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2013 Collegiate Mountain bike Nationals

By Kip Otterness

It was around 8:00 PM Thursday night when I was driving up the super windy and steep road up to Beech Mountain that the snow began to fall. Ignoring the constant mind numbing squeeling coming from my serpentine belt I thought for the first time that this snow may actually stick. I checked the cars thermometer and my heart sunk, allegedly it was 22 degrees outside. When I got out of the car and took my bike off the rack I believed every degree of the thermometer because I struggled unclipping the wheel securing snaps. After getting to my room I decided to sleep rather than fret about the weather.

Friday morning I woke up to at least an inch and a half of some pure powder. After eating a box of pop tarts I decided it was time to get my tokyo drift on as I descended to the base of the mountain. I picked up my number plate and began walking the downhill course. It was completely covered in snow and unrecognizable. It became clear the technique to riding the course would have to be let the early risers take the lift and clean out the trails as they skid and clear the snow of the rocks. By the time 11:00am rolled around the temperature was still around 20 degrees and the winds were brutal but I figured it was time to take a few laps. My first lap was spotless despite a couple slips on iced rocks. Upon getting to the main rock garden I realized that this race was going to be a true spctacle, there was just a line of people too nervous to drop in over the chute of frozen rocks. At least three quarters of the racers couldn't make it down a line without sliding out and eating rock. I made it through with one simple pedal dab and felt great! The next practice run I managed to do the same thing but on the exit of the woods out of the rock garden there is a massive gap that rockets you over a boulder and over a slow S shaped berm. It was clear that if you wanted to qualify well this gap was mandatory. I pushed up and pedaled as hard as I could into the lip, it this time I had the misfortune of hitting a hidden and iced over rock. An entire pedal stroke pushing the rear wheel to break its traction and slide down the rock sent my flying. The next thing to stop me was a well placed rock feature which caught me square in the kidney and hip. That run ended my practice and I decided to wait it out until thre qualifying run. As I coasted down the hill in some serious pain I heard a blood curdling scream as someone who had just broken his femur in the jump section was being medically attended to. After seeing the carnage in practice I decided a steady qualifying run would get me in the top 35 of the 60some riders. A small crash up top in the course in a relatively flat section set me back in time. After seeing the crashes in the rock garden in practice I decided that I shouldn't panic but instead should just focus on a clean run and I figured I could still qualify. I cleaned everything smoothly beyond my original crash and maybe one pedal dab and came down with a 3:15. As it turns out there were no big crashes in qualifying and my race strategy did not pay off. The Division 1 racing field was stacked and the cutoff time ended up being 3:00 flat a whole 15 seconds faster than both my time and the cutoff time for Division 2 racers. Had I not crashed I think I could have snuck into that time but it still would have been a close call. I ended up in 51st place with my run including the crash so although I did not get to actually race on Saturday the placement was about what I expected.

Saturday came around and the temperatures for the first time managed to sneak above 32 degrees all the way up to 35. Bitter that I was not allowed to race I ventured to the rock garden ready to heckle some riders. As expected the rock garden was a party. Even in my qualifying run there had been boom boxes and people in costumes yelling at me. Today for the actual race it was even craziers. Hot dogs were thrown at people who crashed and spectators brown-bagging bottles were more common than the spectators who were not. One racer went down, got heckled and then tried to flick off the crowd. Upon flicking off the crowd the racer crashed again and was heckled to a whole new level. Many hecklers would place dollar bills on rocks to encourage the racers to become distracted and crash out. One of the last woman riders who had to run her bike through the rocks managed to pick up close to 5 dollars on her way through. In qualifying the day before the highlight was definitely a 6 girl pile up. Although each racer was on course at 30 second intervals somehow 6 girls hit the rock garden at the same time. Each girl would crash get passed then the next girl would crash and get passed. The crowd went wild I am hoping that out of the many people watching someone got a video of the chaos.

Sunday was the final day of racing and it was time for my favorite race, dual slalom. Unfortunatly, the track was "oldschool" which basically meant the track sucked and had neither jumps nor berms. Instead the track was off camber grass turns. Apparantly due to liability issues the hosting school was unable to use their awesome track on campus and we were forced to race on this fairly lame track. Although it looked unimpressive the track was actually more fun than it looked. It was really hard to keep traction on the wet grass which made for a fun practice session to watch. When qualifying came around a put up two fairly safe but fast runs. I was conservative banking on the fact that other racers would lose control. My combined time put me 4 seconds off of the time of the number one qualifier. My time would have landed me within the top 16 of D2 racers. Unfortunatly this qualifed me into 45th place of D1 racers despite the fact that I was less than a second away from qualifying in the top 32 racers. With that placement my weekend was wrapped up and I set up a chair to watch my friends race. As promised there were some major crashes to see especially when one top qualifying racer crashed at the line inches from crossing the laser timer.

I had a great weekend of racing but was definitley dissapointed with my times. I was also not prepared for the level of competition associated with racing with D1 riders, a few of which have raced overseas at the World Cup level. It was eye opening and gives me a reason to train really hard for the two seasons I've got left to race collegiate. The fact that I hadn't really ridden my bikes on gnarly trails in over two years makes me think that the future will include much better results.

Above is a link with some good pictures of the event.

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Page last modified on October 29, 2013, at 08:35 AM