Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Day 1 started bright and blurry at 6am, I went down to the bike room to learn that they don’t open for another 30 minutes, this would only cause for more stress and a shorter time span to get done what I needed to do. I didn’t eat breakfast with the whole team, instead I was in the parking garage with all of my stuff sprawled out. Graeme the man was my extra hand when I needed help building my bikes.
This process went on into the morning, lots of things were happening internally, I had to whip the bikes together, change into my kit, and take my credential picture…the morning just drug on and on. All teams were grouped together taking vehicles and shuttling themselves while team USA was trying to get help, and was receiving none No respect I tell you! Joey took it upon himself and used his Spanish abilities to snag a ride on the back of a truck, I thought this was foolish due to what we have been told about traveling in this country, but for Joey it was a great experience minus the diesel soot in his eyes.
We finally flagged down the appropriate truck and got on the bus, still wondering if our bikes were going to meet us at the venue we headed out into the heart of the city with a motorcycle police escort and a officer standing at the front of the bus with a really big gun. The next 40 minutes was an experience as everyone was rubber necking looking out of both sides of the window trying to take in all of the sights. The landscape changed from big buildings to cinderblock shanties, tiny shops, open air markets and bars littered the roadside all the way out to the venue.
The race venue was situated at a National Park, it was a really great area, and it is also a tourist destination with a petting zoo, a gondola to the top of the mountain (which I wish we were able to us), a ropes course among other recreational activities. Upon arrival nobody knew exactly what was going on, where the courses were or who to contact about this. Bike coach extraordinaire Scott Sharples took my extra bike and body armor, that’s where we got separated, he went to the bottom of the course, and we went to the top. Chris Van Dine rolled by and gave us the lowdown; he is an encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to races like these as he always has friends in areas like
. Without my upper suit I fallowed Chris down the track blind, slowly creeping looking at one intense section after another. The lack of course tape and course marshals was a bit concerning as there were loco Latin American pinners rallying themselves as practice fully got underway. The DH course was intense especially for this being the first time back on a bike in months. Section 1 up top was fun single track that flowed well right into a peddly road section that was made more exciting with small jumps tossed in. Guatemala
Into section 2 the road dumped into a sweet step down mandatory gap into a wicked right berm, this was the start of a minute long ribbon on trail that was fast, had loose moon dust descents and the steep track caused for lots of swapping and cross rutting.
Section 3 continued into some really steep loose chutes but then quickly moved right into one long massive rock garden, scattered with tight chicanes and derailleur bashing goodness. Near the end there was a near vertical rock roll in that had a missive G out fallowed quickly by another dusty rock section that was guarded by VW sized rocks.
While I was inspecting this section of trail I saw a girl commit to this roll in after a slight hesitation and once she hit that compression her hands slipped the brakes and she went flying straight towards me lawn darting head first into the rocks threading the needle between some big boulders. I was the first on the scene as there were no course marshals or medics available. I had to be the medic while Graeme played the roll of the marshal shutting down the track while the local emergency response team was alerted. This whole situation was very real and things suddenly became clear that I really was not in
no more. Once past this section of trail there were a few high speed rock sections before the sprint to the finish line road gap jump. At about thirty-five feet or so this was a rather large jump. Kansas
Many of the competitors had never jumped anything like this before in their lives, it was a great added feature to the track but due to there being no go around lines it was definitely one of the most frightening places to watch practice as there were too many close calls. Chris Van Dine supplied the shuttle truck, a barrowed vehicle from a friend for much of the team for the day. My day had been cut short after that one practice run due to a mechanical, and with no mechanic on sight there was nothing for me to due. Instead I jumped on the shuttle and became team
’s film crew. Most of the riders that day got in a few laps and some of them were starting to get comfortable with the course. Later in the day as most of the downhill competitors were packing it in I set out to practice the mountain cross course. The weather was threatening more most of the afternoon and right as I was peddling up the road to the track the sky unleashed the rain upon me canceling my mountain cross practice for the day. USA
While most of the team took shelter under umbrellas I took to the dirt and tried to make something out of a rainy afternoon since I was already soaked to the bone. Not a good day for me as I worked well into the night with the help of my coach, Graeme and teammates we got busy getting my bike ready for a brutal 5am wakeup call the next morning.
