Wednesday, July 22, 2009
2009 National Championships: Sol Vista
The dust has settled and I have cleared my head allowing myself a chance to analyze the weekend and my performance at this year’s National Championships. This whole season of racing had been in preparation for this weekend, my training was geared so I would peak at my highest level for this race, a lot of time and effort had taken place and it was time to perform on America's grandest stage.
Training pre race
Being a Colorado resident this race is perhaps considered to be in my backyard, home court advantage if you will, but let me tell you this, there was no such thing as home court advantage this weekend. After inspecting both the dh and four cross tracks which were new tracks being introduced at this years National Championships, I realized that it will take a lot of effort to do well on either track due to the massive amount of terrain, the difficulty of the obstacles and the risks that will be taken to enable a fast run.
Thursday: Both tracks were in need of getting ridden in, especially the four cross track. To get an idea of how large and tough the four cross course was, I practiced Thursday morning on my Kona Stab downhill bike instead of the Cowen hard tail like usual. Practice went well, the course got burnt in nicely and I had a ton of fun on the big bike. The Pro only downhill track was raw, to get a good idea of what it was all about imagine clearing an 8 foot wide path through loose baby head rocks, deep sand areas and toss in three large doubles ranging from 30-50 feet, then add some high speed berms, jumps and moto whoops. It was a recipe for a hard race course that was great for spectators and the progression of the sport. Practice went extremely well minus a near weekend ending case on the 48 foot gap on my very first run. I did 5 runs and was feeling completely up to speed was a great feeling. Thanks to some bad sausage I ate that night the rest of the weekend was turned upside down and left me playing catch up.
Friday: I woke up feeling absolutely miserable Friday morning. I couldn't even sit up without getting sick, laying down was the only thing I wanted to do and the only thing that was at all comfortable. I had to get up though, the sun was baking me out of my sleeping bag only causing more discomfort, it would end up taking a monumental feat of will power and mind over body to rise to my feet that morning. Unfortunately I would be unable to practice both downhill and four cross due to my illness, instead I sat still in a camping chair in the Team Geronimo pit all day, unable to help with our junior riders, paralyzed with sickness from a few bits of sausage that had obviously expired. Towards the end of the day I felt my body fighting the stomach bug off and I was able to ride around and later watch the Cat 2-3 four cross. Team Geronimo Rider Roy Benge did extremely well on this demanding track finishing in 3rd place, good job Roy! Team Geronimo Riders Tanner and Tyler Spence, Robert Pettit and Alec Toney also had great runs and did very well impressing me as all were extremely competitive out there. The day ended well as I was starting to perk up a little with the help of my wonderful mom and her extensive knowledge of Chinese herbs.
Race Day Saturday: DH practice & Four Cross
Four cross would have to wait until the end of the day, there was DH practice to be had. I awoke this morning alive, awake and best of all nausea free ready to ride and make up for lost time. The three amigos jumps on the downhill course had been in my thoughts ever since I cased number three hard Thursday, I didn’t have a fear of them as there was nothing to be scared of, I had just wanted to hit them for the last 48 hours. Downhill practice went really well and on my first run through I greased all of them without a worry, over clearing all of them a little bit actually, it took a few more runs but by the end of the day those things were second nature. Highlights from that practice included a top to bottom helmet cam run with Mike Kreger. Thursday I had the chance to ride and film behind Shaun Palmer, which was pretty cool! I was nuking it through the roughest part of the course and high sided landing hard on my back and head, thank goodness for full body armor. After I got up and dusted myself off I realized that my helmet cam mount had snapped off leaving my camera sitting on top of the rocks…rough!
The one hour of practice for mountain cross ended and I was extremely exhausted! Where did all of my energy go? Yesterday’s sickness was starting to take a toll on me, luckily I had a chance to recover while watching CAT 1 qualify, I also ate a fair bit of Almonds and a Laurabar that my mom provided me. Without a real reason I waited and was one of the last to qualify. My quail run was fun and full of hucks to flat, Canadian head slaps and rear tire roosting me into 9th place overall. The hard tail was a bit rough on this course but it made it that much more fun. After many, many delays, debates and decisions the pros finally got their chance to run it at right around 8:30pm. The lights were causing funny shadows on the course and made things a bit distorted as it wasn’t completely dark yet, luckily I had just switched into clear lenses. Here is a round by round reply of how things went down:
Round of 32: Heikki Hall had opted to not race making this a three horse race. Logan Bingelli and I would easily advance after a sketchy start by us hard tail riders.
Round of 16: This time the round was packed and I was left with 3rd lane choice. I had a great gate start and pimped Logan on the inside and rode second all the way down on the wheels of Mitch Ropilato.
Round of 8: Again was dealt with 3rd lane choice and was going up against some great gate starters, because of this I let them all get in front of me and tangle up in the first corner allowing for me to go from 4th to 2nd again riding the wheels of Mitch to the finish line.
Round of 4: The final! 4th gate choice as I was the slowest qualifier. I was going to stick with the same strategy as the previous round but during the first straight I had a great start, hesitated for a second and then saw the bottom of the turn wide open. I came out 3rd behind JD and Mitch, JD would crash trying to take Mitch on the inside of a tight flat corner. I was in 2nd looking to make a move on Mitch when I missed my high line through the grass, this allowed Houseman to slip in on the inside to take 2nd position, I fought for position but Houseman is a big man. This is how we would finish up, Mitch 1st, Houseman 2nd, Me 3rd, JD 4th.
Immediately fallowing the race I was informed I had to take a piss test, this made me ultra excited as I had never had a reason to do this before, I had made the big time at last. It was an insane race, so many spectators, it was night and somehow I managed to make it to the final of the National Championship four cross with the defending national champion, the nation’s best young racer and probably the most talented mountain biker. It was a pretty surreal experience overall, the whole night I never was a bit nervous, I had no expectations, I felt right at home and it was more like a jam sesh then a race, somehow I kept coming back up to the start. The crowd definitely was pumping me up as they were chanting my name and yelling people’s champion, great stuff! The best part was my whole family was there on hand to experience it live and a bunch of young ski team groms I coach were also in attendance just soaking it all up as well as our junior racers. I just felt like a kid out there, not a care in the world just having a blast doing what I love to do!
I would have to thank my brother though for giving me the low down on practice the day before and also my mom for keeping me energized and of course all of my supporters out there that were behind me the whole time making it a night to remember!
Fallowing Mike Kreger Helmet Cam:
Mike Kreger chesty cam:
Filmed and edited by Noah Sears for Western Slopestyle Productions & Bike Magazine: Just click on the image below!