Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sun Valley National Championships

Les awaiting the first Idaho ride.

Some may wonder why I would book a trip to National Championships on a year that I have not been training or racing too much. I wonder myself, but it was just a set of circumstances that started rolling, and I went with it and never looked back. I had never been to Sun Valley and heard it was very beautiful and worth the trip. The rumor was spot on, beautiful indeed, and very bike friendly. I would go back to ride again for sure. My only regret was that I spent too many days pre-riding and racing on a limited race course and would have preferred to be riding the great vast trail systems in the area everyday.

Reading maps at 50 ....

... go ahead and laugh, you will be here one day too.

How many water bottles do four people need?

Very much a bike friendly town.

Bike paths running all over town.

A bike shop / bike fit / bar ....

that welcomes these folks.

Flags on street corners without traffic lights.....

to aid in crossing the street by foot.

My race: Not being in top form this year I was unusually nervous the few days prior to my race. Once I admitted to myself that it did not matter where I placed in the race but mattered more that I had fun, I was instantly freed of my nervousness. Obviously I would make an effort to stay ahead of the riff-raff off the start, but for the most part, my goal was just to ride and ride hard.

On the opening climb, I found the wheel of a rider from Roaring Mouse that seemed about my climbing pace. My heart rate was maxed out with the steep hill and being higher altitude than I am accustomed to at home. The course, which had some flaws, forced riders off to push up a super steep short ramp to get onto the singletrack. This put me over the edge a tad and my mount was a tad slower than roaring mouse. I quickly coasted my way back onto her wheel in several hundred feet. First switch back came and it was jammed up with women walking. Already I was in traffic. Two turns later and the same thing, this time roaring mouse fell walking and made it very difficult to get past as she jumped back up and mounted again, but she never really got going. I saw a narrow opportunity to pass on the high side and took it, I may have startled her, but she was trying hard not to let all of us by, and she seemed to be struggling with her bike handling.

I’m glad I made that move because the next turn had been added in the day before and none of us had pre-ridden it. I came in a tad hot and my front wheel drifted out side the berm, and I was hanging on stretching the tape. Those big wheels held on perfectly and I brought myself back on track without even a foot down. I heard a bunch of noise behind me, and I was glad to be in front of it. Flew over the flyover and headed toward the imported rock garden. Yes, they imported rock and made a rock garden. Imagine that? We just call it riding in New Jersey.

World champion, Ellen Gutherie called herself coming around before the rock garden. She got about twenty feet in and tangled up. I managed to find a line and ride past her to the end. All was going well up to the big climb, and then I hit traffic. I was now penetrating the back end of the younger classes, and this trail was less than 24 inches wide and very side hill exposed leaving no room to pass. If it were just a short single climb, it would not be so bad, but it was like this for almost a mile. I spent way too much mental and physical energy trying to pass and being forced off my bike to push up climbs so steep that it nearly cramped my legs. I will not dwell on the negative thoughts of this course too much more, as up is only half. Too bad the promoter did not have two good trails, one to go up and one to go down. It was a disappointing climb that left me wishing I was riding my bike elsewhere. Thankfully the way down was a blast.

I was lacking my spark on race day, and finished 6th in an unusually large group of strong 50 year olds. Not too bad for what I have put in this year, but by no means a great race for me. I came to this race with an open mind, and to support my team mates. My teammates did not let me down, but the course was a bit of a disappointment. As much as I love racing, after seventeen years, I may be feeling a bit more selective of which race courses to race in the future.

Imported rocks to add interest to a buffed out XC course.

Campmor skirts getting us a photo op with the Mayor of Sun Valley.

Tara, National Champion in Super-D.

.....Four Friends.

What made this trip worthwhile was to see Tara ride so well. After she spent 4 years out of racing, struggling with her health and thinking she would never race again, it was awesome to see her in a National Champion Jersey on top of the podium. It was a good day and a good trip for sure.

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