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Report1999-11-13

National Collegiate Mountain Bike Championships

Date: 1999-11-13
By: Rob

Helen, Georgia

I don't think that anyone realizes the magnitude of National Collegiate Mountain Biking. It should be everyone's goal to get to Nationals before you graduate.

I wake up at the ass-crack of dawn (5:15am) and when I get out of the shower, the phone rings. It's the guy from The SuperShuttle, and he's here 25 minutes early. I convince this guy to come back for us since he is way too early, I mean I haven't even put my pants on yet. I grab my stuff that I had finished packing at 2:30am, and go to meet The SuperShuttle for its second time around. It is cool and breezy, and the time is nearing for Matt to meet me. Before I know it The SuperShuttle shows up, but no Matt. The SuperShuttle guy (I'll call him Mack for lack of remembering his real name) starts sweatin' me, so I go to call Matt from the lobby of Kelly Hall. His roommate answers, and goes to locate Matt. I expect to here FFFUUUUUCCCKKKK at the other and of the receiver, but his roommate gets back on and tells me that Matt has left. I get back to The SuperShuttle and I'm convincing Mack to stay just a few more minutes while I go look down the street to see which direction Matt is coming from. I see Matt about 2 blocks down and wave to him to hustle, I get back to The SuperShuttle and tell Mack that Matt is right there. We load up and start heading through what looks very much like the hood. We are cruising through somewhere around 54th and deep south, and it's not looking better. Like the conversationalist of a cabby, Mack starts inquiring about our travels, it's only 6:20am. We shoot the shit, and when Mack discovers that we are headed to Georgia, The South as he put it, and starts in with how he had a gun to his belly several times down there in the south, so he left it for Philadelphia. Matt and I look at each other like yeah, that makes so much sense! Mack continues with, If someone asks you: Are you a Yankee, Or a Damn Yankee, What would you say Like this is a quiz show, and Matt and I are the only contestants playing, not by choice. Apparently, according to Mack, a Damn Yankee is someone from the north who moves to the south, and a Yankee is someone just visiting... Sure. So we pull up to this other residence, and Matt says convincingly, this looks like the hood. As Mack gets out of The SuperShuttle, he returns with, Hey, I live in the hood.

We get to the airport and hop on this sardine-can-prop-plane to Newark. Matt hasn't even flown on a plane before. We get on it and Matt has to duck big time just to get to his seat, we're lucky his bags fit overhead. Like ridding bitch in a pinto, we get to Newark for our layover. We are bused to the terminal and start to try and look for the exit in the direction to our connecting flight. As we approach the exit of the terminal all the people leaving are stopping in their tracks, confused by the x-ray security thing at the entrance/exit to the terminal. This one security lady exclaims, repeatedly, Everything you will ever need or want, is located outside the terminal! Matt and I look up at each other, and laugh, it's a good thing she had said that, because now that is one less place on earth that we know not to look for a date. I fell asleep at our gate, and after being woken up by something (maybe the extremely loud voice over the intercom) we board the plane. Matt and I are sitting in seats that are in the middle, right in front of each other, and this big (I mean large) family has the seats right around us. I offer my seat to the older husband and wife so that they can sit next to each other. But these two sisters (early 30's), each like 300 lbs (no shit!), sit right on either side of Matt. I feel bad for Matt, because its a 2 and a half hour flight and there really isn't anywhere he can go, although the toilet at the back of the plane might be more accommodating. There is this younger husband and wife with a little 18 month old kid that is just silly. They are sitting across the isle from me. At one point during this flight this little kid kept throwing things, like plastic spoons, wadded paper, and little stuffed animals. I kept picking these up for this lady, it was cool though I was laughing at this kid, and he thought it was pretty funny too. I was listening to my music when I felt the floor beneath my feet shake. Startled, I wake up. This little kid threw one of hose large feeding mugs, you know, with the no-spill-lid. I thought that shit was everywhere, but that damn lid holds true to form, it's a good thing too because that kid is going to play baseball some day, and he's going to hurt other kids with that pitch.

