Photo: Bill Freeman
The XC National Champs when down this weekend in Mammoth, CA. This is the second year in a row our Stars and Stripes jerseys have been awarded at the high(9,000 ft) Eastern Sierra ski town. Mammoth has hosted everything from the Kamikaze, World Cups, NORBAs and at least four National Championships. I had yet to ever earn a jersey in the beautiful area but I was hoping to turn things around this past weekend.
The XC was on Friday and the course was identical to last year. One long climb up 800 ft in around 11 minutes, a short flat section on top and a ripping dusty, rough descent back to the start/finish. The weather was perfect with temperatures in the low 80s, a good breeze and not a cloud in the sky.
My goal was to start a little slower this year 95% instead of 100% in hopes of not mushroom clouding midway through the race like I did last year. The first lap was good, Howie and Keegan had about 15 seconds to Finsty who had about 15 seconds to me. The problem started when I rolled through the start/finish and noticed my rear tire was going flat heading out onto lap two. I had a CO2 but waited till I got to the feedzone just around the corner to air it up, that way if it didn’t work I could just change the wheel. I should have just changed the wheel in the first place because the CO2 didn’t seal the cut and it took much longer then to get the wheel changed. I gave about 1 minute to the leaders in the pit and started the second lap somewhere between 15-20th but more importantly nearly 1:30 down to the leaders.
I managed to climb back through the field and ride the last two laps in 4/5 with Ettinger before eventually out sprinting him on the last lap for 4th. I had a faster time then last year even with my pit stop, moved up a few places at the finish too but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. The guys in the front were flying so the podium eluded me again this year.
Bike setup: Scott Scale RS, Rock Shox SID 93 psi, Eagle 38 front, 10/50 rear, Maxxis Ikon 2.2 front 27/ rear 29.
Like is the case for most bike races, there was no time to dwell on my result because the next day as another chance in the STXC. This year the course streamed lived by USAC so the course was basically a short loop around the expo area. It was nearly flat with almost 70% pavement and just a few loose wood chip turns and a blown out berm that dropped us down onto the start/finish. I choose to ride a slick rear tire because of all the pavement and that might have cost me a little in the end.
Finsty and I had the numbers in the lead group of six with the only team having more then one rider in the group. We both attacked quite a bit but it was pretty clear with no selective sections on the course and plenty of headwind down the finish straight we were going to come to the finish in a group. Keegan was the first to jump with two laps to go and chased him down catching just before we hit the wood chip section and berm back to the start/finish to start the last lap. I went all in with Finsty on my wheel hoping one of us would hold on for 1:30 lap to get the win. Howie managed to jump both of us in the wood chips just before the berm. I went super hot down the berm to try and grab his wheel but slid sideways and lost any chance of coming to the line with him for a sprint. Howie claimed his second National Championship title in as many day. I came 2nd, Finsty 3rd in what was a super tactical and exciting race. It was a case of close but no cigar, I won’t miss National Champs at Mammoth when we head to West Virginia next year.
Bike Setup: Scott Scale RS, Rock Shox SID 93 psi(locked out entire time), Eagle 38 front, 10/50 rear, Maxxis Pace front 30, Refuse slick rear 44(would use the Pace next time for better traction on the loose berm).
We had a great family road trip out to the Crusher and National Champs. It was a looong 13 hr drive home yesterday but we stopped in Moab and Coop got to hit the pump track so it wasn’t too bad. Now I have a much needed break before pumping up the volume and altitude for Leadville/Breck Epic.
I wonder if Winston is enjoying his birthday…….