July 26, 2007
By Stephanie White
This past Friday I participated in the Jr. Mountain Bike National Championships at Mt. Snow Vermont, specifically in the Cross Country event. The cross country course at Mt. Snow is a classic New England loop, with a lot of climbing, a .5 mile long mud bog, and a rocky, rooty, terrifying descent.
Essentially, the course climbs to the top of Mt. Snow, a climb broken up by the mud bog and a few technical sections, and then descends to the finish. My race was only 2 laps long, but in the muddy conditions of the day each lap took over 50 minutes. I knew from the beginning that winning this race would qualify me for the World Championships in Ft. Williams, Scotland. Talk about motivation!
I got a good start and followed a DEVO rider named Essence Barton up the first climb. We got a gap on the rest of the field and held it until the end. The climb on the first lap was tense, as we both knew it was between the two of us now. I felt strong and Essence gave no sign of feeling tired.
When we got to the descent I made sure to go in front because Essence, being a downhiller, could easily get a gap here. It turned out not to matter, however, because Essence quickly passed me and had a 35 second gap by the end of the descent. I spent the next 1/3 of a lap chasing her down and caught her, but knew I had to drop her on the climb if I wanted to win.
I opened up a gap on the climb and started the descent with about 20 seconds on her, but Essence caught me halfway through the descent. After that things got scary. There was no way I was going to let Essence beat me on the descent, not when I was the stronger rider and the better climber. I hung with her, pushing myself to go far faster than I wanted to, but miraculously did not crash. 2/3 of the way down the descent there was a short climb, where I hammered and opened up another gap on Essence.
I managed to maintain this gap down the rest of the hill and along the flat to the finish. I was nearly crying as I crossed the finish line and greeted my friends and family as the new Jr. Cross Country National Champion! I leave for Scotland, and the World Championships, on September 1st!
A special thanks to my parents, my sister Libby, my “cycling aunt” Kelly, and my boyfriend Jeff, who were all there to help me and have been so supportive of my cycling. Also thanks to Alex Burgess, Melanie, and Judd, who were cheering in the feed zone, and Morgan and Tim, who were in the pit ready to help with a mechanical problem. I am fortunate to have the support of all of these people and of all the Bellas out there. Thanks!