2009 USACycling National Championships

Prelude: The most amazing weekend of racing of my life.

Interlude: Over the past two years, cycling has become a mainstay of my life. Racing bikes was natural progression as I am incredibly competitive in all walks (or in this case rides). Within the last few months, my fitness and intensity as well as determination have exhibited near exponential growth. An early season victory at the WORS opener in Iola as well as a captured MO State Champion jersey this previous weekend offered me an opportunity to compete this year at Nationals. Curious to see how I stack up compared to other riders at my level and enjoying one last summer of frivolous college existence, I decided to take a stab at the big show.

Accompanied by my mates, we rolled out of the StL late Wednesday night to drive through the night. Thanks to a caffeine enhanced marathon session behind the wheel by Nate-dog we cruised into Granby, CO near lunchtime Thursday. A quick nap, snack, and stretch saw me ready to take my first look at the course. Immediately upon exiting the campground, I washed the front tire on the switchbacks heading towards the start/finish basin. An glimpse of the road ahead, the race was to be dry and loose.

Each lap of the 8.7 mile course loop consisted on nearly 1,500 feet
of vertical climbing to the ridgeline followed by an equal descent. The start/finish chute sat on the opening quarter mile climb leaning skywards at a 15% grade. The climbing there out consisted of equal parts rocky singletrack switchbacks and exposed fireroad. Topping out around 9,000 feet above sea level riders are offered a breathtaking view of the range before starting a wickedly perilous drop down the eastside. Dropping a few hundred feet on the loosest, steepest singletrack I have ever ridden culminated in a huge World Cup Style 30 ft drop section. From the drop back to the line the trail offered many fast sections with punishing washboard action. Sport was to do two laps.

The day of the race, I watched the U23 fellows from the drop and determined my line through the mess. I then proceeded to grab some chow and warm up for about 30 mins. I luckily rolled to the starting line just as the Sport group was called up. Placing myself on the front line, we were off up the ridiculous start climb. Partly trying to save some gas for later and also partly suffering in the high altitude, I parted the seas as riders came around me. By the time I reached the feed zone at the top, I had moved 3/4 of the way back into the pack. I spent the rest of the 5 or so mile climb up the mountain stuck in a freight train of slow granny-gearers, making up spots one or two at a time when possible. Astonishingly, by the time I reached the summit of lap 1, I had moved into the top ten. My masochistic side has always really enjoyed climbing, especially passing whilst doing so.

Hitting the technical downhill, I felt great and proceeded to rocket through the steep stuff. Coming up on the drop, I whipped around the corner, found my line and railed it. Two dudes in front of me had decided to run it, and I maneged to shoot the gap between them while dropping, making an epic pass. Rolling down the ensuing single track, it took a few moments to realize what had just happened. Upon realization my adrenaline exploded, lighting a fire under me. The added momentum earned me two more spots moving into the top five!

Jacked on adrenaline and GU, and experiencing a lack of oxygen to the brain, I came flying down the switchbacks towards the start/finish. Not noticing that they had moved the chute 10 feet to the right, I flew through the tape, off course and wiped out hard right in front of everyone. My right leg exploded with cramps due to the shock. I managed to remount my bike after straightening the bars and seat and started to pedal through the cramp. Unfortunately starting another lap meant that I had to conquer the hill once more. Cramping and cranking, I slowly meandered up to the feed zone loosing places like crazy. I snagged some bottles, massaged out the last of my cramps, and rolled on having dropped back out of the top 10.

My legs finally came around during one of the fire road climbs and I managed a few passes while climbing and descending. I caught a CU Boulder rider on the last set of switchbacks and used up the last of my strength to put myself inside the top 10.

Postlude: As aforementioned, this was one of the greatest weekends of my life. I felt great the entire race and was said to have smiled throughout. I am not sure what my expectations were as far as results, but I am more than elated with the 9th place that I posted. Having not been athletic or in shape for much of my life, my happiness with my performance is insurmountable. I readily look forward to further racing in Missouri with my Mesa pals and am eager to advance my skills.

Saturday following the race, Nate-dog, Bunnjam and myself headed to Rocky Mountain National Park. After a late start, we decided to hike the Continental Divide near Mt. Ida, summitting the 12,000 ft peak just after lunchtime. Aside from summitting, the highlight of the day was the close interaction with some marmots, a pack of long horn sheep, and a freakin' giant elk.

Yet another weekend I am thankful for those two chaps enabling my addiction whilst cheering me on. Thanks for the photos, bro-love, and stellar time! More to come.


Drew said...

GREAT JOB MATT!!! Good to see the hard work pay off. Way to rep.

Matt Schweiker said...

Thanks man! See you at the Tour Party?