By Laura Rice
This weekend found the mountain bike team traveling to Barbourville, KY for Union College’s first home mountain bike race. We left Friday evening, taking time to make a pit stop at our favorite Asheville burrito joint, Neo Burrito! Properly fueled, we then hit the road for the 4 hour trip to our hotel. This trip marked a special event for the mountain bike girls, a room to ourselves! Needless to say, a lot of team bonding took place.
Saturday morning brought an early start with short track kicking off with an 8:20 start for the first category. The short track provided a challenge right off the start with a long steep climb complete with a few switchbacks to make it even more technical. It then headed down the 2 cross (2X) course with a few rollers, table tops and huge banked curves thrown in before propelling the racer down and out the now famous G-Out (pronounced gee-oot) and down to the finish line. This was not the only time this weekend that we could encounter the climb and the fast downhill of the 2X course.
Short track proved to be a brutal test of speed and handling, efforts and recovery due to the rapid transition between climbing and descending. The Women’s A field spread out fairly quickly with Erica Zaveta of Brevard battling Union’s own Elisa Otter for the win. Kerry Warner of Lees McRae continued his reign of speed, taking an early lead in the Men’s A. In the end, Klara Rossouw and Tim Jenkinson both brought top 5 finishes in short track for Mars Hill, with Corey Davis finishing in the top ten.
After a super short recovery, we hit the downhill (DH) to meet qualification requirements for Nationals. The new DH course was fairly smooth with a few rock effects and steep dirt drops. Catherine Hardin represented with an excellent 7th place finish, battling equipment issues and a crash. On the full suspension Scott provided to supplement the women’s DH equipment, Klara Rossouw rode to a 11th place finish, with Laura Rice immediately behind in 12th. The bike supplied by the generosity of Jay Hirst and Frank Mandaro at Beer City Bicycles in Asheville greatly improved the race experience for Klara and Laura this weekend. The men rounded out the Mars Hill showing in DH with Tim, Corey, Alan Hudson, Jake and Tyler Hutchinson also taking runs down the course.
Finishing up Saturdays’ schedule was 2X. 2X, a hybrid of dual slalom and 4 cross, sends two riders down the course at a time. After qualification runs, riders are bracketed due to their time and then ride in single elimination heats. They are not assigned lanes and can choose which line they take down the hill. Alan, Catherine, Klara, Laura and Tyler all represented Mars Hill. Unfortunately, a couple run-ins with a tree took Alan, a favorite to win, out of the competition in the first heat. Vengeance was served when the tree was removed the next day due to its dangerous location on the course. The rest of the Mars Hill team battled to remain in the competition, but sadly didn’t make it past the first round of elimination against intense competition from the other teams. However, Catherine and Klara had strong showings in the final results.
Saturday night we were rewarded with a team dinner out at Dino’s, an Italian restaurant in Corbin. The unlimited breadsticks and carb-loaded food was perfect after a long day of racing.
Sunday’s only event was cross country. The cross country also incorporated the climb and sections of the 2X course, including the G-Out. The majority of the course was fun single track, zig-zaging up and down the mountain with dusty switchbacks and fast downhill sections. Due to the shorter course, the Men’s C and Women’s B ran before the upper categories. Sarah finished in 6th with a positive racing experience under her wheels. The Men’s A started strong and fast, followed by Men’s B and Women’s A. A wreck in the Women’s A start slowed down Catherine, and broke the field into pieces immediately. Klara and Laura avoided the tangle and headed up the climb. The laps were fast and furious as riders attacked the 4 mile course. Laura experienced her first DNF with a disappointing flat near the end of her first lap, and Catherine also DNF’d due to bee stings. Klara remained to battle it out to the finish. Tim, Corey and Jake remained strong and fast, with Tim taking a top 5 finish, and Corey in the top ten. Tyler also suffered a flat on his 2nd lap of the race, while Jake remained in the race to finish out the Mars Hill men’s results.
While the team faced some disappointing results due to mechanicals, trees and insects, the entire weekend was a success and gets us one step closer to Nationals in Angel Fire, NM. The next race on the agenda for Mars Hill Cycling is Track Nationals in Texas for the track team, followed by Brevard College’s mountain bike race in two weeks.
Thanks to Union College for hosting us this weekend! I have to give a shout out to Union Cycling Coach Peter Haile for constructing competition-level trails in just a few weeks. The cross country trails especially were exciting and fun to ride, and we won’t be forgetting that climb and the G-Out any time soon! A HUGE thank you to Hugh “Papa Bear” Moran for chauffeuring us to and fro, as well as organizing our travel, meal, and race plans! And as always, undying gratitude for the many sponsors who support the team.