|I think I did a good packing job!|
Unfortunately Jen wouldn't be joining me this year, with all the time off work she's having to take to rehab her foot, tagging along for this trip wasn't going to happen. So rollin' solo... across I-80 and norther Nevada where I learned there is NOTHING out there! It's beautiful in it's openness, but my cell wasn't getting service so I felt a little isolated. At least the car had XM radio and the comedy channel was great. Oh and in my opinion roads that straight and flat shouldn't have speed limits! Where there wasn't road construction that is... and there was lots of that.
So I finally made it to the race venue in Sun Valley at about 4:30pm, with the intention of getting a few runs in on the Super D course. But I had forgotten that Sun Valley is an hour ahead and it was actually 5:30. By the time I got all my registration stuff and got suited up, the gondola was shut down. Bummer, well looks like I'd be riding the XC course. I rolled out on the Tallboy to scope out the course and decided to see what pain this years race was going to bring. Right off the bat we'd be climbing up a fire road and gaining about 620ft of vert. Pretty much riding up a ski run, where I heard in places it got to a 27% grade. I'm not sure if that's right, but it sure was steep in spots and the dirt was a little loose too which made standing up a bit difficult. Once that climb was over, there was some fun to be had in the trees. The trail turned to singletrack and wound back down the hill with a ton of tight switchbacks where the best way to get through them was to stick a foot out moto style and slid the back end around, then sprint out of the corner. Pretty fun. There were a few roots and rocks to go over but it was overall very smooth. Down at the bottom they had one short downhill fabricated rock garden that was easy to roll (especially on the 29er!) once you get the line set up correctly. Just let off the brakes and let 'er fly. Unfortunately some people didn't obey the "speed is your friend" concept here and took some bad tumbles. After that the course wound around the lodge and into the "River Run Rock Garden" which was a flat bit of dirt about 50yds long where they embedded a bunch of big rocks. This section was just annoying to me and was there just to break the flow of the course. But I eventually found a couple lines through it and got used to it. After a couple laps on the pro course I decided to take a lap on the amateur course to change up the scenery and get some more sweet Idaho singletrack and views.
Thursday afternoon the Super D course was finally open for practice and I was enjoying not pedaling all the way up.
|View from the Start of the Super D, looking down on Ketchum and Sun Valley.|
The Super D course started off with about a 4 minute (at race pace) climb on a fire road that gained about 300 vert. Then, whether you're ready or not you're shot into a singletrack chute and after a couple pedal strokes you realize you're going wayyyy to fast to make that first blind left corner. Conditions were a little loose up top so you just feather the brake and find that line between drift and grip and hope you remember how tight that next corner is. The top trails were technically easy, except for the fact you're going really really fast. My first run down I qualified that as "scary." But I got more and more comfortable and after 4 complete runs on the course I felt good about it. I even caught the upper chairlift and took it to the very top of Bald Mountain (9000 ft.) to get some extra riding above the Super D start.
|The Tallboy at 9000ft. atop Bald Mtn.|
2pm Saturday was go time for the XC race, and I was lucky #13... at least I was hoping it was lucky! Fellow Mad Cat Patrick Morin was also there with his family (kids Avery and Wyatt were racing Jr's) and he was willing to be my tech and feed support for the race... sweet!
I had a call-up in the mid/back of the pack, 47th I think, out of 65 racers starting. Once the gun went off it was the usual start sprint and then straight up that climb. It was a wide fire road so I wasn't expecting there to be a bottleneck but sure enough someone in front of me had to get off and therefore so did I, lame. I love running in a bike race... Once I remounted after loosing some positions I set my "diesel" pace for the climb and slowly picked off riders handfulls at a time. Some people were slipping out on the loose dirt in the steep sections but the Highball is so balanced and the WTB Nanos gripped just enough I could keep the steady power down.
And the "River Run Rock Garden" was filled with hecklers ready to raz or cheer everyone struggling through the rocks.
My 3rd and 4th laps were my fastest and I continued to pass quite a few guys on the the climb each lap. I was so thankful to have that triple ring and it was really starting to sting and I was certainly using the little gears. I had one more bobble during the race on my 5th trip through the lower flat rock garden. I lost my balance and momentum in the rocks and popped my chain off trying to shift down. It's such a slow section though I didn't loose much time and found a place to remount and ride it out and only had to run a few feet.
Sunday morning it was time for the Super D throw down and I was up early to catch a 6:45am gondola ride to the top for one last preride. But when I dropped into the singletack I discovered an "x-factor" I hadn't considered the day before, the sun. The hillside we were blazing down was mostly east facing and the morning sun was glaring right in my eyes. I switched to dark lenses on the goggles to minimize the squintage but since they didn't have polarization the glare was really bad. Not being able to see really made it scary on those fast, loose, blind corners. But everyone would have to deal with it.
|Super D start area|
I'm really happy with how Nationals went this year, I gave it my all in both events and considering everything that's happened this year I think it was a big success. I would have liked to stay and race the Short Track race as well, but it started too late in the day for me to realistically make the drive back and go to work the next day. I didn't want to leave Sun Valley, it was absolutely beautiful. Ketchum is a pretty cool little town and I really wanted to stay around there at least a few more days and just explore some of the great trails and places I heard people talking about. I can't wait to come back next year.