My three week road trip started with a trip back to good old Hardwood Hills for the third stop on the Canada Cup series tour in Barrie, Ontario, which is about an hour north of Toronto. Weather was cool on arrival and quickly deteriorated to major showers for the first few days of the weekend. I was staying with my friend Tara Ross Read more
The men’s champion breaks through, while the women’s titlist proves her dominance
By Fred Guzman
Special to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Monday, October 24, 2005
MAKENA, Maui >> Under heavily overcast skies, it was a bright afternoon in the lives of two competitors in the off-road Nissan Xterra World Championships yesterday.
For one, Nicolas LeBrun of France, it marked the end of frustrating close calls. For the other, Melanie McQuaid of Canada, it was a signal that she has become the most dominant performer in an extreme sport requiring athletes to compete in a 1,500-meter ocean swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run.
If you only have one race per year to travel to, make it the Xterra in Italy. This race, which is on the island of Sardinia and the village of Villacidro, is the best race experience this year, and probably the best race experience ever for me, Maui 2003 included. I can?t actually say enough about how great the people in Sardinia are, how amazing the fans were, how beautiful the course was, or how great the parties before and after the race were. It was everything that Xterra is about, family, fun and excitement. Winning the race also helped me to appreciate this venue, but I won because I was just so happy to be there. It is a great confidence boost because I believe the course is a lot like the race on Maui and I had a convincing win, with all of the best girls there. I stayed with Roberta Pittaus family, and they were so warm, generous and friendly I felt like I was the new blonde sister of Roberta. It was really, really cool. My week in Sardinia was amazing, the race went really well, and the story is to follow?.. Read more
Ah, back to the land of paranoid customs officers and the joy of starbucks, my first trip to Washington and the weather is thus far cooperating, even if my customs guy really was not… I did get into the country but not without a lot of exhausting interrogation and form filling. I holed up in a coma for 10 hours to recover, and now sit in the coffee shop planning my next steps. With the flag flying half mast as a reminder of the loss of one of America’s presidents, my heart was still happy to be back in North America, even if it is only my part time home I was returning to……
The Sea Otter Classic has finished, and our team had some highlights and lowlights to color the weekend. The race was held in Monterey, and for most of the weekend it was cool but sunny, perfect mountain bike racing weather!
All three of us raced, myself, Dara Marks-Marino and LIsa Matlock. The race had four stages, ie four individual races all of which counted towards an overall GC…. stage racing!
The race opened with a new stage, the Super XC, which was a circuit race with a lot of paved road and a small bit of gravelly singletrack. The race was to go for 75minutes, so we didn’t know how many laps we would do at the beginning. It was pretty windy, so it meant the race was a bit negative because it was very difficult to get away from the group with all the wind. It was somewhat flat-ish as well, so hard to make moves. The group came in as about 25, and I had a good sprint and finished 3rd (first team podium of the weekend!) and Dara came in 16th.
The next stage was the time trial, which was 6 miles on a new course. It was a lot of downhill and then a big wide open fire road climb basically to the finish. I raced as hard as I could despite feeling a bit off, and ended up rolling in 8th, and my teammate Dara was within seconds of me (we were actually all within seconds in the top 10) and she took 10th, and moved into 10th overall while I was in 6th at this stage.
The short track was on Saturday, a 20minute criterium offroad… this is the exciting spectator day as tons of people were there to watch. It was very cool. I wanted to erase some time from my disappointing time trial and attacked very hard to make a break go, and it did. It was like deja vu of last year as I was in a small group with two Luna girls, Alison Dunlap and Katerina Hanusova, and the two of them worked me over with team tactics and I got outsprinted to the final critical turn again, and took second. We had a good gap on the field which achieved my goal and I moved into third overall. Dara finished with the group and remained in the top 10.
So the final day was the cross country, two giant loops on a new-ish course. I was very focussed and went hard on the start to make sure I made the initial selection, but very early in the race I knew I was in trouble. I had no legs at all, and for a lap I fought to stay with the leaders where I knew I belonged.. but after an hour and a half of racing I was shivering with cold while RACING . I was having real trouble at that point and decided not to risk anything and I cut my losses and had to retire from the race. Dara was racing quite well until a mechanical sidelined her and dropped her just out of the top 10, but a good showing regardless.
So two podiums for the team in a world class field. A disappointing finish but it looks like all is in order for the big races coming up in Europe. Next stop for the team is Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico, a road stage race, then the team will go to Sonoma for the second NORBA stop.
Thanks so much go to my support people. Most importantly to my coach Houshang Amiri of the Pacificsport National Cycling Center. I would also like to thank Ford Motor Company, Ford Cycling (www.quickrelease.com), K2 Bicycles, Saucony, Maxxis, Compex, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano, Giro, Powerbar, Descente, Rider’s Cycles, Arq Salon, Pacificsport, and Deuter.