We get to the airport with so much time to spare. We travel down this corridor to this automated tram that ships us out of the airport to the baggage claim. We get our bikes, and there are no other bikers anywhere. As we are waiting for Nate from Georgia State U. with the shuttle, we meet Ryan and Jess (from William and Mary), Trever (from Seattle Community College), Mik (from U. of Texas, Austin), Ron (from U. of North Texas), Desiree (from U. of Oklahoma), and Greg (from Texas A&M). We all get social, and Trever leaves to get some ?bean drink? (coffee) as he puts it, from Seattle's Best. Trever is this bike messenger dude, with a sort of southern, hippie, accent. This guy Ryan is equivalent to the Zeph of William and Mary, he has such uncontrollable excitement, it's awesome! Greg who has my name is Yeti, please handle me with care and Technical Equipment on his bike box and Ron are both not too social, particularly Ron. Desiree is a grad student in dental school, and Mik is also in grad school but for business. We finally see Nate drive by, but on the other side of the airport traffic. He makes for a second pass and picks us all up. We decide to wait for some guys from Vermont, and Matt and I joke around like it is OK to leave them. Ryan, Matt and I walk down the baggage claim looking for other riders. Finally, we depart, without Vermont. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Helen, and we all get to know each other on the way there. Trever tells us about his teams' Volvo that some kid owns, the doors are rusted shut and it shakes when it drives, they call it Vladimir - The Destroya. We talk about our schools, our majors, Hubs & Wheelsets, and debate about Carbon vs. Aluminum. We get to Helen by sundown, and drop off Greg and someone else at the Comfort Inn. Through the lobby window, which is painted with some kind of autumn scheme, we see Join us every morning for our continental breakfast, 6:30-9:00. Ryan jumps out of the Van to see if he can use the restroom inside, but gets rejected by the Hotel reps, so we tell him that he should piss on the painted tree in the window. He decides to hold it, since the paint would probably run.

Matt and I get dropped off at the Festhall where registration, meals, awards and just about everything else takes place. We start to register and talk to this guy Forest (from Montana State U.) and discover that the Men's A will do 4 laps (32 miles), and the Men's B will do 3 laps (24 miles). We pay and find out where we are staying and drag our gear to the Super 8 down the street. We check in and notice that we are in the same hotel as Army, Air Force, U. of Texas-Austin, William & Mary, Michigan State, and Penn State, just to name a few. We get somewhat settled, and head out for our meal at the Festhall. While standing in line, we look in front of us to see this guy talking with some other conference directors. He is wearing what looks like a navy blue jacket with a small flying D on the back with a lacrosse stick through it. Knowing it's a Drexel thing, we approach this guy, he turns around and its Lou Marciani, Drexel's ex-Athletic Director. We shoot the crap with him and the other conference directors for a bit. It turns out that he is getting involved with USA Cycling to promote collegiate cycling with the possibility of a collegiate division race the day before the First Union Pro Race in Philadelphia. Later, while were still in line to get a meal we notice Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (where I almost went to school), standing right behind us. They have girls on their team. I ask there coach if he knows my friend Chris Newman from a few years back. Chris is a guy I went to school with, who raced for Cal Poly, and gave me a bunch of information about getting involved with collegiate cycling. After socializing for a while, we get up to the food and they are serving salad, lasagna (meat or veggy), bread, and iced tea. Nothing special. This girl Heather, probably the Zeph of University of Colorado, Boulder, is in line behind me jumping around as though there won't be enough food for her by the time I get served. After talking to Heather, Matt and I get our food, and follow her to her table where 18 of her teammates are sitting. Barely any chairs to sit with their group, we find our own table and eat by ourselves. We saw the team from Northern Arizona University who had these really cool shirts that were navy with gold lettering. They were made specifically for their nationals team, and on the back they listed the names of everyone, and had We're just here for the food fight! When we are almost finished we see Desiree, who is not sitting with anyone, so we cruise over. She is upset because they ran out of salad. We sit down, and Mik comes over and joins the three of us. Then we see Kyle Dixon (Easterns Men's A Champion) who sits right behind us, and shoot the shit with him too. Shortly after diner there is a riders meeting hosted by some guy running the race, and the head of NORBA. The NORBA guy started explaining the rules, etc. Someone must have asked too many questions because the guy running the race gets on the microphone all irate and says he'll have to cut the meeting short, I guess he didn't get any salad either.

We walk back to the hotel with Desiree and Mik, who are also at the Super 8, and offer us help if we need it with our bikes. Once we are back, Matt and I assemble our bikes, and we decide to test ride them to make sure they fit. We cruise out on the main street which is only a mile long. We notice a Taco Bell, and keep it in mind for after the race on Saturday. We get back to the hotel, and Matt starts in with how great mountain biker chicks are. There really are some wonderful things about mountain biking. We get a call from Desiree who offers us a floor pump for a screw driver (the tool, not the drink). She comes over and we all hang out and get our bikes together. Matt and I decide to get some rest, since the races start at 9:00am. We wish Desiree good luck, she told us that she would see us at the start. Matt and I continue our conversation about mountain biking, and Matt says, ...we're off to a great start, we're out of the gate! I put on my headphones at 10:30pm to go to bed, and pass out before the first song is through.

