Coming into Whistler there was a lot of questions I was hoping to find the answers to. Having been away for the last three rounds of the EWS, the most important question was, where would my speed lie? Would I be fighting for consistency and mid pack results or would I be able to get back into the mix and start to battle again?
Flying over from New Zealand I was able to have the whole Team Leov support with me this time which was great. Traveling on a 13 hour flight from Auckland to Vancouver was the first possible challenge with two small children, however it went like a breeze and we made it to Canada in good spirits.
Coming in early meant there was plenty of time to go for some rides around whistler and dial in my bike. I changed a lot in setup for this race as the bike park was so rough. The biggest of the changes was the suspension. For the first time I tried a coil shock and loved it straight away here. As practice on the stages progressed the steepness and roughness would also see me jump up to the 180mm travel on my Lyrik. There also had to be a strategy for race day as I wanted to increase the pressure in my tires before the last stage and through the day of racing we could only use the technical support once so it was important to not need it until after stage 4.
Race day was a bloody hot day you could feel on the climbs the heat radiating inside your helmet. I have to thank the EWS and Crankworx here for making sure there was plenty of water on the stage finishes before the liaisons. Not all races we have done have had this support and as a racer it made a tough race a lot easier on the body. I was also finding the climbs a lot easier on the new SRAM Eagle, being a sceptic about needing 12 speed I was convinced on the first climb, as I could continue to spin and keep my heart rate in a comfortable 130-135 range in the 30 plus heat.
With long and rough stages in practice I had been fighting a bit of arm pump. Without any racing lately I knew I would be having to hold on in a few sections for the race, but I hoped to be able to ride through it as much as possible. Stage 1 and 2 was the worst and for the last third of the courses I had to settle for just getting down. Stages 3 and 4 were shorter and easier on the arms and stage 5 was laid out in a way you got a good few minutes of high speed where you could rest your arms for the final sections.
I was happy to race clean all day. Although I had to back off the pace a little due to fading, I was happy with my lines and how I managed to take some risks. My course approach was helped this weekend by Fabien Barel who was over to race with the team. We viewed and discussed line options with our Go Pro footage, this helped me to learn the sections I would usually have forgotten. It's interesting the different approach to the courses between riders and we all have our strengths and weakness so to learn a few things from a legend was great.
Finishing off the weekend with a solid 10th place finish was an awesome come back race and one I am proud of. It means I'm back on the right direction after being sick and having to start again. I definitely found the areas I can work on for the next round. My speed is close to where I want it to be and my head is in a good place but the most important aspect is that I have a really good feeling on my bike.
A big Thank you to my team, Canyon and to adidas Sport eyewear for being so supportive and pulling this diary together for me.
Another big Thank you to my team mechanic Larry for keeping my bike running like a dream all week. With all the changes I made it was a lot of work, but he took it in his stride and kept it pristine all week!