Mammoth National Championships, Experience of a Lifetime- Jake’s Blog

IMG_4860This year’s National Championship Race Events were awesome and unique! Right from the start, I could tell that this year’s National Championships were going to be great!  For the first time in 5 years that USA Cycling was holding the gravity an endurance races at the same venue.  We were there for a full week to take in this unique experience!

Day: 1 Monday: We arrived late Monday morning at Mammoth Mtn and went to pre-ride the XC race course.  The race course was really fun!  1/8 of a mile from the start you went up a steep fire road climb,  turned onto a singletrack climb. You follow the single track climb until you hit another steep fire road and then follow that to the top.  IMG_4635The descent was super fun and technical with lots of huge washboards, rock gardens and rutted powdery corners. We spent most of our day finding the fast lines on the descent and getting them dialed in for our Race.

Day: 2 Tuesday: We spent the morning practicing the most technical rock garden on the Shotgun Trail, which was part the  XC  course descent so we could go through it as fast as possible. After that, we practiced Nye’s Short Track course.  Afterwards, we talked, hung out and relaxed with our Uncle Tim for the rest of the day.

Day: 3 Wednesday: To keep my legs and body in top physical condition, Dad and I went and rode Uptown, Beach Cruiser, Bering Straits, and down Off the Top to Beach Cruiser trails on Mammoth Mtn. We made it over half way up the Mountain and looked over The Minerets.IMG_4586  One back, I helped Nye get warmed up for his Short Track race.  After, I wished him good luck I went to my spectating spot at the top of the climb so I could have a good view of Nye’s race.  I watched Nye as he raced his way from a 20th place early on in the first lap to a solid 12th place in the 13-14 age group!

Day: 4 Thursday, XC race day:        We prepared our bikes for the XC race, and then we went over to the race venue. At noon I went over to the staging chute with an umbrella to keep cool from the super hot Sun.

IMG_5194As I waited for my 1:00 start I stood alone for half an hour, because It was important for me to get there early, so that after the top 16 racers were called up I would be the next person to line up,  At 12:45 they lined up the 16 call up list racers, and I was ready to move when they called up the last racer so that I could get the best starting spot. It didn’t happen like that.  After the 16 racers were called up, the race official kept on calling people’s names to stage! The rules clearly stated that only the top 15 racers and the previous year’s National Champion would be called up, but the race official kept calling people up, so I ended up around thirtieth and in the 5th row!  I was so mad USA Cycling messed up their own rules and that I waited an hour for Nothing!  In the beginning of the first lap I stayed around thirtieth until the climb when I moved up a few positions. So over the 1st lap I passed racer after racer until I caught the lead group just as we crossed under the finish line which put me in 5th going into the 2nd lap. By the end of lap 2nd  I was in second, and one quarter of the way into the 3rd lap I passed and dropped the race leader. Throughout the remainder of the race, I extended my lead to over 1 minute on second place, and became the Cat 1 15-16 National Champion!IMG_4970                                                                                                                                                    Nye, at the young age of 12 raced hard, and managed to place 13th in the 13-14 category.  There was no time to celebrate because at 4:30 we had our Dual Slalom qualifying for our races on Friday.IMG_4461                                                                  I ended up qualifying 16th in the 15-18 category and Nye was 8 out of 16 in the U14 category!

The awards ceremony for the day’s races wasn’t until 6:30, although it was a short wait, but my anticipation made it seem a long wait.  When I was called up to the podium I was so proud and happy to be able to wear (my 3rd)  Stars and Stripes Jersey again!

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Day: 5 Friday with two races to come I still needed to keep my fitness up. So we went out for an early ride. My Uncle Tim was kind enough to give us a shuttle to the start of the Mountain View Trail which was right next to the scenic overlook of the Minarets!IMG_4876    The Mountain View Trail was super fun and flowy, it was just what I needed to stay amped up for my upcoming races!  Our Dual Slalom race was at 2:30. IMG_4474I had the 16th fastest qualifying time so I had to race the fastest qualifier.  The race start gate dropped I kept up with my competitor until the lower half of the course until he put a small gap on me. I was pretty happy just to be able to keep up with the racer who eventually won my age group and became the national champion.   I was also happy to have learned to race something new!  Nye did much better than I did he beat his first competitor, but he lost to his second competitor who went on to be the National Champ, and Nye ended up 8th (he might have placed higher but he had a small crash) out of 16 racers which I thought was great!

Day: 6 Saturday. The only practice times for the Enduro were from 6:00pm until dark on Friday and Saturday.  Friday I need to get some rest and recovery so I didn’t practice.  Dad and I decided to pre ride the Enduro Course on Saturday, when I wasn’t tired from my XC and Dual Slalom race. At 6:00 Saturday night me and dad went to practice all 4 of the Enduro stages before dark, which was going to be a huge feat and an adventure, for sure.  We quickly learned how technical and crazy the stages were!  Each stage held its own set of challenges. Stage 1 was super technical, with tons of rock drops, root drops, rock gardens, roots, jumps and steep descents!  It was the Pro Downhill Line, so hard it made a former World Masters Champion say “it’s a handful”!  I’d have to say I agree!  Stage 2 was the most pedaly stage, and was my favorite because there was a big drop onto a wooden ramp!IMG_5090 When I first came up to the drop I thought “that looks hard!” but after I jumped and cleared it, I was thinking how I couldn’t wait until race day to shred it again!  Stage 3 was another pedaly stage.  There wasn’t anything technical until the lower half of the course, where fun was kicked up a notch.  There were lots of concrete paver birms, steep descents with tons of rocks, roots and drops, which all were super fun.  The stage ended on the lower half of the Dual Slalom, which was awesome! It was rad to finally have a really unique race course!  Stage 4 was a lot like Stage 1. It was gnarly, with drop after drop, it made me have to stay completely concentrated. After going through a rock garden, the course came to a fire road and followed that most of the way down the mountain. The last part of the stage was SO FUN!  After getting off of the fire road the trail dropped down the side of the hill and hit a couple huge table tops and then descended down a steep, loose and rocky decent down to the finish!  We finished the pre-ride just as it got dark, but even if it had gotten dark we were prepared to keep riding, because we had our awesome Light and Motion bike lights to light our way!

Day: 7 Sunday’s Enduro went great for me! Being the first ever National Championship Enduro race I was inspired to do my absolute best!  Stage 1 went good, I cleared every obstacle except  a set of two rock drops where I lost all of my speed in some really deep crushed granite just before them.  Aside from that my run went great and I flew through all of the other obstacles with ease!IMG_5206  I having a great time on Stage 2.  I went as fast as I could through all of the pedaly sections, and I was so happy when I finally hit the big wooden drop and cleared it!  On the super steep, loose and rutted finishing descent I went faster than I thought was possible for myself!  On Stage 3. I had a great run and blew through all of the obstacles until I hit a rock too hard and sliced my tire, but thankfully it didn’t go flat until I crossed the finish line.  I quickly fixed and headed up for my last run!  I had my best run on Stage 4. I nailed all of my lines, hammered the road sections and flew down the last steep, rock and loose descent! In the end, I had a ton of fun and I ended up 14th out of 37 racers in the 15-18 class!

IMG_4613This year’s Nationals was awesome!  I had so much fun, I learned about racing in a Gravity discipline, I rode some of the most Crazy trails of my life and I became a National Champion for my 3rd time!  I am already really looking forward to next year’s National Championships and I hope they will be as fun and unique as this year’s were!

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