So this past weekend I opted out of a race I have been working towards for many years, the Jeep 48straight finals. Instead I attended the 2008 Collegiate National Champs. Years ago I raced in college and it has forever made an impression on my life and my racing career.
This year I have been helping out the Brevard College Cycling team. It is a new team with this being only it's second full season. Last year I was involved, but with this being it's second year I new most of the racers on a more personal level. It is not even that I really coach any of the kids, more we just ride together. Naturally we talk about riding and it seems that they get something from this. Something different than being coached, something better, and for me it is something I can't describe. Winning used to be everything, and don't get me wrong as a racer I still want to win. But now I have found something that meens as much to me and most of the time more, and that is seeing someone else enjoy what I have experienced through my many years of racing. Whether it is a first win, or first big loss, or just riding something that they never saw possible before. These are the things that have formed me into the person that I am today and it is amazing to watch others experience these things.
On to the racing...The races were held in Banner Elk, NC and were hosted by Lees-McRae College. The weather, well for anyone that has ever raced at Sugar Mountain you know it always rains and this weekend was no exception. We had Months of good weather leading up to this event and even the day prior to the first race we had 65 degrees and sunny. Friday moring we were up at 5 am and out the door at 6:30 with still over an hour of darkness before the sun finally came up. It was XC day, and the boys needed to be on the bikes in the dark just to get a proper warm up before the early morning start. And as the day broke the rain started to fall, 48 degrees and raining and it was race day. If there is one thing BC has it is a strong XC team. Returning from a silver medal last year was Tristan Cowie and all he wanted was the win. A mishap off the start put all but Tristan at the back of the pack. The boys charged on but it is hard to start from such a deficit. Tristan was in second for most of the race but on the last lap put in a massive attack and ended up winning by a few minutes. Next off were the women, with only two at Nationals they knew they had their work cut out for them. Both had great starts and we ended up with a 5th and a 7th.
Friday afternoon was DH seeding run and I was supposed to do a Team America course walk and a little bit of coaching. It was set for 1:30 and when I arrived at the top of the mountain visiblity was less than 100 feet and I couldn't even open the door to my truck because the wind was blowing so hard. After a long cold wait at the top of the moutnain the seeding run was called off and we could all go get out of the weather and warm up.
Saturday was another early morning with Short Track XC, this time it was the womens turn to be up early and on the bike. It went well with a 5th and a 8th place finish. Next up were the men and Tristan had a mission again and that was to win. I had my doubts with the effort he had put in less than 24 hours earlier. A Union College rider was off the front early but Tristan looked calm. He laid down a attack to bridge back to the leader and then sat on his wheel for a couple of laps looking completely blown, that is except when he gave a little smile every time he passed by us. Then came the attack of all attacks. It was perfect. Tristan knew the other riders weekness and at the perfect moment he went and by went I meen he was gone. In just a lap he put over 30 seconds into the former leader and ended up holding on to the win.
Finally on to the gravity events. Our gravity team is young and inexperienced but we have tons of talent and even more important the want to make it happen. The rains had finally lifted but not until after almost 2 inches had fallen. This made for a typical Sugar Mountain DH. Our boys didn't fair well but both riders said they learned a ton and I know that feels so it was great to hear. The girls went a little better with Johanne Tuttle taking Silver on a slalom bike. Just wait til' she finds out what a DH rig can do.
Saturday night was the infamous banquet dinner. Surprisingly this was the most mellow one I have ever been to. The guest speaker was to be Brent Brookwalter but without a PA system he opted out of yelling over the rowdy Collegiate crowd. Awards were given and National champions were crowned. The only real chaos of the night was when a window was broken out, later we found out it was just someone trying to moon the people inside the banquet that got a little to excited.
Sunday was Slalom day. I built the Slalom track for this years race and I was really excited to see it raced on. We were all a little weary about how the track would hold up with all the rain we had earlier in the weekend. Practice was extended as it was cancelled on Saturday and the track seemed to be holding up. The racing was amazing and you never knew who was going to win until they crossed the finish line. Our boys qualied good in 2nd and 5th. Unfortunately Danny Ceasar #2 qualifier crashed out early and couldn't make up the differential in the second run. Dan Ennis ended up taking 3rd in Slalom which secured his 4th place overall omnium finish. Johanne Tuttle was the fastest womens qualifier in both division 1 and 2 and after some early mistakes ended up taking the win and also secured the womens omnium National Championship. It was a lot of fun to watch, but was more stressfull than any race I have raced for a long time.
In the end Brevard College took 4th as a team and I see great things for them in the future. I was really worried about my decision to "stay and work" instead of "go and race" but it was a great weekend. I know coaching will be in my future at some point. Congrats to all of you that were at Collegiate Nats, that in its self is a hard task to accomplish. BC, thanks for letting me be apart of such a great thing.