This is year thus far has turned out like one of the distant past. My early racing years was plagued by mechanicals and this year has chalked up to just that. The previous few seasons have been almost entirely mechanical free and this year I haven’t found my break. Yet!!! I recall last year not only finishing every race, but not having a single flat tire all year weather it was racing or training.
I was hoping National Championships in Sun Valley Idaho were going to be my break. I traveled out the day before my first race, to try and minimize the effects of thin air on my sea level acclimated body. After arriving mid-day Friday I built up my bikes and cheered on the two Sonoma County Lamperti brothers who placed 9th and 2nd in their junior classes. Once all the races were over for the day it was getting late and the xc course was finally open for pre-ride. My first sight of the climb was utter disbelief that we would be climbing the insanely steep dirt road six times. The ever steep climb had three horseshoes that branched off to the left for a short break. It was a nice gesture by the course designer, but they didn’t provide much rest since they were fresh cut trail. The course was pretty straight forward, climb-descend-repeat. With the climb sort of boring in a way it’s great the descent was super fun flowing trail. The very last section of the descent had a sweet rock garden back down to the start finish area. This provided a big scene for the spectators.
The morning of the race I woke up around nine and hung around for a little bit before heading into town for a late breakfast since our race wasn’t until four o’clock. After returning I did a quick double check over my bike to make sure everything was in order then basically took it easy until it was time to warm up. The day can be pretty boring sitting around waiting to race, but when the time finally came I was pretty amped up to tackle the race with everything I have. After the usual pre-race instructions we were off in a dust storm. The dry dusty terrain mixed with a stamped of racers flying through the start loop made a brown screen that made the right line hard to find. I was guessing my lines through the early part of the course based on the rider in front of me. Rolling through some of the early turns and dried out springs with imbedded rocks I was nervous I cut my tire after hearing a loud noise. But there are lots of loud clanking and popping when everyone is battling for position. Regardless I continued on with a little lower pressure now in the rear, I wasn’t thinking about tire pressure or the possibility of stopping while I was focused on moving up during the climb.
Disaster finally truck once the descent came. I was exiting a hard left hand turn and heard the familiar super low pressure/tire folding rhomp! I pulled off to the side out of the way and began blasting co2 into my tire. One and a half cartridges later I realized the sealant wasn’t going to hold. With half a cartridge left I threw in a tube and filled it up. It wasn’t nearly enough pressure to race on, but I figured I could get down to the tech zone and grab a floor pump. Then I rode for about a quarter mile before it too went dead. When the second one came the tube valve folded one side of the rim valve hole rendering it useless with or without a tube. The race was now over and I made my way back. I could see the large crowds lining the course and I wanted to avoid the sympathy comments and tried to find a way around, but had to walk head low through the thick of it. Once I was back down the mountain I notified my buddy in the tech zone and left race to grab my other bike for the superD.
Not so happy about the xc race I figured getting in my superD pre-runs would help ease the mood. It did indeed! I met up with the guys I was going to pre-ride with, caught the end of the xc, then hit the gondola up to the top of the mountain. I got my new Marin Mount Vision XM8 the week before Nationals and it is such a worthy bike! The pre-ride went well I got two runs in and felt confident I could throw down a good time in the race.
My Sunday race run wasn’t the most ideal run I felt I could have had, but it was fun and I finished the race in one piece after a near big crash. One of the high speed single track sections I nearly went off the hillside. My rear tire slid off the edge of the trail and I literally grinded the trail for fifty feet. My front wheel flexed so much it hit the leading edge of the fork lowers and broke the zip-tie holding the brake line to the guide. By the end of the run my tire wore through the first layer of the brake line, glad it wasn’t twice as long. Not a great superD run, but it was good enough for 15, so it’s safe to call it just okay.
Nationals this year were a bit of a disaster, but I’m still glad I was able to make the trip. Like always I had a great time visiting somewhere new. Ketchum, the town where the race was, is a really great spot and I plan to make it back there someday.