Ellevate XC is a new elite women’s cross country mountain bike team that launched in fall 2020. Ellevate XC recently sent a roster of three to Québec in mid-July for some of the first cross-country mountain bike racing in 1.5 years and Ellevate’s first racing experience as a team! Ellevate XC riders participated in the St. Felicien XCO (Cross-country Olympic) Canada Cup and the Sherbrooke XCO Canada Cup just one week apart, followed by two Québec Cup races on each Sunday proceeding the main events.
Ellevate XC team is comprised of (L-R) Jess Daniels, Emily Williams and Jenny Lehmann, with guest rider Maddi Pollock for the St Felicien and Sherbrooke Canada Cup races
After such a long hiatus from racing, all three women had a great experience and learned a lot from these high-level events. Other competitors arrived at the start line with recent World Cup racing experience which made for a high caliber field of female Canadian racers. This environment made for an exciting and challenging race block for the team and some notable results for the riders including Emily achieving a top 15 in the XCO elite field, Maddi earning a 7th place finish in U17 and 4th in the XC time trial. Read below for more detail on the experience from Maddi, Jenny and Emily! Ellevate XC is grateful to our shop partner, Steed Cycles!
MADDI POLLOCK AGE: 16 CATEGORY: U17 IG: @mtnmads
When Ellevate XC reached out to me to be a guest rider, I was ecstatic. I love my North Shore bubble, but when I heard that there would be racing in Québec, I really needed to go explore. And to practice my French, of course.
I take French immersion at school, but rarely get to use my French in a real world setting. For the first stop of our two week trip we were staying with a family on a farm outside St. Félicien. The family spoke decent English, but it was significantly easier for them to speak French. Thus, my new role was born and I became “la traductrice” (the translator). Flipping back and forth between the two languages was challenging at first, but became second nature. I feel so grateful to have been given this gift of communication, as it allowed us to create some special bonds with the French family. They taught us about the farm, and we explained our crazy world of bike racing to them.
The St. Félicien Canada Cup course might just be my favourite bike racing course so far. From drops, to steep rocks sections, to punchy climbs, it had everything that a good XCO course needs. You hit the descents absolutely redlined but they are still incredibly fun.
When race day came around, it was overcast and muggy, which is very different from what a “north vancouverite” like myself is used to (hint: torrential downpour or heatwave). But not to worry, we had done everything we could to prepare and the only thing left to do was race. When I got to the start corral, I realized that I had gotten super lucky: I was first in the random seeding and had the prime starting spot.
I was 3rd around the first corner, but the fast start was definitely a shock to the system and I drifted way back to 9th. Part way through the race I started to feel better and tried to pick off as many girls as possible. I rode to a 7th place finish in U17, which I was super happy about as it was my first big race ever. Racing with 24 other girls was amazing because in BC we are lucky if there are 8 girls on the start line. The next day I rode to 4th in the XC Timetrial, finishing 4 seconds off the podium.
Between St. Félicien and Sherbrooke, Jenny and I camped in the most adorable little town called Petite Rivière Saint François, about 20 minutes outside of Baie St. Paul. Situated right on the incredibly vast St. Lawrence river, the scenery reminded me of looking out at BC’s beautiful Howe Sound. The rolling hills, vintage red brick buildings, and green trees set the scene for the Canada Cup and Québec Cup races. To begin, the course went straight up a roughly 10% grade on gravel. It then had some tight and techy, switchback descents that flowed back into a long technical climb. The last descent was super fun, with a drop and some jumps.
After two good days of practice, we were ready to race. My warmup went well, but when I got to the start I panicked because I realized I had two left hand gloves, and it was starting to rain. I ended up racing with no gloves, which was terrifying, but there were so many other things to think about that it wasn’t a huge issue. I had some good battles and managed to come away with 7th again. For the 2nd half of the day I was in the tech zone for the elite race. Both Jenny and Emily looked super strong and were right in the mix when Jenny unfortunately had a bad mechanical that caused her to lose some time.
I am so grateful to Ellevate XC for giving me the opportunity to race and explore. It was such a blast connecting with others and I am looking forward to more racing in the fall!
