2009 MTB Nationals
Well, it had to come to and end sometime. I’d had two years of a “my race to lose” situation with National Championships taking place in the homeland, that being Mount Snow, Vermont. When I learned that Sol Vista, Colorado took over for 2009 and 2010 edition, it was obvious that I’d have my work cut out for me. Ah well, I like work. Carl was fired up too, he likes racing at altitude for some reason… We set about our tasks of getting ready for the biggest day of domestic racing every summer in different ways but with equal desire to be on point for July 18 and 19.
The big weekend came up a bit faster on me, racing tons of semi-local fun stuff along the Pacific Rim made June and July fly by. Carl, on the other hand, was ready for some proper competition and a change of scenery. I was pulling for him to pull one out on account of textbook preparation, at the same time as hoping that the sum of my racing and traveling was good practice for, well, racing and traveling. Turns out it was, sort of.
First test was the Cross Country, which we’d heard was kind of lame. After Joe, Rando, Carl and I did a twilight lap upon our arrival Thursday evening we determined that the complainers didn’t like mountain biking.. After an initial STEEP climb it was into the (eerily bark beetle killed) forest for a perfectly graded singletrack climb to a beautiful vista at the summit of the ski area, 9,202 feet above sea level… From there the Patriot trail wound steeply, then flowingly, down through the Aspens toward the village. Seems good to me. Anthem X was definitely the call… even Kelli rode it, which is my barometer for when a course is worth riding.
The race started at a pace respectful of the elevation and the obvious physiological limitations that coincide with such a deficit of oxygen. This let me crest the climb in second place after ignoring said limitations for a couple minutes. I reeled JHK in on the descent and he let me by so I could have my fun. Totally won the first lap! He also totally passed me back about 100 yards into lap two at the crest of the first lung-busting pitch with Todd Wells in hot pursuit. I settled into reality and watched them climb away into the afternoon sun. After two laps the gap was a minute, then two, then four, then… I wondered where Carl was, not having much opportunity to check on my competition with the treed course layout, and I could only see Sam Schultz, 46 seconds back every lap to keep me honest. This is how I reckoned things would finish up until I saw Todd walking his bike up the climb. His left crank had broken off. Oops. I held it together for default second on the day. Losing to Horgan-Kobelski by a similar margin to what I took him by in Vermont the last two years. Funny how much better people are at racing in their backyards… Carl was at the trailer when I rolled in from Doping Control, he was all cleaned up on account of having packed it in mid-race. Sometimes a body that’s perfectly prepped just doesn’t like the feel of racing all of a sudden, and he was in danger of getting beaten by Ned Overend, which is something we both refused to do. Saving up for the Short Track seemed like the smart thing to do to me too… wish I’d thought of that.
Northwest Ripper Spencer Paxson (S&M Young Guns) swung by the trailer fired up to climb up and do a Super D practice run after the XC dust settled. He was pumped on his 10th place finish (solid career best) and wanted to check out the SD track. I had to tell him to slow down on the way up, but you can’t really put a price on enthusiasm… We dropped in and learned that it was indeed a downhiller’s Super D. No matter, he’d just been to the Whistler Bike Park and I’d raced proper DH just a few weeks back. We reckoned we had it in the bag. Too bad Whistler and Fluidride don’t involve running to, or with your bike in any way, shape or form. I’m just bitter because I suck at running… Carl is well good at it though, and his textbook middle distance starting stance even seemed to intimidate our start line neighbors bright and early on Sunday morning. They must have short memories, because once the gun went off it was all fisticuffs, pushing and clawing from all sides as we ran to our bikes, then more pushing and shoving as we tried to get on them, and more as we rounded the first of three flat, taped switchbacks intended to sort things out before the next (and final) five minutes of dusty shredding to the finish. I guess things up front must have sorted a bit, because where we were it looked like twenty or so dudes worth of dust and mayhem in the woods. I was tempted to just take a different trail down but figured if they all crashed into each other in a way that I could circumnavigate I’d still have a shot. Surprisingly, they didn’t, although Aaron Bradford (NW ripper alumni) did put a solid inside move on perennial aggressor Mike West for the win with Rad Ross safely in third. In the women’s race our girl Elke Brutsaert might have been considered an underdog by the untrained observer, but we knew that over a decade of World Cup DH racing combined with a summer full of epic riding for the first time in about as long might just have molded her into the ultimate Super D contender. She was - owning the course from top to bottom for the title. Emmett was happy to get third in the wake of such domination. As far as “five year streak ending” boys results go, I was 11th and Carl 15th, we should have stayed in bed…
Back to bed we went after some comfort food (Kozy Shack and an omelette) to try and get our lives on track for the last race of the weekend - Short Track. Sleeping was hard for me with the memory of drilling my head into the ground while practicing the Short Track course on the way home. They’d thrown together a classic afterthought track heading straight up the ski slope for a couple minutes, then back down over a wooden ladder bridge thingy and through some randomly taped turns on the bunny hill. Lame! It hadn’t been mowed in a while and had a classic high-speed slide-out in a hidden waterbar, which resulted in my head taking the brunt of the impact. Awesome. Combined with sucking at starting aggression and the prior Super D shellacking, I was pretty annoyed with the whole morning… irritated even.
