Warm-up was discontinued and I realized we had less than 15 minutes from the start of the race.

Justin and Chad looking into making my bike work again

So I haul ass back to the Shimano tent and say something like, “Do you have a chain un-twisting tool?” Justin and Chad looked at my bike and determined that nothing short of a last minute chain replacement were going to work. They had already called the top five to the line and I think I was called about about 12th so I was somewhat screwed. They sent me off and assured me I would have a bike delivered. I had already been called up when I went running to the line so I was weaving my way up, sans bike, to the second row to go begin my apparent duathlon. It was kind of funny actually, the team staff were standing in front of all of us were snickering and joking around, “Extra training Mel? Are you sure you know what this event is?” Very funny. Luckily, Shimano is the number one best company in the world for all things parts related including last minute chain replacements so right before the anthem was about to be played my BMC baby was heaved over the fence to me. I had two minutes to wash away some pre race stress and focus on the bottleneck that we were about to encounter.

Missing something?

Personal bike delivery

When the gun went off, sure enough a cluster ensued. Katerina Nash went down in an insane ragdoll crash that looked AWFUL! I didn’t have my elbows up and got pushed back to about 20th (there is a theme here). As we rode through the single track I took opportunities to pass if available but didn’t take any risks really. Here was my flawed logic for the race – since I have shown limited form I should be conservative to make sure I get through as well as possible. Well the problem in this race is when you lose time, pretty much it is gone. That said, at one point Katerina came CHARGING past me in all of the roughage on the side of the trail to get herself back to second. That is how you DON’T lose time. A good reminder for me but nevertheless, I raced my race.

Lined up with little room to pass – I’m fifth in this line but honestly, I wasn’t gapping

The fastest riders are making few mistakes and wasting little time. At one point, I was riding behind Emily Batty, who like I said is going amazing and in front of her someone made a dumb mistake on a rocky climb and came off their bike. We were in a train of about 12 riders led by the two Gary Fisher girls Willow and Heather so because of this pile up, the whole group ended up splintering. Emily was in front of me so despite the fact I was feeling good and thought I could help close the gap, she would have had to let me by because passing in that section was sketchy due to high speed, cactus and sharp rocks. This was where we saw a majority of the flats, in fact, and I just chose to stay behind – but not without asking if she wanted me to help! That gap stayed, unfortunately.

Jenna Zander and I rode around Emily on one of the climbs and then stayed together the entire race. We could see Monique Sawicki in front of us but we were mostly just keeping the gap the same, not closing. Jenna rode a super race hurting me so badly on all of the flat sections, which was pretty much every minute of the race. The only time I felt okay and could come around was climbing and really, there wasn’t much climbing. We worked together until the end of the race where she surged to the finish and gapped me. Once I was off her wheel I lost time that I could never get back. But it was great to feel like I was racing my absolute hardest, which I was, and it was boatloads of fun. Lots of fun and a top ten place. BETTER. Unfortunately for the Canadians, I passed Wendy, who flatted and DNF’d, Catherine Pendrel flatted took 34th, Mical Dyck flatted and took 24th, and Emily flat 38th. Amanda Sin was in 12th right behind me and Catherine Vipond was 33rd. Georgia won the race with her Luna teammate Katerina hauling herself back to second and Dellys was third.




I haven’t finished too many mountain bike races averaging 26+ km/h. Usually they average around 15-16 km/h because of steep hills and technical sections whereas this one is a high speed roller coaster. With my new Powertap mountain bike hub on my bike I got this information. My power ended up being about 221 watt average but I have the receiver set to include the zeroes which I need to change. There is so much single track and coasting that a better number would be that where the zeroes are not included. All of my big power surges are being eroded by downhills, or something like that, ha!

After all the racing fun I strapped on my Saucony Hurricanes and hacked out a 30 minute transition run in the desert with all the snakes and lizards. Once that was over, and I was pretty happy it was over, I then did a spin home for about an hour. When I got there I drank about five tall glasses of water mixed with raspberry Gu2O because I was insanely parched and then topped it off with a lemonade ice popsicle which was pretty much the most delicious thing I had ever tasted at that moment. We went over to Kevin and Debi’s friends house, Mark and Christie, to splash in their beautiful lap pool and chill out in the sunshine. I gave some impromptu swim technique lessons from my lounge position beside the pool. Life is good!

Post race swim practice in Mark and Christie’s SWEET pool!

Lazy Melanie coaching from the hot tub and enjoying the last rays of sunshine for awhile

Thank you so much to my sponsors who have made it possible for me to hit the road again this year. Shoutouts to Nature’s Path foods and BMC bicycles first… we are heading towards a great season. Thanks to Shimano wheels, components and shoes, Fox Racing Shox, Maxxis tires, Titec carbon components, Profile Design wetsuits, Lazer Helmets (do you like the custom Mel Canadian motif?), Fi’zi:k saddles, Gu Sports energy, Sundog Eyewear, Pactimo Clothing (it is SO great!!), Saris Cycling and Powertap, Saucony, Usana Health Sciences, Genuine Innovations inflations (luckily I did not need them) and Tyr for their enthusiasm towards the 2008 season. Exciting times up ahead.

The next day I had a three leg trip back to Victoria. We got back and stopped at our buddies Murray and Kirsten’s to catch up before going back to our house where Ross had a wonderful surprise for me. Our friend Charlie, of www.gabrielblastedglass.com, had finished the railing for our stairs. How freaking gorgeous is this, seriously? He is so talented.


So a whole four days before I leave again. Next up, the Whidbey Island marathon (I will run the HALF and not that fast!) with my friends at Nature’s Path followed by the Sea Otter Classic. Stay tuned.



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