I finish the race and have this great feeling to eat, along with the excitement to party. But first I get a wake up call at 6:30am which seems so very early, especially since I was dreaming. I actually thought that I had finished the race! We actually leave for breakfast at 7:00am. There are people there, and we are served bagels, hot biscuits and egg, muffins, fruit, frozen orange juice and coffee. It made for a healthy meal, then we saw the Upenn guys there. We cruise back to the Super 8, I crawl back to bed since my start time is in an hour and forty-five minutes, and it is too cold to warm up. Eventually, I get out of bed and start to warm up along the main road. I get to the starting line for staging. They call all the No. 1 guys from each team, U. of Colorado-Boulder, Northern Arizona U., Drexel U... Hey they called me! I cruise up to the line with a bunch of Pros. I'm chillin' like I so don't belong. I see Craig Milliron (Army) pull up right next to me. Yo, what's up? I look behind me and all these bikers are lining up, tight! I can't even see the end of them. A bunch of people are taking pictures, I see Matt snap a few and then Desiree shows up, the crowd around the start/finish area is going nuts, then there is the start. Bang. The whole field of over 150 riders heads out, 25 yards up from the start, on a 70 foot wide road the group takes a 90 degree turn, and I'm on the inside. People are bumping, bar-ends are locking, guys are wrecking, I'm catching my breath. The course goes on up this road turning left, after about 100 yards the 70 foot wide road drops into a 10 foot wide bottle-neck before the trail starts to climb. People are still wrecking, yelling, and cursing. Havoc has been reached by this point, and just about everyone has dismounted. I'm pushing it, climbing this hard clay-packed trail, while my hard-soled Sidi shoes are not even gripping anything. We get to what seems like the top after 2 switch backs and the trail levels off to this great, smooth single track that is at such a shallow grade you almost don't feel like you're climbing, OK, actually I felt it, I was pushing too hard at this point. The course curves up this hill with banking turns, little to no technical skills required. We reach the peak of the hill only after being deceived several times. The downhills are awesome. Fast, Fast, Fast, with banking turns that ride out high, small ruts that will eat your front wheel, and leaves that let your tires slip out from under you while they laugh. On the back side there is this field that has bridge crossings, grass, and sand on this one 90 degree turn that took advantage of me. After rolling around in the sand, I get up and keep going through the field. We get to this short power climb that looks just like the switch back section on the Indian Trail at Wissahickon Park. It feels so damn good! These trails continue to get better with every turn, and the uphills are so reasonable. Fighting gravity to the top, I clear the crest and take off on the rolling single track. The downhills are so damn fast and the corners that are not banked seem to just slide out from under you, kind of like the one that gave me shit for speeding and tackled my front wheel. That little shit took me out and threw my knee into a root! I road it off though, not my leg, the pain, right down this hill and into this switch back that was out of control. I swear I should have preroad this course, this damn turn I nearly missed. Just after it, came this steep decent that was fully eroded, the kind that if your wheel locks you start going faster! On one lap I was catching this fool, because he sucked on the uphill but he had some cruel intentions on the downhill. After the rise we start to descend, I was so ready to pass him but he faltered and made me sketch on this high banking turn, so I backed off to give myself some distance. Without rocks, roots or anything, I hit this invisible brick wall. I swear there was nothing there, but my front wheel twitched right and threw my bike into a sick endo, that sent me flying and landing hard about 15 feet or so down the trail. Landing on my hip and side, rolling out off the trail and being caught by these trees, I missed rolling off of the ledge. On my back I see this cloud of dust as I try to get the wind back into me. I scramble for my belligerent Yeti and ride it like a wild pony, luckily nobody had passed me while I was down. I see the guy I was going to pass, he is trying to get up, apparently he must have crashed too, but looked like a deer in headlights as I passed his ass. This course rocked!! To finish it up it was a fast, very fast downhill finish with one set of switch backs and a pavement finish. Now mix that up with about four laps and you have yourself Nationals! By the start of my fourth lap I was in this frame of mind that it was my last lap of my last race. I started to loose the sense of ache in my legs and air began to fill my lungs again. There were people just dying; their bodies were on the trail. I called this fun! I came to this one uphill and took it with such vigor. I passed about 5 - 6 guys on it, while one of them (from Princeton) exclaims in a weakened voice, does anyone have anything to eat? As I pass him with one hand on my bars, and the other searching for some food in my jersey pocket, he says, ...just drop it up the trail... I pull out this half-eaten powerbar, drop it on the trail, and up shift for a standing climb. As I ride away I picture all these emaciated riders jumping on that one powerbar like vultures on a dead gazelle. I manage to hold on for that last fast downhill finish. I was pretty much out of it when I was done, and not seeing anyone I knew I road back to the hotel and got a great shower. It might have been better than Zeph and Derr's herbal essence experience. I threw on some shorts because it was so nice outside, took Matt's camera, and hit the trails to go snap some shots of him during his race. I went up to this one open section on the downhill before the finish. As I waited I saw some Men's B riders, and then I saw the Women's race. The lead girl had minutes on 2nd place, and it was only the first lap! I saw our friends from the shuttle (Desiree, Mik and Jess) and cheered them on. Out of the blue, Matt walks up from behind me, completely showered and ready to eat. They had cut his race down to 2 laps, so he was finished much earlier than I thought. We decided to go through the trails and watch some of the women's race. We hung out until the finish, and watched Desiree finish 13th! We all walked back, and Matt and I ran for the border down the street (Taco Bell) for some good wholesome barritos, tacos, and hot sauce that will disintegrate small animals, if you're into that. We cruise back, with some food for Desiree, and while everyone starts partying in the parting lot, Matt and I pass out for an hour or so before the banquet, because we know it's out of hand later.

