The most stressful race of the year is done... Mountain bike Nationals this year were in Snowshoe, West Virginia this year. A remote ski resort, about 6 hours away from Chapel Hill, NC, Snowshoe is also right next to an observatory. Although you can’t see the observatory from the mountain, you can feel the effects; the observatory necessitates radio silence - so there is no cell service in the area.
After driving back from Boulder in 2 days, I had 4 days in Chapel Hill, NC before heading up to Nats and the next 4 weeks of racing. Luckily, my family came up to Snowshoe with me, so leaving so quickly wasn’t as tough. My younger brother, Paul, raced his first ever National Champs race after a killer NICA season - so cool to see him out at the races!
The racing kicked off with STXC on Friday afternoon/evening. After some last minute uncertainty due to inclement weather, the race was ultimately set for Friday evening at 7pm. Dealing with the schedule changes was a little difficult, but I ended up having a decent race. While my start was lackluster, I ended up being able to claw back through the 35min race, making selections until it was Keegan Swenson and I chasing down a charging Howard Grotts. We ended up going 2 -3, with me rounding out the last step on the podium.
The next day, with the first race out of the way, quite a bit of the pre race pressure was lifted. The way the scheduling worked, anyone that raced STXC and XC had a day in between the events. Although a little different from the standard back-to-back format of racing, I enjoyed the extra day.
The final and main event (XC) followed the next day. I woke up early that morning to the sound of heavy rain and the promise of interesting course conditions, and, sure enough, the course was soaked and slick. Unfortunately I made a mess of my front row call up in an untimely tangle with eventual winner, Chris Blevins. I worked hard to regain contact with the front of the race on the first lap, but was able to settle into a rhythm riding with Chris once I had come back. We rode together and away from the field until Chris managed to ride away towards the beginning of the last lap. All in all, it was a good race and I can’t complain with the result. It’s a little bittersweet to miss the title my last year as a U23, but Chris was hard to stop!
Next stops: Mont-Sainte-Anne, QC and Windham, NY.
After a few weeks on the go, it's nice to be staying put for a couple of weeks. The trip to Canada with the Bear Development squad went well! We started out as a trio in Ontario - Jerry Dufour, Eli Kranefuss, and I set out to bring the heat in the hot and humid climate of the Northeastern summer. Getting to the race turned out to be more of a challenge than anticipated; extenuating circumstances prevented us from renting a car, so managing out logistics between the airport, our housing, and the venue proved stressful.
The race was flat, technical, and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, my race day legs weren't quite up to par for the speed of the start, and I spent the majority of the race fighting to get in touch with the leaders, but fell short in 6th on the day. A tough race, but a good time on the bike!
The following week leading up into the Canada Cup in Whistler, BC went much more smoothly. With the accommodations in Whistler right next to the venue, it was easy to get around and pre ride the course. A completely different type of track, Whistler's course boasted plenty of steep climbing, and rough descents. The addition of Steffen Anderson and Xander Sugarman rounded out our squad at 5 riders - all of which raced the UCI C2 cross country event.
Race day was another warm one; but, I brought my legs this time around, and felt good on race day. However, a few errors on the second lap saw me go from 1st to 3rd and struggling to bring back contact. Then, a late race surge from Geoff Kabush pushed me into 4th, where I would remain until the finish. Happy with the race and thankful to grab another UCI podium!
Now, I'm back in Boulder, CO with Ellie. I plan to spent the next couple of weeks here before driving back to the East Coast for USAC Nationals in Snowshoe, WV.
Photos, from the top: Dropping into one of the descents at Whistler; Enjoying good company in an amazing location (From left to right: Eli, myself, Jerry)
Luke Vrouwenvelder - Head coach at lukeVcoaching and pro cyclist based in Charlottesville, VA