Nationals was so awesome! Andrea and my brother Chris came to cheer me on as I attempted to reach my goal of becoming a pro mountain biker. Long story short, I didn't make it. Since I ruined the ending, you don't have to read the rest if you don't want to. If you want to, here it is.
The race started at 7:30am on Saturday but we drove into Sun Valley, ID on Friday morning. Had a big breakfast of eggs and potatoes before we found the parking lot to the ski resort. The venue was sweet! Lots of tents from the pro biking teams and a lot of bikers warming up on the course. The U23 (under 23) race was about to start so we walked to the starting line to see them call out the big shots. Jack Hinkens was called to the line 5th and we cheered like crazy people for him. I used to race with Jack in Minnesota when we lived there 4 years ago and he was a 15 year old Cat 1 racer. Now he's a Pro with the BMC Factory Race Team. He's such a humble and nice kid and it was cool to see him place second overall in race.
As soon as the race finished, I put on my cycling shoes while Chris put on his running and then we went out for a full lap of my race course. Nice and easy was the plan, but as any of you who rode the Bessemer Hill Climb know, 1000' vertical gain in 2 miles is steep! It's either your huffing and puffing or you stop. So I just rode the whole thing getting a great workout in the 90 degree heat. I was looking forward to starting the race early so that the temps wouldn't be this high. I sucked down 2 full water bottles in less than an hour. Hot hot hot! The decent back down to the race start was amazing! My new bike, the Kona King Kahuna, handles like a dream. Seriously, I use to imagine going this fast down hill and having this much confidence. It's nice to not be held back by my bike. The whole pre-ride went great. My legs and lungs felt like they should and the big loop took me about 40 minutes to complete. Now it was time to rest until the big race start......
At 5:45 my alarm went off and 20 minutes later, after a slice of Andrea's banana bread, a Honey Stinger Waffle, and a bottle of gatorade, I was on my bike. The city was so quiet as I rolled to the race start. A few other cyclist were just coming out of their hotel rooms or getting their bikes out of their car. I felt like I had the edge on them as I was already on my bike! The race consisted of a 1.7 mile prolog loop and then two 6 mile loops. I rode the prolog loop 3 times and then did two more short hill climbs for a warm up. About 45 minutes of warming up. At another waffle, kissed Andrea, gave Chris a high five and went to the start way early to get a good spot in the line up.
The 19-24 age group wave started and then one minute later it was my wave of 25-29. They called the top 8 or so guys from my age group to the start, of course my name wasn't called because I have no points. These guys from California and Colorado who have races out their back door every other weekend accumulate points like crazy. So I rolled up to the line in the second row. 24 of us in my age group while the kid in front yells out in a cocky way, "now lets all have a friendly and safe race." "GOOOOOOO", the announcer yells after the whistle is blown and 24 of us stand up and start sprinting out of the gates. In less than 5 seconds, half of the front row hit the ground in a loud crash and I couldn't stop soon enough. I flew over my handle bars and over top of the whole first row of racers to the ground with all my weight on my wrist. Both of my wheels were caught up on another bike with a handle bar weaved through my back wheel and a crank arm in the other wheel. A couple seconds later I got them apart and was back on my bike. Andrea said I was the second or third from the end of the group now. My wrist was seriously throbbing as I looked way ahead to see the whole pack of riders climbing up this short prolog hill. Only about 100 yards before it narrows to single track. I went all out and had to go off into the grass and big rocky sides of the road to pass a few guys before I was off my bike and just standing there waiting to get into the single track.
I sure wish the prolog was longer with more of a chance to split the pack up.
This is getting way to long.......
The single track was crazy because passing was really dangerous. The trail would often drop 10 feet straight down and the turns were very very tight. Not only that, nobody wants to be passed!!!! I asked a hundred times to get by people and only 3 or so riders were willing enough to pull over on the trail and let me. The rest of the pack I seriously had to wait until they slipped up and run by them. Besides the last 1/2 mile of the hill climb, there was literally no part of the trail wide enough to ride by another racer. All passing had to be done by running because the trail was so narrow. The decent was awesome again today as I maintained my position in the race the whole time. I actually gained time on the group of riders behind me :) The Kona is so sweet!
From the crash, I ended up passing over 30 riders but it wasn't enough to place top 3 in my age group. I was a mere 13 seconds from qualifying for pro this year. The course was seriously fun, just not ideal for a race. Not knowing AT ALL where I stood in the pack was not ideal either. I finished 4th in my age group and 10th overall in Cat 1 out of about 200 riders. This definitely has given me a boost of confidence and I'm already looking forward to next year. Racing is so much fun and a crash or bad course will never make me bitter. They are both just another ingredient to cycling that makes it so interesting. If it was always the same, we'd get bored right :)
Enjoy the pics. This was me coming down the "rock drop" as they called it near the end of the course. Spectators lined this and cheered for you if your run was successful. I was 2 for 2!