We wake up and go to the banquet with our friends from the shuttle, and get our goods. They are serving Chicken, Rice, Beans (green), Salad (enough for everyone this time), bread (Only two pieces Robert!), SOBE drinks, and apple pie, oh yeah, and cookies later. Matt spots the Upenn team (Brook, John, and Cynthia), who are all squirrely and admitting openly that they have been drinking (not that we couldn't tell). We notice that the people running the race have all the pictures from the Cross-country events already developed. We thumb through them and find all these great pictures of us looking tough, weak, aggressive, ready to start, and even hurting. As we are eating these three guys from Northern Arizona (I think), streak right across the banquet hall, around tables, and through the crowd. The whole time the Festhall is going crazy! Some teams are screaming for a second round. Real men would go twice! and Encore!, Encore! But the liberating individuals hold back. Eventually they all walk out of the restroom area, and damn nearly get a standing ovation for their work. Brook was convincing Matt and I to do the Downhill, because it was a section of the cross-country course run backwards. So Matt and I find out if we can do it, we sign up, and are the last people to go. It turns out that Trever is right in front of me for the start times.

Soon the awards are given for the top 5 individuals in the country, and we disperse for the Georgia Brewing Company event that was lined up for all the racers. Desiree, Trever, Dario (Trever's roommate from San Francisco State), Matt and I are all some of the first ones there. We get two tables, both large round ones. As we are waiting for our drinks, we are joined by the Stanford women's team (Sonya, Rebecca, and Wendy) and some team parents (I guess). We all stay until we realize that there must be cheaper drinks elsewhere (2). We leave right after the Stanford team and ask this one local guy what kind of bars are good. He goes into telling us about Southside - but it's rather seedy, then some place upstairs on Main St. and a couple of others. So we roll to this one smokey place called Paul's On The River. The formaldehyde is so strong in the air, we are almost crying. Dario and I can relate because we don't have this problem in California. We cross the street and go to this little place under this bridge on the river called ?The Troll Tavern. We walk in and there is this live band that was playing cover songs from the 50's, 60's, and 70's. I think I could have sung along to maybe two of those songs, the only thing great about them was the fact that they were both in tune. We notice Jeagermister on tap, and order that up with a pitcher to follow. After a few of those rounds, and some jokes, we decide to go play pool. There is this kid at the pool table who is about 8-12 inches over the edge of the table, just smacking the balls around. His mother and father are there, I guess. Only in the south we would expect to see a 6 year old in a bar. Once Sharky finishes his game, the dream team (or is it the drinking team) steps up for the challenge. We order another pitcher or two (I lost track at this point) and start the game. It seems to go by rather fast, but in actuality it was an hour and a half. The shots were not being made, but some great conversation was. The table gets taken over by this avid pool guy and his date, only after Sharky is pulled away by what appears to be his mother. By the second shot, he has lost the ball in the corner of the room in some mouse hole. I didn't see the shot fly past my arm. As we are waiting for everyone to use the restroom, we meet this guy nicknamed Freight Train who is hanging out with the lady who is looking after Sharky the pool kid. This guy got the name Freight Train because he could make the noise of a train whistle blowing. We called him on it, and like a train through the station, my man was blowing his whistle! Incredible! Trever is talking to him and he asks Trever to sign his shirt. Pretty soon we are all signing his shirt like we're local celebrities. We wave good-bye and roll down the street.

