It feels like we are just getting started but it's June and Forward Racing – Norco is halfway through its first season. It has been a really great experience so far and the individuals on the team are coming together to form a tight group that support each other on and off the bike.
The racing started at the Bear Mountain Canada Cup where we got to see a glimpse of what Lespy has been working on over the winter. He came up short at the finish but, he took away valuable lessons that built new strategies for the rest of the season. This was Sean’s first race with a team and he handled all the excitement of new bikes, new gear and new expectations like a professional. Sharp looking white, black and gold Norco Revolvers with Sram XX1 Eagle in gold can be a lot for an 18-year-old Squamish kid to handle!
Next up was the first ‘away games’ with the Bonelli US Cup and the Sea Otter Classic. The team flew into LAX complete with tie-downs from Home Hardware and performed one of the greatest pack jobs ever seen. We made a Dodge Caravan work with 6 bike boxes, 4 suitcases, 4 people with backpacks and duffels (Don’t worry, everyone had seatbelts!) Before we even left the airport, teamwork game was strong.
Bonelli weekend was awesome! We shared pit space and accommodations with Norco Factory Team, weather was perfect and we got our first podium. Lespy rode a strong race to finish 5th in a very strong and deep international field. It was cool seeing our temporary black jersey and Sneaky Socks on the podium in very good company.
Sea Otter started off with an afternoon ride with the Norco marketing staff along the famous 17 mile drive from Monterey to Carmel by the Sea. Obviously, the views along the coast were amazing but the highlight was catching up with the staff and getting excited for the season ahead. At Sea Otter the racing is important but it is secondary, it is a festival first and a chance to meet up with sponsors. We met with HT Components, a new sponsor supplying pedals with none other than gold titanium spindles! We filmed a short introduction to the athletes of Norco Factory Team and Forward Racing with DT Swiss and learned a little bit more about the technology built into our XMC 1200 race wheels. We picked up tires from Kenda and got to chat about what is coming down the line from this key sponsor. Sea Otter is always exciting and this year’s edition was no different.
The racing at Sea Otter went decent for the team but there were no break-out results. McNeely was riding top 15 in the XC before a mechanical ended his race and Lespy finished up top 20 on an off day. Sean took away a ton of experience racing with the ‘big boys’ and enjoyed his first Sea Otter with the team.
Next, we split up and went home to train and refresh for the next block. Back at home McNeely rode to a win at the Kingston O-Cup which ended up being the muddiest race in recent history. Rain smashed Eastern Canada in the days leading up to the race and the course was heavy. Out west, young gun Fincham raced to a 2nd place at the Sunshine Coaster XC race and took home the KOM title on the course.
After a rest and reset at home the athletes traveled to Prague, Czech Republic to meet up with the Canadian National Team for World Cup #1 and #2. All the athletes for the team had performed well enough in the previous year to be selected for this project and they accepted the challenge of going to the start line with the best in the world.
In Nove Mesto, Sean was up first with the U23 men. With 136th call-up on the start grid he had his work cut out for him but let’s remember he went 8th on this course at World Championships last year. He steam-rolled traffic and finished up 67th. He passed a lot of riders! You do the math. McNeely had a really good performance after sneakily avoiding the start-line crash and putting his head down. He made it into the high 40’s before he ran out of fuel before the finish drifting to 75th. Lespy had a rough day and would work all week to move on from that performance with hopes of a good ride in Albstadt.
In Albstadt, World Cup #2, the weekend got started off with a big ride from our Norco teammate Peter Disera, 3rd in the U23 Mens field. Wow, heavy duty. Sean had a rough start with a crash in the start loop but man can this kid fight and that’s what he did out there. Lespy had a solid start and held it though the race. He finished up 68th and was very close to finishing on the lead lap after a flat on the second last lap. This was a huge improvement compared to the week before and he was happy with the steps forward.
It has been an exciting few months with the team and it has all been a blast. We have had some ups and downs, but that’s mountain bike racing. The team is now gearing up for the next races with Canada Cup #4 and #5 coming up fast in Ontario. See you out there and make sure to follow us @fwdracingMTB on social media.