After a few days in State College where I got to review some of my favorite trails from Trans-Sylvania, Chris, Kaila and I headed on to Bear Creek Resort, home of 2013 National Champs. There was a lot of talk about the technical nature of the course and we were excited to scope it out for ourselves. A lap down and we were in agreement – we loved it! It was challenging with lots of rocks, roots, corners, ups and downs. It put the mountain back in mountain bike and would favor riders with both skills and fitness. Temperatures were also soaring in the upper 90s and 100s and dripping with humidity. The race was going to be good!
Shannon, Nina and Nina’s Get Out junior rider, Tiziana joined us on Thursday and we were able to get on course again before Kaila’s 830 am race on Friday. Kaila did great and tamed the course to second place U23! After a couple of laps Nina and I laid low in preparation for our own race the following day.
Without any UCI points or many Pro XCT points, I had a near back call-up but since I seem to blow all my starts anyway, I figured it didn’t matter much. I surprised myself by being pleasantly mid-pack off the line and entered the singletrack probably in 17th or 18th place. There was still a frustrating amount of traffic but with the heat, I tried to stay calm and mellow – it was too easy to blow up or fry yourself trying to make too many passes. I did grab a few places though and was probably sitting 14th-ish by lap two. Lap two proved to be my roughest and I slipped back several places by the top of the climb. I came off my bike on one particularly steep pitch, watched as two riders came around as I got really wobbly and shaky. Uh oh – this could get ugly. I took a few steps, a few sips from my bottle and hopped back on my bike. Luckily, this was the top of the climb so I chilled a little as I started the descent and managed to pull myself together. The following two laps were much better and I steadily moved up. As I started my fifth and final lap, I had moved myself up to 11th place, chasing pink, with Nina just ahead. On a short, bumpy descent before starting the main climb, I heard a terrifying sound that I initially though was my derailleur being pulled into my wheel. I hopped off my bike, hoping my chain was just jammed behind my cassette and I could pull it out and nurse it in for the last lap. Unfortunately what I found was my chain was broken. I had just passed the tech zone and was not going to run the entire lap. My race was over. I draped my chain over my handlebars and coasted down off the course. That was not how I wanted to go out. But as the severely overused cliche goes, ‘that’s racing.’
Nina killed it for 10th place I was super happy for her. I was happy for myself with how it went during the part of the race that I could control. The rest, I can only let go.
I didn’t have much time for a pity party anyway, because it was time to wind things up in preparation for Super D at the crack of dawn (okay 9am) the following day. We actually arrived back at the venue at 730 so we could take a run on the course. Most of the course was backwards on the main climb of the XC course but there was a top section that we hadn’t seen before. That turned out to be my favorite part as it was more rocky and technical than the rest. After one preview run, we did a few efforts and waited for our start times. Ironically, as the only racer on a hardtail, I nailed the top rocky part of the course but couldn’t seem to get out of my own was on the lower and high speed section of the course. I came off my bike (not a wreck but an awkward dab) at one point and missed my timing in what seemed like every corner. I knew I wasn’t happy with my run and Nina felt the same about hers. As it turned out, we finished sixth and seventh, she and I.
Shannon went on to crush her race to another National title!
With Short Track still to come later in the afternoon, we did our best to stay hydrated and out of the sun. But by the end of a long weekend, the constant attention to taking care of yourself gets pretty old. I just wanted it to be time to race again. Finally it was. I did a very condensed warmup, given the heat and having done a Super D race in the morning. The STXC course was a gravel road start, followed by a series of punchy grass climbs, through a couple of short rocky sections and back on the gravel. It seemed straightforward enough but once we started, I was surprised by how limited the passing opportunities were – though I’m sure someone with more horsepower would not have had such problems. After what felt like parade laps the first two times around, things opened up a little. I had a couple of good battles and was eventually pulled. I love/hate STXC because it challenges me and puts me so far beyond my comfort zone. But it hurts and humbles me every single time.
After bike packing and team dinner, we dispersed for our various destinations the following morning. Nationals weekend, that’s a wrap! We could not have done it without Stan’s NoTubes, Cannondale, Kenda, Verge, Magura, Uvex, elete, Griggs Orthopedics, fizik, GU, Crankbrothers, Northwave, 3T, Progold, ESI Grips, and King Cage!