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Dustin's MTB Nationals Race Report

Dustin White, reppin' AJBW hard at the USA Cycling MTB Nationals in WV

Hey everyone! I am actually taking a pause from the madness in West Virginia to write this report, coming to you live! Before I jump into the details of yesterday's cross country race, I need to do my best at explaining this course and its surroundings. Snowshoe, WV is primarily known as being an east coast ski resort. Our lodge is at the top of the mountain, sitting at 4700 feet above sea level! I need to focus on the course, but let me just share that this place is beautiful!
As that brief digression is over, onto the good stuff! The start finish area is a cobbled road that snakes through the heart of the lodge area that is full of restaurants, businesses, and condos. Once you make a few 90 degree turns you drop into the top of a ski slope and begin a fast flowing descent through the first singletrack. After this fun section of bridges and small roller jumps, we get to the bottom of climb 1 that snakes back up to the top of the mountain. As you crest climb 1, there is a brief paved section that enters the loamy forest area. This section was unbelievably taxing. It was roughly 8 minutes of the most roots you can imagine through moss covered slippery soil! After snaking through the forest you descend through some tight, bumpy switchbacks onto a gravel fire road. This was by far the most technical descent of the race! This first fire road sends you back uphill towards the lodge with 2 brief, off camber downhill sections. After climbing for roughly 4 minutes you get to go through a manmade rock garden that although rideable is faster to run. In practice I cleared this section 3 times, but it's so harsh that any mistake creates an epic log jam. After exiting this rock garden the climbing continues to a rocky switchback single track descent that was used in 1 of the enduro courses. This section wasn't too bad but all the rocks and wet conditions did draw out ugly thoughts of peril! Exiting this descent you make it to the 3rd established climb of the course that was by far the steepest and most grueling. With gradients of roughly 20% this section was an energy zapper. At the top of the mountain once again you get to have a brief drop into a 5-6 minute rock garden I like to call "rock hell." Bouncing through the woods trying to hold traction you exit towards a clearing by the lodge and climb back towards the start area. I am literally exhausted writing about this dang course....4-4.5 miles...650 feet of climbing per lap....phew!
Moving onto the race! Due to early morning weather issues (fog, rain, hail, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc...) the race was postponed by roughly an hour. I was fortunate to get a front row start with a 3rd place call up. As tensions were building we were all eager to get started....spectators were pounding on the railing boards and we were off!! I had a pretty terrible start and went into the first descent in 6th place. Not knowing how the course conditions were going to pan out I took this section conservative with a plan to hit climb 1 hard to move up before the forest. I did just that and went into the woods 4th. Let me just note that 1st and 2nd place were already opening a huge gap. Those guys were certainly no joke as one of them raced junior world championships a few years ago and this spring was in the final heat of the world cup eliminator in Columbus, GA. Anyways, I followed through the woods until the guy in front of me slid out bad on some roots and went down. Moving into 3rd I cleared the forest descent and entered climb 2 feeling decent but a little out of breathe!
On the fire road a few guys came around me as we headed towards the manmade rock garden. As I mentioned earlier I had plans to run this section and that paid off well on lap 1! The left hand line became a log jam and as I ran to the right hand side I instantly made up about 5 spots! Climbing up to the enduro descent I held my position and came to the major climb in 3rd or 4th place! Things were going well tactically, but under the hood I was in trouble!
I cannot explain the feeling very well, but my heartrate was through the roof and I couldn't put down any true power. As my red-line kept pegging guys came around me and I went into a damage control mode 

having to severely dial back my exertion level. As we crested the climb I was probably around 8th – 10th place considering we were all still close together. Entering “rock hell” for the first time I had no blood left in my head and started to descend with no sense of control. I wasn’t nearly crashing or anything, but I couldn’t easily navigate the good lines that were required to make it through this section clean. I ended up having to dismount and run to the first clearing that offered a chance to remount and in this moment I was in zombie mode! I felt like a bus ran over me when I just stepped out of fight where I got beat with a baseball bat. The thoughts of quitting were endless! I knew in these moments there was no hope for a win, there was no hope for a podium, but I do not peg myself as a quitter so it was time to buck up and just do my best!

After completing lap 1 and regaining some aerobic control I was able to put down a little bit of power on the lap 2 climbs. I was constantly yo-yoing positions with guys as the conditions were so poor that it was easy to make mistakes or have mechanical issues out of nowhere. I did all I could for laps 2 and 3 riding through the worst race conditions on the hardest course I have ever experienced and finished up 11th out of 20+ starters! I am not excited about the finishing place because I always want to improve, but as I have reflected through the experience…I have come a really long way in my brief mountain biking career. A few years ago I couldn’t hop onto a curb without slamming my rear wheel, I couldn’t ride a berm or a descending switchback to save my life! And I was so afraid of rough terrain that I couldn’t have even imagined riding some of this course in even the best of conditions….but you know what….I just completed my first cross country nationals riding way outside of my comfort zone and for that I am endlessly proud! Through adversity comes growth and understanding. If you can tackle obstacles with your head held high and a smile on your face, anything is possible on any given day!

Looking forward to the next one =)

Click here for the Ride with Dustin page complete with race schedule and post-race reports.