Day 1 – Wednesday, October 21st
Early Wednesday morning, twelve of Western Colorado University’s Mountain Sports athletes left for USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. The team had a rainy/snowy drive to Denver International Airport to catch a flight to Washington Dulles. Although the day had its hiccups, the mountain bikers narrowly made their flight. After a long day of driving, flying, and driving again, the team met up with coach Caleb Woodworth and Jason Holton, Director of Mountain Sports Operations, at their new digs for the next four days.
Day 2 – Thursday, October 22nd
Registration and course previews took place Thursday afternoon. Gravity athletes walked their course, which looked like it would be the longest, fastest ride of the season. XC riders previewed the treacherous short track and cross country courses on the front side of Snowshoe Mountain.
Day 3 – Friday, October 23rd
Short track started in the morning, with a course around Snowshoe’s base area and the dual slalom course inside the loop. The course started on a paved, moderate climb through the base area, down a steep knoll, up a dirt road, and up a few switchbacks. With most of the descent in one short section, the cross country riders were exhausted by the end. Everyone rode for twenty minutes plus three laps, unless the riders got pulled after being past by the leader or in the bottom 80%. In the Men’s Division II short track race, Cameron Smith and Peter Noon earned third and fourth. Sean O’Donnell and Ryan Trimble placed 19th and 12th respectively.
Gravity riders had dual slalom practice while short track was finishing up. With the dual slalom course in the center of the short track loop, spectators were everywhere, watching, riding and cheering on the XC athletes. Seeding runs for the downhill race followed short track that afternoon. The course had lots of roots, rocks, drops, and speed, even a short flat section where Coach Eddy encouraged the riders to pedal hard. All of the gravity athletes did very well in their seeding runs, and were stoked to race all out the next day. With only the short track race points contributing to the team omnium rankings at the end of the day, Western was tied with Warren Wilson College for first place.
Day 4 – Saturday, October 24th
On this cold, foggy morning, the all cross country riders crushed out two laps of an almost ten mile course. The course took one parade lap around the short track course to spread the riders out before descending on a loose fire road. That was followed by a short uphill pedal to the top of the Soaring Eagle Express at Snowshoe Mountain and a technical descent. Although Cameron Smith had some unforeseeable mechanical troubles and didn’t do well, he was amped up for the team relay the next day. Peter Noon kept up with the middle pack of the Division I schools (which had started twenty minutes before him), and placed third for DII. Ryan Trimble pushed for his 12th place finish and Sean O’Donnell took 17th. Camille Sjoquist took an impressive sixth spot, followed by Shelbie Ralston in 13th.
The day never warmed up and the sun never peeked out from behind the clouds in the afternoon either. However, an easy solution to being chilly, was walking up and down the steep slope to watch the downhill race. The course flows in and out of the trees and ski runs under the Western Express at Snowshoe. All of the athletes were flying down the course at their top speeds, making the drops and sharp turns look easy. Western’s athletes did phenomenal! Mark Dyer placed 12th, Jimi Averill 9th, Colt Horvat 5th and Daniel Frentzel taking home 3rd place. Kate Buscovick caught a few of the slower riders in front of her, but was able to pass them smoothly and continue her race run, placing 8th. Grace Owen, even after struggling from a few hard falls, earned a great spot just in front of Buscovick, in 7th place.
Day 5 – Sunday, October 25th
Sunday was a frigid, rainy morning. The fog was thick enough to condense on everything that moved. Gravity riders practiced dual slalom and ran their qualifying runs while the cross country riders warmed up for the team relay. The dense fog and slick conditions made the dual slalom course especially challenging. Riders were putting in times at least five seconds slower than when the course was dry. The grass on the last three tight turns was especially slippery, causing multiple riders to fall. Coaches Eddy Cohn, Caleb Woodworth, Bryan Dillion and Jason Holton tried there best to keep the riders dry, clean and warm. They washed bikes, scrapped mud, wiped goggles, and warmed up the athletes with blankets. The riders made the best of the situation and laid down fast qualifying times.
The team relay event took place between the dual slalom qualifiers and the finals to give the USA Cycling officials time to create a bracket. For the team relay race, riders completed one lap of the short track course as fast as they can before their team mate will relieve them. This is naturally a very crowd friendly event. Peter Noon was Western’s first rider. His incredible sprint gave Western a few second head start on King University. Shelbie Ralston took over for Noon after he had crossed the finish line. Camille Sjoquist followed Ralston. The anchor, Cameron Smith, took his lap after Sjoquist. Smith charged his way to the finish, only a minute behind King University, earning Western second place in the team relay.
After the team relay and the bracket had been made, Western’s riders were ready for dual slalom. By this time in the early afternoon, the fog was clearing up and the course was starting the dry. All of the athletes had some of the best runs of their season. Mark Dyer placed 5th. Unfortunately, when there were only four riders left competing for the top four podium spots, Daniel Frentzel and Jimi Averill were pitted against each other. Averill let Frentzel take the spot in the top bracket, but Averill enjoyed showing off to the crowd in his 3rd place run. Frentzel raced hard, beating out Bo Hellams from Humboldt State University. Frentzel had just become a national champion, and all of his teammates were stoked to see him do so well.
After all the points were added up, Western had earned 687 points toward the team omnium podium. The team was only twelve points behind King University: they had won second place. The top three school’s scores were incredibly close, with Warren Wilson College only five points behind Western. The Mountain Bike Team was stoked to have done their best, and were rewarded with a spot on the podium.