Trever was like, I'm soooooo Faded! when we get to this place, The Huddle House that is one door down from our hotel. Looking like the rest of the weekend lushes in Helen, we find a small booth and stuff all five of us in. My ass cheek is hanging off the edge of the bench, I swear that this booth was only meant for two. Probably related to the two sisters that sat next to Matt on the way to Atlanta, this rather large waitress comes over to us, and we order drinks like water and juice. We all exchange drivers licenses and get some napkins. Trever and I notice that the restaurant has a web site (www.huddlehouse.com), so Trever asks the waitress if she's been on their web site? The waitress was like, Have I been on the what Huh, no I haven't As she walks away Trever says, She's soooo not web savvy. She must have heard us because our booth has this short wall on one side that borders the kitchen and the cash machine, and when Trever said that she looked back over the wall. When we asked for Ketchup she passed it to us over this wall. Same thing happened when we got our bill, which totaled $13.60, for all of us! As we are walking back Trever invites us to join him for the continental breakfast at the Comfort Inn where he and Dario were staying. Trever was like, Dude... you guys haaave to join us for the Conti B. It's sooo much better than the crap they serve the rest of the teams. You git cereal, coffee, fruit, waffles, toast, it's sooo good. I'm tellin' you, you've got to come over for the Conti B. We get back to Matt's and my room, and exchange emails and addresses. And arrange to meet everyone for the Conti B in the morning.

We get a wake up call from Desiree, and we all roll towards the Comfort Inn. The brisk morning walk was a great idea. Thinking that it was just down the street, we wind up walking across town to find it. After we exit the town, we see the hotel in the distance, across this field. We trespass through this field expecting to hear shotguns going off, make it to the Comfort Inn safely, and go up to Traverse' room. We bang on his door, but no one answers. We look through the window, and can't see anything. Our stomachs decide that it is best to eat without him. We get to the Conti B and jump on all the great food they have, Yum, Waffles! We ate like champs! We walk back since Matt and I had to get ready for the Downhill race. On our way back to our hotel we notice this mini-golf & go-cart place that has a bunch of flags from different countries all over the place. The town of Helen, has an ?alpine village? scheme, so you have lots of international over-lap going on. Once Matt and I get ready, we catch the shuttle up to the top of the downhill, and wait for our race numbers to be called. There are all these female riders warming up everywhere. Mountain biking is a great sport. This one girl from Chico State (CA) asks me some question about the race, but honestly I can't remember what she had said. I am looking for Trever but he was nowhere to be found. Soon Matt and I are called, and we take off down the mountain (first myself then Matt). The course has gradual slopes to it, with some great jumps at the upper section, however, there was several points that you had to pedal uphill, which really doesn't make sense if you are in a ?Downhill Race.? Anyway, I cruise through the banked downhill sections and through the switch-backs and down to the finish. I had heard from someone at the top that the left turns were harsh, so I tended to lay a little heavy on the breaks. It was a fun course, but the Penn State B race was much harder and more exciting! We finish up and go to watch the women's race. We were wondering why no one was riding down, when we hear on an officials' radio that there is a rider down. Turns out it's the girl from Chico State, she broke her collar bone. We run into Coach Maj. Shenk from Army and talk with him a bit. Turns out that he lives near Matt.

Getting hungry, we make another run for the boarder, it was so appropriate! We met some guy from Lindsey Wilson and Eric from Northern Arizona (NAU), and they had mentioned that there was a Naked Crit in the parking lot the night before (guys full buff, girls topless). We can't believe we missed it! People were getting out of control and finally when the cops had come over, all the bikers took off to other hotels, and the cops couldn?t catch them. We must have returned just after it happened. Anyway, we scored the magnum barritos and tacos! As we are sitting there, John (from Upenn) comes in, by this time the line is about 35 people long. We suggest that he rides one of our bikes through the drive-thru. Before we leave John rides up with his meal, and we all head over to the dual-slalom event.

This course was sick! It has a ramp start on a flat with small dualies and hard banked turns that throw you into a steep drop-off (60-70 degree) about 40 feet down, which in turn hits 3 HARD banked turns that end up in front of a hugh double that has a 30+ foot drop off on the back side of the second burm. This was a sick jump, but all the mental Vermont guys were hitting it, and catching mad air! This jump claimed plenty of people who wrecked shop with some injuries including collar-bones, dislocations, busted-nuts, and other casualties. A few guys were so damn fast, it was absolutely unbelievable. They seemed to just ride straight and throw their bikes around the poles! Crazy! During all of these qualifying runs we were sitting on the side of the hill that overlooked the set burms that formed the double. Desiree, Trever, Matt and I all watch in awe. Trever explained to us that he must have been in his room when we knocked, however, he ?was sooooo hurrrting. He was like, Dude, I wasn't going to move for anything! But I went to the top of the Downhill and was sooo early, I road down, but I was late. Then I tried to ride back up cause I missed the shuttle, but I was hurrrrting sooo bad, I missed my start time. I was like WHATEVER.

