WOW! What an incredible experience. It was almost surreal to be up on the mountain, surrounded by so many incredible riders. I must admit I was a bit star struck at times, watching guys I follow on Instagram as they dropped into the stage right in front of me.
The day went really well. I kept it upright and rode within my limits. It was certainly a sobering experience to be so far off the pace, but it’s just not realistic for me to think I can run the speed of these guys.
STAGE 1: (video below) This stage was super fast and fun! My plan was to take it easy off the start and keep my HR down. That went out the window very quickly as I was pegged about 45 seconds in. I started to get it back as I rolled into the first jump line. Staying low was the way to go..but I couldn’t help myself as I heard the unmistakable sound of cowbells and the cheers of the hecklers. I boosted it as big as I could and even threw in a little mid air pedal! I was still struggling with an elevated HR and major lack of oxygen as well. Then about halfway through the run, I came up on the rider who’d dropped 30 seconds ahead of me and my confidence grew a bit. I made the move on him and tried to finish out the run as strong as I could. Entering the final, fast section, I got up out of the saddle and cranked for all I was worth. After hitting a few high speed kickers, I went to grab my final gear and something just wasn’t right. A quick look down confirmed that I’d dropped a chain. I did my best Aaron Gwin and carried as much momentum as possible into the finish. It might’ve cost me 5 seconds or so, but I was pleased with the run.
STAGE 2: LONG!! I tried to mentally prepare myself for the pain that was about to ensue. This stage was very pedal heavy, but so damn fun!! It had a great mix of flowy jumps and berms, rock gardens, high speed drops, and the “300 Yard Walk.” This particular section was well over halfway through the stage, and not long after the turn I’d just blown through. Simply put, it hurt..badly. I might’ve dry heaved a few times towards the end as I tried in vain to lay down any sort of power. My legs just had nothing and it was very frustrating to know I was giving up time with each flailing pedal stroke. Rolling through the finish, I was pretty sure my time would be on the higher end of the field and I was right. Although disappointed, I moved my focus to the gnar that lay ahead!
STAGE 3: Trestle DH- I had two opportunities to pre run this stage and neither of them were confidence inspiring to say the least. Truth be told, I was incredibly intimidated and frankly caught off guard by how gnarly some parts of this run were. I turned to my big bro, and current series leader in the Masters 40+ class, for some line coaching. His ability to so vividly describe where to go on the trail and how to hit each section is incredible. After what seemed like an eternity, I dropped in for the final stage of the day. Keeping it upright and hitting my lines were what I was after and I’d uncork it a bit in the fast sections if I was feeling it. Heading into the most technical and dicey sections, I was again lulled in by the cowbells and frenzied crowd. It’s really hard to explain the emotions running through me at this point. I literally felt like a World Cup rider in the midst of a Worlds run!! It was just so cool and I hit every one of my lines to boot! The run went really well, although my hands and forearms just wouldn’t let me open it up the way I would’ve liked to.
I’m beyond happy with every aspect of the day! Yeah, I would’ve loved to have gone a bit faster, but that’s something I can work on. The physicality it required to compete at this level is UNREAL!! I have the utmost respect for what these guys go through to be at this level.
I’m fueled up on some great food and its time to sleep. Tomorrow brings one more Park stage and the two, BRUTAL, back country stages.