2018 MTB Nats, A Race Report by 2018 National Champion Maddie Jo Robbins

Nationals: the culmination of a season full of hard work, training, and racing. The day where it all comes together for one hour of grueling racing. The day where you finally get to race all your competitors at once. The day that really counts.

Leading into Nationals I was feeling good. I knew I was prepared and had put in the training. I felt like this could be my year to finally take a title.

We arrived at the Miller School of Albemarle a week before Nationals for the Bear pre-Nats team camp. At Miller we got to reconnect with our teammates, ride the roots that make riding in the East so unique, and relax before heading into the big Nats weekend.

I was stoked to be at the Miller School with the whole team. It was a nice way to prepare for the races without being at the venue amping up the nerves. On our first full day there we got to ride their amazing trails. I had a blast getting back into the groove and testing out the roots.

Everything was going swimmingly until I had the most pitiful crash imaginable. Riding a whole 300 yards from the pool to the dorms, I flipped off my bike after my wet flip flop slipped on my pedal.

Immediately, my wrist began to hurt, but little did I know it was going to become a major part of my Nationals week.

After visiting with an orthopedic doctor in Charlottesville, we were told that I had minor fractures to the scaphoid bone in my wrist. This threw all original training plans out the window, as I now had to focus on protecting my wrist, letting it heal as much as possible and staying mentally in the game.

In the coming days, we arrived at Snowshoe, WV, where Nationals was to be held. The first day there Julia, Ryder, his dad and I walked the course, which I didn’t know was going to be so helpful. I might even do that more often, as it allows you to see the course with a totally different perspective and look at each part of the course in a more methodical way, which in turn allows you to pick out the best lines and really submit the course to memory before even riding it.

The next day I pre-rode the course nice and easy to see how things would be. It wasn’t too bad, and I was able to grip the handle bar and ride! Another day on the course, picking lines, and coming up with a game plan, and I felt ready to give it my all, knowing that adrenaline would kick in and mask any pain.

The plan was to get out in front at the start. That way I would be away from other riders, which would minimize crashing potential, and hurting my wrist further.

I lined up on the start line with this in mind and was ready to go. In a way, I had less nerves and stress than normal as now the goal was to just finish and do as well as I could with my wrist in the shape it was. This took off lots of pressure, which may have even helped me.

We raced at 8:00am in light rain and thick fog, so the course was slick.  I The countdown began and we were off. Immediately, the group raced through the start chute, which held a pretty steep, but short climb. This climb was my new best friend, as most of the girls got caught up trying to go up it, and many even ended up in a bit of a pile up. I was lucky enough to be ahead of all this. I looked up as I hit the apex of the climb only to see my dad’s face light up, and yell, “Go, Maddie, there’s a crash! Go, go, go!” The adrenaline really kicked in at that point and I powered, as I knew this was my chance to gain as much time as I possibly could on the field.

I made it through the first lap still alone, and I began to realize that I could actually win the race. At that point I put my head down and rode as hard as I possibly could. I was on a mission.

Coming up the climb before the feed zone on the second lap, I looked back only to see my biggest competitor, Katie Clouse, chugging up the hill behind me. At this point she was about 20 seconds behind me. The pain cave was real, but I knew I would have to give it more if I wanted to win. So I did. I went through the feed zone where the crowds were ecstatically cheering. This made me go even harder as I wanted to make everyone proud. After the feed zone was a flowy descent, where I got to recuperate a bit. On the corners I took the chance to look back to see where Katie was and to my surprise I didn’t see her. Excitement filled my veins, I could actually become the National Champion. I had to stay focused and keep charging though, as I knew anything could happen, and that my competitors were fierce, and were going to give it their all as well.

I came through for my final lap, and I still had my gap. I went through the feed zone for the final time, where Julia warned me me to eliminate all risks and ride smart as Katie had had a mechanical. From then on I took it a bit more cautiously, still trying to keep up my pace though.

I rounded the final corner, with the cheers of everyone at the finish echoing through my head, and for the first time I went through the finish and became the National Champion! A dream had finally been fulfilled!