By James Meyer
I learned a lot during my 2 weeks in Colorado, at the Fort Lewis College Nationals prep camp, and racing the National Mountain Bike championships in Winter Park. At camp I got more experience falling and riding trails with lots of fast elevation gain and loss, which helped me improve my high speed descending and confidence at speed, as well as get used to the intense nature of the Colorado trails. I also got to meet and talk to riders from across the country to learn about their riding style and experience.
We also got to meet multiple people with cycling centered careers including the following:
- Mechanic, who talked about what he does for the racers
- Nutritionist, who talked about how best to fuel for a ride based on the type and length
- Engineer, who talked about his job designing bikes and the best ways to get a job in the cycling industry
- Pro cyclist, who discussed her races and her sponsors.
Spending a whole week with my teammates from Team Athletic Mentors Junior Development strengthened our relationship and getting to be dorm-mates with them was a great experience that I will gladly do next year if I get the chance.
At Nationals, I learned that I need to push myself harder to get to the front of the pack at the start of the race before the single track so I won’t get slowed down needing to pass later in the race. I also noticed how much my lap times improved each time I pre-rode the loop and sessioned features. The elevation was a problem at 9000+ feet as the air is much thinner than around 900 feet and I could really feel it while adjusting in the first few rides.
By the races, I had gotten over the altitude sickness but still wasn’t fully acclimated so it was hard for me to push myself to my limits. At the end of the first of three 5 mile laps, my one water bottle fell off my bike on a chunky descent and I didn’t have anyone to give a bottle hand off. I eventually picked someone else’s up off the trail at the top of the climb on the last lap as I had no water for a lap and a half. I could feel my performance greatly decreasing and that was one of my first experiences that really highlighted the effects of dehydration and the importance of being prepared for anything.
Watching the rest of my team race and cheering them on was one of my favorite parts of each day. I’m lucky to be on a team with such great friends so I can be happy for them when they do well in a race and support them in any way I can if they don’t place well or as well as they wanted. Even after all of our races are done, it’s fun watching the other races with them, especially the pros. It’s crazy seeing the fastest racers in the country race the same course that you just raced because of how impossibly fast and they ride the technical features that are hard for a lot of people just to complete.
The whole experience inspired me and my teammates at Athletic Mentors Junior Development to go back next year and try
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