On the weekend of October 24th nearly every collegiate mountain biker in the U.S would come together at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia to prove their worth. Going into any national race always makes me nervous. I always wonder whom I’m racing and how fast they are going to be, this time was a little different however. I knew I could do well, but How Well? was the question. I tried not to think about it. I knew I had put in the time on the bike and worrying about it was not going to change the out come. I treated these races like any other. No special prep, diet or morning routine, I just did my thing.
Short Track was the first race of the weekend and I wanted to do well and set the tone for the rest of the event, but I also knew this was going to be the hardest race for me. The course was not technical at all and if it was not for the larger rocks on the gravel road decent, the Super Jake would have made an appearance. Regardless, I locked out my Hei Hei and threw some warm up wheelies waiting for my call-up.
Sitting on the front row, I wasn’t too concerned about grabbing the hole-shot. I just wanted to stay up front to keep from getting taken out. The gun went off and I dropped the clutch. The start was good and I lead into the short section of single-track. A small group of five would quickly form off the front. I get nervous riding in bigger groups like that, but not feeling 100 percent I just covered any attacks. The group stayed together until about three laps to go, then my teammate Kyle Ellis launched a huge attack. He got about 50 yards up until only one other rider took charge of the chase. I jumped on the other rider’s wheel and hung on. I knew at this point either I was going to win or Kyle was. I left the chasing entirely up to the other rider because I was not going to pull my own teammate back. Going into the last lap we did pull Kyle back though and I lead our group of three down the final decent. I entered the single-track in the lead and eased up the pace just a bit. There was a steep climb just after the single-track and just before the finish line. I knew I had to start my jump there and I knew I had to go from zero to mach nearly instantly. The strategy worked well and gave me a bike length that I would hold until the line. This was a big hurdle for me and the hard part for the weekend was over.
The next day was the Cross Country race and I was really looking forward to the technical course. We took off the line and the starting pace was fast. The second place rider from yesterday’s Short Track race set a pace that only I could match. We traded pulls for several miles of gravel until we neared the start of the rooty and rocky single-track. I was first going into the narrowing trail and once settled, I put the dancing shoes on and went to work. The goal was not to focus on going fast, but to be smooth and the plan worked well. I was putting minimal effort in and putting good time on the second place rider. By the time we exited the single-track half way through the course, I was out of sight. This was a goal of mine. I wanted to be out of sight by the time we started the big climb back to the start finish as this gives you big mental advantaged. I was able to set a comfortable pace up the climb and finished my first of two laps in the lead. I would continue this pace for the rest of the race, putting most of my focus on riding smooth and protecting my tires and bike. I completed the second lap with zero drama and wheelied across the line with over a two minute lead! I was super excited as I had won the two individual races that I had set my sights on and it also gave me a huge advantage in the Individual Omnium going into the final day.
Later that day was the downhill final. I had set a decent time for myself with a conservative run in qualifying and I really wanted to set a good time on my final run. Riding the Process 153, the only limitations I had were my own abilities and unfortunately those abilities came up short really quick. Coming off the road gap feature I was carrying a lot of speed into a short rock garden, I clipped something and T-boned into a tree. I was fine, but the brake lever clamp took the full impact and broke, leaving me without a rear brake. I was stuck to soft-pedaling to the bottom, making sure I stayed out of the way of the other racers. Good news though, I didn’t come last.
The next day would start off with team relay. Each school puts a two to four person co-ed team together and each rider does one or two laps handing off each lap for a total of four laps. Our team (King University) would have a three-person team consisting of Kyle Ellis, Kaysee Armstrong and myself, Kaysee would go twice. My goal would be to have a clean start and come to the line 1st or 2nd. I came in with the leader and then Kaysee took over. She would put us in the lead, handing things over to Kyle; Kyle then, put in a mega effort and shot us into the lead by over a minute. Then kaysee set out again for the final lap and came around to collect our third victory for the weekend.
The final race of the weekend was Dual Slalom. I was excited because I had another chance to ride the Process 153 again and I just needed to have a decent result to seal the deal in the Individual Omnium. In the end I would end up 9th earning me the Individual Omnium title and my fourth national title for the weekend. These results and along with many others from my awesome teammates would land King University as the number one, division two mountain biking team in the United States.
This also ends my 2015 mountain bike season. I have to send many thanks to all who supported and cheered me on all season and also many thanks to my wonderful partners: Kona Bicycles, Nox Composites, TruckerCo Components and Provision Sport Medicine. It always adds a extra fire in your belly when you know you have so many standing in your corner.
Now it’s time to start gluing tires and focusing on the next goal.
Until then, ride safe!