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MTB Nationals 2019

Motto from the week: “Observe, listen, learn”

In 2018, I took Fred and Finley out to Snowshoe, West Virginia for MTB Nationals. In 2019, I took 12 athletes to Trestle, CO for Nationals and met up with 4 of our Outlaw Tribe members. To say these two experiences were different is an understatement.

Last year, United Airlines sent most of our luggage and bikes to a different airport and made zero effort to get them to us. If you’ve ever been to Snowshoe, you know it’s in the middle of nowhere, so driving or delivering anything is nearly impossible. Luckily, Fred and Fin had their DH bikes so they could still race, but they were on borrowed/rental gear and wore the same clothes for a week. In the end, it was a memorable experience and we had a lot of fun and brought home a 1st and 2nd place!

This year, the logistics of taking 12 athletes 1 state away to ride and race bikes for a week is just as incomprehensible as losing a few bikes flying across the country. Everything and everyone made it to Colorado, so eat it United.

The Athletes:

Dillon Flinders (didn’t end up racing due to recovery from his broken leg)

Justin Goodey (DH, Dual, Enduro)

Drake Parker (DH, Dual)

Carter Jefferies (DH, Dual)

Vann Pollard (DH, Dual)

Thatcher Gledhill (DH, Dual)

Finley Kirschenmann (DH, Dual)

Luke Mallen (DH, Dual)

Alex Mallen (DH, Dual)

Fred LaRiviere (DH, Dual)

Syd Hyldahl (DH)

Boone Wheeler (DH)

Boston Bryant (DH Duals)

Finn McDermott (DH, Dual)

Brodey McDermott (DH, Dual)

Cohen Bundy (DH)

Eli Bundy (got back from BMX Worlds after his races were complete)

Before anything else, I want to say a huge thank you to Dillon Flinders for helping keep the kids in line, coaching, packing and unpacking a million times, cooking, cleaning, and helping with bike work. I know you’d rather be racing and riding your bike, and it was a hard choice not to. It’s also very hard to not get depressed, negative, and angry when you can’t ride. Thank you for keeping it positive and helpful!

Prep Stages

When they announced that Nationals would be at Trestle, I knew we had some work to do on our fitness levels. The amateur course was over 8 minutes long! Most of it very mellow and flat with lots of pedaling. To do well in this course, you had to be strong and nimble for 8+ minutes. If you’re gassed half-way through the course, you’re going to make mistakes, not be able to pull up over obstacles, or float through the rough stuff as smoothly or as quickly as you could if you’re feeling strong and durable.

We’ve been preparing for Nationals with our conditioning work all spring and summer. I feel like it paid off with the results and really helped some of our weaker pedalers finish stronger than they would have otherwise, if not from a muscular endurance standpoint, then from a mental perspective.

However, I’m not happy that I took nearly 4 weeks off prior to Nationals for the Andorra World Cup, and a ski camp at Mt. Hood. That was poor planning on my part and will not happen next year. I don’t regret the trips, just could have planned it better so that our athletes could be 100% prepped for this event.

Nationals will be at Trestle again in 2020 and we have a big advantage being so close. Our Fall training will consist of a lot more conditioning and gym work. If you just sighed and slouched, then you know you need it.


I believe proper nutrition can account for 70-80% of an athletes performance. However, I try not to make a huge deal out of it. Why? I’m playing the long game here people.

Even though it’s a massive amount of work (15 hours of prep prior to leaving, then 3-4 hours per day during events), I prefer to be in charge of the food. After hosting ski camps and now bike camps/races/trips for kids for the past 8 years, I’ve become pretty good at figuring out what they eat and sneaking in healthy doses of veggies that they otherwise may not get.

Each meal has protein, carbs, fats, and veggies/fruits. My approach to nutrition for athletes is one of sustainability and enjoyment. I love good, healthy food. I also love Oreos, and home baked desserts, and doughnuts. There’s a time and a place for each in order to have a healthy relationship with food.

Athletes, if you haven’t caught on already, my continual questions about what you’re eating means something! I want you to think about it and take ownership. If you call yourself a competitive athlete, then eating lots of healthy, natural food is just part of your lifestyle. The more you consistently eat something that either grew out of the ground or ate something that grew out of the ground then the more results you’ll see.

And remember, you’re not concerned about a diet to lose weight like what you hear 99% about nutrition. Please make that shift in your brain when you think about nutrition. You are an athlete and you eat for performance. That means you need A LOT of protein, healthy carbs, fat, and veggies/fruits for the micronutrients and fiber. The more good stuff you eat, the less and less you’ll want of the processed foods that you’re currently addicted to. I say that in a matter of fact way and not an attack on you personally. It’s just one of the few unfortunate effects of living in America, but it is relatively easy to counteract and the sooner you start, the better.

In a nutshell, I’m saying that I’m not expecting anyone to stop eating all candy and sugar, just consider adding in healthy, natural food more often, then think about how you feel. The trick is to be consistent. One day won’t do much, but 3+ days, now we’re talkin’! Do you get less moody? Do you have more energy? Are you able to focus and concentrate on things longer? Do you get less restless and irritable? Try it out!

