Well another year of mountain bike nationals is in the books! I know I’m getting old as it seems like Nationals and July comes at me faster every year.
While I wasn’t able to back up last year’s cross country title, I was stoked to walk out of Sun Valley 2 for 3 on the Stars and Stripes jersey’s count adding a whole new discipline and title to my race palmares.
For me the 30+ short track was a nice one to back up, not only for the fact that it includes the fastest 30+ gentlemen in the game, but I had to overcome some adversity to win this one for a second time.
I’m not one for excuses or drama of the sorts, but when I had to pull over with only 5 laps left on the clock to fix a front skewer that was flapping in the wind, I certainly thought my day and the title was gone. For those that haven’t raced short track, imagine a 20 minute + 3 lap crit race! It’s intense, explosive and one mistake usually sends you home packing or at least racing for second place down!
That’s what ran through my mind when I realized I was going to have to pull over and tighten my skewer while leading the race. Not only was it dangerous for me, I was getting squirrely in front of my competitors as well and for me there’s nothing worth risking at the amateur level and not making it back to work on Monday!
So once I knew what was happening, I pulled off the front to tighten it back up, watching as a group of 3 attacked off the front.
Once I got rolling the guys were almost out of sight, but I figured I would keep at it and see what I could make of it, as I was miraculously still in 4th and a podium under these circumstances was admirable.
As fate would have it, I started clawing my way back to the group as I carved up the short track course with abandon aboard my Specialized S-Works Hard tail.
Before for I knew it I had spring boarded my way into second, but first place was still 5 to 8 seconds ahead and we had two to go. “Well I gave it all I had I conceded, and sometimes things don’t go your way.”
However, I kept it pinned turning myself inside out remembering what my old man used to tell me in my MX days. “Never give up until the checkered drops because you don’t know what can happen”!
Slowly I crawled onto the leader’s rear wheel with 1 and ½ to go and I was spent! I had to do a massive amount of work to bridge the 15+ second gap that I wasn’t sure what I had left. But early in the race I let a couple guys lead just to see where I could make some passes, and I had a couple spots out on course I knew I could set them up!
So began the game of setting it up because I knew I had fired way too many bullets to lead the thing outright, so it was going to have to be a pass with a half lap to go to make this thing stick, because the wheels were starting to come off my train.
So as I tried to regroup on the leaders wheel and gather myself, we were fastly approaching the little punchy climb about half way through that I knew I could squirt by! I went wide in the entry corner to carry the moment that lead us into the climb.
Coming hot out of the corner, I punched it out of the saddle and got off the race line over to the outside of the course, knowing I would have the inside on the next corner, closing the door on the leader.
And with my text book moto pass, I went on to drill it, stretching it out about 5 more seconds on the last portion of the course to take my second straight US 30+ National Short track title. To date it’s one of my most earned and cherished wins.
After a sloppy cross country race on Saturday, I was pretty bummed to see the title slip away. But that’s racing and I figured one title was still a great accomplishment on the weekend, plus I still had my other riders set to race, so maybe they would step it up and bring home the team some more wins.
Then I got a wild hair to try the CAT 1 30-39 Super D on Sunday morning after hanging around Saturday in the tech area watching Monique Mata race to an inspiring 4th place in the women’s pro XC race.
I’ve always heard how cool Super D is (part XC, part DH) it’s a blend of both sports. After a few beers Saturday night down at the Powerhouse in Hailey, I figured I would forget about the cross country disaster and go have some fun the following morning.
I did my best to turn my S-Works 29 Epic into a “Super D” rig, but there wasn’t much to do this late in the game, other than mount some beefier tires and go for it.
Up on the mountain doubt crept in as we lined up in the start box. First my legs felt like shredded carnitas from two solid days of racing and from looking at the other riders rigs, I appeared to be way under equipped looking at the 180mm rotors, riser bars, and burley meat they had wrapped on their wheels.
Oh well I was committed now I reckoned, so might as well enjoy it.
Out of the box there was a proper little climb that I was happy to see my 30 second and minute man right in front of me. I actually passed the minute man, and closed right in on my 30 second guy as we entered the downhill. From there I was fighting just to see where I was going as the dust was unreal.
I pulled up on my 30 second guy shortly after and he was nice enough to let me over after I asked for some room…..a rare classy act if you ask me!
Now into the pedally and flowy part of the course, I felt like I was getting into my rhythm and having a proper run, when again my front end was starting to tuck and push wide into the tight 180 switchbacks!
“F*&ck are you kidding me I thought, again!!!” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as I had a front tire going low with about 5 more minutes of down hilling in front of me. All I could do was nurse it home at this point, gingerly tip toeing through the corners and making sure I didn’t blow the tire off the rim.
After a pathetic roll down the rock garden into the finishing area, I babied it across the line and immediately knew that wasn’t going to cut it, especially at a National event.
I told the team owner Scott Tedro that I did my best but that I had nicked my sidewall somewhere on the course and had to limp it home.
Then the oddest thing happened! The announcer said I had the fastest time so far, but riders were still to come.
I was blown away! “You have to be kidding I said to myself! There’s no way this run will hold up!”
So I sat there in the “hot seat” and played the waiting game for someone in my group to come across the line and set the fastest time. The anxiety was running high because you’ve done what you could do and it’s out of your hands at this point. Being on the cusp of my second national title on the weekend, and the only discipline in mountain biking I have won yet was now unsettling!
But rider after rider came and the time still held. And finally the last guy in my group came across and alas my time held!
It was a feeling a great joy and relief, but the competitor in me was still mad because win, lose or draw it wasn’t my best time I could have done. And at the end of the day that’s all I really race for! Whether it’s a first, fifth or tenth, as long as I get the best out of myself I will always feel satisfied. If a title or two happens to come along with it great, if not, there is definitely more to life. But to win 2 titles on the weekend, I was truly fortunate against such a great group of riders!
With that I would like to thank team owner Scott Tedro for the unbelievable support this year and in years past. If not for him, I would have hung up the shoes long ago and turned to eating maple bars and coffee every morning!