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Caleb Bottcher: A Trip to North America

As the world slows to a crawl, it is a great time to reflect on and look forward to the adventures that life offers us. I thought it was particularly timely for me to reflect on last May and June’s North American trip. 

• March 27th 2020

"First up for us in Canada was the Mont Tremblant race, held in a beautiful mountain village."

 

As the world slows to a crawl, it is a great time to reflect on and look forward to the adventures that life offers us. I thought it was particularly timely for me to reflect on last May and June’s North American trip, given that we have just had to return early from the NZ Performance Hub campaign after both races were cancelled. The right decision but disappointing none the less!

 

With the help of my coach Matt Miller, the main purpose of our trip was to race the Mont Tremblant and Baie St Paul XCO races that doubled as Canada Cup and Junior World Series rounds. I really appreciated having such warm hospitality and a good home base with Matt’s family in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. The first week was spent, for me at least, adjusting to the lifestyle and learning the local roads and trails.

 

Before long we were on the two-day drive heading north to Quebec for the target races. We were fortunate to break each journey up with a ride in Round Top, New York, staying with Matt’s good friend and enduro racer Seamus Powell. The great food and banter here were a good addition to our Jazz rap marathon and made the roadie all the more enjoyable!

 

First up for us in Canada was the Mont Tremblant race, held in a beautiful mountain village. A rainy, late afternoon pre ride in freezing conditions put us on the back foot but was ultimately a good lesson for me in flexibility when travelling. Not being able to prepare or eat how I wanted to wasn’t ideal, but by focusing on what I could control, I put myself in the best position for the following day. As someone that draws confidence from detailed preparation, I was glad to face this when I did as this experience has helped me a lot in trips and races since. I raced well here and really enjoyed the course as the slick mud seemed just like a Manawatu winter! I placed 17th in a stacked field and with incredibly tight time gaps I knew that I was capable of making up more places the following weekend. The Canadian trails were a highlight of the trip and were quite different to our typical New Zealand race tracks. Most were less steep, but I loved the slower, rougher, more technical sections that challenged you to carry speed.

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"Not being able to prepare or eat how I wanted to wasn’t ideal, but by focusing on what I could control, I put myself in the best position for the following day."

We then drove to Mont St Anne - where we stayed for the next week.

 

We arrived to an Airbnb that was absolutely stacked with food from previous guests and a note of “help yourselves”. Needless to say, only one grocery shop was needed that week…. Should’ve stayed longer! This week gave me the opportunity to train on the course ahead of the World Championships, which was really exciting, and a great confidence booster come August. It was rather difficult to see how the course was arranged, but I was able to ride all the technical features and enjoyed many of the other trails on the mountain.

 

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The focus then shifted to the race at Baie St Paul, half an hour away up the highway. The course there was very punchy and littered with rocks – it certainly kept me on my toes, but still stands as my favourite track. It was really satisfying to perfectly execute my race plan, putting into practice what I had learnt in the first race and see the resulting improvement! This would be one of my best ever rides and is one that I still look back to whenever I am uncertain. This was a truly thrilling race and I enjoyed some great battles throughout. Agonising to get held up and be less than a second from a top 10, but that is the thrill of racing!

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"The course there was very punchy and littered with rocks – it certainly kept me on my toes, but still stands as my favourite track."

 

After waking at 3am the following morning, we drove for 7 hours to Highland MTB Park (back in the USA) where I placed 3rd in the Open Category.

I backed this up the next weekend at the Mid Atlantic Super Series with another 3rd place in Open Men. An unfortunate crash early in that race cost me a lot of time and required me to chase back through the field without any front suspension! Patience was key here, I had to remember that I wasn’t going to make it back through the whole field within the lap, but if I paced it correctly, I would be when it counted.

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The final weekend of the trip was the East Coast Junior MTB Championships.

Here I had a really strong performance, riding away from the field and maintaining my intensity to finish with amazing lap time consistency. After winning the cross country on the Saturday, I managed to nab 15th in the enduro on Sunday; still running the same xc setup on my Blur, including high post!

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"After winning the cross country on the Saturday, I managed to nab 15th in the enduro on Sunday; still running the same xc setup on my Blur, including high post!"

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