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What are cross-country mountain bike world cups like, Nove Mesto?
Athlete Stories

Hannah Otto | Nove Mesto World Cup

What a trip it’s been. This is the first time I’ve been to Europe where I really felt like I was finding my stride. It’s pretty different over here in more ways than most people imagine. It’s one thing when you come to Europe on vacation and you want to embrace all of the cultural changes and differences, it’s a whole different ball game when you come over to race and you’re just trying to keep some resemblance of your own “normal.”

Even just your standard cup of coffee can be few and far between and having to find a euro to go to the toilet at the rest area will often catch you by surprise. I feel like I’ve finally sorted through my bags and gear and figured out those special little items that just immediately make you feel right at home. I’m sitting here in the Munich airport typing this race blog and I’m not ready to go home. I think that’s a really good thing.

Yesterday’s World Cup at Nove Mesto na Morave was a bit of a mixed bag for me. This was my third time lining up for this World Cup and the first time ever I had seen dry conditions or the sun shining in Czech. Without mud bogs and the wet and slippery roots, the course felt entirely new to me and I was beyond excited to race. After a solid race in Albstadt I really felt like I was primed and ready for an even better performance. Despite moving from 58th to 38th in Albstadt, my call-up in Nove Mesto was 60th.

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Photo Credit: @marcelorypl (Marcelo Rypl)

I lined up on a good side position in the start box on the 8th row. My eyes were focused ahead and all I could think out was the 5 minutes of fireroad that I had to make as many passes as possible before we dropped into the singletrack. I was dialed in and I could feel my body almost shake with anticipation of the effort. When the lights turned green I reached to explode off of the line and I slipped my pedal. “Don’t panic,” I thought. Then I reached for the pedal again and still couldn’t get my foot in. Again, and again.

Finally, after 4 tries I clipped into my pedal. A piece of me knew that this was a pretty tragic error and an extremely botched start. I didn’t have time to think about that. I had to make up for the mistake. I was so far back in the group at that point that I was falling victim to each little brake check from up front. We were having to come to almost complete stops in the bottlenecks and fighting shoulder to shoulder as we ran our bikes after the mistakes and error trickled back to us. This wasn’t at all how I thought my race would start, but I tried to stay numb to the circumstances and focus on just passing one person at a time.

As I came through the start/finish line on the first lap I had to avert my eyes from the screen that displayed placement, because I knew it wasn’t what I would want to see. In retrospect, looking back on the split times, I now know that I rolled through that first lap in 71st. Oof! I had a lot of work to do.

I made a lot of passes right away and then as we got into the 2nd half of the race it seemed like the placement had spread out and I found myself in what felt like a bit of no man’s land. I kept fighting and just refused to believe that that is actually where I would finish. That said, I didn’t quite know where I was going to gain some more positions.

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Photo Credit: @marcelorypl (Marcelo Rypl)

With two laps to go, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel with a string of women just up again. Knowing that I would run out of time quickly and everyone fights just a little harder on the last lap, I dug deep down for a final push. I passed a whole lot of women in the final 2 laps and that is what I am most proud of in this race. I finished 47th.

That is certainly not the place that I am looking for nor do I think it is representative of my full abilities, but there is a lot more story behind every place in a World Cup. This weekend I didn’t get that shiny placement that I was looking for but I got another chance to pass the test in tenacity. I am so very confident that it will pay off in the long run. I’m already itching for another chance. I’ll arrive home on Tuesday then board another plane on Wednesday night to head to the next UCI race in Wisconsin.

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The Feed. / Monday, May 16, 2022