Checkout these short videos to learn more!

The Adventure

J-Quelin (the team van) made it up and over the Rockies in 90+ heat. We almost didn’t make it the last steep bit between Vail and Copper due to an Amazon semi going 10mph, which killed our momentum and cut our power down to lower the engine temp. The final 20 miles took over an hour!

We finally made it to the Frisco Adventure park and unloaded all the dirt jumpers. This was a great stop and the kids had a blast. This is one of the best bike parks we’ve been to and is worth a weekend trip. There are lines for all levels. The pro line is massive! Their new concrete bowl park is also very fun with lots of lines to figure out.

We loaded up the bikes in the dark and made our way to Winter Park. Our new friends, the Bundy’s let us use their condo for the week, but it wasn’t available until Monday night, so we got two hotel rooms for Sunday night. Only two? Yes, to save money since it was only one night, figured it wouldn’t be too bad and most the kids had sleeping bags and pads. Don’t tell the hotel.

The first two days were all about the non-championship events. At Nationals, they have two categories for most all ages and levels. They offer a non-championship event for those not wanting to compete for the stars and stripes national title, and for those Cat ⅔ riders that want a shot at a podium.

Non-Championship Competitors:

Thatcher Gledhill (DH, Duals)

Justin Goodey (DH, Duals)

Vann Pollard (Duals)

Bos Bryant (Duals, DH)

Brodey McDermott (Duals, DH)

Tyson (Duals)

These kids crushed it and rode hard. It worked out great to split up the crew and work closely with this group for the first half of the week. The rest of the team rode the rest of the resort on some freeride laps.

I’m especially stoked on Thatcher and Boone. Thatcher joined late last year, and Boone is a new addition this year. For all new athletes, there is a period I call the Crash-A-Lot-And-Get-Frustrated-Stage. It’s normal. This is the first race that Thatcher has not crashed in, and he is improving in his technical skills and gaining a ton of confidence. Same thing with Boone. He worked hard on the course to learn it, and took a lot of training laps to prep for race day. Boone raced both non-champ and Championship DH and improved his time by over 18 seconds!

Vann and Justin were ripping in the Duals! They were fun to watch and you could see their bike handling skills improve each run. Same thing with Brodey! I hadn’t seen Brodey ride since Mountain Creek in April and he was a totally different rider on his home turf in Colorado. Boston just dominated and went home with a 1st in both DH and Duals!

Tyson won the world championship in duals. That’s all you need to know.

Championship Races

There’s so much here! First off, the track wasn’t really anything to write home about. It was fun, but no real challenge for our athletes. In order to win, you had to have a clean run, and pedal harder than anyone else. There was only 1 rock garden with a faster line through it, everything else was just let go and pedal.

That’s no excuse, and something I think our athletes can work on is to see their advantages on any track. I prefer not to talk about any track in a way that could negatively affect our athletes. i.e. “That one section is scary” “This is too easy” etc. It is what it is and you’re here to race and do well, so take advantage of every opportunity.

As a side note for myself, I want to spend more time on bike setup for each track. Tire choice, suspension, clips vs. no clips, and make sure there is no drag/friction in the system.

Championship Duals

This was by far the best Dual Slalom course we’ve ever raced on. Duals is one of my favorites for many reasons:

  • It’s exciting to watch

  • You can get a lot of laps on it

  • It teaches bike handling skills

  • The competitive side by side aspect will always push your limits

  • Results/feedback are immediate

  • It’s easy to film and coach :)

I don’t think I could accurately describe in words the battle that went down in the 11-12 category. Next time you’ll just have to be there! All I can say is that our athletes handled themselves very well and pushed their riding to another level to try and take home the championship. Drake, I’m still giddy about your comeback from a crash and very low confidence in training to taking home 4th and battling against Evan who went on to win. You rode out of your mind!

We had 7 in the final 16!

Congrats to Luke Mallen for taking home 2nd in a very hard fought battle with Evan Medcalf. Yes, he was bigger and older, but so what? You pushed him and had him worried till the end. You were also on flats and a hardtail with a blown fork. I’m very happy with how we did and how the rest of the team rallied behind our buddies with the loudest cheering. Thank you all for being great sportsmen and congratulating your opponents win or loss. That’s huge. Outlaw’s definitely made an impression!

Championship DH

Again, the track wasn’t anything special, however, it did get more fun the more we rode it. It certainly favored a trail bike over a DH bike. USA Cycling listened to everyone’s complaints from years past and gave us a lot of time to train on the course. This was one of the best National events I’ve been to for this reason alone.

As a young athlete, it can be hard to get motivated for a less than challenging track. So the trick is to make it more challenging by going faster! If we race on this same track next year, the plan is to take fewer laps on it, but each one be full race speed and with Strava and a GoPro follow cam so we can diagnose each section. Either way, I’m still happy with everyone’s performance.

Fred, I’m super stoked you got some training in even with all the flats and arriving late. I really appreciate you wanting coaching and assistance during training and I think that paid off on your 3rd place finish.