After a wonderful 4 hour nap Team
met for breakfast at 5:45. Blurry eyed we wrangled up a 6:30am shuttle to the venue where I would partake in a team course walk directed by Scott. USA
It was great to start feeling some team unity as we all discussed line choice, track conditions and reminisced about yesterday’s near misses, accomplishments and problems. This race was so loosely run that there was not pit area at the venue, teams did their best to find a spot or venders like we did to place our valuables and in my case other bicycles. Luckily I was equipped with my kryptonite coil lock system and was able to take care that and keep my bike safe. I got two practice runs the whole day due to a non existent shuttle system, it was a better bet riding out to the road and trying to hitch up to the top. I was not the only frustrated rider out there! Many others were upset with the shuttling situation. Finally when I did catch a shuttle I felt like a cow being shoved into a crowded cattle truck, the heat from the enclosed box truck only intensified the stench of sweaty people and new bright and shiny bikes came out looking like last years race machines.
My goal of obtaining world cup points and representing my country well was going to be a tall order the next day as a lot was left unaccomplished on the track. I had to quickly switch gears as the mountain cross final was quickly approaching. I got one look of the course the day before and made use of this course knowledge by quickly getting up to speed during practice jumping right into it riding hot laps until I couldn’t stand to hike the course again. After the amount of work it took to haul, build up, tear down two bikes for the week I was extremely glad to have raced mountain cross as just being able to ride my bike on a fun track over and over and over made me extremely satisfied.
Mountain Cross Course
One of the best mountain cross courses I have ever ridden! Situated in the heart of the forest the course weaved through trees and used the natural terrain well and had a great variation of features. Most of all, it was a blast to simply ride. From the start gate it was a complete sprint to the first turn with a choice of berm right or inside line that would set riders up for a double into a massive berm left.
A rhythm section fallowed five rollers into another massive berm right with optional inside tight berm line.
A large step up set up a berm to berm chicane, a hip pocket double left would then lead the rider on a sprint into the final straight. Speed management was important as the straightaway started off with four rollers and then into a double that was extremely easy to overshoot fallowed up lastly by a large double and then a quick sprint to the finish line.
Mountain Cross Race
After qualifying all the riders headed back up to the top for the first round of the race, qualifying results took a long time to get out so there was a bit if gate practice before the main event. Once the brackets had been formed the chaos began. There were a lot of very talented and fast riders competing and when it came time to line up to have the number one qualifier on a downhill bike, something was not right. Riders contested the qualifying results, results that I really never understood either as I new I was probably not in the right qualifying position too. This went on for about 10 minutes in the start house, lots of bickering back and forth on radios but in my mind I was there to race and I at this point really didn’t care who it was going to be. I lined up with poor gate position due to the botched qualifying brackets and had my work cut out for me. With a better gate start than my competition I tried to edge over but they held strong, I didn’t want to make too much contact so I raced the inside line. On the second turn I leaned the bike over and stuck out my foot drifting hard right next to my competition, I managed to make the pass and was home free in second place, or was I? Still protecting the inside line I ventured off the main line where it was sandy, knifed my front wheel and took myself out. My day was done and I was pretty disappointed but I was in good spirits as I knew I was riding well. The rest of Team USA, Shawn Neer and Chris Van Dine managed to advance but in the second round both ended up well off the track due to some aggressive riding. The locals were cheering loudly for their rider, but when he got disqualified for the finals things changed, the rider was outraged and the fans were not happy. I left the area when I saw some guards with shotguns approaching the disgruntled fans.
riders both skipped riding in the small final and protested the event by riding a victory run boosting the jumps giving the confused fans something to cheer about. The whole evening was a mess, my rotor was bent and I was hungry, time for a mango on a stick! USA
The rest of my evening was spent disassembling my mountain cross bike and putting it back into the bag, cleaning up the downhill bike and being mechanic for anyone left in the bike room. Somehow I was still the last one in the bike room cleaning up after everyone and myself as the clock was once again striking midnight. A quick visualization of the downhill course that I have only managed to ride on three times and I was lights out only to wake up in the morning feeling like I just closed my eyes.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Howdy everyone and welcome to yet another year spent on the road, on the bike and in the dirt. Still in the month of April and there is so much to tell you all about, the adventures have begun!
