“It’s hard to believe the first National Championship I contested this year was back in January, in Hartford, CT and it was 15 degrees and snowing. This weekend I was in Snowshoe, WV for the XC/STXC National Championships, slightly warmer but plenty wet too. Snowshoe last hosted a national level event back in 2003 I believe when it was a NORBA National. The courses have gotten shorter since then but the racing is as fast as ever.
The past few years USAC has decided to race the STXC before the XC, not sure why but it has caused a lot people to skip it in the past and just focus on the XC. This year there was a day off between events, which seems to be the sweet spot because just about everyone contested both disciplines.
For those of you that have never been to Snowshoe it’s a east coast ski resort that is in the middle of no where and the village sits on top of the 5,000 ft mountain, not at the bottom. I have probably spent over a month of my life there having raced it many times and I can say most of the time it’s covered in fog and pretty gloomy. This year was no exception and it also had some crazy thunderstorms as well to spice things up. That said the courses were slippery and a great test of everything mountain biking.
Friday was the STXC that wound through the village, side hill and even included the tricky uphill man made rock garden. It had a lot of climbing for a STXC so I knew it was going to be extra hard. The course drained really well so even with all the rain it was in great shape.
I had a good start and dangled on and off the leaders for the first few laps. Howie and Blevins eventually gapped us but it was short lived as Blevins flatted and dropped back through the field leaving Howie off alone. I continued to dangle on and off of the chase group, eventually rolling in for forth. I didn’t know it then but that would be the theme for my XC too.
Sunday was the XC and after a thunderstorm wreaked havoc with the tents the night before the course was nice and slick for the race. The lap was about 18 minutes and consisted of two major climbs, some slippery root and rock sections and plenty of power sections. There were a few man made rock gardens that were fan favorites as well. The sun actually came out for the race, which helped dry up the fire roads but didn’t penetrate the dense forest to dry out the rocks and roots.
I had a great start, snagged the hole shot and led into the first downhill. When we hit the first climb Howie punched it and I could only ride my own pace, not able to follow. Ettinger tried to chase him down but didn’t make much progress. Then on the second lap Howie flatted and both Ettinger and I passed him. He caught me on the next climb and passed me but we were all only separated by a few seconds at the end of lap two. Lap three Howie caught and passed Ettinger and I was starting to loose sight of them. I rode solo in 3rd place until the end of the sixth and final lap when Payson passed me inside of the last mile of the race to claim 3rd, I had to settle for 4th again.
It was great to be back in the thick air of West Virginia after two years in the thin, dry air of Mammoth Mountain for Nationals. One of my coolest takeaways from the weekend was that the largest group of racers were the 13-14 juniors if I’m not mistaken. There were so many kids and families at the race; it is great to see so much enthusiasm for XC mountain bike racing. Also, my bike worked flawlessly thanks to Myron and the great equipment. Next up is Leadville where there surely won’t be any man made rock gardens or wet roots. ”