Mountain Bike Nationals – A Junior’s Story

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Ariana Racing Her Heart Out!

Earlier this year, my daughter, Ariana qualified for Mountain Bike Nationals by racing the Mountain States Cup in Colorado. Since then, we have been preparing for the event: she was in charge of riding and training, and I was in charge of logistics and food preparation.

The location was set at Sun Valley, Idaho and we were very excited to visit.  I heard the trails were phenomenal, and it was just a day’s drive from the Front Range of Colorado.
Buddy the dog, Ariana, and I left on a Tuesday so we could pre-ride the course on Wednesday. Her race was scheduled for Friday morning, which meant we had plenty of time to relax in-between preparing for the big day.
Before we could pre-ride the course, a camp spot had to be secured. About a month after we registered for Nationals, we received a package in the mail with local information about the town and the race. A fantastic perk for pre-registering, we were able to plan the trip before arriving. Ariana and I chose a camp spot off of Corral Creek Road.  Soon we were off to pick up the race packet and pre-ride the course.
When we arrived, planning for race day, I tried to find parking in the shade. I knew if Ariana was racing, I would love to take photographs without our Chocolate Labrador, Buddy. We were in luck, they had a lower lot with trees, and I found out soon enough, there was a trail system with a creek running through.
We saddled up, pick up her packet, and pre-rode the course.  Apparently, we followed some other riders and rode the prolong lap, which was a blast.  After ascending a small climb, I pulled out the trail map and studied it. It was confirmed, we indeed needed to go up the jeep road. As we grinded up and up this climb, I kept thinking, “Wow, Ariana has to do this three times!” The mileage isn’t what made the race; it was the climb that rose up nearly 20 percent.

Jeep Road Climb

Breakfast of Champions

At the start

After more than a day of rest for Ariana, I fueled her with some organic Kamut pancakes with a side of kiwi. We arrived early, secured the parking spot in the shade, and Ariana warmed-up. The race started out with the under-23 women, then the Category 1 17-18 year old girls. In Ariana’s category, there were 14 strong racers, from Colorado, California, and locally in Idaho.
Soon, they started up the grueling climb and I just had to hope for the best. As a parent, this is the most nerve-wracking part. I situated myself at the rock garden section and prepared myself to photograph the racers. After what seemed like only a few moments, the girls started charging through the rocks. It was joyous to watch, most had no fear, but some you could feel did not want to let go of their brakes.

Ariana in the rock garden

Ariana came through, but she had lost some positions, however she was smiling and that made me happy.
For the second lap, I hiked up to see her on the start of the climb and to yell encouraging words. She was looking good and had pedaled into her own rhythm. She raced through the technical rock garden, flew over the bridge into the next man-made rock garden,  and approached her final climb. She caught up and passed a few racers!
Talking to her after the race, she had been spinning up the climb in her granny gear, while others walked. Her strengths include descending technical downhills, but on this course, the downhill was pretty fast and it was pure singletrack, the passing was to be had before, or after.
Ariana finished with a large smile, and even though she did not achieve a spot on the podium, she was proud of her accomplishments, racing in her new Category 1 (expert), and supporting her team, COMotion Sports!

Ariana with a huge smile after the race