The Pan American Games are the second largest summer sporting event in the world, next to the Olympic Games. Being only 10 months before the next Summer Olympic Games in London, we thought it would be a wise idea to get some Major Games experience.
Local Ride road racing teammates, Steph Roorda, Jasmin Glaesser, and I headed down to Guadalajara, Mexico for all of our first Major Games representing the Canadian Team. I was selected to compete in the individual time trial, team pursuit, and road race.
The time trial course suited me well with four turnarounds (lots of standing starts!), four times through a cobbled, round-a-bout, and 20km total. It was mostly flat with some long sections of (deceptively hard) false-flat inclines. I was excited to be selected for the time trial as I really love to time trial, yet I have had little international racing opportunities.
Pre-riding the course was near impossible as it was situated in the bustling, heart of downtown Guadalajara (pop. 1.6 million), thereby I made quite a few technical errors on my first lap. But I cleaned up my ride considerably to negative split my second and final lap. The finish line was through The Arcos Vallarta (an iconic roundabout similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris) and about 4km from the final turnaround. This is where the Cuban rider that started 1 minute ahead of me was within my reach. It is amazing how much more you can suffer when you have a carrot! I had a lot of people along the course cheering for Canada and that was so very special and motivating. It felt like I was on of their out there. I finished the ride only 20 seconds back from the winner and won a Bronze Medal. I was ecstatic! Going into the time trial, I did not know if a medal was within my reach as most of the names on the start list were unfamiliar to me. All I could do was ride as hard as possible and see where I stacked up. It was a great start to the Games.
A couple of days later was the Women’s Team Pursuit. Steph and I have been members of the Canadian National Team since 2009, and were excited to have Jasmin Glaesser join us in wearing the Maple Leaf (for her very first time!). In the qualifying round, we were first up and this was without a doubt, a little nerve racking. We were a medal favorite in this event and we were having to set “the time to beat.” We gave it everything we had and broke the Canadian record with a time of 3:25.093. After sitting through seven more teams set qualifying times, we had made it through onto the Gold medal final against Cuba. Yes, we set a faster time than them, but we knew we could go faster and we had to – Cuba was going to put up a fight in the final. We changed our race plan slightly and with the temperature of the velodrome reaching almost 30 degrees Celsius, accompanied by the adrenaline of making it into the Gold medal final at a Games and a packed stadium (including Canadian track legend Curt Harnett), we were able to shave 3.6 seconds off our initial time. We won the Gold Medal and set another Pan American and Canadian record of 3:21.4 (only 1.8 seconds off the World Record). We were given a standing ovation from the crowd, again reinstating the positive relationship between Canada and Mexico.
I personally have raced for Canada ever since a Women’s Team Pursuit has been sent to compete at an international level, and our Gold medal ride was the best one yet for Canada. It was technically near flawless and we went faster than we have ever gone. But this is only the beginning. There are more great things to come and records to be broken in the next 10 months leading up to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games for the Women’s Team Pursuit.
A big thank-you to the Canadian Olympic Committee, Own The Podium, the Canadian Cycling Association, and COPAG for allowing such a successful Games to happen, not only for me or the cyclists, but all athletes who were competing. I can’t wait for another. Let’s hope this was the first Games of many more to come for me…
Here are some pictures of the events mostly (I’ll post some personal photos later, eg. Opening Ceremony, village life, other events I watched, etc.)