Santa Vall Recap

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  • By Gabby Traxler
Santa Vall Recap

Race Recap

I have officially finished my first gravel race… and I loved it! Santa Vall was a perfect way to start the season and my gravel debut. Over the days of racing there was a little bit of everything from a climbing prologue, timed segments in stage two and a longer stage for the last day. I can say in full confidence that I loved every second of it. The racing was fun, hard, dynamic, and technical. Some of the descents took me out of my comfort zone and pushed my limits, but also, I was surprised to see how I handled it all. Not only did I love the style of racing against an extremely strong field of women, but all my competitors were kind and provided extremely helpful information in my first race. The gravel community is a special group of people that I am excited to get more familiar with as the season progresses. In the end, I finished 10th overall. This is a result I am quite pleased with, especially with the women that I was racing against. Looking back there was a lot of positives that came from the race but also areas where I would like to improve upon for my next races. The rest of this blog will be a recap of what I learned and what I want to improve upon. I hope you enjoy!

Stage 2!

Photo Credit: Santa Vall

         Let’s start with the prologue. Looking at the result, I have to say I was disappointed. I saw this stage as a perfect way for me to really showcase my climbing ability. From the gun, I felt great, I was able to follow the first two riders who went on the attack from the bottom and a good gap was already established. I was feeling strong and confident that I could keep a top 3 position. However, before a steep pitch my chain got jammed, I tried to keep pedalling to get it back on but unfortunately, I had to get off my bike and fix it. According, to my race file, I lost about 45 seconds. But I got back on and pushed as hard as I could to the line. I was able to gain positions but finished in 11th at the end. In full honesty, I was quite disappointed especially with how I was feeling, but again, something I have been reminding myself is that with gravel and with racing mechanicals will happen and it is how I react to these mechanicals that will make all the difference. I was proud of how I reacted, I didn’t panic or give up. I fixed my chain, fought to the finish, and let myself be disappointed for a little bit then I switched my focus on to the next Day.


Stage 3 Finish!

Photo Credit: Santa Vall

         Going into stage two, I didn’t really know what to expect, but no one else did, so everyone was as confused as myself of how this stage would be raced. With two 20 km timed segments with 10 kms of neutral in between the final times would be calculated on how fast you rode each segment. My original plan was to follow the top 5 riders in the prologue. Again, I was feeling quite good and ready to push hard. The mistake I made with this stage was how I entered the first timed segment. It was a bit of a technical entrance into a narrow climb. I was not in the best spot going into it and I was caught behind quite a few riders that had to get off their bikes before entering the climb. By then, the top girls were nearly out of site. But again, I did not panic and just pushed hard to keep catching groups. I then found myself in a strong group of riders. We pushed hard to the end of the first timed segment and finished just behind the first 5 riders. What got tricky was the next timed segment. The elite men had caught us and made the neutral to the entrance of the next segment quite challenging and hard to find a group to ride with. I was able to make my way to find a good group of women who I rode with in the last segment, and we rode hard again to the finish. It was an interesting race format, and tactically difficult to figure out how to ride it to get the best time possible. After the stage, I knew I needed better positioning as well as to work more on my technical skills on the descents. I felt strong on the flats and climbs but not as strong on some of the harder descents where the other riders were able to put time on me.

         Finally, stage 3! This was the stage I enjoyed the most but also where I was frustrated with myself. Pretty soon after the start was a longish climb and I found myself in the front group of 8 riders. I felt strong and thought I could stay with the front group the rest of the day. But soon after the climb there was a twisty descent with loose gravel and my skills were just not up to par with the front group. I took the descent a bit too cautious, and in hindsight, I wished I would have pushed a bit more in certain sections. I lost the front group after that downhill and soon was caught by 3 other riders. We worked together for a little while before we hit the next steep and long climb. I knew at this point I had to make my move to try to catch the riders in front of me. I pushed hard and caught a group of 3 riders. I was pleased with this effort and knew if I kept this spot, I could finish in the top 10. The rest of the day I felt a bit out of my comfort zone. There were quite technical descents, big rocks, and single track through the woods. I did not want to lose contact with this group, so again, I really had to push my comfort zone. In the end, I was able to stay with the group and secured my spot in 10th overall! Overall, this weekend was successful. I learned a lot, and I know exactly what I need to do to be stronger for the next race.

Finishing Podium


Finishing Podium!

Photo Credit: Santa Vall

What I want to change:

1.     Work on my technical skills on descents and on loose gravel

2.     Experiment with wider tire width (my tires were too narrow for this race)

3.     Lower tire pressure

What I was happy with:

1.     My climbing ability both on non-technical and technical sections

2.     Pushing my limits

3.     I did not panic in diversity and never stoped pushing. 

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for my next blog!