Trever started telling us stories about the people he has met in Seattle, ? This guy says to me, If you give me fitty cent I'll let you ride my bike. I was expecting it to be all tricked out 'n shit, but when I asked him where it was he pointed to this rig leaning against some wall. He pointed to this Jeesus Bike that looked like it was two huffy's welded together. Not really together, but kind of stacked on top of each other. You had to push this thing to get it rolling, and then once it was going you had to climb up on top of it and start peddling. The chain was like thirty feet long and hung down towards the back wheel. The whole Jeesus Bike must have weighed about 50 pounds or so, and you had to git on top via this laadder-like part of the frame that was probably cut to shape using a Saws-All. It had all these sharp dangerous edges to it. Come to think of it, it was really a bad idea. Shortly after Desiree and Trever had to catch the shuttle back to Atlanta.

By the time all the qualifying runs were done, the officials were deciding the finalists. A bunch of these slalom guys were showing off doing the last set of doubles, the crowd was going nuts. Our buddy Jason from Northeastern was getting everything on video. On this sick double, some of the bikers were doing table-tops, others looking backwards, one dude threw his legs out! Crazy Shit! Then from the top of the first hill, the guys from Cal Poly started tossing pretzels down at the NAU team. One guy on NAU was trying to catch it in his mouth. Then Cal Poly started throwing grapes. Someone from NAU yelled something about a banana, and bent over. Shortly after, Cal Poly returned with a fresh, wholesomely succulent pealed banana! The NAU guy was ready, with an equestrian helmet (you know the nice swede ones), and dove for the banana (but missed). It went Splat! on the slalom course, but bounced off the dusty course into several pieces! As if it would stop there, the NAU guys picked up the pieces and returned the freshness to our side. The banana (after a couple tosses) was physically impossible to throw. The dirt that covered it was not holding it together. The Cal Poly guys kept throwing grapes until the guy trying to catch them (in the equestrian helmet) was hit too many times on the face. Finally Cal Poly got an apple and lobbed it off the hill, right at NAU. Running all over, the helmet guy scrambled to position, and stood, squatting, like he was waiting for a mortar to impact next to him. WWWWhhhhhhhhhhrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr..... It nailed him dead center on the helmet! The crowd, again, goes nuts! By this time the jumping is damn near out of control and the head of NORBA makes his way over to the top of the double, and proceeds to stand on the top of the first burm with his hands on his hips, symbolizing no one will pass. If anyone at nationals was going to go, it had to be the guys from Vermont. This one short Vermont dude pleases the already rowdy, half-lit crowd and goes for it! The NORBA official doesn't budge, and the Vermont guy tries to go around him, but he reaches out and prevents the Vermont guy from taking the full jump. The Vermont guy wrecks and his teammate lines up on the top. He is riding this hugh DH bike (by Giant) which looks like about 45 pounds of shear assault! As he lines up, looking for crowd support, some people are pulling him back, including Matt, but finally he stalls, but rolls out anyway! He slows down, and decides not to go for it. But instead rolls in-between the burms and over to his teammate. He sees the NORBA dudes? cell phone lying on the ground, and walks over to it and throws it at the official! This is not a guy you want to mess with since he makes the rules, you know, he could sort of take away your license, and make you ineligible to ride forever. A second official shows up, and then the race promoter. The first Vermont guy was getting chewed out, and the second was there with him having his ass handed to him. The whole time (Jason) the guy from Northeastern was getting everything on video as if he was a news reporter. I've got to get a copy of that tape! Eventually the score was settled, and once team NORBA went back down to their tent, the first Vermont guy, now disqualified, lines up with his teammate, as if to take the double together. They take their jerseys off (like the officials won't know who it is from the bikes they ride or their number on the front of it), and are about to go, but a third teammate comes running up the hill like mad, yelling. He gets to them and tells them not to ride because the officials will disqualify them. But the guy riding the Giant, doesn't care cause one of them is already disqualified, but his teammate says, not just you, our entire team, including the cross-country team. Their cross-country team left a few hours before, so you could only imagine what they would have thought. Finally he doesn't go, and the officials announce the results of who qualified. We watch the finals and afterwards, in the dark, we leave for our hotel.

