2015 Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals Recap

This year’s collegiate mountain bike nationals were held at Snowshoe Mountain Bike Park in West Virginia. Seven of our cycling team racers attended, as well as team member Justin Evans, who came as an official for USA Cycling. A total of 72 schools from across the country were represented with varying sizes of teams, including Division 1 and Division 2 teams, both varsity and club. The weather was perfect on the mountain both Friday and Saturday, making for sunny races in the 60s and great spectating conditions. There were 5 events over the course of three race days, and points were divided by individual racers, school teams, and individual omnium riders who rode in every event. 

The first race of the weekend was Short Track, which started early Friday morning and was a short lap only a few minutes long. Racers rode for 20 minutes plus 3 laps through the Snowshoe village, down a gravel road, and up a short singletrack climb back to the start of the loop. This style of racing is fast paced, with short, intense, efforts to stay with the front of the pack. Racers have to avoid being pulled out of the race at the end of each lap for being too slow for the lead group. In the Division 1 men’s short track race, 84 of the best racers in the nation started, with Byron Rice finishing 13th, Miles Hubbard right behind in 14th, Alex Jerome in 31st, Hayden Miller in 71st, and Jordan Bouldin in 79th. In the Division 1 women’s short track, Annie Pharr finished 21st out of 37. 

That afternoon was Downhill Seeding, which is a timed downhill run to determine what position racers will start in for the final downhill race. The final downhill race was not until Saturday afternoon, but there was steep competition between all the riders participating, with only seconds and fractions of seconds separating places. This style of racing is high pressure and high speed, with no room for any mistakes. The course was steep and technical, with one flat sprint halfway down and multiple rock jumps. In the Division 1 women’s race, Annie Pharr completed the course in 6 minutes 33 seconds, coming in 21st place. In the men’s race, Alex Jerome made it down the whole mountain in 4 minutes 34 seconds, earning him 28th place against strong competition. Despite a crash, Levi Rose managed 4 minutes 39 seconds, earning him 35th place out of an enormous field of 65 riders.

The Cross Country race took place earlier that same day, and was a long 9 mile course loop with a steep gravel climb at the beginning to separate racers, a long section of technical, rooty, singletrack through the woods, and finishing with a long, switchbacking climb up the ski slope to the beginning. Racers had to complete two laps plus an additional short track lap at the start. This style of racing was more about endurance and technical skills than short, intense, cardio efforts. Every racer had to be self-supported, meaning that they could accept no mechanical support once the race started. This was unfortunate for Annie Pharr, who got a flat tire near the end of the Division 1 women’s XC race. She used her CO2 cartridge to get enough air in the tire for a mile or two, but was forced to run the bike through the finish at the end when the air ran out, coming in 27th place out of 37 who started. A huge field of 88 men started the  Division 2 men’s XC race. Byron Rice finished in 16th place, Alex Jerome took 24th, Miles Hubbard was close behind in 28th, Hayden Miller came in 58th, followed closely by Jordan Bouldin in 61st. 

The final day of racing was not quite as nice out, with cold mist, fog, and wind forcing riders to layer up before early morning Dual Slalom practice. In Dual Slalom racing, two riders go head to head on identical dirt tracks. It is also a high pressure event that requires maximum precision and no mistakes. Racers start at a gate similar to BMX racing, and ride over dirt mounds and around berms as fast as they can, while still clearing every flagged gate like slalom skiing. Annie Pharr qualified in 28th place, but was not fast enough to be one of the 16 top women to move on to finals. In the Mens race, Levi Rose came in 36th place, but was only 1 second away from qualifying for finals. Alex Jerome came in 27th place, and made it through a round of finals with some of the fastest Dual Slalom racers in the country. 

The final event of the weekend was the team relay, where teams choose two men and two women to sprint relay laps to decide the fastest team. Only 12 Division 1 teams competed, and Byron Rice, Miles Hubbard, and Annie Pharr represented Appalachian State. As the only female, Annie did two laps, but Miles and Byron caught up lost time with their fast laps. App finished in 8th place, but after a time penalty was awarded 10th place. In the overall team omnium ranking after tallying all the points earned from the weekend, Appalachian State finished 10th out of all the Division 1 schools competing. It was a successful end to the season that the team should be proud of, and next year we can attempt to be even faster.