Snowshoe West Virginia ProGRT DH
Words: Alison Zimmer
Photos: Jonathan Lamb
Thursday- I pulled into Snowshoe WV with teammate Dylan Conte, and Abby (a fellow female pro racer) after about 17 hours of driving, a couple of nights sleeping on the floor of Dylan’s van and a few stops along the way. Snowshoe stands at about 4,800 feet, and the resort is at the top of the mountain. Lifts run off both sides with the racing side being a longer 2000+ foot descent and the other side, 1500 vertical feet, ending in at a lake that is great for swimming on hot days. The mountain villiage was chill, yet posh looking, with shops, eateries, local vendors on the weekends, and multiple hotel options. We were staying at Whistlepunk, condos nearest the race course and pit area.
Thursday the course was closed save for course walking. The course started right off the main road, went through a few turns and into a road gap. The first half of the course was realatively smooth and bike park-ish, fast, with jumps, drops, and berms. Then the mid section was rocky and flatter, leading to the entrance of what felt like the longest continuous rock garden ever. Steep and techy, this section keep you on your toes. Coming out of the woods from the long rocky section was a fire road to some fast flowy woods with a few doubles, then a fast step down jump to the finish line. The course was long, demanding and had a bit of everything.
Friday- Open practice was all day, and went well. The road gap and drops all went smoothly, the rock section was challenging, but the Furax was finding a way through it, and the end section was a ton of fun. After 5 runs, it seemed that energy conservation on such a mentally and physically grueling course was in order, so a few of us rode down the other side and went for a refreshing dip in the lake. West Virginians with their pseudo-Southern accents appear to be a funny gregarious bunch, who are quick to laugh, and not too big on rules.
Saturday- Morning practice. My body was feeling the strain and jarring from the day before and it took a couple runs to loosen up. By my last practice run the DH flow was returning and I was loosening up on the bike. Seeding runs were in the afternoon. I was having a great run, until near the end of the rock section I smashed my rear brake rotor and crashed, got back up, and came off the bike again, getting the tape wrapped around my bike. The Furax was making funny sounds, but I rode it out of the high speed section, still making all the jumps, however the rotor was beyond repair… Luckily Dan had packed me an extra one! While on her seeding run, my friend Abby crashed hard into a rock, and somehow took the brunt of the force between her googles and helmet, leaving her with a large laceration on her forehead and a beat up body. Dylan and I took Abby to the closest hospital (about an hour away) where the lighthearted staff, and Abby’s amazing sense of humor had us in stitches while she was, literally, stiched back up.
Sunday- Morning practice went pretty smoothly. I kept it to 2 runs for energy conservation. Before the race multiple racers came to me for PT help: taping a wrist and thumb, shoulder, ankle, etc. The racing community has learned that a little tape and PT help can go along way, and it is such a pleasure being able to help others do what they love.
Race time. Abby was unfortunately unable to race due to her crash, and another Pro female was also out due to an ankle injury earlier that morning. My race run started a little rough as I came in hot to the corner after the road gap and nearly went into the woods. A little further down the track I took a tight corner a little in the front seat and nearly went over the bars. In the rock sections I got tossed around a bit, but held on, keeping the bike under me to the finish. Although I had a few errors in my run, the greatest factor limiting me was my mental apprehension. It is super challenging to keep the mind from lingering on thoughts of avoiding injury and crashing. If only I could find a way to feel like I am ripping down trails with my friends, just letting the bike roll! Taking third however, was not a big disappointment, yet personally my slow time was, knowing I held back way too much on a course that suited my strengths. This is why DH racing is such a challenge, it’s not just the physical strength and bike skills, it’s as much the mental game and vision perhaps more so, yet that challenge is why I love this sport so much.
More lessons learned, another great course ridden, and what a treat to get the opportunity to come to West Virginia! Now driving on to North Carolina where we will have the pleasure of riding around the Asheville area! Oh how thankful I am to be alive and riding bikes!