World Cup #1: Maribor, Slovenia

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I have been back from Europe for nearly a week now so I have had a bit of time to reflect on my first European World Cup experience. I can't tell you how exciting it is- I have been working towards this for a long time now (racing the World Cups), so it is really like a dream come true. I was the only American girl there, so had to make 'em proud! The Frenchies, English and Aussies have been dominating the World Cups for awhile now but in the past year the US has reemerged as a serious threat on the podium!

With that said, racing the World Cups is a whole different ball game. The courses are big. The riders are fast. And the practice is short and to the point. There is no room for mistakes. I went to Slovenia with an open mind. I went there to do well, I know that I can and will do well on the World Cup circuit but I also know that it may not happen overnight and I can't get discouraged by it. I have just got to take each race as it comes, do my best and learn from them so that I can get to the level that I want to be as soon as possible.

To be perfectly honest being in Europe, abroad, was the least of my troubles. I have traveled so much from a young age that it takes a lot to phase me and make me uncomfortable in the travel department. I love traveling and it just makes me feel alive. I love the different people, food, cultures, way of life, challenges...love it.

The biggest challenge for me was being able to get up to speed with so little practice. I knew going into it that I would have one day of practice but you never quite know what that is going to feel like until your practice is up and you are like ohhh shit. At least I do now. :)

I walked the course and immediately loved it, it is totally my style of track....fast, rooty, rough and muddy. In my first practice run I think I was a little overly confident and I went into the first root section (like 30 seconds into the course I might add!) with the plan of just skimming over all the roots...because that's what I always do...that's what you have to do on roots. Well, apparently not these roots. I proceeded to land flat on my face so hard and broke my helmet. Whoooops. That was definitely a blow to the confidence as I just could not manage to relax on the roots and rocks after that...which makes them nearly impossible to ride. In a short practice like that you have just gotta stay focused and confident and that was a struggle for me. Over the course of my 5 practice runs I think I had like 5 mega stacks. I just kept feeling so much pressure to get up to speed when I was not ready to get fast on everything yet.

Despite my not so good practice, I actually felt pretty relaxed going into qualifying...not too nervous which was kind of weird for me. It was cool. I mean sitting up there at the top, watching all the girls go off, the best girls in the world, knowing that I am racing against them made me pretty freaking stoked and just made me want to ride that much harder.

In Qualis it was pissing rain and foggy. Right out of the gate there is a massive step down. That was kind of scary to hit. I could hardly see it going into it...just knew it was there and committed to it. The landing was super sketchy in the mud, my tires definitely slid like 6 inches. Scary. I was expecting it to be pretty bad when I got in the woods but it was way worse than I thought....the course deteriorated soooo much in the rain. The ruts were huge, I had never seen anything like it. Yah so my run was going ok until I went off this drop and put my front wheel into a hole and landed right on my chest. To be honest, the crash really scared me because I landed so hard on my chest and it knocked the wind out of myself and my chest just hurt. Its scary hitting your chest that hard, especially with the adrenaline because it takes awhile before you can feel if anything is seriously wrong. I laid on the ground for like 20 seconds or so and then crawled on my hands and knees to the side of the course. I just sat there for what felt like ages- I probably saw like 6 girls go by and only 2 tried the drop...both of whom almost did the same thing as me but managed to keep it together. Β I couldn't even think about riding down...in my head I was already trying to think of how I could get down but then I was like WTF Katie, get it together. Β Yah so I just coasted down the hill covered in head to toe with mud. No finals for me.

Of course I wanted to make it into the finals but to be honest I don't think I was riding strong enough at the time of qualifying to make it into the finals...who knows but I sure didn't feel like I was riding fast. With that said, I learned so much from this race and it was such a valuable experience. I can start tweaking each race, learning, until I reach my potential. It was pretty cool to watch all the girls and guys come down in the finals....pretty inspiring. It just made me even more stoked that I am finally racing the World Cups and the sky is the limit. I cannot wait for more!!!!

Yah so all in all it was a great trip. Saw lots of cool stuff, hung out with my friends, shredded on my bike, ate lots of good food...what more could a girl ask for. :)

Katie Holden