By Andrew L’Esperance with words from Haley Smith and Peter Disera
As a World Cup team, Norco Factory XC Team's primary focus is to compete on a World Cup level and that is where we want to be at our best. If you only tuned in for those seven races a year, you would be missing a big part of what we are doing as a team and as athletes. There is so much that goes into those one-day performances at the World Cup; physical training, mental preparation, technical practice, taking care of our bodies, equipment testing, bike development, suspension setup, and the list goes on. Each and every piece of the performance is important, and they all need to come together on race day.
So, when an opportunity arises to work on every part of the performance early in the season and in Greece of all places, you jump at the opportunity. That is exactly what Peter, Haley and I did when deciding on racing in the Salamina Epic, and what an experience it was!
First off, let's look at what we had ahead of us at the Salamina Epic; a 4-day stage race, one day off, another 4-day stage race, another day off. All that followed by a single-day XCO event. Nine days of racing in eleven days. The stage races had a mix of different race formats including time trial, marathon, point-to-point, short track and traditional Olympic cross country. The different formats of each race day made this such a powerful learning opportunity and made for some fun racing on the daily.
Haley led the team in a strong women’s field with an incredibly consistent string of performances and results. She won the overall classification in both UCI S1 stage races and the final XCO event. These results earned Haley 300 UCI points, and put her into 8th
place in the World Cup rankings. Strong start to the season for Haley!
“I had no expectation of results coming into this series of racing, as I was primarily using them for training. It was a nice surprise and huge confidence boost to come away with 8 of 9 wins. It was a unique way to start our season, and a great time with the Norco family. Looking forward to the next month to build off the fitness deposits we made in Greece!”
- Haley Smith
Peter took a leap of faith on many levels starting the season at the Salamina Epic. He came out with a good experience and great performances cumulating with a 6th
place overall in the second stage race.
“2019 started off with an early and loud bang on the island of Salamina in Greece . I have never taken to a start line this early in a season in my career, but I was excited for the opportunity of preparing for the season and getting lots of racing in. Furthermore, I had never partaken in a MTB stage race, nor a marathon race, so there were lots of new experiences and tests along the way. The racing was fast, the competition strong and the results adequate. I loved racing my Revolver FS on the rocky, rubble strewn tracks around the island. It felt great to get some intensity in and have strong legs under me leading into the California campaign in March.”
- Peter Disera
And me, what is my take on the season opener in Greece? First off, I am extremely happy to be with Norco Factory Team for 2019 and motivated to bring my best this season. I learned a lot with this block of racing and am excited to roll with the momentum gained from this experience.
“I am very happy with the mission overall with 9 race days under my belt and everything that comes with that experience; the intensity, the learning and the fun of the battles. We treated it like a training camp and rode to and from most stages. I also enjoyed getting integrated with my new team and spending time in a lower pressure race environment. As a team we got a lot done and that will no doubt help us in the early season North American racing and into the first World Cups of the season.”
- Andrew L'Esperance
Does it get any better than 9 days of racing in a relaxed atmosphere on a beautiful island in Greece? We had a ton of fun racing, spending time as a team and got to practice and improve all the pieces that make up a performance to take forward in the season. Mission accomplished!
We could not have done it without the exceptional support from the team and our crew behind the scenes, Kevin Haviland and Mike Garrigan. Thanks!
Next up for the team is the first two races in our California campaign with Bonelli Park and Vail Lake. Keep an eye on the Norco Factory Team Instagram channel @norcofactoryteam
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