August 02, 2017 (Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que.) – The day started out with and outstanding breakfast that included fruit crepes and ham. It might sound like a strange combination but it was a HUGE hit with the racers. After a few days in the saddle riders are craving calories and protein. It was a treat for the pallet and a welcome boost of nourishment to get us through what would be a spectacular stage on the hallowed trails of Mont-Sainte-Anne.
Just driving through the village and seeing the parking and directional signs for this weekend’s UCI World Cup DH and XCO had riders in the bus buzzing. Many of us will be coming back here on Sunday to watch the XCO race as part of a package organized by the Quebec Singletrack Experience.
Stage 3 had been billed as epic and it delivered at every turn. We were promised “old school” and machine built “new school” XC trails as well as fast and flowy Enduro trails with options for air and style. MSA did not disappoint. Our stage started in the town of Saint-Ferreol-les-Neiges just North East of MSA, home of legendary xc ski star, Alex Harvey. A short controlled start of about 1km behind a police escort lead us into some dusty double track but within a few hundred meters we were climbing on wide perfectly manicured single track.
Trail conditions were fantastic and it was evident that the local trail crew had raked a number of sections the morning of the race. The leaders were definite able to carve some “fresh tracks” on the slopes of Mont-Sainte-Anne today. Our climb took us to the very top of MSA and the view of the St. Lawrence River and surrounding area was quite breathtaking. I slowed my pace and soaked in the sights for a few seconds before dropping into La Vietnam for a high-speed descent.
The highlight of the day for me was the finish. After following the ribbons of the Quebec Singletrack Experience for some 44Km we were directed to enter the World Cup XCO course. Making the turn onto the course bordered with Shimano race tape gave me goosebumps. The first official section we entered was the immediately recognizable S-école berms. I was surprised at the steepness of these short S-turns and the g-force that was created as I carved the turns. This leads directly into the Pumptrack section, I took the high-line and got a little air off one of the jumps putting a smile on my face.
A short grassy climb took up to a flyover and as I crested the top I caught a glimpse of the finish line and my heart raced. I was about to compete a race by crossing the UCI World Cup XCO finish line at Mont-Sainte-Anne. As I approached the line I zipped up my jersey and tears filled my eyes. In 25+ years of mountain bike racing this is one moment I will never forget. Today’s stage can be summed up as a bucket list ride with a dream finish.
Tomorrow will see us racing at Valcartier and enjoying a lakeside barbecue with a chance to go for a swim. With a distance of only 24Km riders will be looking forward to a shorter day in the saddle.