Colombia

Colombia. Not gonna lie, I was a bit nervous coming here...Colombia has gotten a bad wrap over the years for drug problems, kidnapping and violence. But I will tell you right now, Colombia is not the place that the rest of the world makes it out to be. It is beautiful, safe and the people are so friendly. I never once felt unsafe or unwelcome, quite the opposite actually. I am so happy I got a chance to make my own opinion about Colombia after hearing so much negativity over the years.

Anyway, I came here with some work to do. As the reigning Pan American champion I was not about to let my title slip away from me easily. With that said, I had to dig deep this weekend- I knew as soon as I saw the track that it was going to be tough for me. Not every track suits your strengths, part of racing is dealing with your weaknesses...we race what is handed to us, some tracks suit individual strengths, some don’t. A true competitor is able to overcome what is put in front of them on the given day...

The track was around 3.5 minutes...the top bit had some jumps, a few loose corners and some chutes that were so hard packed they were shiny...then the track totally flattened out, to the point of almost being uphill with a ton of small jumps along the way...that flat section was about 70-80 seconds...at 8500 ft....with a little gravity these jumps would be a piece of cake but because it was so freaking flat in order to make a jump you had to sprint your guts out and even then they were hard to clear- if you didn’t make the transition perfectly, which was hard given the circumstances, it sucked up even more energy in the bad landing as your suspension compressed and you lost momentum...I had so much trouble with these little jumps that it really messed with my confidence. This section is where the race was won or lost. I have hit wayyyyy bigger jumps with ease but the fact that I was having so much trouble with these tiny jumps really messed with my head...even though I knew the bigger jumps on the course would be way easier (which they were- much, much easier)...it is scary to go into big jumps when you are casing the shit out of tiny 10 ft jumps and gasping for air. Anyway from that flat section the course dropped down into some fun and flowy stuff, super straightforward, not technical by any means but fun nonetheless. Even though that part was fun...the general lack of flow on the course was a buzz kill, I can find flow in just about any track, not this one.

I really let my lack of confidence get to me on this track. I tried to power through it because I wanted to take the title for a second year in a row so bad, unfortunately that lack of confidence came back to bite me in the butt. You can’t fake confidence, at least I can’t. In downhill, the slightest bit of unconfident means hesitation and hesitation means devastation. I rode the course, I hit all of the jumps but I was not 100% confident in doing so.

My first timed run was ok...or not, it was the first time I was actually feeling confident on the course. After hitting the first few jumps and corners I managed to settle into a rhythm and relax. All was going good until I got to the flat bit...I had overshot some of the bigger jumps up top a bit so I decided to back off a bit...I pedaled for the first jump on the flat section, positive my speed was spot on...it wasn’t. I was so sure I was going to make it I did not see the crash coming at all. I pretty much 50/50ed the landing sending me straight onto my face.

I was freaking scared in the finals. I have never been scared like that before a race which explains why I didn’t make it down without a crash. I was dealing with confidence issues all week and just when I thought I had it under control I found myself on my face during my timed run. I definetly started my race off in a bad headspace, I just wasn’t me. Everything felt so forced and everything but natural. I tried to fake it...doesn’t work. About 40 seconds into the course there was a road gap into an immediate steepish corner, I think I overshot it a bit and hesitated/panicked and highsided right of the berm down this bank. It was definetly one of the more gnarly crashes I have had in awhile as my body bent in some funky positions as I tumbled down the hillside- I managed to come out alright...I was really happy I had my Leatt on as my neck got jacked up pretty good. I hit my mouth super hard on something, not too sure on what but one of the first things that went through my mind was MY TEEEETH...I tasted blood!!!! Lucky they just slammed and a tiny bit of tongue was the collateral. That was the first time I have ever had any kind of mouth incident- I think I might get a mouthguard...I would be totally devo’ed if I ever messed up my teeth. Hahahaha. Anyway, right now I kinda feel like I got run over by a car...my body is so sore and I can hardly lift my arms up. To be honest, I am just so happy I did not get seriously hurt, you just can’t race downhill like that, period. I knew it, I knew it before I started but I just couldn’t figure out how to snap out of it and I was not like I was about to back down. That is not good, so dangerous. I get it now though, it came and slapped me in the face so I am gonna take charge and change it.

Anyway, seeing another person put on the Pan Ams jersey and get the title definetly stung...not gonna lie about that one, I wanted that to be me, made me want to cry but I held it in. I am happy that it went to another American, my USA Teammate Jackie Harmony. It is a big win for her so I am really happy for her...she was riding the course well all week and I am pretty sure that had I not crashed I would not have been able to match her time, it wasn’t my week.

So that’s that. Pan Ams 2011. Not the result I went there for but I am coming out of it a better rider with some time to work on my weaknesses which I so blatantly overlooked. Lucky for me I have almost a month and a half back in Santa Cruz before the season really starts for me. I have some specific things that I want to work on during that time- I am pissed off and ready to freaking win some races and I know exactly what I need to do to make that happen. Better watch out cause I am coming for you girls... :)

TravelingKatie Holden