Ah man, Collegiate MTB Nationals in Angel Fire, New Mexico. Where do I start? So many awesome races, so many awesome results, the conditions deserve a write up of their own, and that’s without even mentioning all the emotions that ran high among the team…
Let’s start from the beginning. Last Wednesday, the team rolled out from Asheville airport with carry-on luggage and not much else. One bag was checked on, and of course everyone decided to add their own little bits and bobs to it…when we realised it was kinda overweight by 12lbs, Hugh “Airport Ninja” Moran worked his trickery and we sailed through without a hitch. Experience with travelling certainly pays off! We have much to learn from our wise coach.
Most of the travelling, from Asheville to Houston to Albuquerque, went off without a hitch. However, the problem arose when we tried to pick up our checked bag on the other side. First we were told that the carousel crew went home because they thought with the thunderstorm going on, they didn’t have to do their job. First off, that’s stupid. Secondly, what?? No. Just, just no. Then we were informed that actually the bag is still in Houston and it will only reach New Mexico at noon the next day…yeah, not really ideal. But it gets better…we got word from Lees-McRae that a big ol’ snowstorm rolled into Angel Fire, where we were headed. So Hugh made an executive decision and we spent the night at a hotel so we could roll on out the next morning. So onto our final day of (unplanned) travel, in our awesome mad cool Toyota soccer mom car. Sans one checked bag. But that met us in the evening at our condo, thanks to FedEx courtesy of the airline. New Mexico is an awesome place though, I dig it! For us South Africans, it pretty much looks just like home. For reals. We loved it so much! And then the perfect song came on the satellite radio. Send Me on My Way by Rusted Root (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGMabBGydC0&ob=av2e), which instantly became our theme song for the weekend. Cue terrible and enthusiastic singing by the whole team..
Once we arrived in Angel Fire, we quickly checked in, unpacked, built our bikes and got onto the course to check it all out for the next day. An hour later, all the riders rolled back in frozen, covered in mud, hardly able to move and saying some interesting things about the course…apparently it was all snow and mud, impossible to ride and just ridiculously slow. When it takes an hour to do a 5mile lap, that’s pretty nasty. So bring on the next day’s XC race…
Friday dawned cold. Like, immaturely cold. Seriously, the weather was childish. But, even though the women had a ridiculously cold start, they had some frozen ground to help out on the course. Not so for the guys…Klara Rossouw and Laura Rice headed out onto their two lap race at 9.10am, with much enthusiasm and awesomeness. The race conditions were so terrible, the lap count was reduced. Yeah, that bad…I know right? Both the girls had real hard races, in crazy tough conditions, but they both came out pretty satisfied with their performances. Klara cracked the top ten with a 9th place, and Laura reached 21st in her first National Championship event ever. Talk about one stoked racer! In mad conditions, both girls showed determination and all ‘round badassery to finish the race with all they had and their results showed it. Ah yeah!
The guys’ race was basically, to use a way overused cliché, a race of attrition. The mud and snow melted, causing the course to be near unrideable. Quite a few racers claimed to have ridden the uphill, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Personally, I reckon that 3mile mud hike-a-bike was a joke, it sucked! Our race started off real fast, with a mad scramble to be first into the singletrack climb. I was the first MHC rider into the treeline, with Tim Jenkinson hot on my rear wheel. Almost immediately, I had to drop into granny gear because of the carnage. Unfortunately my derailleur went from middle to off in no time at all. So while I wrestled with that, a big bunch of riders passed me. I couldn’t even restart properly, so I had to run. Unfortunately, almost every other rider had the same idea…I didn’t have the arm strength to get all ardgy-bardgy with them, so I quickly dropped back in the field. Not an ideal place to be really. Soon my teammate Corey Davis passed me, and that provided some inspiration to my racing ability. Going over the top of the climb, just behind Corey, the mud really came into play. That descent was one of the gnarliest, muddiest, most slippery and sketchy things I have ever seen and ridden. Also, it was AWESOME! Even though I couldn’t see a thing, despite wearing my glasses, it was sick. Mad berms, crazy slippery corners, incredibly dodgey everything….perfect recipe for rad cool riding! Then lap two started. Not so ideal. This time I had a bit of space around me, so I got off and started running. Muddy bike in tow. I just ran my bike up the mountain essentially, but it worked just fine. I passed like a whole bunch of people, so not too shabby really. I got pulled after my second lap, along with Corey and our fourth teammate, Maitland Jones. Tim finished our top rider in 9th spot, I finished next in 22nd, Corey came in 24th and Mait finished up 31st. So two top tens for Mars Hill in the XC then, not much to complain about.
