Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals

They say good or bad luck comes in threes, but when it came to my Mountain Bike Nationals, it seemed to come in twos.

My family got to Bear Creek Resort on Tuesday afternoon. Dad and I got to pre-ride several laps of what we thought was going to be the Juniors course (it wasn't marked yet). Everything was looking good and I was excited to start racing. On Wednesday, we picked up our packets and numbers and did a little more pre-riding. It was extremely hot and humid even compared to Florida! Thankfully the lodge was air-conditioned, so we could take a/c breaks when things got too hot and we needed to cool off, which was good because the announcers reported that the temperatures were reaching 112 degrees.

Start of the short track

The first event that I did was the short track cross-country on Thursday. This one was going to be really short at 10 minutes plus one lap. I was really excited because short track is usually one of my strengths. Unfortunately, the start was crazy and I got bumped into John Drummond and he got bumped into me. I think he might have gone down. I managed to keep the bike upright, but didn't get the hole-shot that I was hoping for. In fact, I ended up going into the first climb in 4th place. That meant that I had to change my race strategy a bit, as I worked my way back up to the front.

Matteo and me on one of the grassy climbs
For most of the race, I led, although Matteo and I switched a couple of times. We had a sizable gap on the rest of the field. On the last lap though, we got into each other twice and ended up crashing. The first time we were both to blame, but the second time, Matteo tried to pass me on a sketchy downhill. I held my line, but his bars got tangled in mine and we both went down HARD. His bike ended up mangled and he had to push it the rest of the way. I was able to get up and continue (after what seemed like forever, but was probably only 10-15 seconds), although I was all scraped up and hurting.

Picture by A.E. Landes
I was still in the lead after the crash, although the guys in 3rd-5th were catching up. On the last switchback, Nic Jenkins was able to pass me on the inside to take my lead away. When he went into celebration mode early, I made a last-ditch sprint to the finish. Unfortunately, I ran out of course, finishing in second place, about a bike-length away from my first national championship.

Check back for a video of the short track race.

I was in rough shape after the race, but the FPR team took care of me.

Short Track XC Podium

On Friday I was still sore from Thursday's crash, but I was also super ready to race the cross-country race. Even though I didn't win the short track, my performance during the race had me confident that I could win the cross-country. I got a front row call-up, which was cool, and lined up right where I wanted to be.

This time, I did get the hole-shot off the start and never really looked back. I went into the single-track first and just kept pushing my pace. After the first lap, I had about a 30-45 second lead on second and third.

Second lap feed

By the time I came around for the finish of my second lap, the gap had gotten up to a minute and I was feeling strong. Unfortunately, I had a feeling that my rear tire was going soft, and by the time I reached the woods, it had totally flatted. I kept riding it, hoping that just maybe I could make it up to the top fast enough that I could go into the descent still leading. That didn't happen. I ended up having to push up a lot of the rocky sections and got passed by a lot of riders. Most were nice when they passed me, but some were not.

I rode it in to a 16th place finish after having lost a minute lead going into the last lap. I was extremely disappointed, but at least I proved to myself that I was this year's strongest racer in the 13-14 class. Next year, my goal is to actually walk away with the Championship Jersey.

A lot of people came up to me after the race and congratulated me for a great ride, including some of the boys I raced against. That was really cool of them and I definitely appreciated it.

After a day off the bike on Saturday, I was ready to line up again to do the Super D on Sunday. For this race, the 15-year-olds were also included in our group, so I knew it would be a tough field with some Cat 1 guys like Christopher Blevins and technical riders like Adam Cohen racing against me. I figured I had nothing to lose so I just went for it. I wanted to rip off my brakes but my parents said it would be too dangerous (lol). When the dust settled, I finished 13 seconds behind Christopher Blevins for another second place finish and Adam Cohen also got on the podium for fourth. Not too bad for two kids who come from a state whose highest elevation is 200 feet above sea level.

Super D Podium the end of the week, I was happy with how I rode, but disappointed that I came so close to two national championships I could taste them, yet didn't get them. The good news is, I have one more year in this age group and a whole year to train.

Something else really funny did happen while at Nationals too. Apparently there was a rumor going around that I couldn't have improved my fitness so much since last year without doping. DOPING! Let me just say that the only way I'm doping is if Honey Nut Cheerios is on USADA's banned list. Ha! Ha!