National Champs

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Ahhh, Mammoth Mountain how I’ve missed you. The first time I went to Mammoth was back in 1996 with the Specialized Mountain Dew team. I was a semi pro and on the team with Ned and Steve Tilford. It was also the first time I ever played golf, Steve Mosher the team mechanic let me go and play with a group of the support crew and I as hooked. The last time I was in Mammoth was for National Champs back in 2006, I think JHK won that year.

I had high hopes of defending my National Champs title this year in the high sierras. Even though I feel like I have been missing a little something most of the year I have been able to eek out some good results when it counts. I had the perfect build up to Nat’s with three weeks at high altitude between Purgatory, Leadville and Mammoth. I lost even more weight then I had hoped to and tipped the scales on race day at 165 where I usually only try to drop to 170 and have spent most of this year well above that, not from lack of worrying about it. My power had been coming up in my interval sessions and I was in a great mindset.

USA Cycling announced the schedule for Nat’s earlier in the year and they decided to put the STXC before the XC this year. I had lobbied them to change it back to the traditional schedule of XC first and then the STXC the next day but they wouldn’t budge. Just like I had thought a lot of the top riders opted to skip the STXC and save it for the XC the following day. Even most of the juniors opted out of their STXC to save it for their XC. I normally race better on the second day so I decided to race it. I’m not sure if the first day or racing opens me up or if it takes some of the snap out of the other riders but when not everyone races it’s hard to gauge how it will work out. In hindsight I probably would have also decided to skip it but you never know until you try.

I raced the Epic with 100 psi in the RS-1 and 180 psi in the rear shock. I ran the 1.8 S-Works Renegade tires at 32 psi in the front and 35 psi in the rear. The course was very smooth with only one or two small rocks which I would find out the hard way were very sharp. The STXC was basically the first climb of the XC and the last descent. Finsty and I got a gap pretty early on with Stephan Davoust yo-yoing on and off as we would surge and sit up. With two laps to go I put in a little attack and when Finsty closed the gap my rear tire went flat. I couldn’t believe it but after doing all that work and worrying about wether I should race or not I didn’t even get the chance to fight for the jersey in the end. I had probably ridden twenty five laps of the course with no problems until the penultimate lap. That’s racing.

Saturday was the XC and I was extra motivated after missing out on a chance the previous day. The weather was perfect with sunshine and temps only in the low seventies. The XC course was old school with one long climb and descent. The climb was pretty shallow with lots of single track and went by pretty fast. The descent was dusty and loose with no real technical sections and a premium placed on cornering. I knew it was going to be a fast race with six laps of the course on tap.

I got a good start and went into the first single track climb third wheel behind Keegan and Howie. By the top of the first climb we were a group of five or six and I got into the descent first and opened a ten to fifteen second gap on the descent and went through the start/finish with a time of 16:24 that would be the fastest lap of the day. For next three laps it would pretty much go the same way. I would open a gap on the descent and Howie would bridge to me on the climb. On lap four Howie caught me earlier in the climb and hit it pretty hard at the top on a very steep section. I was able to go with him and again hit the descent first to start the penultimate lap with a ten second gap. When he caught and passed me right away at the bottom of the climb I knew my day was over. It was a big mushroom cloud as I exploded on the fifth lap and went from thinking about how to win the race to wondering if I was going to be able to make it to the finish. I dropped from first to sixth by the time it was all said and done. The leaders laps didn’t really get faster but my laps certainly got slower and I lost four minutes between then and the finish. Painful!

I was disappointed to lose the jersey but happy with how I raced. I went all in for the win and didn’t get it but also didn’t hold anything back. I still don’t know exactly what went wrong because usually if I’m good at the beginning I’m good the whole race and when I’m bad I’m bad. Rarely am I that good and that bad all in the same race. I’m happy the jersey stayed with the team though and will remain in Durango for another year.

I used my new custom painted Epic for the XC with 71 psi in the RS-1 and 135 in the rear. I ran Renegade 1.9 SWorks front 25 psi and rear 28 psi. Everything else was as it had been the rest of the year but I raced with out my Garmin and HR monitor to get as light as possible.

I now have a few days rest before switching gears completely and building up for Leadiville. I had been doing shorter intervals lately to get ready for the speed of XC Nats so i have had to cut down my volume to be rested enough to get anything out of them. Now I’ll ramp up my volume with some big rides in the mountains where I will wear myself down and hope to come back with some good form for Leadville. I’ll also head up to really thin air to acclimate and try to shed a few more pounds before we roll out of town at the crack of dawn in August.

I wonder if Winston had a good time on his 10 year birthday this weekend…….

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