I worked my last weekend on the slopes and come the beginning of April I was busy moving out of the house that I had residence in for the last 4 years. It is amazing how many things I accumulated. All the while I was moving out of my house I was preparing to leave for a 3rd world country to compete in the Pan American Continental Championships for Team
We departed for
Sunday morning still full from an amazing dinner Saturday night with my family. We drove 9 solid hours, Holly had a great play list created that played all the way to the resort/casino town of California Windover, outside of and the salt flats. Did a bit of room rate haggling, and then took a walk to the Salt Lake City side of town where we did a bit of gambling on the penny slots. Lost 3 dollars total overall but had a good time and enjoyed the walk back to the Nevada side, lots of bright lights along the way! Day 2 on the road was a bit more adventurous, visited a few roadside attractions including the Utah which was pretty incredible, Mount Rose Ski resort and the Shores of Lake Tahoe. Breakfast, lunch and snacks all provided by momma Buell along the way to help keep me and Holly going strong. Near the end of the day we made it to our final destination, the Pitts residence in Thunder Mountain Indian Monument . Nevada City, CA
It was like Christmas morning all over again! Due to the minimum time I had before departing, Graeme nicely built up both of my shiny new Banshee bicycles. Did a bit of a fashion show for everyone while trying on the new kit, had to get the approval from the Holly and Leslie that everything looked good. Team Geronimo’s clothing company, Wrex, did an awesome job, everything was custom made for me and I could feel the difference. I went to bed that night feeling great, Holly had a great time meeting Leslie, Gary and Graeme and we all enjoyed a nice dinner together.
The Next day was filled with activity! Did a photo shoot in the new team kits with the shiny new Banshee bicycles. Leslie and Holly were the photographers and for almost an hour we fired off pictures from all over the yard, it was really fun. Trailer detail ensued with a stop at the hardware store, old trailer stickers are incredibly hard to get off. The rest of the evening was a blur, to much stuff to get done, bikes had to be torn down and packed, personal bags packed, checked, double and triple checked. With a 4:30am wakeup call that next morning I unfortunately did not receive much sleep as thoughts of all different kinds circled within my mind.
As soon as I went to sleep I awoke to the sound of Angels, my harp alarm clock. I hit the ground running making sure that I got absolutely everything and proceeded to toss all of my equipment in the truck. Holly and I were a bit blurry eyed and sleepy, luckily we had an hours drive to the SAC airport to wake up. Airports, I dislike them very much, even though a lot of excitement is generated within an airport, goodbyes ensue, stress levels go up, people are usually drained and tired and there always seems to be problems with someone’s carry while in security, Mix 1 is not a weapon! It was great to have Holly with me all the way to my gate, it made saying goodbye a lot easier as I waved to her as I walked through the gate. Once on the plane reality again set in, it had begun, we were fully committed and were off on a grand adventure. I took a minute to write in my journal inside the plane, and then sat back and relaxed just as the stewardess told me to do. Landed in
Dallas for a short layover where we met up with teammates Joey Schusler, Looch Worl, Shawn Neer and Lars Tribus, before stepping on the plan to . Excitement was plentiful, we were all very aware of the surroundings we were about to be immersed to, but there was no way to fully prepare for what was to come. Guatemala
Our plan landed later than expected due to a late departure so our times of arrival were all later than expected. This caused for a bit of confusion, there would be lots to come. After clearing customs, which I’m always worried I’m going to be fail due to a loose piece of fruit or something, we made our way outside where there was the Venezuelan team also waiting, more on them later. A large box truck came rambling into sight, a little kid that was handling our huge bags with ease helping us with our luggage; needless to say he earned his tip. I had a banging headache from the flight and the humidity and heat only intensified it. The city was chaotic, busy for 8 o clock at night, there were many American institutions that I recognized like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Burger King, they were usually the nicest buildings on the block. I sat next to a nice gentleman on airplane who has family in Guatemala, his one piece of advice was to be careful in the city, after noticing all of the officers carrying various large firearms throughout the city I can understand way, it was a very dangerous place and we were staying right in the middle of it all.
The hotel Conquistador was a very nice hotel situated right in the middle of a chaotic city, lots of security was needed to ensure all sides and entrances of the hotel were covered. The first night there was in true Guatemalan crazy! After finding Glenda, one of the event organizers, she pointed us in the right direction and helped us get our room assignments. Dinner fallowed and after serving myself from the limited amount of food from the buffet that I could have Glenda came out with a silver platter plate specially prepared for me on a silver platter!!! I hauled both of my bikes into the build room, but with less than an hour before lockdown I did not have near enough time to build both of my bikes. An early wakeup call the next morning would be necessary for me to complete my builds. This would be the start of one of the most chaotic days of my life. To be continued...
Friday, April 16, 2010