If the 2013 XC/STXC National Champs could only be summed up in three words they would be humid, hot and rocky. Bear Creek, PA proved to be a great test of fitness, technical skills, cooling ability and equipment durability. Mountain bikes have come a long way over the years and the trails have developed as well but Bear Creek was a throw back to the raw old school MTB trails I started out on.
Howie and I arrived in PA early in the week to check out the course and get things dialed in. From the time we arrived until we left I don’t think I stopped sweating. It was so humid it was like I was constantly wet, big difference from the dry air of Colorado. By the time the weekend finally rolled around it seemed like I was starting to get use to being wet all day.
The course was a 5 or 6 KM loop with one main climb and descent. There were a few ups and downs in between but it was mostly one big up and down. The terrain was rough, lots of rocks and roots. Almost everyone that had the option chose to run their full suspension bike. I was lucky to have the Specialized S-Works Epic at my disposal and I can’t imagine trying to ride a hard tail on that course. There was quite a bit of rough pedaling and that is where the Epic really shines.
The XC was on Saturday and our 4pm start time seemed like the hottest part of the day. The only good thing was the majority of the track was in the trees so we had some good shade for most of the race. I had a good start and found myself battling with Bishop for most of the first lap before gaining a few second advantage on him going through the start/finish on the 2nd of 6 laps. I rode steady trying to push on the climbs and take it easy on the descents to prevent flatting. I managed to open a gap of 40 seconds by the end of the 4th lap. That was as big as the gap would get and on the 5th lap Ettinger had come flying from 3rd place to make contact heading into the final lap. I knew I was already at my limit but tried in vain to stay with him when he upped the pace just after the start/finish. I gave everything but didn’t see him again until the finish and had to settle for 2nd. I was disappointed to miss out on the XC jersey again but gave all I had so I was happy about that.
Sunday was another shot at a title with the STXC. STXC courses need a few things to be good, good passing, fast, a short climb or two and some tricky corners. This course had it all plus two short single track rock gardens to spice things up. That was all crammed into a short 2 minute lap around the venue area. The heat wave finally broke on Sunday and we only had to deal with high 80s and 100% humidity instead of the 90s.
I had another good start and tried to push the pace from the beginning. I opened a small gap on the first lap that Ettinger closed on the 2nd. I upped the pace again on the 3rd lap and got a gap that I would increase all the way to the finish. It felt great to successfully defend my STXC National title form last year. I had really wanted to get that XC National jersey but am happy looking back on the last 3 weeks, I won 4 out of 5 races so I can’t complain too much.
I used my S-Works Epic with 165 psi in the rear shock, 95 in the front shock for the XC. I also ran Fast Track 2.0 Control tires with 25 psi front and rear. I have never raced with Control casing front and rear before so that should give you some idea how rough the course was. For the STXC I rode the S-Works Stumpjumper HT with 95 psi in the front shock. I used a Fast Track 2.0 S-works tire in the front (26 psi) and a Renegade 1.95 S-works rear at (27 psi).
This picture isn’t the best but from left to right is the team Dolf(mechanic), Smalls(team mascot), Howie, Tyler(Team Manger), Me and Eric(mechanic) all rocking our mustaches in support of Howie. It didn’t work that well though as Howie crashed while leading the U-23 race inside of 3 minutes from the finish, dislocated his shoulder and couldn’t finish the race.
Yesterday we had a busy day flying back to Denver and then grabbing my truck I had left at DIA after the Global Product Launch in Copper a few weeks ago. We drove back to Durango(6 hrs), I threw my cycling clothes that were still wet from the day before in the wash, grabbed Winston and headed up to my Leadville base camp at DMR. With just under 3 weeks to go before I Leadville I need to get reacclimatized and switch up my training from short intervals to long days. Winston and I got it going with a little run this morning. Note: I didn’t run the whole thing, that would be crazy.
I wonder what Bennos’ doing right now…..