Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mountain Bike Nationals

Every year, hundreds of kids compete in national events all around the country and even the world. Every sport that I can think of has a 'Nationals'; cycling, ice hockey, and softball to name a few. The thing about cycling that makes it different from other sports is that only five people(per category) get get recognition for their achievements, and only one of those people is the 'National Champion'. This means that a lot of cyclists go to a national event and race super fast, but don't grab a step on the podium. There is no denying that those steps don't just hand themselves to you, you gotta work hard to get one, as I proved to myself this year. Even after you work hard training all year, tons of other things can cause someone to miss a step, like: crashes, flat tires, broken chains, bad positioning on the start line, and any number of other things. But I guess it's just as much luck as it is preparation. This year at USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals, luck and preparation were on my side.

At Nationals this year, I got the third step on the male, category 2 15-18. The preparation was rough: many hours spent on the trainer, many extremely hard workouts on days when I just wanted to lay on the couch and watch movies, and also having to rest on days when I wanted to go out and just ride. It wasn't easy, sometimes it wasn't even fun, but it was fun racing minutes ahead of the rest of my category. 

We arrived at Bear Creek Resort in the late afternoon on Wednesday, July 16. The whole car ride there all I tried to do was not think about the race. I was extremely nervous, which is rare for me and races... Skip over all the not so exciting stuff that happened Wednesday night and move onto Thursday morning. I woke up, walked up to the cafe with my dad, got pancakes and bacon, then went back downstairs. Again extremely nervous, I decided to take a bath. I don't actual understand my rational for this, but I don't have to. Then I put my kit on, pumped my tires and lubed my chain, then laid in bed to try to calm down more. I got on my trainer at about 10:30, to allow 20 or so minutes to get to a good spot at staging, because the start is everything. There were call-ups but I didn't have one so I was starting in the center of the third row, not great, but not terrible. Fast forward to 1 lap to go, Adam Cohen was off the front with a rather large gap, I was sitting in third right behind Tommy Steinebrunner. I grabbed my bottle at the feed zone and cruised up the gravel climb to the single track. I moved ahead of Tommy right before the single-track climb, then he moved in front of my about half way through. We got to the top of the first descent and I passed him so I could have a clear line of sight to pick my line. This worked extremely well for me, I was smooth and fast through all the rocks. Tommy moved ahead of me on a short double-track section and then it was back into the single-track climbing, and then descending. Unfortunately there was no room to move around him before this descent, which was the rockiest and had many switch-backs in it, so I was stuck behind him for this. I knew that if I stayed with him to the last 100 meters of so I would have a great chance at out-sprinting him and taking second. Unfortunately, I crashed right after the last switch-back with about 1.5K to go, and while trying to catch Tommy again, I punctured my tire. I knew I had a sizable time gap on the people behind me so I stopped to try and let the sealant get into the hole. For some reason it didn't work super well, so I ran it for about 100 feet, then said screw it and got out my CO2. I put in a bit of CO2 to bring it back up to pressure, then just started riding. Sealant was spraying all over my leg for a bit, but it sealed with about 1K to go at about 18psi. I had to be gentle so I didn't wreck my wheel, but I wasn't too gentle. I made it across the line in third place, and I was extremely happy! I went to congratulate my competitors and then to the hospital for stitches, which turned out to actually only be one stitch(called a horizontal mattress). I got back to the resort, put on a kit, and got ready for the podium! My first podium at Nationals!! 

Now for Pictures!

Artsy Pic of Medal

Top 5

                                     The Transformation

Thanks to my parents for making great experiences like these possible, Devin for killing me with workouts, and everybody else on the team for making my training for Nationals enjoyable!

Shoutout to all of our sponsors:
Dynamic Physical Therapy, Pathfinder of West Virginia, Morgantown Brewing Company, Apothecary Ale House & CafĂ©, Sketches by Anne, Kenda Tires USA, Swiftwick Socks, Performance Coaching Services, ProGold Bikes and Cannondale Bicycles for helping make it possible! Kenda's Slant Six tires gripped over every rock, the Swiftwick socks kept my feet comfy the whole race, and the ProGold kept me sparkly and lubed for the race!