Ali’s Race Journal: Mont Sainte Anne DH World Cup

Mont Sainte Anne World Cup

Words: Alison Zimmer
Photos: Erik Timmerman

Tuesday & Wednesday- Teammate Dylan Conte and I pulled out of Stowe, VT heading North. We drove until around midnight, then crashed in the van. The morning was bright, and after a quick breakfast, finished our journey North. We passed Quebec City, driving along the vast St. Lawrence, with waterfalls and huge churches on the other side of the river. Dylan was impressed with the size of the mountain, which towers over the lowlands around it and is picturesque.

We took it all in for a few hours, then walked the course. From the wooden roller start, this course is serious DH’ing! After the first corner, the initial woods lead to the new section of the course, which last year was a straight, fast grassy open section in which riders would exceed 50mph! This year newly worked dirt, a rock garden, a couple of hip jumps, numerous rocky water bars that you had to jump, and then a high speed double (which rumor has it even Greg Minnaar cased!) lead us to the traditional track. While walking, the new section looked dry and do-able. A small rock drop, a few berms, to the traditional fast wood section, the MSA bridge off to another rock garden, super fast open section, to luge woods (way more sketchy than video portrays…) to super fast open loose gravel steep chunder, to the under the gondola motor way including a high speed entry hip, the classic high speed MSA drops and berms, the jump on/off bridge and new 30 foot double leading you into the rock garden and classic techy finish; including the T-box drop, and a huge finish line kicker. Whew… just walking it is enough to make your head spin!

Thursday morning practice- I meet up with friend, fellow DH ripper, and MSA first timer Rae Gandolf, and trained with her for the next couple of days. It was great to have someone to ride with, and I was confident enough in myself to lead us for the duration of training. It was really awesome to recognize improved confidence in myself as a rider compared to last year.

First run down, all was going well. However, as I was coming into the fast motorway hip, I had a moment of self doubt and decided to go around… but I was going too fast. My rear break seized, I fish-tailed, and went down slapping the back of my head/helmet onto 2 planks that were stacked just beyond the tape. A few stars and flashes were enough to startle me, yet after a short minute to assess myself, it was back on the bike and to the lift. By the time we were there I had what seemed like an ocular migraine, although not uncommon to me, not something you can ride with as it affects vision significantly. By the time we reached the top of the lift the symptoms had abated. I attacked the course in my typical somewhat conservative way over the next 4 runs, with the last 2 in the rain. Although not psyched with the crash, overall it was a good day of riding! One interesting point that I learned this weekend is that the top riders have a big advantage as they get significantly more practice (3+ hours over the course of the weekend in the timed practice and A practice) than those of us who are just good enough to be there. Not fair!

Friday- Morning practice was super sloppy after a ton of rain the night before. The new section up high was particularly treacherous, and the rock garden was getting caked with mud. On one of the runs I passed a downed rider in a high speed zone, hurt and huddled up just off the course. People were getting beat up left and right. My chain slipped off the chain guide, and by the time I found help fixing it and went back to the lift, they would not let me on, practice closed…I was counting on another run.

Saturday qualifying- 34 women did qualifying runs, a few of the 41 entered were injured or did not show up to the event, and a few more were injured in training. My first run was not going well, the top of the course and my riding were both sloppy. However when I was finally in my flow in the motor way I was red flagged….it was damn confusing actually. The people waving flags were way off the course, and it took me a few moments to understand what was going on. By the time I slowed down I could see the downed rider in the berm with a marshal, well out of the way. I rode by cautiously, well out of the way, and continued my run, knowing another was in store.

My second run did not happen until all the pro men had torn up the deteriorating track and a rain event affected the upper mountain. I crashed hard in a rocky mud berm early on the course, going out of the tape, spraining my thumb, and ending up at the base of a jump unable to start. I had to walk over the jump and lost a ton of time. The conditions were the worst they had been by far. I rode conservatively trying to just stay on my bike. The end of the rock garden took me again, and I crashed into a rock, knocking the wind out of myself and gasping on the edge of the trail until I could ride out. So much time lost, but I finished my run, and took the experience as one that will make me a stronger rider. 26th in qualifying would not allow me to race finals. At that moment, I was kind of happy I would not have to ride that crazy course again. However, the next day when the track dried out and I was watching the race runs, I realized a deep desire to be ripping down it! On to Windham, NY this weekend…

-AZ

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