After the Colorado Springs Pro XCT I was able to stay at home and train focusing 100% on National Championships. It's been a long time since I've been home for almost all of June and half of July. I was able to get in some quality training and enjoyed my first few days of riding in the high county this year. I elected not to participate in the Pan Am Games as they were the weekend before Nationals and I didn't want to travel down to sea level for the race. Same with the Boston Pro XCT. It sounded like a great event and hopefully the opportunity to race there comes again.
Mammoth isn't exactly the easiest place to fly into since there is only one flight per day in and out. This was made even more challenging after that the one flight was cancelled. That meant either staying in LA for 24 hours or renting a car and driving the 6 hours up. I was eager to get to Mammoth and choose the rental car option. Kerry and his in-laws were also on the flight so we loaded up and headed north. It was a shame driving in the dark through the southern Sierra's and past Mount Whitney as I'm sure the views would've made the drive go by quite a bit faster.
The next morning I slept in pretty late missing the only scheduled pre ride time of 7-8 AM. These were the only times we were able to pre ride throughout the whole week. Luckily, once racing for the other categories ended I was able to get on but not until around 5:30 PM. Hopefully in the future USA Cycling can work in better times to get on course.
I was presently surprised with the course this year. Being at a ski resort, I've began to expect steep, fire road climbs as the norm but not this year. The climb was fast and went by pretty quick. There was then a fairly long flat section across the top that would suite riders who aren't necessarily climbers. The descent back to the venue followed and that did not disappoint. Fast and flowy with some beat up braking bumps. Being that the climb wasn't to steep and the downhill so rough I opted for the full suspension hoping it would deliver me to the bottom of the mountain fresher for the climb.
Time for some racing! Friday evening rolled around and it was time for the first race of the weekend, short track. I had a good clean start and was feeling good. Quickly Todd and I separated from the rest of the field. Throughout the whole race, we took turns at the front. Sometimes one of us would turn the screws but couldn't create any separation. Knowing that we had XC the next day, neither of us really wanted to go 100% in the red I think. Stephan would bridge across a couple times and hit the front immediately, great race for him. Unfortunately with 2 laps to go, Todd flatted while leading me on the descent. This left me out front solo meaning I just needed to have a clean lap and I would take the W. It's a shame we couldn't battle it to the end properly. It's hard to say who was riding stronger, I felt comfortable when he flatted and was planning to attack the last hill but I'm sure he was too. While I wish it would've come different, I'm excited to be the new Short Track National Champion and winning in front of my parents made it even better.
Next up was the Cross Country. Keegan led the start out and threw down a furious pace. This quickly separated the field into 6 of us; Todd, Keegan, Stephen, Alex, Howie and I. The pace sent me a bit into the red but I didn't want to loose the group as there was a descent amount of drafting. Todd led into the descent followed by Hardtail Howie. Howie wasn't descending as quick on the hardtail, setting Todd up with a gap that he held for a majority of the race. The next lap up Stephen tried to pass Alex in a corner and ended up sending himself into some deeper gravel. Howie capitalized on Stephen's mistake, attacked our group and bridged up to Todd. It was pretty clear to me at this point Howie was the strongest guy today. We were in the box and he attacked as if we had just started the race.
The chase then began to intensify and I couldn't match the pace. I was in a bit of a bad spot the 3rd and 4th laps and started going backwards. I threw down a gel and Enduro Bite and started to come back to life. The gaps were still fairly tight at this point so I still had hopes of a podium finish. I could see the Cannondale trio ahead and really wanted to be up there getting some draft instead of being in no mans land. Having them close kept me motivated though. I rode better the last 2 laps passing Todd and nearly catching Stephen ending up 5th on the day. I'm content with the the result, but was really hoping for a podium finish. My bike was running flawless out there so a big thanks goes out to Joe and the whole SRAM crew.
Earlier in the day Luca grabbed a 3rd place in the elite Downhill race. Not a bad weekend for SRAM TLD! Sunday was a free day which meant exploring Mammoth a bit. I rode the lift to the very top of the mountain and descended all the way back into town! The trails were amazing and the views of the surrounding mountains were even better. Joe took me to the airport later that day with a little pit stop at Convict Lake to throw some line. I'm still a fly fishing noob, so most my time was spent untangling line but Joe caught one little guy pretty quick! I hope to come back to Mammoth one day to properly explore the area.
A quick 3 1/2 days at home, then it's off to Wisconsin and the 2 North American World a Cups!