I frequently use the 24 HOP as an early season training camp and a great reason to get out of the Idaho snow for some desert riding. In the years I’ve been going there to race, 2014 absolutely tops the list as my favorite year racing there. It might have been my favorite race in a really long time. The reason it was so awesome is that I had the pleasure of being the team captain for some of the most amazing girls I’ve ever met.
As my first stop on the SRAM Gold Rusch Tour women’s events, I elected to make this race a contest for NICA girls to join my team. I was blown away at the response from around the country and the quality of the applications that came in. The decision of who would join my team was a really tough one. I wish I could have made up 10 teams and taken them all. In the end Korissa, Katelyn and Madeline won the honors to join me and I couldn’t have been happier. Three other girls from the Arizona League joined Chloe Woodruff on a team and three boys from Arizona also rode with Todd Wells. It made for one gigantic, festive camp and race atmosphere with all of the families, friends, support crew and three NICA teams.
From the moment we all started chatting on the conference calls, I knew we were going to have a blast. Everyone gelled perfectly and it felt like we’d known each other a long time. I was so excited to share my experience with the girls and help them have the best race possible. I was their teammate but also working overtime to be their mentor and friend, and even their EMT with a few cactus spines. Considering these girls normally race 1.5 hours one time, they were tasked with doing 4-5 laps of that distance all in one day with little or no sleep. Basically, it meant nearly a season worth of racing all in one day (and night)! I focused on prepping them the best I could with nutrition advice, course preview, technical skills, recovery advice, night riding tips, motivation and pretty much anything I had in my tool box from years of endurance racing.
I gave them every bit of help I could, but really the rest was up to them. On course, they were on their own.
They rose to the occasion in a way that I never even dreamed. They were so brave, so humble, such team players and really dug deep for themselves and the rest of the team. I did the same. I was exhausted, but while I was on course, I turned myself inside out to go faster for them. As we raced through the night, our consistency was paying off and we had moved into 3rd place in the four person women’s division. There were 22 women’s teams in this division. We’d never talked about a finish placing. We only focused on doing our very best personally and as a team. It’s the way I approach every race and this was no different. However, when I saw how well we were doing, I couldn’t help but get excited for the team. It’s always nice to be rewarded for hard work and a solid effort. We finished a nearly perfect race of 18 laps with no mechanicals, just a couple of crashes and a 3rd place podium finish.
I was so proud to step onto that podium with Madeline, Korissa and Katelyn. I had so much fun racing with them and would line up with any one of them again in the future.
I know that I set up this SRAM Gold Rusch Tour event to provide inspiration and a really special experience for the NICA student athletes, but in the end they ended up inspiring me more than I could have ever imagined. I can’t wait to ride with them and more NICA teams again.