Walking past that familiar face every other weekend becomes second nature after almost five months of racing. All of a sudden the finish line of the final World Cup arches over the track awaiting that final rider to pass through for the last time of 2014. The morning of the race I looked out my window towards the mountain where the final track of the season lay and hoped that when I was sitting in the start gate I could appreciate the moment.
For those of us who made it the whole year without injury, mechanicals, or too many race mistakes it's an exciting feeling. For some the return to racing won’t come soon enough, their seasons cut short and the reality now showing that they won’t even make it for the last round.
Sometimes driving for hours and hours in the back of a van gets annoying, tripping through airports every second week gets monotonous. By the end of the season have we let World Cups become familiar? If ever you were woken up it's the moment you realize that for the last time you are scrambling through your bag for that special Athlete pass that gets you VIP access up the lift for track walk. You are stopped in your tracks as you realize that in a matter of hours its over.
Take me back to the long hours stranded in the airport, give me back the ten hours we spent driving across the USA and Canada, take me back to the 3am arrival at our apartment, let me fall asleep at lunch one last time because I can’t handle the jet-lag….. But it's too late.
Of course it's not over yet. Track walk in Meribel excited me as much as it scared me. Slippery short turns, deep dark woods, long steep slippery rock sections and flat out off-camber grass turns. If I was going to sleep this weekend it wouldn’t be until the night of the race. First practice was nice and early like usual, it rained the night before and the first run of the track was more than slippery.
As more and more riders rode the track it wore in just perfectly, come Saturday the track was primed for the taking, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and the track was lined with spectators. As I headed up to the top for my race run I was confident in the fact that no matter what happened I had achieved so much this season. My goals of an injury free, consistent season were one run away. I made the most of that race run, I rode the best I could, and that was best enough for 4th which gave me a 4th overall finish.
Well that's it, done and dusted for another year, and it made me think. Hundreds of riders dispersed; where do all the riders go? Gone, spending the end of the summer with friends and then moving into the hard training months that begin over Christmas. That leads into January when the sun starts to shine and the bears come out from hiding. Not much time has passed and we’re at the end of February, we live through March, and then comes April, the month when it all begins again. One rider to win the first race of the year, having not seen a glimpse of his rival since the past season, from each side of the world, from all destinations now separated by a timer that brings riders within hundredths of seconds of each other.
That leaves one last question - who will wear the rainbow stripes? There is still one prestigious, beautiful race left.
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