By Quinn Winter
What's up Knation! Most mountain bikers try their hand at racing at least once. For some, paying entry fees, travel with limited riding time, and the pressure to perform can turn people away from racing. For others, it adds more challenges to the sport, leisure activity, lifestyle, or however you classify it, that is already challenging just by itself. Regardless of how you feel about racing, almost all mountain bikers enjoy watching the elites crush their way to the finish line representing their sponsors or their countries with the hopes of dawning the coveted white jersey with UCI rainbow stripes. Regardless of the discipline, racers dream of that moment, but sadly most of us never reach the elite status to cross the finish line under the UCI arbor!
Each year the UCI puts on a Masters World Championship for the XC and DH disciplines and has it at the same venue for two years before it moves to its new home for the next two years. You have to meet only two qualifications to race:
- Be 35 years of age or higher
- Cannot have recorded any UCI elite points during that year.
That’s it. I have never raced in the elite field, and after all that I have heard from friends and other competitors who have raced it, this was my year to put my name on the list and "giver a go"!
I celebrated my 50th birthday this February, and what better way to celebrate such a milestone than to throw myself down a mountain at a high rate of velocity with the hopes of being a WORLD CHAMPION! The race was in Cerro Bayo, Argentina, and it was the second and final year before moving on. First, if you ever have the chance to visit Argentina, I highly recommend it, not just for how beautiful the country is, but for how welcoming the people are. Cerro Bayo houses the track aptly named Kamikaze. The Kamikaze is roughly a mile long (1.6 km), with an elevation loss of 1,419 ft.(432.5m), and an average grade of -31.1%. It twists and turns over sand and a clay base littered with roots and trees, with bamboo lining the outside of the track. It was tough to figure out your braking points because if you braked late, it would cause you to slide. I wound up changing to a mud tire for more traction due to the depth of the sand. The only pedaling on the track is out of the start gate to the 10-foot road gap, and from then on, it needs no pedaling, just gravity pulling you down! From day one of practicing until finals, the track changed, and the small holes became bomb craters.
“It was the most challenging track I have ever ridden in my 11 years of downhill racing.”
The environment of the race was electric. There was representation from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America as far as the downhill goes. Loic Bruni's dad was racing and secured his 11th-world championship jersey at 62 years of age. There were a few other legendary names in attendance, including Tinker Juarez (XC). After the race, riders cheered their fellow compatriots as they walked up to the podiums to receive their medals, with their country flags on the big screen in the background as the winner had their national anthem played. Racers were all high-fiving each other in the crowd as everyone celebrated the fact we were all gathered to ride and race bikes and to soak in the stoke mountain biking gives all of us. A few of my USA teammates and myself traded our USA jerseys with other riders from Argentina to celebrate our respect for each other. I have never been to a world championship, but this is how I imagined it.
How did I do? 9th out of 25. Not too shabby for my first master’s championship, but it is not my last. I want that jersey even more now!