Ali’s Race Journal: Plattekill Pro GRT

Plattekill PRO GRT DH & Super-D

Words: Alison Zimmer
Photos: Dwight Gies

Friday 6am- I departed for Plattekill, NY (Platty) with friend Dwight Gies, who graciously offered to drive, take photos, and help out for another full weekend of riding, racing and travel. My body was still feeling worked from the previous weekend, and I made sure to pack a generous amount of tiger balm, vitamin-I, and herbal elixir.

I arrived at Platty around 11am to meet up with team mate Dylan and friends. Word on the street was that the course seemed ridiculously steep and gnarly, true to Plattkill standards. On the course walk, the ruggedness of the track was confirmed, and walking it was treacherous. Jitters of nervous kind ensued. Pro rider Lauren Daney unclipped before the big drop at the top of the course and took a nasty crash in front of us as we were sussing it out. YIKES. Although she was ok and rode down, it took her out of the race for the weekend. Back in the lodge at the bottom, another pro woman had just had a nasty crash on her first ride down, and although ok, she had taken herself out of the race. Not confidence building, but it was time to roll the track and see for myself. Practice started with a warm up run on the super D course and two runs on the DH track, although not feeling stellar they went well with doing most of the A lines. There were a few sections that were intimidating, and the first drop, although not very big, scared me.

The evening brought some light rain, and a nice campfire with a fun group of folks. Heavy rain came in, and by morning everything was soggy, damp, cold, and muddy. The rain continued on and off throughout the day. My mind was in no place to tackle the DH course this morning so it was instead filled with a few fun laps on the Super-D course before the 2pm race. Despite signs of improving weather the Super-D race was sloppy, and chilly. The course started with a flat and fast pedal section in which I initially took the lead but was passed just before the first descent. On the last significant pedal before dropping back onto single track, I snatched the lead and held it to the end. Elinor Wesner was within a bike length or two ’til the finish, making it the most exciting Super-D to date!

Cold, muddy, with continued drizzle did not make for good motivation to get on the DH course. Eventually the gumption to drag my nervous self out for a practice lap appeared thanks to a friends coaxing before the qualifying run at 4:00, for which my goal was to be conservative, stick with most of the B lines, and have a smooth run. This plan turned into success, and to my complete surprise my run was best in the pro women field by more than 20 seconds.

I enjoyed another cool evening filled with interesting folks, fireworks, sparklers, camp food, and a heady topper to quell the nerves. Morning brought sunshine and warming temps, with the promise of a drying track. I waited until the end of our practice to take my first run, and had immense trouble just staying on my bike. The drying mud was gobbing on my tires, and the course had turned significantly more sketchy because of the change in consistency. With just enough time to eek out one last practice run it was up the lift again, this time a clean run- albeit on many of the B lines and being conservative. Racing smart and avoiding further injury was in my head all weekend, and became my focus and intention for the afternoon’s race.

Racetime finally came and the track was in the best condition it had been in all weekend. My mind waffled between taking risks on the A lines that I had barely practiced, or staying with my weekend mantra of keeping it safe and flowy. Near the end of the course I wobbled and found myself off the bike, finding it difficult to clip back in and ride the rest of the steep course down. The crowd rallied and I found my way to the finish line in second place, 9 seconds behind the leader. Nine seconds is a lot in a DH race, however given my off the bike moment, and striving to be conservative, I have no regrets. It was a personal accomplishment not only to have raced this weekend on one of the more challenging tracks to date only one week after a serious crash, but also to have confronted some intense fear and anxiety about riding and racing. This was a great experience for building mental stamina and confidence levels, while also teaching me it’s not always about charging the A lines (flow and focus are just as important!) Two weekends of racing and getting back into DH riding is under my belt… I’m starting to feel the flow! Love and Gratitude to all who make it happen!

-AZ

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