Race Report: XC National Championship at Bear Creek

USAC XC National Championship at Bear Creek. Macungie, PA.

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The above pictures sums up the teams weekend at XC National Championships (Bear Creek Mountain Resort):  OWNED!  The team went with a mission, and we executed.  Multiple podiums and goals reached, including FOUR Wins and THREE National Titles!

Amy Alton wins her Cat 2 race at Nationals

Amy Alton wins her Cat 2 race at Nationals

Compared to last year’s sauna-like conditions, this year’s event was perfection.  The mood was mellow, and the trails were gnarly.  Everyone came with a positive attitude, and the approach made for an unforgettable weekend of competition and camaraderie.  It was the weekend that made the team realize how special this group is.  And it wasn’t just our team that shined, the team at Bear Creek worked to put on an amazing event, and we hope will continue to do so for many seasons to come.

Of course none of this awesome-sauce would be in the dipping bowl if it weren’t for our awesome partners and sponsors:  Giant Bicycles makes the best bikes IN THE WORLD!  SRAM provides us with peace of mind drivetrain, braking, and suspension performance at the highest level.  Schwalbe’s tires continue to inspire us to go faster and get radder.  Pro Gold products allow our bikes to shine in more ways than one.  Enzo’s products watch our butts, quite literally.   ESI Grips keep us under control and on the up.  Elete replenishes and revitalizes us.  Northwave shoes and Hawley USA provide us with the sweetest kicks in town.  Crocs footwear keeps our feet comfy and stylish in-between events.  And Stan’s NoTubes tubeless technology keep us rolling when others fall flat.  THANK YOU!

The team chows down at Saucon Valley Bikes (Hellertown, PA) after Saturday's races.

The team chows down at Saucon Valley Bikes (Hellertown, PA) after Saturday’s races.

Read on below for a run-down of the weekend’s results:

Cross Country (XC)

Lester’s XTC Advanced gets ready to race.

Grassroots rider Ryan Berliner raced in a large field of Elite Juniors. Despite a back-row start, Ryan made the best of his race:

“My race was the 17-18 elite juniors, and there were tons of them. 50 actually, and I was staged dead last. No worries though, it’s all part of the game and has to be worked through.  I was able to work my way up to 25th by the end of the race, passing half of the field. I was happy with how I dealt with the opportunity, and I was super tired by the end.” (Ryan)

Grassroots rider Jake Possinger has had an up and down relationship with Bear Creek since first racing there in 2011. After a disappointing race at the State Championships in June, Jake decided to focus his energy on prepping for nationals. After a nearly disastrous race start when a rider ahead broke his chain and caused some panic in the ranks, Jake hustled to keep contact with the pack and soon found his groove.

“As the race progressed I began to open up the throttle. I felt something I hadn’t felt so far this season on my MTB….I felt fresh. All of a sudden I was dropping guys left and right.  My official result was 12th of 30 with a time of 1 hour and 54 minutes. Nearly 25 minutes faster than States time from 2014.” (Jake)

Lester navigates a switchback during the Cat 1 Men’s race.

Other Cat 1 men racing on Saturday included Lester, Mike, and Jon. Lester’s report:

“I could tell I was feeling good because I didn’t want to die after that first 4 minutes. The front of the field got away and I just focused on riding my race with the climbs and focused on pushing during the technical stuff.  On the last major climb I hitched onto a group of 5 riders up to the top of the mountain and then began my descent to the finish. I came out of the woods towards the finish with one guy just ahead of me from another field and sprinted to catch him. I was really happy with my effort and finished 26th.” (Lester)

Grassroots rider Mike Romanowski wasn’t sure whether or not he’d be able to race on Saturday. Several weeks ago, Mike discovered he had Lyme. Though he felt sick in the weeks leading up to Nationals, he decided to wait until several days before Nationals to make the call. Despite the uncertainty, Mike was looking forward to a fun weekend with the team. Fortunately, the antibiotics began to work their magic and Mike decided he felt well enough to race.

“Although my first lap was good and I felt strong, that’s when things turned. The next 2 laps were very rough for me to complete and I had to mentally stay tough enough to force myself not to DNF.  I’m  proud of the way I was able to push on and finish my race, still finishing in front of a few racers in my age group. All in all it was a great weekend of racing, cheering on and supporting other teammates.” (Mike)

Mike and Lester take off with the Cat 1 Men. (Photo: Allison Smith)

Andy Brooks went into the Men’s Pro race feeling a little nervous since it had been nine years since his last National Championship participation.  Starting in the last row of 58 pro racers with just a short length of trail before funneling into rooty singletrack didn’t help his nerves. Despite his position, Andy had a fast start and began making passes right away. Taking some risks to gain positions up the first long climb, Andy punctured his rear tire.