Matt and I gather our things and head out for dinner. Leaving the bank, we head for one of the many overpriced restaurants on the main street. We go from restaurant to restaurant but only wind up in the bar at Paul's On The River. Force by our diminishing budget and good time savvy, we order up a few drafts, followed by a few more, followed by another round. Considering leaving for somewhere else, we notice Mik, Annalisa, Colin, Kurt, and Gordon (the team from University of Texas - Austin) walk into the bar and order up some drinks. They see Matt and I and they come over to us. It turns out they were there for dinner, but the wait was forever. Then they invited us to join them for dinner, even though Matt and I were only thinking of appetizers. We get a table and order up some appetizers and another round, followed by a second and possibly a third, I didn?t really keep count. After what seems like a while, dinner is over and we go to pay for our bills. Matt reminds me to get a receipt, and I laugh, good thing it's all on separate checks. While at the cash register, I'm distracted by this bowl of match books. Very interested, I take a match book for my collection that I really don't have. I'm starring at it in amazement because of the Paul's On The River logo is all colorful and nice. I get the tip and walk it over to the table. Oblivious to the fact that I do not have a receipt, I tell everyone to hold on because I have to use the little mountain bikers room and cross paths with their teammate on the way in. As I am washing my hands Matt walks in. When he is drying his hands he notices the NASCAR wallpaper trim along the ceiling. We just start laughing, I mean it was funny and all, but Matt was like, Dude, we're in the south! All of us leave the restaurant and head towards the awards ceremony at the Festhall. We get there and run into some guys from Cal Poly, who are lit too, and we hang out with them for a bit. Mik and her team leave for the hotel and invite us to swing by. What seems like several sobering hours later, the awards are still not through, and teams are still disputing point standings, so Matt and I decide to head back to Pauls. When we get there, they tell us that they are closing but suggest this place called Southside. As we leave this one lady at the bar says, You boys be careful now, Ya'hear! Matt and I look at each other and are both like, uhhh NO! We wonder back to the Georgia Brewing Company, and what looks like a closed establishment, the bar is now open until infinitum when the barkeep say's we're open as long as people are drinkin Ed was cool! He served us up some Hornsby's Cider which seemed to go down way too easy.

Many later in too short of a time, we leave Ed to go home to his wife and kids, and leave the rest of the late shift for the Comfort Inn to prowl and find out what more was going on for the last night. We wind up walking across the second floor of the Best Western, and cheering on the 3rd Place Nationals team, Northern Arizona University, who was showing off their awesome trophy. We leave them to celebrate and head for the Comfort Inn. We get there and start talking to the Stanford team who tells us about a party that Cal Poly is having, another that NAU and Lindsey Wilson is having, etc. The whole time they are packing up their bikes. We decide that we should do the same, and head back. On the back road we find this sign that was pulled up from the ground, and for no reason other than mischief we lay it, face down, across the road. We keep walking until we get to the mini-golf & go-cart place, and I exclaim to Matt, Look dude, it's the Belgian flag! It stood there, lit up by about 50 lights and proud. I look down the fence and see a flag from Finland (I think), sitting in the dark. Matt turns to me, You want it? What? Here, Spot me... Matt hurdles the two foot fence, and I keep walking like I'm not even there. I notice a car, and tell Matt, who hides, squatting in front of this fence, in plain view. I continue to walk like I'm not there, once the car turns the corner, I go to tell Matt that it's all clear, but Matt just starts to take off running. I decide to bolt as well, Matt hurdles the fence, almost falling. We start laughing and running the record mile because we are the fastest people in the world. What seems like minutes, we stop, not being able to physically go any further from laughing so hard. I am on hands and knees, doubled over, with my forehead touching the ground in the middle of the street. We get up, and I look back, only to notice that we are less than two blocks from the place.

