2014 USAC Mountain Bike National Championships
2014 USAC Mountain Bike National Championships or “Over The Bars And Thru The Woods”
by Cati Scheifele
After many pre-rides at the lovely Bear Creek Resort, it was time to race the big event at USA Cycling’s Mountain Bike National
Championships. I had grown to love the course after it had been tweaked to near perfection as Nationals neared. I remember racing the venue back in 2005 as a complete beginner and the course was almost impossible to ride- at all. Over the years it had been ridden into having some real flow, if you relaxed enough to glide through the rocks. For me, this only seems to happen in practice though!
Back to the big event- race day, Saturday July 19th. It was a nice day, and excitement was certainly in the air. Lots of great vendors had tents set up. LouLouArt (Tube.U.Ware) had some awesome bike jewelry for sale. There was definitely a festival vibe, along with the competitive vibe of such a big event.
We staged according to age group, and we were off in 2 minute intervals. My class was huge- 17 had preregistered in the 30-34 Cat 1 XC class. The start was super aggressive. I didn’t clip in right away and a lot of the field started to pull away. Someone clipped my bars from my left side, which freaked me out a bit. I was happy that it didn’t bring me down, and even gave me a little nudge forward. All was good. I wasn’t in the best position as we hit the dirt, and I knew that meant there would be traffic on the single track.
It was pretty slow going on the uphill switchbacks, and it was tough to make a pass because of the tight single track. When it finally opened up on the flat, the field took off quickly and I trailed off a bit. Finally, I was able to pass a few girls on the fire road climb. I was excited to hit the downhill fast to make up some time. I decided to take a new wide line on one of the top mountain berms, and found myself over the bars and getting passed by two girls. As I got back on the bike I tried to relax, breathe and find some flow. I started to ride better, and have some fun. I heard the heckle pit from a mile away and was getting pumped to ride through the mayhem. Jen Tillman passed me a bit before the heckle pit, riding very strong from the class that started 2 minutes back. I had some fun riding her wheel on the downhill and regaining confidence after my crash.
I entered the heckle pit right behind Jen, and the sound was deafening. Sailing through, I wasn’t able to register any one thing that was happening. All that I knew was that it was awesome and that the cheers were overwhelmingly amazing. I had chills as I rolled away from the heckle pit, into the even more treacherous switchbacks. Jen pulled away, and I settled into an appreciation for this incredible experience.
I started to pick up the speed in the tight singletrack downhills that followed the switchbacks, and my front wheel hit a rock in a way I was not expecting. I was launched, superman style over the bars. I got out of the way of someone quickly descending, and quickly gathered myself, jumping on my bike. It wasn’t the smartest, not checking my bike or body. But it was Nationals and I wanted to keep moving.
The girl who passed me had crashed about a hundred yards later. She was okay and on my wheel in a few moments, quickly passing me as I became more tentative on the rocks. We came upon another racer who was having a frustrating experience, and I shared my similar frustration with a course that I knew so well.
I started to come out of the fog of the crash as I saw Diane and Marc Vettori at the end of the lap, cheering enthusiastically. I was pure ping pong on that last piece of single track, and the cheers helped. Thanks guys!
I got back into a groove on lap 2. There was some definite ping pong on the technical stuff, but I rode hard up the mountain. I was in the mix, going back and forth with another racer. I tried to stay focused, relax and have fun. And it was fun! I wasn’t focused enough to get up the short steep hill on the way out of the heckle zone, but there was some comic relief as a guy with a horn played the soundtrack of my fail- womp, womp.
I was hoping to reel in the girl I was going back and forth with, but more ping pong ensued! I held my position though, and finished in a respectable 10th place position. I finished with a huge smile, ready to grab a few Stoudt’s tripels (to share) and join the party in the woods. And it didn’t disappoint- I watched teammates Mike and Francis kick some serious ass in the Pro race. It was quite a day!