I kept pushing forward and Stan’s sealed the puncture with about 10 psi remaining. I could feel my rim hitting every bump in the trail.  Once I reached the top of the climb I decided I had to re-inflate my tire with my CO2 cartridge before riding any downhill.  I passed back as many riders as I could and kept working forward until I reached just about the end of lap five, when I heard the lead moto clearing the course for Todd Wells as he approached his finish from behind me. I yielded with a few corners to go, feeling slightly blessed that I would be finishing a lap early. I finished in 35th place and felt satisfied, all things considered.”

Andy Brooks (Photo: Allison Smith)

Jordan

April and Wendi both raced with the Cat 1 Women on Saturday, though in different age groups. Wendi’s race report:

“I was looking forward to racing Bear Creek again this year and really wanted a top 5 finish, as did everyone else I’m sure. I don’t have a coach, but this year I have been getting faster on my own and improving my skills, so I was staying positive and practiced the course several times. I absolutely loved the rocky course, which reminded me of where I normally ride at home. But, these are top racers from around the nation, so I knew this was going to be an especially tough race.”

Wendi loving the rocks. “Happiness is racing the XC National Championship at Bear Creek.” — Wendi

Wendi’s hard efforts put her in 8th place in her very competitive age bracket (Cat 1 Women 35-39), just two minutes away from her pre-race goal of making top 5. After comparing results with other age divisions, Wendi realized just how competitive her age bracket was: her race time would have put her on the podium in any other age bracket.

Wendi, on riding through the heckle pit: “The heckle pit was absolutely amazing. I love those switchbacks and can pretty much ride every bit of it, so I loved when I got to the heckle pit… Crazy amounts of people screaming and cheering just made me feel happy.”

April’s reflections on her race:

“On Saturday I learned about a lot of my vulnerabilities. I’d had a rough week and probably should have come to the race earlier to pre-ride the course and help myself shift focus. I felt strong and reached the top of the mountain in fifth place, but then the little things started to wear me down.  I’m usually able to shake it off and toughen up, but my defense mechanism on Saturday was to totally shut down and soft-pedal down the hill to my first ever non-mechanical DNF. Knowing now how bad it feels to quit, I won’t forget my armor next time.” (April)

Nats XC start

April waiting for the start of the Cat 1 Women 30-34 race.

Abbey headed out with the Pro Women on Saturday afternoon.

“This year was my first time racing at US Nationals as a Pro. It was such an amazing experience lining up with some of the best women riders in the world. This was my first race at this level and  a big step up from the local and regional races that I do. There were 28 women in the race, my goal was to get at least 3 laps and not to come last. I wasn’t able to keep with the main group so I just tried to keep a good pace and ride smoothly. I was happy with my race, I finished 22nd and completed three laps before getting pulled.” (Abbey)

Abbey concentrates as she rides into the berm section during the Pro Women’s race. (Photo: Allison Smith)

 

Liv kits abounding. (Photo: Allison Smith)

Results for Cross Country:

  • Abbey Alexiades: 22/28 Pro Women
  • April Nabholz: DNF Cat 1 Women 30-34
  • Wendi Sebastian: 8/11Cat 1 Women 35-39
  • Amy Alton1/5 Cat 2 Women 40-49
  • Jordan Kahlenberg: 34/57 Pro Men
  • Andy Brooks: 35/57 Pro Men
  • David Flaten: 20/45 U23 Men
  • Tyler Berliner: 21/45 U23 Men
  • Ryan Berliner: 25/50 Cat 1 Men 17-18
  • Jake Possinger: 12/30 Cat 1 Men 19-24
  • Lester W. Brown III: 26/31 Cat 1 Men 30-34
  • Mike Romanowski: 27/31 Cat 1 Men 30-34
  • Jon Lombardo: 11/28 Cat 1 Men 40-44

Our weekend mechanic! (Photo: Allison Smith)

Super D

Seamus Powell held on to his National Champion title for a second year, despite a crash and some mechanical readjustments during his run.

