For those not in the know, the team just returned from North Star at
Tahoe, in the great state of California, where Collegiate Mountain
Bike National Championships were held this year. Unfortunately for
us, CA happens to lie on the other side of a large state called
Nevada, which provided some of the most dull driving experiences of my
life. Hopefully this summary of the racing-events of the weekend
(I'll leave out the night we stayed at the Casino Hotel at Montego Bay
in Nevada, it was epic) is slightly more entertaining than what may be
the most dull state in the Union.
Four events are contested at Nationals, the short track and cross
country for endurance racers, and a downhill and a 4-cross for the
gravity side of things. Points are tallied for the top three
finishers from each team and counted for the overall team omnium,
making each and every person's finish important in the hunt for the
overall. Power in numbers is also key as many Division II schools
have a hard time fielding full teams, an issue which I hope to rectify
for next season.
Racing started off on the right foot for Western State with the
women's cross country. Women completed 3 laps of the 6.5 mile course
which was a good combination of climbing and sweet descending. Amy
Hale, the newest addition to the team (and a very last minute addition
to the Nationals roster), rode to a very strong 5th place finish,
surprising everyone except for me. With two more years left at
Western, I see at least one individual stars and bars jersey in her
Eric Booton represented in the men's cross country, the lone survivor
after knee injuries took out riders Ben Jackson and Brae Patten. Next
year, we're keeping Brae far away from trampolines in the week before
Nationals. Heal fast, Brae. Eric rode a strong race after battling a
cold all week and immediately went to go practice four-cross and DH
after his race. Eric ended up competing in all four events, an
incredible feat that allows for very little down time during the 3
days of racing.
Short-track, a 30 minute, pin-it-to-win-it race followed on Saturday
morning. Both Eric and Ben suffered from a syndrome effecting some of
the riders from other schools known as 'I don't have any bike handling
skills' and were taken out on the uphill section of the course by
people not holding their lines and colliding. It was terrible luck,
but in the end, it's a part of racing and both made up tons of spots
to earn valuable points for the team.
Meanwhile, the gravity boys were busy teaching Brittany how to jump
her DH bike. I was getting reports of her ripping, or 'mobbing' down
the DH track, riding everything and getting faster by the run. The
four-cross track was the same as last year, with essentially one
corner were passing was possible. It seemed to come down to the
person who could get out of the gate the fasted would be the fasted
down the hill. Dreams were shattered during qualifying when Brittany
put her newly learned flying skills to use. While it's not possible
to crash while in the air, it is possible to crash once your wheels
hit the ground, a fact which was unfortunately learned the hard way.
With a dislocated shoulder, it was game-over, which is highly
unfortunate not just because it hurts, but because she was positively
flying and I would have put her in top ten, if not top five for the DH
on Sunday. But once again, that's racing and it's part of the game.
The boys represented well with Owen and Jordan making it into the top
16 before being knocked out by former BMX racers.
Finally it was time for the downhill on Sunday. The officials turned
the qualifying run into the race run with a electrical storm
forecasted for the afternoon, so practice runs were taken, and the
boys lined up to race. Everyone had clean runs without crashes and
when the times shook out, Owen ended up 4th and on the podium, Ansel
7th, Jordan 9th, Caleb (at his first nationals) 13th, and Eric ended
up catching his 30-second man who refused to move over for him and
yield the track. Bad karma for that person. We easily won the event
and ended the weekend on a high note.
With the absence of girls and the injury list, our team overall
suffered a little bit. But on the plus side, the entire team except
for two who have decided its time to graduate, will be back next year
and we have many riders who raced B's this year ready to step it up
next fall. If we can field a full squad, I have zero doubt in our
ability to bring home the team Stars and Bars jerseys. No doubt
whatsoever. I'm going to place my bets on Caleb being on the podium
for DH and Ansel and Brae battling it out for the individual omnium,
which is only won by someone who can race well in all four events.
It's a bright future and next time we'll get a diesel truck to tow the
trailer so Nevada (or whatever other flat state we end up crossing)
doesn't take nearly as long.
Cross season is now upon us with weekly races on Sunday (I'll send out
more info), conference championships in Durango in late November and
Collegiate Nationals in Bend, Oregon in mid-December. Cross can be
raced on a mountain bike, hardtail preferred, but I'm doing my best to
try to round up some bikes for anyone who's interested in racing.
It's been fun. You all should be proud.