Mountain Bike Nationals PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Curry   
Friday, 31 July 2009 12:45
Alex S. gets a good start 
Here is my long overdue race report from Mountain Bike Nationals.  Lisa and I set off for Granby, CO on Thursday in our comfy new minivan.  We forme a caravan with Missoula SS'er Andrew Genco, who shared a condo with us for a couple of nights.  After hours of driving and many podcasts we arrived in Winter Park and eventually found our condo.
The next day we drove up to the race venue to help our junior teammate Alex Shoenfelder get ready for his race.  We were warned that Sol Vista is not the nicest place in Colorado, which is somewhat true.  Themes of the weekend would include hot sun, thin air, and lots of dust.  We cheered on Alex as he race to an excellent 6th place finish in the junior Cat 1 field over 4 laps of the pro course.  Next Lisa and I went about trying to pre-ride the course, which was complicated by the fact that there were races happening continuously.  We managed to get in a lap.  The course was better than I expected considering a few horror stories I had heard.  Basically climb-descend.  The climb started with a few minutes of steep service road climbing, but then moderated to a nice switchbacking climb on wide singletrack snaking up a forested hillside.  The descent was interesting.  A freshly cut trail that was twisty and fun, but had deteriorated into a super-dusty, bumpy, rutted survial test.  Then just when you thought the climbing was over, half way down the descent was a decievingly hard uphill traverse through some debris and woodchips.  The lap went OK, but Lisa's fork developed a harsh bottoming behavior and I tore a sidewall on my rear tire.  The rest of the day was a stress-fest as Lisa tried to get her fork repaired and I tried to get a new rear tire tubeless-converted.  The daga finally ended by 9pm, thanks to awesome support at the SRAM tent (fork repaired!) and a gas station air compressor (tubeless success!).
Saturday was pro cross country day.  Lisa and I were both pretty terrified for our first national level races in the pro ranks.  Lisa was up first at 11 AM.  She was called up near the back.  At the gun I watched her take off and move up to solid mid pack on the opening climb.  When the racers started coming through, I waited and waited but no sign of Lisa.  Finally she came through near the back of the pack, obviously not on her game.  I speculated that her asthma had flared up, which turned out to be the case.  I saw at least three of the pro women drop out with breathing problems.  Dust was the culprit.  Unfortunatley a puff of her inhaler could have remidied the situation, but with her T.U.E. paperwork pending, this was not an option.  Lisa continued to pedal on at "tempo pace" until she was pulled.  It was a bummer.  I tried to put that out of my mind as I prepared for my race.  I was called up to the line 54th out of 71 racers.  The start actually wasn't that hard, because there was nowhere to go!  I began trying to move up as I could.  Right before the singltrack there was a 200M section of flat gravel road.  In one big effort I sprinted by at least 10 guys.  The climb up the singletrack was a continuous stream of riders.  The pace varied from snail-like to quite brisk.  There was room to pass, but the sides of the trail were rough and energy sapping, and the bumper to bumper traffic left no places to cut back in.  I made a couple of big moves and gained some more places.  I survived the first descent and came through to start lap 2 in around 30th place (I would later learn, I had no idea during the race).  I put in a big effort and passed a handful on lap 2.  As the race wore on I began to settle in to a more sustainable pace and found myself neither moving up or back, but trading positions with the same couple of riders in the mid 20s.  The last two laps I began to slow as cramping became more and more of an issue.  Miraculously, I only lost one place on the 5th lap, despite riding at what felt like zone 2 so as not to sieze up completely.  Finally after nearly 2.5 hours I was finished.  I found some shade and water.  I was pretty happing with my 25th place, but physically I have rarely felt worse.  After a couple of hours I was ready for some Chinese food.

Sunday was short track.  The course was supposedly the most climbing intensive short track in many years in the U.S.  Basically it was a 90 second climb straight up the mountain and then a 45 second descent.  Tactics and drafting were out.  This was all about anaerobic fitness.  Alex was up first.  He got caught behind a crash at the start and lost a bunch of time on the leaders.  He fought his way up from the back and made it to 22nd place.  Next was Lisa's turn.  She quickly moved up from the back of the field into 20th or so.  She was railing the descent and holding her own on the climb.  Towards the end she began to fade a bit and was in 24th when she was pulled.  As a result of the selective course, less than 10 riders finished on the lead lap in each race.  My turn.  The nervousness from the previous was gone.  Replacing it was acceptance of impending suffering.  I had a good agressive start and was soon up around 20th place.  But then each time up the climb I felt weaker and weaker.  I was gulping for air like a fish, and the legs didn't seem to be responding.  Eventually I began to slip backwards.  I was pulled in 28th place.  The upside to getting pulled is getting to watch the rest of the race, which Adam Craig won in fine fashion.

We hit the road back towards Bozeman, looking forward to the Tour de Bozeman and a month of recovery and fun.  Then cyclocross...