The parking lot was incredibly dusty, as was the course… as I sat writing this in a campground just west of Utica I could see a layer of dust on everything inside and out. I knew what I’ll be doing during the week.
Friday in Windham was relaxing. I wander the courses to see where I would want to get shots, took a few photos at the Downhill qualifying round, and spent the early evening in the VIP lounge sampling some great beer and local cooking. I spent some time chatting with the folks from Scott and then headed back to the camper to get ready for the next day. The schedule had 4 races with the first one at 9 AM and the last podiums around 6 PM so I knew it was going to be another busy day.
While I was sitting down to begin writing the first of the blog entries there was a knock on the door. Cris from 3 Rox had mentioned he might drop by for a beer and sure enough he did. I enjoy talking with him and his passion for the sport is infectious. One thing we agreed on was who we thought would win the elite women’s race, we both envisioned the same scenario. More on that later though.
|Friday evening in Windham|
|There’s one Westy hiding all of that|
Saturday morning was bright and sunny and already warm at 7 AM. I made myself a strong coffee and a good breakfast. I was ready well before the first race with my computer set up in the media center and my camera bag loaded with gear and water. One interesting twist to the 2012 course was a start in downtown Windham that climbed up to the course (which then continued to climb up the ski hill). They had a shuttle to get media down and I did make it down for the elite women’s race. Unfortunately all the photos I took on one of my cameras vanished, I’m not sure what I did but I haven’t been able to find them. Good thing I was shooting with two different cameras! The races had lots of great action and it was clear on the faces of the riders how demanding a course Windham is. Catharine Pendrel described it as unique with its “6 minute descent, followed by a 12 minute climb”. It’s rare to find that much of a course in one direction (down).
|The start in downtown Windham|
The highlight of the day is probably one of the most devestating losses I’ve ever seen in a pro bike race and it came in the women’s race. The three Luna Pro Cycling teammates of Katrina Nash, Catharine Pendrel and Georgia Gould set a hard pace from beginning to end and they opened a gap on everyone else. Then Gould dropped the hammer on her teammates and got a good gap on them. Near the end of the race she had almost a minute on them. And then it happened… on the descent she hit a rock the wrong way and got a pinch flat. With the descent being so long and technical she took the time to try to fill it with her CO2 but that only helped a little. She rode what she could, ran what she couldn’t and kept going for that first elusive World Cup win. Imagine her teammates surprise as they came across Gould running toward the finish with only a couple hundred meters to go! Pendrel and Nash looked at each other and knew they had to race so they sprinted to the finish to see who would take the top step. It was Pendrel’s second win in as many weeks, both of them by beating Gould who was leading both races. The photographs all the snappers took of Gould are heart-wrenching. One that I took is of a very sad Gould with Pendrel being interviewed behind her. I asked Georgia after the race if she thought they should have let her win and she was adament that they should not. It’s a race, and things like this can happen. I’m sure she’s going to get that first win. She’s been showing what great form she’s in so perhaps it might not be a World Cup, the Olympics aren’t far off and I’m sure that a medal from there would overlay the memories of Windham 2012.
For the record, both Cris and I picked the Luna team to dominate and Gould to win on home soil. We had it right… almost.
|Three teammates, one tough decision|
Sunday was DH day! Yet another hot and dusty day but at least it didn’t start as early. I took my time getting organized, packed up and moved the camper closer (to where the Luna team had been parked the day before) and then finished getting out my galleries. I had done all the elite XCO races the night before (finished around 11 PM to make it a 16 hour day) but I still had the U23 and Junior race photos to get out. I took care of that and then made my way up to the top of the mountain. One slow trip down, taking photos at different sections trying to time it to get some of the Canadian racers going through choice bits of the course. A couple hours later I was at the bottom taking shots of the last few riders getting big air off the last jump and then a final set of podium shots. The last gallery was uploaded around 6:30 PM and I was on the road by 7. Here are a few more photos of the racing at Windham.
|My last night on the road, Cedar Valley Campsite|
Camped by 9, I was looking forward to a shave and shower in the morning. The GPS said I had 537 miles to drive until I get home, for some reason it thinks I need to go to Montreal to reach Toronto. I give up (turns out it was avoiding the toll bring at Lewiston). Anyhow it was two days short of three weeks on the road, I’m looking forward to being home and to seeing Andrea.