Last month I had the opportunity to go to my first Mountain Bike Nationals in Snowshoe, West Virginia. It was an amazing experience with some very fun and difficult racing.
After a long day of traveling our team arrived at the condo Wednesday evening and got ready to go for a short ride. We rode one of the more technical sections of the XC course which was a rooty trail through the woods. Riding in Snowshoe is very different from riding in Colorado, everything is much more slippery and there are way more roots and mud. At first it was difficult to ride through these rooty sections but my coach Pete and my teammates gave me lots of pointers and tips, like always riding perpendicular to the roots, which helped. After riding this part of the course about five times I started to get the hang of it.
The next day we prerode the full XC course and I had a chance to really see the whole race venue as well. I’ve never been to a race this big before so seeing all the big teams with their tents and the large start/finish area was really cool. After preriding the course I was excited to race but I was also a little nervous. At the end of the course there was a big rock garden that all the racers were scoping out and I was a little intimidated but overall the course looked super fun, with a few technical root and rock sections along with some good climbs. After preriding we headed back to the condo and Pete helped wash and tune our bikes and made sure they were in perfect working order for the race. The rest of the day was just resting and prepping for the XC the next day. The boys all did lots of “choco-loading”, which basically consisted of eating chocolate and cookies to “prep” for their races.
Friday was the day we raced XC, but my race, Girls 15-16, wasn’t scheduled until 6 pm. This was my first evening race and it was definitely a long day of sitting around and resting prior to the race. At least we had the Tour de France to watch in the morning, which gave us something to do.
Finally it was time to race and luckily it hadn’t rained all day so the course would be dry. I knew two other girls who would be racing in my category but the rest were all new and most were not from Colorado. The XC race was so much fun and I learned a lot from it. My competitors were all much more aggressive than any race I had done back in Colorado, I had to fight so hard right from the start to stay in the lead group. Overall the pace was also harder than any of the previous races I had done. I really had I push myself the entire race, which made it that much more challenging and exciting. I was very happy to finish in third place and gain new racing experience.
On Saturday I didn’t have any races so I had the chance to cheer on the older boys on our team in their races and watch the pro women race. Beside competing in my own races, watching the pro women race was one of the best parts about Nationals. It was really inspiring to see some of my biggest cycling role models race the same course I did and win national titles. To end another good day of racing, we celebrated Thomas’s birthday with some brownies the boys made. Surprisingly they managed not to burn the house down in the process, despite almost forgetting the brownies in the oven!
Sunday was short track. I’ve only done a few short track races before but this was definitely the hardest one I’ve ever done. The course had three decent sized climbs in it and the race would be determined by the last climb coming into the finish. I’ve never pushed myself quite as hard as I did in this shortrack and I surprised myself with how far I can stretch my limits in racing. One of the biggest things I learned from the short track was how important it is to be aggressive at the start to gain positions and set yourself up for the rest of the race. I ended up finishing third again.
Overall I had an awesome time racing in Snowshoe. I won two bronze medals and I gained a lot from the entire experience. A huge thank you goes out to my family and coaches for allowing me to have this amazing opportunity and for all the support throughout the trip!
Returning home from Nationals has left me feeling extremely motivated and eager to start training for the upcoming High School season after a couple weeks of rest.
Photo: John Cotton