The pressure, the nerves, and the anxiety going into this race had been building since Baie-Saint-Paul. A good race there, being the top U23, and the confidence from my season so far had placed myself as a favourite. I do not enjoy not living up to these expectations. I do not enjoy feeling like I lost control. I do not like to follow – I’d rather lead.
The weight of the race and the determination I had to get that jersey was weighing heavy on my shoulders. During the days leading in, I felt confident. I felt like it should be just any other race – I could win. The warm up told me otherwise. Heavy legs, heavy heart, head spinning – I couldn’t pull myself together. Factors I could not control weighed heavy on me. I thought I would just make the best of it, assuming making the best of it would mean I would drop the other riders a lap or two in, instead of off the start.
The start – boxed in – legs screaming at me, my mind racing as I was in a terrible start position. I would recover from this for sure. Not an issue for Peter Disera to come back from a bad start – but not today. Getting back to the lead of the race, my heart rate was maxed out. My legs were cooked. They refused to turn. My lungs were shallow. My heart rate was really high. The brutal pace continued as the three riders: Marc-Antoine Nadon, Alexander Ville and I, pushed each other’s buttons and tested each other’s legs. I was on the brink. I was not in control. My mind was racing. I couldn’t race ‘normally’, as I was on the defensive, not the offensive putting the hurt on everyone else. Heading into the third lap, the pace was not letting up. I kept my cards close to my chest as to not let the other riders know I was at the limit. However, I was chasing on, closing gaps on the downhill(s), loosing time on the up-hills, and getting really frustrated. My race was going to shit – even though I was sill in contention.
Mentally I wanted to cry. I wanted to give up. I was not having a fun day on the bike. It wasn’t because I wasn’t winning, it was because I just felt so off, and I couldn’t get my head in the game. I needed the tides to turn, but they wouldn’t. I don’t want to make excuses; I have none. It was a bad day on every front except for equipment. My Norco Revolver Full Suspension with Kenda Karmas was the best. It was awesome and I slayed (when gravity wasn’t working against me). I remember yelling at myself “what are you doing? Go faster!” but I couldn’t. I tried to remain as positive as I could but I was slipping darker and darker.
Upon finishing a very respectable second place I was met by Angry Johnny. I just looked at him and said I need out, I need away, I need to be alone. A quick and meaningful congrats to the new national champion: Alexander Ville, and I was off. I made my through the crowd to be alone as I was about to explode. All of the pain, self-anger and disappointment was released. It was the worst mental performance of my life, and I am determined to make sure it’s the last. Yes I understand second at nationals is still very good and I am happy. However, this is also the first time a Canadian U23 has beat me this year. I had my ‘off’ race at the second worst possible time (first would be Worlds).
Regardless of the pain, anger, and upset on that day, I’ll live.
The following day at the national relay we had a quick sub since Quinton Disera was out with an injury from the day before. Malcolm Barton gave it his all, and I mean his all! It was incredible and huge shout out to that guy! Myself, well I started for the relay. Medium start, actually quite bad, but I came back. And today, of all days, it seemed I had legs to turn the crank around. I came through in 3rd with the other two just in front. Haley Smith and Evan McNeely tied off the Norco Factory Team relay team and demolished. We hit that last podium spot for the first time in three years I think. Maybe next year we can step it up a spot or two!
St-Felicien always puts on a good show. The steep climbs, hearty descents and rock/roots make it a world cup worthy course (which it was, well before my time). Looking forward to next year already! Baie-St-Paul should be a blast! Looking ahead though, Mont Ste Anne is up next and I can’t wait!
Photos: Miss Hans Clarke