We get back to the Super 8 and start packing our bikes up. Not even able to kneel straight, because I?m ahh, laughing so much (sure...), we start to pack up our bikes. Not knowing or caring what I am doing, I just start unscrewing everything. I tell Matt that I would not be surprised, when I woke up in the morning and found that I neatly packed my entire Yeti in my Camelbak! After aimlessly packing our bikes, we get this spurt of energy to go find trouble. Trouble comes in the form of a Jack Daniel's bottle handed to me by Danny (appropriately) from Cal Poly at this party down the road from the Super 8. This goes around a few times, including something else that resembled a Smirnoff bottle with vodka and Gatorade. Some of the Stanford team, including Sonya, shows up. Matt and I are talking to these two guys, one from NAU, and another from Lindsey Wilson. They suggest going over to the mini-golf & go-cart place to go fire up some fun. This sounds like a lot of fun, but the night was not late enough at that point. This one little short guy from Cal Poly walks up to me wearing a backpac, turns around, and says, Help yourself. Confused, I call him on it, and he fills me in by replying, Open up and grab whatever you want! Still not sure, but feeling adventurous, I unzip (the backpac), pull out a cold brew of unidentified origin, and crack it. Tasting remarkably like water, and feeling just as refreshing, I swill the brew and start talking to Sonya. Everyone is happy and conversing, but still maintaining the respect for thy neighbor that most mainstream Americans would at one o'clock in the morning. Like a streak in the dark, this guy rides by on his bike, buck-ass-naked. The quiet little group loses it and starts to cheer for this unknown soldier. Unfortunately, what seems like two seconds later, this cop, apparently the only one in the town of Helen since his father worked there before him, pulls up. Trying to look tough like Magnum P.I., he hangs an arm out the window and kindly tells us that it's time to go into our rooms. We all mutually agree to go inside, in a nonchalant manner that is noncondusive to the rate at which Rosco P. Coltrane would have liked. So Rosco repeats himself in a stern voice which rattles our cages, and gets us to file into this one room suite. However, on the way in, one of the overly inebriated Cal Poly guys must have given ol' Rosco a hand signal, because he jumped up through his cop-car door and exclaimed, That's it! You're all coming with me! Like roaches running when the lights go on, we all scramble for the hotel room door. Over 45 of us are packed like sardines into this little dark room with two reatively small beds. I'm sitting on one bed next to this guy who is on his back, obviously too drunk to stand. With his eyes squinting shut, he starts yelling, I hate cops! Go home pigs! You suck! At that point his teammate and I jump on him with pillows to try and muffle his cacophony. He just starts laughing, saying pigs, while snorting in between laughs, which only makes him laugh harder. We hear the officer outside talking to some of the mountain bikers, questions, acqusations, even The 3rd Degree. What's up? Rosco doesn't take the Cal Poly guy who stumbled passed everyone to his buddy, laying on his back next to me. They started shaking hands and high-fiving each other. The one in question said while laughing, Dude, I could totally hear you from out there...? Yeah...? Once the cop left, we all go back out side, laughing, and probably making more noise than before. One of the Stanford guys (from Hawaii) turns to me as we are dispersing to go to their team van, Dude, what's up with that cop, is he like the only one in this town? I replied, Seriously, that guy was asking more questions than Matlock! After the Stanford guy pissed himself, Matt and I wind up in the Stanford team van, driven by their coach who was waiting for them with some other coaches, I guess. Once inside the van, ol' Rosco shows up and drives about 2 miles an hour around the van, nobody moves. We all exhale, and the van fills with scent of a variety of alcohol. We are invited back to the Stanford hotel rooms, the van starts moving and Matt and I realize that it is in the opposite direction as our Super 8. We are dropped off at the Comfort Inn, and are invited over to the Hawaii guys room with the rest of them. He tries to open his door, but once he does, his roommate yells at him since they are all on the 5:00am shuttle. He goes over to his teammates room, opens the door and says, Hey what's up guys, I hope you don't mind, but I'm having some friends over! Matt and I cruise in and are introduced to everyone, it's about 2:00am. Everyone's up, and we wind up socializing for a bit. This one dude we are talking to was hugh, I mean this guy had almost a half a foot over Matt! These guys were good, they all seemed to place 50th or better! Matt and I call it a night and decide to leave. On our way downstairs, after visiting the little mountain bikers room behind the Coke machine, we notice the sign that we laid down in the middle of the road. It was propped up against the trash can at the bottom of the stairs. We are walking back to our Super 8, at some points we?re running, and sometimes we're running backwards, we find ourselves to be invincible. We mark our territory what seems like every 20 feet, and run across the NAU and Lindsey Wilson guys from the Cal Poly party. Nothing much going on, so we head home. As we are walking we hear this odd noise and stop.What's that?ruummrrummrrummmmrrruuummrumm? This monotone noise is emanating out of the mini-golf & go-cart place. We fall on the pavement laughing, they had fired up all the go-carts, and they were sitting there idling in the dark. Eventually we get home to the Super 8, and go to sleep.

In the morning, we get up and walk back to the Comfort Inn for some Conti. B. We're like, why go to the Huddle House next door, when we can get some free Conti. B. a mile down the road. The walk served us quite well. The sun in our faces, the fresh brisk air was such a pleasure. On our way to the Comfort Inn, we notice that ALL of the road signs, Stop, Blind Curve, etc. are pulled up and lying on the ground, not to mention everything else that is able to be pulled up is also lying on the ground, including this thirty foot tall structure with Christmas lights on it. We get to breakfast and score some really good muffins, coffee, and bagels. The orange juice... YUM! Our bellies full, we get back to the Super 8, meet up with the University of Texas - Austin team, and wait for Nate, our shuttle driver. When he arrives, I peal off the Drexel sticker from my bike case, and stick it on the shuttle?s rear window. We load up and head back to Atlanta International Airport.

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Page last modified on February 28, 2009, at 04:30 PM