Monday the Western Mountain Sports Program sent off its Mountain Bike Team to USA Cycling Nationals held in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. The team split ways with a few coaches and student athletes leaving to drive, while the others  flew out to the event. Mountain Sports Athletes will compete in downhill, cross-country, short track, and dual slalom races in addition to a relatively new co-ed team relay.

Day One:

The team arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina Wednesday, and drove through the lush fall foliage of the Blue Ridge Mountain Range to Beech Mountain Resort. Although conditions were foggy upon arrival, the team still holds high hopes for the courses overall condition. Thursday, the team will have a course inspection that will take place throughout the day that will allow the riders to choose their unique lines and strategies to take them to the podium.

Day Two:

Thursday morning was slow, and the team eventually made it down to register for their respective races. The trailer was slowly unpacked and the Mountain Sports tents were raised. As the bikes were unloaded many racers began routine maintenance to make sure their bikes are in top-notch condition to begin racing on Friday. After registration, the cross country course opened to inspection. Excitement continued to grow as the team became familiar with the new terrain. Although riders suggested that conditions were slightly wet on the track, the forecast for the rest of the week predicted the stable cool temperature that the team was looking for.

The USAC Nationals will  kick off tomorrow with short track cross country and downhill qualifiers. Today, riders from across the country were able to walk the track and get use to the south-east conditions.  Riders talked about the difficulty of the downhill track not being quite as challenging as the year before, but the level of competition being brought to the event is keeping everyone on their toes. With the energy level high in all the teams, the week promises to showcase some of the best talent from the Collegiate mountain biking community throughout the US.  The day ended with the team feeling confident in their lines, and ready to leave it all on the table for the weeks races.

Day 3:

Friday was a big day, and it started off with a huge team breakfast. Once everyone was satisfied, the cross-country men headed out to practice before their event, short track, the only event that day. Promptly at 8:45 am the mens D2 short track began with Western riders Graham Ruhmann, Peter Noon, and Sean O’Donnell all participating. The course was about 1/2 mile in length and depending on the rider’s speed, 8-10 laps were completed. Graham Rumann finished in the 3rd place position with Peter Noon close behind in 4th, and Sean capping off the Western male riders in a solid 26th place. The women’s short track race also went very well, with Zoe Smith finishing in 16th place and Ellie Atkins coming in 20th. Following the cross country short-track race the downhill course was open for practice, with the official seating following practice. The course proved to be challenging for the riders, but all are confident in their ability to pull off a smooth run tomorrow evening.

Day 4:

The cross country riders awoke with one thing on their minds this morning, and that was distance. The cool and crisp North Carolina air kept the riders awake and alert this morning as collegiate riders from around the country started the XC Mountain Biking event. At the start of the race, competitors were immediately put to the test in their disciplines by a grueling half a mile ascent in 3.5 mile loop that they would each ride for 5 or ­6 laps depending on gender. Although it was a challenging climb, it was no threat the Western riders. Graham Ruhmann placed 9th, with Peter Noon following in 12th, and Sean O’Donnell coming in 26th. For the women, Ellie Atkins placed 18th, with Zoe Smith Trailing behind in 19th.

As the day rolled on, it brought us into the the demanding downhill event. The course was fast and technical, but with a full days practice the team was ready. Colt Horvat coming in an impressive 8th overall, Jimmy Averill in 10th, Cody Zelko in a close 11th and Cody Scott trailing in a respectable 14th. Our fearless woman riders also showed great skill today in the high risk event. Starting with Carmen Smith coming in 8th place, Ellie Atkins in 9th, and Kate Buscovik placing 10th. Everyone on the team competed strongly today, and will hope to carry this momentum into tomorrow’s closing events.

Day 5:

 The last day of the USA Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals came to a end with rider Colt Horvat nearly making it into the semi finals in the Dual Slalom. The team wrapped up it’s evening with a filling dinner at the awards ceremony. As the team said good bye to the Smokey Mountains, the team grew closer knowing it’s more than just about winning, it’s about the experience and relationships you build through the Mountain Sports team itself, and the memories that they will all have. With the Seniors finishing strong, the underclassman are all looking forward to next years season, ready to come back strong and ready to race.

We’d like to thank Herbalife, Griggs Orthopedics, and Crested Butte for a great season!

This post will be updated daily with new Nationals updates.

Writing and photos by Mason Strehl & Preston Hoffman.