The most stressful race of the year is done... Mountain bike Nationals this year were in Snowshoe, West Virginia this year. A remote ski resort, about 6 hours away from Chapel Hill, NC, Snowshoe is also right next to an observatory. Although you can’t see the observatory from the mountain, you can feel the effects; the observatory necessitates radio silence - so there is no cell service in the area.
After driving back from Boulder in 2 days, I had 4 days in Chapel Hill, NC before heading up to Nats and the next 4 weeks of racing. Luckily, my family came up to Snowshoe with me, so leaving so quickly wasn’t as tough. My younger brother, Paul, raced his first ever National Champs race after a killer NICA season - so cool to see him out at the races!
The racing kicked off with STXC on Friday afternoon/evening. After some last minute uncertainty due to inclement weather, the race was ultimately set for Friday evening at 7pm. Dealing with the schedule changes was a little difficult, but I ended up having a decent race. While my start was lackluster, I ended up being able to claw back through the 35min race, making selections until it was Keegan Swenson and I chasing down a charging Howard Grotts. We ended up going 2 -3, with me rounding out the last step on the podium.
The next day, with the first race out of the way, quite a bit of the pre race pressure was lifted. The way the scheduling worked, anyone that raced STXC and XC had a day in between the events. Although a little different from the standard back-to-back format of racing, I enjoyed the extra day.
The final and main event (XC) followed the next day. I woke up early that morning to the sound of heavy rain and the promise of interesting course conditions, and, sure enough, the course was soaked and slick. Unfortunately I made a mess of my front row call up in an untimely tangle with eventual winner, Chris Blevins. I worked hard to regain contact with the front of the race on the first lap, but was able to settle into a rhythm riding with Chris once I had come back. We rode together and away from the field until Chris managed to ride away towards the beginning of the last lap. All in all, it was a good race and I can’t complain with the result. It’s a little bittersweet to miss the title my last year as a U23, but Chris was hard to stop!
Next stops: Mont-Sainte-Anne, QC and Windham, NY.