Saturday brought along the short track racing, traditionally our strongest discipline and the DH in the afternoon. Which is generally not our thing, as we’re not really gravity riders. However, Klara proved us wrong by having an absolute mad run and storming her way to 4th place. Baller! Tim and Corey rolled down the course pretty much, to get points for the team and not kill themselves in the process. Or that was the plan anyway…Unfortunately Corey had a mishap on the way down…OK, he smoked himself on a tree. Knocked himself out something epic. We think. We’re still not sure…either way, the guy has a concussion. Still, he rolled down in a pretty decent time! That’s MX skills for you. What a champ! Tim finished 30th, and Corey still managed 40th. That’s more points for the team! The STXC in the morning was brutal. 30mins of torture in ridiculous conditions at altitude. The perfect recipe for one heck of a sick race! Klara and Laura had yet another crazy hard race, with amazingly fast racers in their division. Klara raced to 9th again, showing her versatility as an all ‘round racer, and Laura beat her XC position with 20th. Top 20! Laura says she was real happy with her racing over the weekend, she felt like she was at the top of her game for the weekend. So a very successful weekend of racing for her!
For the guys’ race, conditions were yet again just crazy. Luckily the temperatures increased, so the skinsuits were broken out for some speedwork. Again, the start was insanely fast so positioning was everything. Tim was ridiculous out of the blocks and got the hole shot. I was just outside the top ten, with Corey and Mait behind. After 3 laps, Mait was pulled. Which shows exactly how fast the competition was. Corey lasted a few more laps until he was pulled as well. Tim and I rode together for a few laps, until he pulled away. I knew he had better form than I did, so I paced him for a while to get his engine revving again and build up that motivation. It worked well, as he rode to a mad finish of 5th place. Podium! Booyah! I duked it out with another rider, and he pipped me to the line for 6th. So I finished in 7th place, another top ten for the team. I reckon I improved my position from the XC so much, because I was rocking a sweet pair of ski goggles. Yeeahhbuddy! Without a doubt the best idea I had the entire weekend. I had no problem seeing at all, it was great. But I’ll tell you what; we could all taste blood in our mouths after that race! Man, that was brutal. Hoo boy….
Sunday was the final day of racing. The dual slalom. For us, it came down to this racing that decided whether or not we made it onto podium for team omnium. Tim, Klara and Corey ripped The Hill, and brought it home! Corey unfortunately was still suffering heavily from his concussion and didn’t make it past the qualifiers. Both Tim and Klara got knocked out in their next rounds, but it was enough to get us on the podium! By 1 point I think it was…Standing on the podium with two other South East Conference teams was awesome, I’ll tell you what. And then seeing Tim and Klara standing on the podium for individual omnium, that was great! Overall, it was considered a good weekend for the team. 5th team omnium, 5th men’s individual omnium, 5th women’s individual omnium, 4th women’s DH, 5th men’s STXC, 7th men’s XC, 9th women’s STXC, 9th Men’s XC, and 9th women’s XC. So that’s 7 top ten finishes, 2 podiums and 3 omnium podiums. Not too shabby hey, not too shabby at all. Next year, we’ll be back and hungry for some top three medals! Angel Fire, New Mexico you have not seen the last of us!
A big shout and thanks to SpinTech Training for keeping us in tip top shape, as well as getting our bikes Nationals race ready. To Hearn’s bike shop, for the generous loaning of three bikes for us to race our gravity events on. To Raw Revolution energy bars for fuelling us in the extremely cold weather, when we needed it most, and finally to Mars Hill College for providing us the opportunity to race in all the awesome places that we do. Without them, nothing we do could be possible!
— Mikey Keith
1. Union College-Kentucky 667
2. Warren Wilson College 461
3. Humboldt State University 381
4. Western State College of Colorado 358
5. Mars Hill College 358
Division II Men
1. Matt Schiff (Fort Collins, Colo./Humboldt State University) 370
2. Owen Tulip (North Conway, N.H./Western State College of Colorado) 255
3. Wesley Lamberson (Limestone, Tenn./Union College-Kentucky) 254
4. Eric Smith (Ripon, Wisc./Ripon College) 254
5. Timothy Jenkinson (Mars Hill, N.C./Mars Hill College) 223
Division II Women
1. Eva Wilson (Kensington, N.H./Warren Wilson College) 458
2. Essence Barton (Thousand Oaks, Calif./California Lutheran University) 410
3. Elisa Otter (Barbourville, Ky./Union College-Kentucky) 371
4. Kara Uhl (Smithville, Texas/Union College-Kentucky) 325
5. Klara Rossouw (Mars Hill, N.C./Mars Hill College) 322
Short Track Cross Country
Men – Division 2
1. Matt Lyons (Denver, CO/University of Denver) 28:42)
2. Matt Schiff (Fort Collins, CO/Humboldt State University) 29:10
3. Adam Miller (Colorado Springs, CO/Colorado College) 29:40
4. Drake Lindsey (Hiram, GA/Union College-KY) 29:59
5. Timothy Jenkinson (Mars Hill, NC/Mars Hill College) 30:09
Women – Division 2
1. Coleen Pacurariu (Usaf Academy, CO/US Air Force Academy) 10:42.7
2. Kate Weisenfluh (Brevard, NC/Brevard College) 11:24.6
3. Eva Wilson (Kensington, NH/Warren Wilson College) 13:17.3
4. Klara Rossouw (Marshill, NC/Mars Hill College) 14:07.8
5. Catherine Harnden (Barbourville, KY/Union College-KY) 15:08.1