Xterra REAL Race Report: Matt Balzer

US Cup MTB Bonelli Park; April 9, 2016

May 5, 2016 Comments (0) Race Report

Fontana City National MTB

So far, 2016 has been off to a slow racing start for me with a focus on mountain bike events. My original plan was to race Xterra Asia-Pacific Champs and Xterra New Zealand in April like last year, but the slow recovery from last year’s injury set me back and though I couldn’t race the run yet, I felt great on the bike and thought it was a good opportunity to get some early season racing in.

For those of you who don’t know about my frustrating winter of recovery- I found out in early January that my fractures (turns out I had two, not just one) had not yet healed, which was surprising news since it had been 5 months, but was a good explanation for the pain I was still having. I was surprised, frustrated and concerned about how much longer it would take and after a couple of weeks thinking I would need surgery, the pelvis specialist suggested I use an ultrasound bone stimulator. He thought this was a better option because it was only a 6 week process, non-invasive and 90% effective. The surgery option was not much of an option because it would be a major procedure requiring a bone graft and a very long healing period. So for 6 weeks I used this bone stimulator for 20 minutes on each fracture site and on March 1st, my X-Rays showed new bone growth and I was declared healthy and cleared for full training! So from December until March, I had been swimming and biking without restriction, but finally I could start running again. I knew it would be a slow process because 7 months is a LONG time to not run when you’ve been a runner your whole life, but I didn’t think it would be as hard as it really is! Thankfully, I’ve never had a major injury and taken that much time off, but now that I’ve had to start from complete scratch I understand why non runners find it so hard to start running!

So running is a work in progress, but back to the mountain bike racing…

On the start line

On the start line

Everyone has been asking me why I raced Cat 1 instead of Pro. To be honest, I felt like it was the right thing to do since I hadn’t done any mountain bike racing last year and rather than trying to use my pro triathlon status to bypass the upgrade process I wanted to earn it fair and square. So even though I felt like I should be in the pro race, I lined up with the Cat 1’s with the objective of finishing in the top 3 to earn the necessary upgrade points. It felt so good to be nervous for a race again, since it had been 9 months since my last race! I had no idea who was fast or where I stood in comparison to the other women around me like I usually do- all I knew was that I wanted to race hard and win (or finish top 3 at the worst). I was definitely a bit nervous about the course in Fontana because my course preview ride was cut short with a torn sidewall the night before. About a mile into the race, the course takes you off the dirt and onto a paved road climb before continuing the climb on rocky singletrack. I was riding comfortably hard and gravitated to the head of the race, so I figured I might as well take advantage of having the trail to myself and not risk getting caught behind someone who might bobble in the technical spots. So I put in a little extra effort to create a gap and enjoyed the luxury of taking the technical areas at my own pace and wasn’t stressed about having anyone on my wheel. It turned out to be a great move because aside from passing some of the men who started before me, I didn’t have anyone to worry about. On the last lap, I felt like I may have started too fast because I was hurting pretty bad, but was confident that I could maintain my position if I stayed upright and kept forward progress! It turns out that I had more than enough cushion and won easily. Mission accomplished.

The start

The start

A few hours after my race, the pros had their turn and I took to the feed zone to support Kara with hydration and mechanical support if needed. It felt a little awkward being in the pit instead of in the race, but it was kinda fun watching the top riders battle it out head to head. Kara had a rough start but soldiered on like a champ and accomplished her goals in her first Pro XC race so I was happy to help in her mission too.

On Sunday, I decided to race the Pro Short Track since it was open to all. It was a 15 minute +3 lap race (each lap was only a couple minutes) and I had to start at the back of the field. There was a crash in the first couple of corners that I got caught behind so the race for me was all about making up as much time as possible to avoid getting pulled. I rode as hard as I possibly could and made up a lot of ground and when I made it through the 15 mins I thought that meant I’d be able to finish. Unfortunately, after the next lap (with just 2 to go) I got pulled. I was disappointed and frustrated because although I was a ways off the front pack, I was in 9th and not really in danger of getting caught by the leaders. It was a good, high intensity, all out effort nonetheless and had a solid 17 minutes of fun!

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