I was never the stereotypical little girl, who wanted to be a princess when she grew up and glided around the house pretending to be a fairy. I wanted to be an Olympian; I ran around the house launching myself off furniture at full speed.

To young bike racers, USA Cycling Nationals is a shared dream. To wear the stars and stripes on your shoulders and a gold medal around your neck. That’s always been my dream. I was excited and nervous out of my mind when we got to Sun Valley, Idaho, for the 2011 USAC National MTB Championships.

The morning of my cross country race, my mind was already on the start line. My head was spinning and I was completely disconnected from the world. When the time finally came, there was a nervous silence in the staging area during call -ups. I had the third call-up.
After the start whistle, everything sort of went into a blur. I was in great position at the top of the climb, on 3rd place’s wheel, right with the leaders. I was stuck there on the switchbacks, not having enough room to pass. And then, in a split second, 3rd place slid out in front of me. I slammed my back brake, but I was too late. My bike hit hers and I was sent into a tre
e, a stubbly branch slamming into my ribs. The breath was knocked out of me, and I saw the others rushing past me. I grabbed my bike and jumped back on, my ribs screaming with every labored breath. I was now in 9th, hitting the short road section. My throat burned and I reached down to grab a bottle-but my bottle wasn’t there. Panic washed over my brain. What if my dad wasn’t at feed zone yet with my spare bottle?
He was, and by the climb of the 2nd lap I was back in 6th place. The climb is short, steep, loose, and brutal. A 13-14 boy who I was about to pass was clearly a victim of the climb. He swerved, and hit my handlebars, knocking them sideways. It was a slow motion crash, but the loose gravel dug into an old wound on my knee. I was now in 7th as I re-mounted my
Grammo Toa. I put myself back into 6th by the top of the climb, and I railed the tight switchback downhill. I came out into the open section, and I couldn’t see any of the riders ahead of me. I don’t know what hurt worse, the pain in my rib, the sting of my knee, or the fact that I was so painfully close to my dream, but not nearly close enough.
Reaching the climb on my 3rd lap, I caught the next girl. The stiff Toa frame allowed me to power up the climb. I could see 4th place up ahead, and I was reeling her in. The anger in the pit of my stomach and the disappointed pain in my heart powered a fire to redeem myself. At the summit of the climb I shifted up into my middle ring, now only about 15 yards behind the 4th place. And my chain dropped, right clean off the cranks. I let out a string of choice words as I forced my chain back onto the chain rings. I got back on after losing around 10 seconds, but it was 10 seconds I couldn’t afford to lose.
I was in a monster gear coming through the start/finish. I came into the up-and-over bridge hot, and launched off the lip at the top. I cleaned the difficult rock garden and hit the climb, with 4th place back in sight. The steep, loose climb hurt on my 4th time up, and as I shifted up at the top my chain dropped. Again! I was furious, seething out of my mind. The announcer at the bottom of the climb roared “Fifth lap! Fifth lap!” over and over again.

I came to the rock garden, which was about 75 yards long and very difficult, with no obvious line choice. A spectator was very close to the course tape, leaning over it and screaming commands. I was taking a line close to the tape and was distracted by the spectator, my front tire sticking between two rocks. I went down, a sharp rock digging into the knee I’d already hurt on the climb. I let out a pained cry, getting up and running the last 20 yards.

The climb was terrible on my 5th go, but this time my chain shifted up cleanly. I took the descent dangerously fast and sketchy, coming into the tight turns with a lot of speed. When I got to the finish arch, the words “One to go, one to go, one to go!!!” were all too welcome to my ears. Almost over. My entire body hurt, my rib, knee, and shredded leg muscles. The only comfort I had was knowing that this was my last time up the brutal hill. Crossing the finish line, I laid my arms on the bars and slowed to a stop in the finish paddock. Alex Wild, a U23 racer and friend, noticed that I was actually hurt and not just bummed. He took my bike and I limped into the med tent. My family hurried to the med tent to check on and console me! My injuries were mild, a cut and bruised knee and a rib contusion.
I was disappointed because I knew I could have done better, but I was proud of the way I’d fought hard. I came in 5th place, and on the podium! This just wasn’t my year for the stars and stripes, but I’ll be back next year.

I owe a huge thanks to my awesome sponsors,
Grammo, (and my Grammo Toa 29er). Special thanks to my Mom, Dad & Grandpa (Opa) who made the trip possible. Finally, I couldn’t have done it without my coach, Paige Ramsey, my Cycling Godparents (Asa Salas and George Dunkum), my bike shop Mad Cat Bicycles, everyone at Placer Foothill Mountain Bike Club, and all my friends and family who supported me to no end.

I’m proud of my accomplishment at Nationals, and I know that next year I’ll be coming back to Sun Valley with a drive and one goal: redemption.
Keep chasing..

Fight Back

One thought on “Fight Back

  • July 31, 2011 at 5:18 am

    omg congratulations!!!!! Love the pics! You are a pro!!!! Amazing accomplishment!


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