Whistler's Cathy Zeglinski, along with Northlands Clinic/Scott teammate Dani Storch of Germany, had the hustle for the Flow.
The duo rode to a convincing victory in the Swiss Epic Flow in Zurich, capturing the six-day stage race by 15 minutes and 15 seconds over runners-up Jeanette Mayr and Nadege Vetterli. Zeglinski and Storch narrowly dropped the first two stages but found their rhythm in the middle of the race, winning those two stages by over seven minutes each.
The victory was a much-needed one for Zeglinski, who admittedly had a 2016 she'd mostly like to forget, breaking her ribs not once, but twice.
"It was kind of a frustrating summer for me, so this was kind of a reward because I'd get into good form and then I'd get injured again," she said. "It's been unusual for me. In the last year, I've had more injuries than I did in my whole racing career."
While perhaps not 100 per cent, Zeglinski said her ribs weren't weighing on her mind and, besides, at this point in the season every competitor would be dealing with one ailment or another. However, lacking a chance to train led to a bit of a role reversal for Zeglinski and Storch, who tried the Epic discipline two years ago but pulled out when Storch fell ill.
"I've been the faster and I've been the slower (rider). The interesting thing was I broke my ribs quite badly twice this summer, so my training for the race was not ideal whatsoever and this time, Dani was a lot stronger than me whereas two years ago, I was a lot stronger than her," Zeglinski said. "It definitely pushes you differently, because you're chasing your teammate. There was one day where I was stronger than her on the uphill and she was having a hard time keeping up with me. We took six-and-a-half minutes on the other team that day and I was determined to take over the leaders' jersey.
"She pushed herself harder because I was leading it out and other days, she was leading it out."
Zeglinski described the Epic as a traditional cross-country stage race boasting several top World Cup riders from renowned teams while the Flow puts more of a focus on downhill riding, with some portions of the course being shuttle- or lift-aided.
"The Flow category is sort of a cross between an XC race and an enduro," she said. "There are more downhill stages than the Epic and everyone had trail bikes, not race light bikes.
"Some of the stages, we went up gondolas or cable cars or we shuttled on buses, so it's a little different than the enduro format here, with the idea that you can get to some different places and have some different experiences in the Alps than the XC people are having to climb."
Zeglinski, the masters world champion in 2013, didn't get to Europe early enough to fully acclimatize to the conditions, allowing their competitors some advantage in parts, but took control in other sections of the course.
"When the altitude goes over 2,000 (metres), it's really difficult for those who come from closer to sea level, especially when you're climbing," she said. "As soon as we dropped down in altitude, my power came back.
"My teammate and I are both really traditional mountain bikers in that we're really good technically at descending and we're good at line choices and good at the twisty, turny trails rather than the long uphill climbs which are more suited to someone who's already living at altitude.
"There were a couple stages that were more punchy, more technical downhill and we actually really, really were coming out. We were passing a lot of people on those stages."
In parts, Zeglinski recalled passing some women's World Cup riders and some of the men on course, too, much to their surprise.
"When you're passing them, you're passing man after man and they kind of get startled and they're like 'Whoa. Go girls!' Then they were trying to stay with us and they couldn't," she said.
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