Congrats to Luke in 2nd, Fred 3rd, and Finn McDermott in 5th for the 11-12’s!

Alex was on a heater, but lost a pedal half way down, tried to find it, then continued on with one pedal. Bummer!

Congrats to Vann Pollard on achieving his goal of getting on the podium at Nationals Champs in 5th! His category was stacked and he laid down a great run. Finley and Drake both had solid runs and finished in the top 12.

The awards ceremony on Saturday night was in the town of Winter Park at their amphitheater. It was really cool they did it there and had the athletes staged to go on the podium. It made it pretty special to get on the podium and I think made some of our athletes even more hungry for the next race and next year. Winning isn’t everything, but it certainly feels good.

Speaking of Winning isn’t Everything

There has been a growing need on the team to build more teamwork and cohesion. With so many A-Type personalities and strong competitive attitudes, it’s been a little intense at times. I absolutely do not tolerate anything that doesn’t positively affect yourself, your teammates, or your team. I’m also not a fan of trivial consequences, especially ones that can’t be enforced. In my experience, I spend more time judging negative actions when I play that role. Instead, I came up with a points system to help foster a positive, happy, healthy environment where everyone works hard to make the end goal happen: Having fun on bikes learning life lessons.

Here’s the thing, for whatever reason, the majority of our athletes would take things for granted and assume that someone else would take care of their stuff. It doesn’t work like that. Loading the trailer, putting gear away, organizing gear, cleaning, dishes, cooking, making sure your bike is clean and working properly well before you need to ride it, etc.

Also, something lacking was empathy for our teammates and coaches. I strongly believe that a happy team is required to achieve anything worthwhile in sports. If you feel that you’re entitled to anything, then you won’t go out of your way to help those around you. If you help those around you first, they’ll be more willing to help you when you need it. And if you get better, then I get better.

This is where the motto “Observe, Listen, Learn” came from. I know figuring this all out is part of growing up, but just like any skill, you can gain the ability to be a super observer that gets things without being explained every detail. You can learn to listen deeply to others and figure out what they need, which will eventually help you figure out what you need. And through all of this you can learn and not forget. The only mistake is the one you repeat.

To help keep me sane and make sure kids didn’t leave stuff out to be stolen, I instituted a peer-to-peer points system. Anytime an athlete was caught doing a selfless act for someone else, without being asked, and especially without the intention of gaining a point, another athlete or coach could award that athlete with a point. The idea was to get everyone involved in helping. The goal wasn’t to earn points, but to learn the big picture of what really happens on the team and within friendships. If you selfishly sought points, or bickered or fought over points, then you were automatically disqualified. There was no losing a point, as that meant automatic disqualification.

This was an experiment and I’d say it worked for 98% of the time! In the end, it was a success. When we had our final debrief of the week, the unanimous vote was for Vann to win the prize. Vann didn’t even know how many points he had. He just led by example and was always helping me load the trailer, helping teammates, making sure his stuff was taken care of, and asking what else he could do. Not out of concern for winning, but to help because he wanted to. That leadership definitely trickled down to the other athletes and they figured it out towards the end of the week (mostly).

This is what’s important to me as a coach and leader on the team. It’s so much more important than winning or riding or anything else. So much so that I really enjoy rewarding those that get it and can lead by example. Vann won a $200 gift card to Amazon (or somewhere else if he wants)! I think that’s a big deal, and well deserved.

Kids, take note.

This will lead to our Outlaw of the Month. It’s already started and will end August 31st. We won’t use the points system, but the winner will be nominated by their fellow peers with coaches having a big say as well.

Athletes, you now know the expectations. It is your responsibility to remember and learn.

  • Observe, listen, learn

  • Help others first

  • Keep your stuff organized

  • Bikes left out will be left out

  • Gear left will be gear left

  • Dirty bikes will not get loaded or serviced. It is your soul. Take care of it.

  • If something is not working properly on your bike, fix it the day before you need it, not the day of.

  • Bickering, fighting, bullying will not be tolerated. If severe enough, you will not ride for a day, If it continues, you will not ride for 2 weeks. After that, you will be asked to leave the team. These are my only consequences.

We still have some work to do, but we’re headed in the right direction. Thank you team for making an effort. Remember, the only mistake is the one you repeat!

On to the next one! Whistler in 1 week!

Lessons Learned:

Build out trailer! I’ve finally figured out the best plan to haul 26 bikes. Hopefully should be done for Whistler.

Get a pit - it costs $250 or so to get a pit at the finish area. This will be mandatory for next year as we took over Commencal and they weren’t too stoked.

Strava laps - This will be a great tool on such a long course to figure out where each of us can go faster. Tie it in with a GoPro follow cam and we can get all sorts of nerdy out there.

Backpack with water/food/tools/tube for each athlete - This is mandatory and will be easier with our own basecamp.

DH Casing Tires

Bike Setup - I’d like to look closer at each athletes setup, especially air pressure and suspension to make for a faster rolling bike on a flat course.

Clips for Duals - yes.

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