JENNY LEHMANN AGE 33 CATEGORY: ELITE IG: @jlehmannpt
Unless we are referencing Lord of the Rings, Cobwebs don’t even begin to describe the thick layer of settlement my heart and lungs were forced to penetrate during my first XCO race in Quebec. The experience was more equivocal to the janitorial nightmare of scrubbing grime from long-neglected dorm toilets. On the contrary, realizing my survival at the finish line was as satisfying as fresh sparkling porcelain. After an 8 to 10 year hiatus from elite level racing, I think it’s safe to say that I unlocked and performed a thorough deep clean of the long-forgotten chambers of my pain cave. It was a blunt reminder that top end performance requires a repeatable ability to overcome the mental, physical, and mechanical challenges of racing, which individual training alone cannot simulate. Fortunately, my ego likes to think that the most painful and humbling races offer the most gainful training days.
For those of you unfamiliar with XCO (Olympic distance cross country mountain bike racing), imagine all the feels of your most physically exhausting 20 minute endeavour at red-line and multiply that duration by four. Now add steep climbs with demanding sustainable bursts of high power output required to clear obstacles. Now add fogged glasses, blurred vision, heat exhaustion and high speed technical descents requiring focus and composure. It’s the purest form of hindsight fun a girl can have. Just add sprinklers and ice cream.
I soon learned that said fun is a reward of adequate preparation and preparation is multifaceted. Despite that these races were a last minute addition to my race calendar, my naive optimism and extreme thirst for competition had me convinced that I had sufficiently prepared my fitness and skills to compete with Canada’s top women. It turns out my mountain bike racing fairytale left out an important detail in the context of preparation- savvy bike maintenance. Upon re-assembling my bike following air travel, my bent derailleur hanger and rotor should have been a blatant cue to question my thoroughness and ability to prepare my bike for each race day. Alas, I preferred my fairytale exclusion of this detail. I must have accrued a healthy stock of good karma, because my bike didn’t begin to crumble until the third of four races- the first of which my race legs decided to attend. For those of you with a similarly lackadaisical view of bike maintenance, learn from my lessons in la-la land by avoiding ever having to admit race defeat with the words, “my derailleur almost fell off.” If you’re going to spend countless hours priming your body for battle you better ensure your steed is equally prepared to carry you. Who doesn’t savour opportunities for redemption? La Fédération Québécoise des sportes cyclistes was generous enough to organize not one, but two back to back start-lines each weekend. All will); the latter of which our fatigued legs were unpleasantly surprised to discover was not a short track, but another olympic distance race. Our enthusiasm quickly shifted upon realizing this meant we were afforded more race time, surrounded by top notch fans with an unparalleled enthusiasm for bike racing. Performance aside, that’s a win!
Racing aside, I highly recommend finding yourself a purple-laden team with youthful enthusiasm and wisdom beyond their years. Presumably 16 going on 30, my travel companion, French translator, trusted navigator and Ellevate guest rider, Maddi Pollock not only rode to four impressive and consistent performances, but was a pleasure to have along to ration my chocolate consumption. Ellevate rider, trusted mechanic and most stoked rider in the pack, Emily Williams, delivered a strong lesson in speed and style on both courses while holding her own in the elite women’s field.
I look forward to spending some quality time polishing the deepest layers of my pain cave, while also tapping into YouTube’s world of bike maintenance in thorough preparation to join my Ellevate teammates in September’s races.
EMILY WILLIAMS AGE: 23 CATEGORY: ELITE IG: @_eemily_williams_
The past couple weekends in Quebec were so awesome! As my first trip out east it was such a huge learning experience. I felt so fortunate to be back out racing, and stoked to see all the smiling familiar faces!
After over two years since my last Canada cup, it was great to get back between the tape, I didn’t have many expectations other than getting out there and putting in a solid effort. The first race in St Félicien went well, I got my first elite top 15, but struggled with some muscle cramping. So after chatting with my coach we decided to switch up nutrition for the second race weekend in Sherbrooke. Unfortunately, the switch up in nutrition was too harsh for the stomach leaving me with a difficult race and less than what I was hoping for on the results side of things, but that’s racing! Although, the result wasn’t what I was looking for, I still learnt a ton about myself and what works for me going ahead in the future.
All that being said, I had a fantastic first time to Quebec! I got to ride sick trails and meet some incredible people, and can’t wait to go back for nationals in September. For now, I’m back to training and itching for more racing in the near future!