Seamus Powell (Photo: Allison Smith)

“Course was absolutely awesome, shorter than we all thought. There was a great mix of pedaling and gnarly rocks. The race itself was really weird. It felt slow. Where I was supposed to pedal I was coasting and where I was supposed to roll the rocks and flow I was trying to pedal. With a crash and my bars twisting to 90 degrees on one of the tight switch backs my run was less than stellar but  I never gave in and finished with a clean bottom half of the track. Posting the fastest time of the day was awesome  with a mediocre run. All in all defending my national championships was a great feeling in front of friends and family that have been a part of my racing career from the start here in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. It was the ultimate way to win a national tittle two years in a row.” (Seamus)

Jed puts in an effort before losing — completely losing — his chain. (Photo: Allison Smith)

Tyler Berliner (Photo: Allison Smith)

Brothers Ryan and Tyler continued the jersey sweep winning each of their respective age groups, with Ryan putting in one of the fastest runs of the day. Ryan describes his race:

“For this race I raced in the 15-18 group, and I did some runs saturday night and sunday morning. I was feeling good about the course, and looking forward to the run. When the run came, my strategy was pretty simply. Because of the roughness of the straight sections, the best way to go fast was pump up your tires hard, and try to stay light. The only other important part of the race, was just making sure you got extremely high around the rocky corners. This is were the most times was to be had, and knew it was going to be crucial. At the bottom of the run, I felt like I had done a good job, and I was able to win my category. I was just outside the fastest time of the day, and felt content with how the weekend worked out.” (Ryan)

Ryan Berliner topping the Super D 15-18 podium.

Abbey Alexiades

Super D Results:

  • Abbey Alexiades: 17/17 Pro Women
  • Amy Alton: 4/11 Women 40-99
  • Seamus Powell: 1/26 Pro Men
  • Jordan Kahlenberg: 20/26 Pro Men
  • Jed Schober: 25/26 Pro Men
  • Ryan Berliner: 1/36 Men 15-18
  • Tyler Berliner: 1/18 Men 19-29

Short Track Cross Country (STXC)

Lester raced short track with the Cat 1 Men 30-99 on Thursday.

“The start was fast and I got shoved back in the field as a rider cut me off and slid in the loose gravel. We charged up the slope, across, down through some berm turns, and up a steep kicker before descending again to the gravel road. At the bottom of the first section, I slid out in loose gravel and barely avoided being run over by another rider. Though I tried to control my panic, I still went fairly hard to catch back on and suffered for it the remainder of the race.  Though I was pulled and scored 18th, I was fairly satisfied with the effort.”

Andy Brooks, cyclocross devotee, was hoping for a good ‘crossy race on Sunday in the Pro Men’s field:

“Complete insanity. The course was dusty and hilly and every corner had loose dirt, rocks, or gravel.  The straight sections were just long enough to pass one rider or maybe two, at best, before sliding into the next turn. I had the next-to-last start position of 52 competitors. I thought I had worked my way up through many riders before being pulled, but when the results came out I found myself placed 44th. The result is not what I had hoped for, but the race was fun and challenging and a good end to a fun weekend.”  (Andy)

April, meanwhile, was looking for redemption after her frustrating race the day before, and toed the line with the Cat 1 women.

April Nabholz

“When I checked out the course before my race, I saw that there were a few rocky sections where I would have to stay relaxed and attentive. I was running extra low tire pressure, and didn’t want to flat. I settled into midfield on the first lap, but there was a woman on my wheel who kept shouting “Go! Go!” every time we rode through the rocks. I knew from Saturday that one of my vulnerabilities is losing my focus when riders heckle me, and I absolutely didn’t want to get intimidated. When she shouted at me the third time, I called back “Stop yelling at me! If you want to pass, pass.” Problem solved. I hit the next several climbs hard, put some distance between us, and rode the rest of my race in sweet peace. I loved the pain of the relentless effort, and nothing felt better than letting myself go up the climbs. I found myself in third place with several laps to go, and that was the position I held to the end. I was really pleased.”

A short track podium for April in the Cat 1 Women.

Giant men after STXC.

Short Track (STXC) Results:

  • April Nabholz: 3/14 Cat 1 Women 17+
  • Andy Brooks: 46/53 Pro Men
  • David Flaten: 50/53 Pro Men
  • Lester W. Brown III: 18/18 Cat 1 Men 30-99

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