Because Ben's blogging skills don't match his riding skills, I have offered to let him guest post about his recent trip to the Mtbk Collegiate National Championships:
On Wed evening my dad, Dallas Fowler, and I made the 14 hour drive from Madison down to Banner Elk, NC for Collegiate MTB Nationals hosted by Lees McRae College. When we got there the whole mountain was engulfed in a cloud and everything was wet. It had been raining for two days straight before we arrived, so I expected a mud-fest. We decided to preride the course shortly after arriving. The xc course was a 5 mile loop on campus that consisted of mostly singletrack, much of which was off-camber, with many steep climbs, and some truly gnarly descents. The descents brought back memories of Vermont but they were not nearly as rocky. Being a newly built trail, the soil was very loose, and this made for very sloppy mud. Although I was rocking some knobby-ass Bontrager Mud X tires, I was already off my bike walking up the first slight incline and was sliding all over the place in the 4 inch deep off-camber leaf covered poop. All in all I was able to ride maybe 40% of it in the pre
ride, and the going downhill consisted of uncontrolled chaos. Dallas, who was using road shoes and pedals was not happy with the conditions :) We were definitely in for a treat when 90 riders hit that course all at once.
The XC race was held at 8am on friday morning, about 20 minutes after sun rise. It was cold and wet, and I was nervous. It was 7:55 and the race was about to begin, and I really had to take a poop, but there was no time. Man this is going to be uncomfortable. But then they announced a 10 minute delay, just enough time. Ahhhh sweet relief. The officials then proceeded to call-ups which consisted of all the conference champs (overall points leaders of the conference), and then all the schools "at random." Of course they called up lees mcrae and all the colorado schools first. suckahs. I got a crappy second row call-up because although I won regionals xc and stxc I was not the conference champ. The start would be hard. The gun went off BANG! I found my right pedal immediately and I was in the big ring hammering. I managed to avoid the crashes and found some good lines putting me into the top ten. At the end of the 1 mileish lead out I was in around 5th or 6th place going into t
he singletrack. Of course we were almost instantly running upon entering the singletrack. That hurts after a hard start. I then slid right off a mud-covered bridge crossing and a bunch of guys past me. I gathered myself, still around the 10th place, and continued on through the first lap. The running with a 50 lb bike was taking its toll, and I got passed by more and more guys who were digging the conditions more than me. The downhill on the first lap was a mess. I crashed 10 times and got passed by more and more people. If you lose momentum on that downhill you might as well run/ walk because it is way faster as I found out. Starting the 2nd lap I put it into damage control and told myself to just try and finish. More running, more crashing, more getting passed. I was having a crappy race. By the fourth and final lap I was tired and wanting to sleep. Running turned into walking, and the legs were threatening to lock up. Finally I made it to the last climb which was on a grav
el road. I went hard knowing that the finish was just over the hill, but then my inner thighs began locking up. I could barely pedal. I finally limped across the line in 22nd place of around 90 starters, truly exhausted. My bike was hacked up. come to find out my rear rotor was taco'd, and my rear wheel would not even spin once. Who knows how long it had been like that, but it is a good excuse for my slowness ;)
Sore and tired from the previous day, we got ready to hammer out the short track race on saturday afternoon. The course consisted of a grassy field, followed by a climb, followed by a muddy technical singletrack descent. thankfully it was all rideable. I ran the Karmas for this race and they were perfect. The call-ups went the same way as they did for the xc and I again was in the second row. The start would be crucial in this race because when 75 riders funneled into that muddy singletrack, there was going to be a mess. Bang! the gun went off and I again hammered myself through some holes got into the top ten. It was brutally fast up the first climb and by the time we got out of the woods there was a couple guys off the front. Soon there was a chase group formed with none other than Eric Thompson, myself, and some guys from Fort Lewis and some joker on a cross bike from NC state. Soon me and Eric were setting the pace in 3rd and 4th. There were some surges though, and I was
soon back in 6thish place. I settled into a comfortable (relatively, I mean I was going pretty freaking hard) pace. Then with about 10 minutes to go I was shifting to my middle ring for the steepest part of the climb and my front derailleur clamp came loose, and it twisted. Soon my front shifting was gone and the big chain ring and the chain were rubbing horribly on the derailleur. I tried shifting frantically, and my chain fell off. HAMBURGERS! I had to stop and put it back on, only to have 3 guys pass me in the process. I got it in the middle ring, but the rubbing was horrible, and it made pedaling difficult. I knew I had to hang on for just a few more minutes. I held on to the wheel of a Fort Lewis rider for the remainder of the hard race, and managed to hold off Bryan Alders from CU for 10th of 73 finishers. Dallas, also rode strong for a 15th place finish! Come to find out the hinge pin on the der clamp snapped and that is why the thing came loose a
ll of a sudden. What luck! Oh well I was very happy with the race. I feel like I proved I could ride up with the fast guys and that made me feel good. After a mediocre XC this was a good result for me!
Thanks to TJ and all the others in the woods for yelling and keeping me going.
I would especially like to say thanks to Dad for all he did for me this weekend, bottling for us, feeding us, helping us clean up and just generally being incredibly supportive. Couldn't have done it without you, Dad. Thank you so much!