North Carolina is a place I had never been to before. Upon arrival I was a bit disappointed to find the Charlotte air port exactly the same as just about every other airport in the US. Convenient for picking up luggage and a rental car, but a little bland and generic, especially after looking forward to traveling to some where new for a race this year. The drive up to Sugar Mountain was the usual traverse of flat farm lands blending in to the unending rolling hills and mountains of the southern reaches of the Appalachian mountain range. The arrival at Sugar Mountain is marked by the appearance out of the sky of a surreal new age sky scraper sitting abruptly out of place atop the mountain. The rolling green lush mountain tops surrounding Sugar Mountain are all similar in size and scope, but sugar has its own 1970’s era monolith hi rise condo unit atop to stand out from the rest.
Matson was on hand to tune up our bikes and get us dialed in briefly before departing for the long haul up to Boston for yet another Demo. After a brief dial in we were on course to scout out what sugar mountain had to offer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much. A 40 minute climb consisting of riding straight up a ski slope, then meandering around on fire roads and paved development roads brought us round to the aforementioned hi rise at the top of the mountain. At this point we were about 1500 feet above the base area and start finish, a distance we would cover in about 5 minutes careening straight down freshly cut single track the followed the fall line through the trees directly to the bottom. $ laps of this fun was on tap so I headed back to our Bed and Breakfast to take off my pants and watch TV.
Saturday morning came, along with some traditional for the south grits and eggs for breakfast. The race began in the usual ballistic fashion and soon there were 6 of us in the front group. Ryan was riding well and was able to get a bit of a gap with JHK on the initial lap, while I started to flounder and last o few spots. It is amazing how slow you can feel and still manage to finish in the top 15. I don’t think I could have gone much slower the last 2 laps, the heat and monotony of the climb taking their toll on me, but I managed to hold on to 14th place by the finish. Ryan had a good ride going but flatted on some nasty rocks and, since we had no tech support in the pits, had a bit of a rough time getting everything rolling again and ended the day 10th.
Feeling frustrated with our lack luster rides we came back Sunday to the short track with something to prove. The legs were much better and early on Ryan was in the biggest moves of the day while I sat back in 5th to 6th keeping an eye on things and conserving my energy. This would ultimately be my undoing as I missed the selection and settled for 6th place, just off the podium, while Ryan rolled through in 3rd.
The next week was spent in transit, from North Carolina on up to Mt Snow Vermont. Mt Snow has been a staple of the Norba circuit for as long as I have been racing and remains one of the coolest venues of the year. The entire town is behind the event and there are always tons of spectators on hand to watch us do battle. The XC course is the same as it has been for the last 6 years, so by now the only factor affecting anything is the weather. This year it was very dry and that made the course especially fast and sketchy, as the descent is quite treacherous at high velocity. The race started off well enough, sitting in the tp 10 biding my time and waiting to make a late race charge, when disaster stuck on the 3rd of 4 laps. Air and Liquid started spraying all over the place from the front of my bike and at first I though I had punctured the front tire, come to find out my fork had just puked its guts all over my front brake and the trail. I soldered on, riding the climbs locked out and just holding on for dear life on the descents as my fork pinged off everything and bottomed out at the slightest impact. I made it through the finish, only losing about 4 spots, but a bit frustrated with my lack luster performances the last 2 weekends. Luckily all was not lost, as previously in the day I piloted my brand new 2007 Coil air to victory in the Super D.
Sundays short track was again a saving grace for the Kona Squad as Ryan, frustrated from his poor showing in the XC the day before, opened a can on everyone and went away from the second lap to the finish on a solo flyer picking up his first Norba win in the process. That made my job easy as I just sat in the front group and made sure no one tried to hard to bring him back. Once again I lost out on a golden opportunity by riding to conservatively and again finished one spot off the podium. Sneddon made it to this race and had a descent XC, returning from his bought of anemia and finished 16th. An untimely crash in the STXC sent him through the course tape and into the lappers.
After hitching a ride with Mark to Albany New York, we piled into our rental minivan and hi tailed it to Quebec for round 4 of the World Cup. Thunder storms all week had us worried that the course would be a muddy mess, but strong wind and sunshine, coupled with tons of man hours digging trenches and packing mud had it bone dry and lighting fast on race day. After our back of the pack starts Ryan and I were able to move up through about half of the field on the start laps and slowly pick people off the rest of the day. After 5 of the 7 laps, Ryans batteries ran out and he packed it in, just managing to hold on and finish on the lead lap. I kept it steady and rolled though in 25th place, not a bad result considering the level of competition and who I finished ahead of.
Another east coast adventure is in the books, and now it is back to the routines of riding and resting as we prepare for the next Norba in Park City Utah and the National Championships in 2 weeks in Sonoma California. Until then, it is back to the grind stone to fine tune the form and hopefully bust out some good results in the next few weeks. Thanks to Dan and Jake for giving us the opportunity to travel the world and race our bikes, and all our sponsors and supporters for all the assistance and support. Peace out!