Norco Factory Team rider Haley Smith and her resume on the World Cup Cross Country circuit took yet another step forward this past weekend in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, earning her first career podium spot with a third-place finish.
A gutsy effort saw Haley take the lead in the short track event on Friday night out of the gate, and posted the fastest time on the first two laps. Getting in front of the world’s best right off the start is no easy feat and was not a tactic she had tried before.
Haley jumping out to an early lead in the short track.
“I often race these more conservatively by staying in the bunch and holding my cards close. I wanted to test the waters on [Friday] night and I found myself leading the field for the first couple of laps. For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of a short track, leading that early is generally not a smart move because drafting is such a huge factor... but there’s no growth without risk and discomfort!” explained Smith on her sudden change of approach, which ended up in a respectable 14th place finish.
Holding off the pack.
“I wanted to go in flying and see what I could hold onto, so I’m happy with earning a second row start for Sunday.”
With that second row start in hand, the focus moved to preparing for the main event.
Heading into the final lap in sixth place, Smith put it all together, putting down the fastest lap of the day to pass three riders to move up into the bronze medal position before crossing the finish line.
“Today was special for so many reasons… I just went out and raced my bike and did my best. It’s just that today, I found a level of self belief to match the training and preparation I’ve been putting in for years.”
“Being able to share this with the team, my fiancé (fellow Norco team Rider Andrew L’Esperance), coach, mental performance coach, physiotherapist, friends, and my family (from a distance) was really special.”
Haley now sits in eighth place overall in the UCI points standings after the first two weeks of the season.
As for her bike: "The Revolver FS floated over all the chundery roots and it climbed like a dream over all the rough stuff. The equipment and support was absolutely world class, which made my job easy!”
Photography by Andy Vathis.