Turns out irritated is a fast emotion. I was realistic about the prospect of winning a Short Track with a huge climb (Carl has raced almost every single short track ever, and has never seen a climb that big) at solid altitude, but reckoned I’d give it a go anyway. The pimp new Shimano Yumeya kit (mostly white and gold accents for XTR, with some tricks to make things lighter and better too) Anthem X Advanced SL was so rad that it couldn’t NOT be ridden… even though Carl’s choice of the hardtail seemed smart on account of the climbing that we faced. I reckoned I could at least hit the bridge step-down and entertain the crowd, going so far as to run a bit higher tire pressure to avoid flatting after huge air. Turns out the Totally Awesome bike was the call - I got back on the horse and rode the descent fast every lap, eventually bridging back up to the lead group of three. Just as I made contact a very official sounding voice at the start line said “TWO TO GO!” so I figured I’d just do the old “right through” attack on the climb. Passing Todd, Jeremy and Sam seemed kind of easy so I punched it over the top and rallied the descent thinking I’d drive the final nail on the last lap and salvage a National Title for the weekend. It worked perfectly: I had enough time to think about my victory salute (Skeet shooter? No, too elaborate for the bumpy grass. Ghost Ride-Along? No, too bumpy again. Straight hand raise? Boring. Simple smiling shrug? Played out.) Unfortunately, my delivery was interrupted by the ACTUAL officials holding up an official looking sign that said “3 To Go..” Oops. I had fifteen seconds on the chasers, who looked pretty demoralized, but had saved exactly zero energy for even ONE more lap. I decided to take it down a notch, absorb some of the electric crowd energy and squeeze in a recovery lap while still somehow looking unbreakable to my chasers. It worked, I stretched the lead back out to around twenty seconds by the time the checkers fell and decided to go for the simple “Muscles” display across the line to make Ross proud. Carl got his body working right and rode solidly in for 6th on the day, he was confused about what was going on up at the front when it appeared I was winning, something we’d deemed unlikely at best… Once again I proved to myself that the greatest things come with the most reasonable of expectations. All due respect to those who believe in concrete goals of course…
It was a great weekend overall, Carl and I picked up prize money in the evening and had a chat with Kelli Lusk from USA Cycling who was able to quantify just how good the weekend was. 1800 people raced and almost all of them had a great time. Sol Vista did a solid job of hosing their first national caliber event and should be able to build on the momentum of the weekend for next July’s edition. I’ll be back, a little more savvy with altitude racing and a little better at kicking people out of the way on the start line…
Tom Moran came out and took some photos, keeing his National Champs attendance streak alive and on toward two decades I'd imagine.
Me making the move on the climb and sealing the deal on the way back down through the master’s lens.
And spraying champagne, as you will when you've got a bottle and a target. In this case Jake Orness from Giant…
|Back to News||Home||Print This Story|