Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Part 2

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 Guatemala. 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.

 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 Kansas 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.

 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 USA’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.

 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.

Day 2

After a wonderful 4 hour nap Team USA 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.

 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. USA 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!

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. 

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