The USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships are over and head back to the west coast for the next two years. It was great having the event in the northeast at Bear Creek Resort in PA. MTB Nats are one of those events that, if close enough, I have to race. Even though I’m not racing in a National Championship category, it’s still a big deal, to me, to race at such a high profile event. Ever since I started racing, so many years ago, I have always enjoyed racing at national events. Whether it be a national series like the old NMBS and the original Kenda Cup, or at the Mountain Bike National Championships. I love the atmosphere of the whole event. I love watching the best riders in the country and the world, sharing the mountain with them, riding in places that I don’t typically ride and catching up with old friends that I might only see occasionally. And of course I love competing.
This year I moved up in age and now race masters 50+. At MTB Nationals, the age group for me is 50-54 and then broken down to categories 1, 2 and 3. Cat 1 races for a National Championship while Cat 2 and Cat 3 races are “National Competition” races…what I call racing for bragging rites. When registering, I was undecided whether I should upgrade before the event and race Cat 2 or wait until after and just go ahead and race the Cat 3 race. When I look back, I probably should have upgraded, but when it comes down to it, I wanted give myself the best chance to have a good result…the best chance to win. I decided that I would race the Cat 3 race and then upgrade after the race. So that’s what I did.
The course was the same 6.2 mile, tough, rocky “Northeast” course that was used in 2013. I rode much better technically and much stronger physically. Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a race. Not because of the competitors, but because of the lack of competitors. There were only two of us age 50-54 at the start line, while the other age groups and categories had 10+ riders in each. There’s not anything that I can do about that except just go out and race and still try to do the best I can. So I rode and I rode well. I enjoyed myself and I reach one of my season goals of a podium spot at Nationals. My winning time of 0:54:16 bettered last years time, on the same course, by 7+ minutes, and I also bettered my results over last year from 10th in age 40-49 to 1st in age 50-54. As I promised myself, when I got home, the first thing that I did was submit my upgrade to USA Cycling.
Regardless of the race, the category, or the other riders, I’m still better prepared and riding better than I ever have…and at 50 yrs old! I have some great results so far this season…in a good mix of races. Some USAC Cat 3, some unsanctioned Cat 2 and some in “Open” category races. I’ll continue to race hard for the remainder of the season. I have a few more cross country races (more singlespeed maybe?) and an 80k ultra-endurance race before cyclocross season starts in September.
Thanks to Hammer Nutrition for keeping me fueled, to Duro Tire for the awesome tires that were flawless on this course, and to both Rudy Project and AXO Cycling for keeping my head, my feet and my hands protected.