July 23rd, 2017
What a week. Snowshoe Mountain, WV was this year’s location for XC Nationals. Along with all XC races, the week would include Downhill, Dual Slalom, Short Track, and Enduro national championship races. To my discovering, Showshoe has been a long running venue for various events throughout the years. Along with being a prime location for wintertime skiing, they’ve also held many downhill, 24-hour, and GNCC races. To accommodate the thousands of people that visit this remote village at 4700′, the area has numerous attractions to fill a week of vacation. Restaurants, ziplining, paddle boarding, shops… all confined within the little mountain village.
I started my trip early to venture further north and visit family. After spending a few days in Ohio, I made the 5hr trek to WV on Tuesday. My races for the week were scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Each day prior, we had scheduled practice sessions. Along with the many other races scheduled during the week, I had plenty to keep occupied with.
I arrive in the afternoon in #projectpromaster to a sparse parking lot. I find a handful of other camping enthusiasts along a valley overlook and claim my spot for the van.
The first full day at the mountain. I brew coffee, wonder to the village, meet up with biker friends, and anticipate the first practice. I get few glimpses of the trail in the morning, noticing some rock gardens and steep climbs. During practice, I find the course is a big figure-8. Half through a loamy, rooted wooded section, then a man-made rock garden sperating the second side. The second half included a few steep double-track climbs, Enduro downhill, then a final rocky climb back to the start area. Needless to say, this trail had much variety!
Wed/Thurs included several races throughout the whole day. I got to spectate some Enduro and Junior XC. Thursday’s practice was another day to fine-tune anything before the XC race. I had fun practicing the rock garden along with many others. After practice we were buried in our first rain storm, making those rocks and roots feel like glass.
Friday, XC Race Day (1000)
The rain continued again in the morning prior to the first set of races at 0800. The accompanied thunderstorms delayed the start of those, thus postponing our start time. The rain managed to subside just prior to our start. The decision was made to cut down laps from 4 to 3 due to the delayed start and threat of further thunderstorms later in the afternoon. The startline was filled with 20+ 25-29 year olds staggered between the 19-24 and 30-35 age groups. I had a #7 callup that put me on row #2.
The race was off! A large group of 10+ single-filed through the first half of the figure 8; everyone being semi-cautious through the damp roots. Heading into the second half, the group broke out into two, being separated on the steep double-track climbs. Lap 1 finishes and I’m around 7th place. Colton, that I met the prior day, and I are heading into lap 2 together. Separating ourselves from a few others while trying to keep close with the group ahead. We keep good pace, then head into the rock garden, carrying our bikes over the mud filled obstacle.
Lap 3 begins and we turn up the speed a bit, catching onto the group ahead of us. Colton loses balance in the rock garden and unfortunately has to run the remaining second half of the course to the finish! I continue trudging, tracking down the 2 riders in front of me, among 1 getting a flat tire. This puts me in 5th heading into the homestretch of the lap. I catch glimpses of the 4th place rider, but with minimal track left, I wasn’t able to catch onto his wheel. Coming across the line in 5th was a huge accomplishment. Validation that the work during this year had been worth it.
Saturday, STXC Race Day (1700)
Today was STXC day; a shorter version of the previous day’s XC course. Made to be a spectator friendly race. For us, laps lingered around 5 minutes in this 30 minute all-out race. I hadn’t raced many short track races throughout the year, so my late call-up put me at the back of the pack to start the race. With the rain we had during the day and other prior races being delayed, this also pushed our start time back. I hate waiting all day for a race to start.. The anticipation builds. I think we ultimately had almost a 2 hour delay.
Finally, the race was underway! As mentioned, I started near the back of the pack. Back far enough to see any start-line pile ups and hopefully not be part of any. Nearly 25+ lined up for the 19-29 race. As we zipped through lap 1, the course resembled the near portions of the XC course. We started out of the village on a fast downhill under the flyover. Then taking a right back towards the cyclocross style rock garden. Followed by a steep climb back into the middle of the spectator area then to the start/finish line area. The course was tough! Hitting that steep climb each lap had my legs screaming. I battled with a few others near the beginning of the race. We continued to battle through different sections of the trail; each of us had our strengths.
The race ended with me finishing in 17th place – A rewarding race to end the weekend and semi-disappointing my legs still had yesterday’s XC race in them.
Saturday night it was time to celebrate and take in the prior week. I spent time with friends and enjoyed the little Snowshoe village. Sunday morning were the pro and U23 races. With my 7+ hour trek home still ahead of me, I only stayed to watch the first U23 race. Many of us were exhausted by the end of the week. Every day in the sun, cheering and watching races. Showshoe was such a cool venue to have Nationals.