Race Report: Rock Shox Golden State Downhill Final at Mammoth Mountain – David Sanderson

Downhill Events Mountain Biking

When I heard the final race in the Rock Shox Golden State series would be in Mammoth, I knew I just had to get there.  Fortunately, so did the rest of the Mtnbikeriders team!  Wednesday night I headed over to the Finch’s (Kim & Tony), loaded up the truck and took off at midnight. Plan was to be in Mammoth ready to ride by 8am to get in on the first official practice session.  I was supposed to nap before leaving and sleep in the truck when it wasn’t my turn to drive…yeah, that didn’t happen!  I was way too amped to get to Mammoth and ride some real downhill terrain.

We pulled into the Mammoth parking lot, full of a big breakfast, got registered and ready to ride.  It’s funny how far we traveled to this race only to find all the same usual suspects present!  Sometimes it’s hard to get out of the parking lot, there so many people to go say what’s up to.

Tony, Kim and I head up for our first practice with Tony in the lead.  What a course, steep chutes, gaps, berms, a wall-ride and a rock garden!  Tony and I estimate this is a 4 minute course and at altitude this is gonna hurt!  Thank goodness we got there early and are able to dial in our lines over 3 days before race day.  We rode all day, all weekend, 5 practice runs a day, followed by riding the rest of mountain!  no wonder my legs are beat and I’m beat up!  The KHS Lucky 7 is getting a work out on this trip!

Thanks to all the practice with the Wizard, I’m feeling pretty fast and confident come race day.  This is the first race where I actually start to discuss race strategy with Tony.  Before, I always just went for it. No brain, no headache! I watched the Pros practice and the number one thing I took away is PEDAL!  Everywhere you can, PEDAL that bike!  As we approach race day, I’m prepared and I’ve got my eyes set on one man, Ed Suarez!  This is my third DH race and Ed won the previous two (I went 10th place and 3rd).  I know I’ve practiced enough to ride as fast as I can, the question is, am I faster than Ed?

Race day, I’m chilling out, hanging with the team until about fifteen minutes before my race run.  Time to step into my office, I throw on my helmet and pedal around.  I’m supposed to be warming up, but my heart is already beating hard.  I try to calm down and visualize my run from top to bottom, what line to take, where to pedal, where to save energy and when to let it all hang out! I pull into the gate and hear “Rider, fifteen seconds”.

GO! Out of the gate I hammer, I pedal hard even though I already know (from watching the guys before me) I can only get in seven pedal strokes before braking for the first left!  The visualization technique worked, I’m not “thinking” about my lines, I’m on auto-pilot.  It’s almost as though I’m playing a video game.  My mind is free to think clearly at a higher level, I’m not thinking about where I am but rather where I will be in a few moments.  The next move after the 1st left is a sharp right into a steep chute that I roll into and start staring at the ground just a few feet ahead of me.  My internal monologue kicks in, “What are you doing David?, look up, look further ahead”.  I’m amazed as I raise my focus from ten to twenty five yards out, my whole world slows down and I have time to asses and plan my next moves.  I accelerate to top speed out of the chute.  I’m going so fast I float over two drainage ditches serving as gaps followed by a right turn, a few rocks and then into a loose pumice set of S-turns!  Have you ever ridden in sand?  Imagine that sensation, but downhill at speed!  After the pumice is a short steep hard pack section, speeding you into a huge table top jump.  I’d been airing this jump all weekend long, but the wind was kicking and I stay low on this run to land cleanly descending into first fast straight-away!  Fast as in eye-balls jumping around in your skull, blurred vision and sweaty palms.  “Just keep looking far ahead” the voice in my head chirps.  Into another series of pumice S-turns followed by the sweet wall-ride!  You’ve got to get the previous corner just right to use it, but the wall-ride turns out to be an E-ticket ride for me, I’m on it, high and PEDALING!  Steve the course marshal gives me a hoot as I’m spit out into the only major rock garden on the course.  I observed the fast guys and learned to use the left line out onto the spine of the last rock into a small drop followed by a banked turn.  PEDAL hard through the small straight into a tight turn and more loose-pack.  Now gasping for air pedal another straight, through a right turn onto a platform followed by a drop into a left turn, small jump, right turn and PEDAL!  I roll the first three tabletops, hammering the whole way to get enough speed to clear the last double into three tight banked turns in a row!  Hammer down another straight into a bermed left-turn that leads us into the 4X track!  4X on a bike over 40lbs is an experience, through the jumps, boulders and berms.  PEDAL and build speed.  In the triples, I manage to double then roll the last one. I’m pumped because I always rolled the triples in practice, damn! I must be haulin!  Over the last tabletop, “PEDAL!”, and I’m across the finish.

I get to meet up with Tony and watch the rest of the team come down.  I’m having a great time and I know I had a solid run.  I could only think of about two to three seconds I could have saved if I rode perfectly.  Anxiously I await the final results.  RL sees them before me and just walks by coyly “I’ll let you go see”,

I hustle over and see my name in first place!  I even put seven seconds between me and second!  Damn, I might be ready to move up to sport!  This is my first win and man, it felt great, especially beating a few guys who’ve beaten me in the past!  I really thought I would’ve won a XC race before a DH one, but I guess I was wrong!  Coming up will be the november race in Fontana.  The plan is for that to be my last beginner race with a move to sport in 2010!  I know Ed’s gonna bring it at the next race, I’m not going to sneak up on him again!  I gotta thank the team sponsors, Hoss, Evomo, Ice Toolz, Serfas and Ergon.  A huge thanks goes out to KHS bicycles and their Lucky 7.

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