Racing with the Big Boys and Girls – 2014 MTB XC Nationals

PJ descending rock pro shot with bloody knee Nats
PJ descending downhill switchback section littered with roots and rocks.
Given all the “what’s a MTB race like?, why the hell do you do it?, why are you always covered in blood after them?, why don’t you just stick to the road?” questions I tend to get, let me offer the following brief race report via four posed questions:
Why did you race Nationals?
 Somehow I qualified based on CAT1 results at New England Championships and Bikeway Source – Bell Lap Racing teammate Mike Harris said “you qualified for Nats, dude, you just gotta race”.  Game on and thanks for the nudge, Mr Harris. Teammates Mike Rowell and Sue Lynch were also racing, so more ammo to get the gate pass.
What’s a USA Nationals MTB race like?
It’s quite the show as you have the top Pro and Amateur racers in the US all going for broke. You win and you get the Stars and Stripes Jersey – I think you get the picture. My rear tire was mildly leaking Stan’s and it was so cool to just walk up to the Stan’s tent and get a small bottle gratis and have them check to see that I was good to go. Had minor Shimano drive train issue and stepped up to Shimano and they gladly took care of it. Swag city and i was able to grab VW cowbells and sunscreen for my buddy – Dave Genova – a non cyclist who made the trip with me to heckle.
What’s the course like? 
I can’t say teammates Mike and Cathy Rowell didn’t pre warn me, but the course was just horrifying.  Just up and down through the most technical race course I have ever done. Trust me, Bear Creek Nats makes Leadville 100, Vermont 50 and any others look like child’s play.
PJ descending rock section at Nats front view
Bear Creek Nats makes other MTB race courses look like child’s play.
What’s it like racing CAT1 at Nats? 
 The shot above is cool in that if you look at spectator above me at top of hill, you get perspective for vertical drop and technical caliber. I had just traipsed through over 100 spectators at “The Heckle Pit” in the middle of the woods consisting of  guy dressed as Satan (poking you with pitch fork to go faster), a Nun (with long ruler whacking you) and many others including a guy playing trombone. Friends told me he would play “Debbie Downer” song when folks failed to ascend the rocky switchback climb, while I heard “cavalry” song the three laps I made it up – and even had a woman popping sour patch kids in my mouth as a “reward”.
I thought my days of the “PJ Bike Throw”  may have ended (after I snuck to the 4/5 Cyclocross Win at Shedd Park last season), but wouldn’t you know I had another sprint to the line where just managed to beat some dude with bike throw. We are all very much amateurs, but my CAT1 field was pretty stacked and we even race for blood for 26th place.
Special thanks to Chris Li and  The Bikeway Source as my Cannonade Scalpel Black Inc ran superb. I an not worthy of a rig this nice!