Giv’r Skidoo! National Podium Time for Allie

July 15, 2008 · Print This Article

By Allie Burch
Patterson, New York

wyndam mountain“You want this! Pedal, damnit, you want this!! You’re gonna watch from the sidelines again if you don’t get your ass moving!!! You’re run’s been clean enough to get it, now GO!!”

I wish I could say that this is what I was thinking to myself as I raced toward the finish of the downhill finals at the Windam Resort in NY this Sunday, but it wasn’t.

I was screaming it out loud like a damned maniac as I came out of the second to last wooded section, past mothers and children, past other spectators and probably past someone with just the right type of credentials to diagnose me as a bona-fide loony.

July 1st, 2001, NCS #3 at Deer Valley Resort in UT. That was the last time I stood on the podium at a national for a downhill event. My friend Tammy Pickerell and I took first and second, respectively in our expert class and I said hello to the pro ranks and goodbye to the DH podium. A lot has changed since then. Moves, marriage, houses and other obligations should have kept me from even trying to keep up with the newer, younger more talented racers who kept popping up, but with change comes circumstance, and circumstance can be used to an advantage.

It’s funny what just the right combination of desire, confidence and chance will do. This weekend there were two major gravity races running. One, the Windham national, that seemed to draw racers traveling through to the US Nationals in Vermont next week then on to the Worlds in Canada, and two, the Mountain States Cup in Colorado that drew most of the local racers who also happened to be most of the national racers. So, the racing population of the United States was split which caused our field to be rather small, small enough, in fact to make me think I had a pretty damned good chance of getting on the podium.

I arrived late and didn’t have a chance to walk the course before practice. I took a slow cruiser down and was kinda surprised at just how steep a course could get. There had been very little rain here the past few weeks and all of the dirt was powdery, but the exposed roots and rocks were still grippy. The course went straight down the mountain’s fall line with a few sweeping turns in dry grassy exposed areas that, if a rider stayed low and counterbalanced, shot the bike perfectly into the next wooded section with no braking required. The weather held Friday through Sunday morning’s practice runs, and the course’s iambic pentameter went something like this: Bump bump bump bump skid..bump…WAHOOOOOOOO…bump.bump.bump bump clank bump…YEEEHHAAAA…

That was before the rain came.

Our small pro women’s field ascended the chairlift just as the first drops started to fall. By the time we made our way over to the starting block, it was a steady rain. Twenty minutes before our starting time, the heavens let loose and we ran to the ski patrol hut for cover. What in the hell was the course going to look like now?? No one really spoke too much about it, but Lauren, who had also just moved from CA and I looked at each other, both just a little concerned about what the rain meant for those of us who haven’t ridden mud in a looooong time.

I’ll be honest, once my qualifying run started and I ducked into the woods, where the dirt used to be powdery and predictable, I was shocked. I no longer knew where or when to brake, my tires had a solid layer of muddy silt packed on them and I couldn’t stay clipped in or on my line for anything. As I slid and surfed my way down the steeps spectators heard me asking, “What the hell???”

Once that nonsense was over, I gingerly rode the first grassy sweeping turn and stayed up, but got sucked too low to hit my line in the next wooded section. The next grassy sweeper I tried to carry a little more speed and counterbalance, but went skidding and spinning on my side as I watched the course go by. Thus went the entire run. What a debacle!

At the bottom, Lauren and I exchanged horrified glances that were then shared with the rest of the field. We all slinked off to the bike rinse to wash…everything.

The rain continued through most of the men’s qualifying, but then miraculously stopped. The ladies went up for the last time to race our final. This was it.

In the words of my friend and co-dh racer Alicia Hamilton, “Giv’r Skidoo!!!” What the hell? I’m either gonna podium or come in last with a spectacular crash story. No more of this pussyfooting around in the woods crap. I was hauling in practice, why not now?

I had a good start and it felt like I dove into the first wooded section. The dirt was holding much better than in qualifying and I hit my lines with speed and caution. I hit every line except for one where I came to a near stop after nicking a tree and then my slowdown in the woods where I actually inhaled and started to choke on a glob of mud.

I carried much more speed in the damp woods than I did in qualifying, but not as much as in practice, and then I came to the second to last grassy connector where I wanted to coast. It was here that I realized I needed to take further pro-active action.

I pedaled through the grass and into the last bit of woods before the big chute and double at the finish. I stayed clipped in and pedaled through the gravel at the last sweeping turn. I braked slightly before and in the entrance of the chute and hit the double low and perfectly and jammed on the cranks as soon as I felt my tires hit the earth and on through to the finish.

I knew it wasn’t my fastest run, but I knew it was faster than my qualifier. I heard my time announced and breathed, “YES!” I had taken thirty seconds off of my qualifying time. After all was said and done, I had done well enough for fourth place, just three seconds off of third.

Even though it wasn’t a full field I’d be a liar if I said I’m not still thrilled. I loved every bit of it and I loved racing with the people who were there. I guess that the East Coast is kinda agreeing with me.

On a side note, I had the opportunity to meet quite a few people, one who is an eight-year-old future downhiller. (I just know it, as long as she keeps bugging her dad for that bike) and a woman who approached me and said, “you are so much fun to watch when you race! I just love watching you ride!” She had seen me at Plattekill the past weekend and then here. Something that I had never expected to hear from someone, but was I ever flattered to have her tell me that!

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One Response to “Giv’r Skidoo! National Podium Time for Allie”

  1. Allie Podiums at Nationals MTB #5 - Pro Downhill : Velo Bella on July 15th, 2008 9:08 pm

    […] Allie’s report […]

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