Ali’s Race Journal: Windham, NY DH World Cup

You might’ve heard… VT’s own Ali Zimmer is headed to Norway to represent the USA at the DH World Championships! She’s humbly asking for your help & enthusiasm to get there. Click here to learn about her IndieGoGo fundraising campaign to help offset the significant cost of competing overseas.

Party Time! The Alchemist Brewery will be throwing a send-off party on Thursday August 28th in Stowe, VT, complete with bevies, music, food, bike riding, swag and more. Ride with Ali from 3-5pm, then party from 5-7 at the Skiershop in Stowe. Tickets and details here >>

Windham, NY DH World Cup

Words: Alison Zimmer

Wednesday Morning- I met Dylan in Vergennes, VT where we embarked on the easy sub 4 hour drive to the Western edge of the Catskills in New York state. It was a beautiful day and although Vermont had been getting dumped on with rain, the track walk proved a sweet looking course with some tacky dirt. This course was significantly different then last weekend’s course at Mont Sainte Anne. From the small built up wooden ramp start in the woods to the bottom only took 2-3 minutes for most. Fast and furious, this course had a few of steep gnarly shoots up top, a huge high speed 50 ft road gap in the middle, some doubles in the woods, fast berms, high speed rock gardens, to another high speed section out in the open with huge jumps to the finish line.

Photo: Erik Timmerman

Thursday Morning- We hit the track at 8:30am. I joined up with friend, and fellow racer Rae Gandolf again. Rae had raced Windham a couple years ago, and the track was quite similar. We rolled down on our first run, only hitting one of the doubles in the woods, and sussing out the rest. After a few more runs we were finding good lines down most everything, however had not yet sent the huge blind booter/road gap into Peaty’s plunge, container drop, and finish line jump sequence. The 4th run was a go. We sat at the top of the field overlook, and after watching a few folks send it, I took the lead. This turned out to be a super fun section of the course, big controllable air, and high speed! I did get a bit bucked on the second to last booter, which other riders later complained about too, however with proper body position and pulling up it would not be a problem. The only part of the course that we didn’t step up to that dat was the intimidating high speed road gap. I waited above it a few times, hoping that a rider I knew would stop and let me follow them in, but no such luck. This jump is serious, with high speed consequence if it goes wrong. The word about it was, to lay off the breaks coming out of the whoops section above it, cross the road, drop off the rock at high speed and hit it without any brake checking.

Photo: Erik Timmerman

Friday- Sunny and blue skies again, however there had been some light rain the night before making the track a little tackier and morning practice went well. We only had an hour and a half to practice. On our last run, Rae ran into a friend who was willing to take us over the road gap, it was now or never! We both landed it well, and felt confident we would hit it in our qualifying runs! During morning practice two of our American women riding friends crashed in the rock garden and injured their hands/wrists, and another woman went down and was taken off by medics… The course was starting to take its toll.

My qualifying run was at 1:45. The course was in good shape, and my focus was on being smooth and riding the course like I had in practice. The run went well, although I nearly washed out in the right hand berm after the road gap, loosing a second or so, however I could not have been more stoked with my 18th finish and making it to the finals round! Dan and Hannah arrived in Windham that evening, and would be able to watch me race the next day!

Photo: Erik Timmerman

Saturday, Race Day- Another beautiful day, the track was getting loose, dusty and faster. Morning practice started out a little off, and I got tossed a bit on one of the jumps, just barely holding it together and was feeling a slight lack of confidence as my weekend riding partner did not make it to finals due to a couple of close calls in her qualifying run. On my last training run I felt good, the road gap, the rock garden, the steep shoots all went well.

RAW smartphone vid of Ali sending the roadgap!

The race started at 1:15. I had a slight bobble in the upper shoot and was off my line a bit on the exit loosing a little time, but felt good in the open steep face, the road gap was exciting, and I held it together for the next woods section, but slid out without coming off my bike in the lower berms losing a couple seconds and momentum. I charged through the rock garden and to the finish but did not hold onto my 15th position at split # 1, thus took 20th position(of the 21 women who raced finals). Racing a World Cup, riding fast, hitting huge jumps, having my family there watching, and coming through it all healthy was my mission- mission accomplished! This was perfect training for Norway, which I have been told should suit my riding well as it is similar to the North East.

brice windham picPhoto: Brice Shirbach

After the Pro Women’s race Hannah hopped on the lift with me so we could walk the track while the Pro Men were racing and she could see what her mom had been working on the past few days. Her eyes were big and she reported it looked “fast,” “scary,” and “a little crazy.” I’m really stoked on this experience as I still feel a bit novice in my DH’ing. Although mentally focused, the uninhibited competitive toughness is certainly not there. All the other wonderful things in my life outside of biking are worth so much. However, perhaps I will be able to find a way to let go just a little more for Norway…Riding on!


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