Nationals Race Reports

By Maddie Jo Robbins

The 2019 National Championships were beyond what I could have ever asked for!

XC Race

For me Nationals was a comeback from a year laced with adversity. One year prior to the 2019 National Championships (a week prior to the 2018 National Championships) I tore a major ligament in my wrist. I decided to race despite my injury, but took precautions to avoid further life-long injury, to attain my dreams of being National Champion. After racing both National and World Championships in 2018, I returned home to have reconstructive surgery on my wrist. Surgery in that part of the wrist is complicated.  To achieve long-term positive results, surgery involved a tendon graft from my forearm, a suture woven through my bones with the tendon, three screws and a pin. All went well with the surgery, but it meant 7 months off the bike. To stay fit, my coach, Chad Cheeney (co-founder or Durango Devo), and I adventured into snowshoe racing, and various other winter sports. Chad embraced this new venture to help me stay conditioned when I could not ride. My alternate training plan gave me a new perspective, as I got to start a new sport and work my way from the ground up, all while having fun and staying fit! When riding season finally came around, my wrist was still not yet healed enough to join my compadres on the bike. Working with my incredible support team in Durango, I focused on remaining patient, despite my yearnings to jump into the fray, and I watched from afar as everyone else began racing. It wasn’t easy to watch the races go by, and the UCI points slip away, but I had my sights set on returning to the game only when my wrist was 100% capable. I was able to start my season with the Soldier Hollow race.  I stayed true to my long-term plan and worked my way back into race fitness from there, the entire time staying patient, and leaving my sights set on Nationals.

So, when July 28th finally came around, I was more than ready to lay it all on the line. My nerves were at an all time high, as this was the culmination of a year of patience, recovery, and hard work. While everyone around me assured me that no matter the outcome they would be proud, I was not so easy on myself. For me, I had to win. That was my only goal of the season, and I am not one to easily let go of goals.

Being set in Colorado, the race was right in my backyard. I knew this would give me an altitude advantage, but what I didn’t initially realize was the impact this would have on me psychologically. The Colorado location allowed so many of my closest friends and family to be at the race with me. Not only did I have my Bear family, but I was so fortunate as to have my Durango Devo family as well. This meant that no matter where I was in the venue, I was always in eyesight of someone I knew. This created a heartwarming sense of assurance and support that helped carry me through the nerves and to the finish line. Along with having so many friends at the race, the Winter Park location also allowed my coach to be there. This was so incredible, as I was able to ride the course with him, pick out lines, warm up for my races, and just have someone to dampen the nerves and amp up the fun. If you know Chad Cheeney, you know he is a master of fun!

Heading into my race, I had made plans and strategies for all sorts of race outcomes. I had planned places to attack, places to ease up, and places to have fun. So when the gun went off, I was ready. My race began with Boulder’s Madigan Munroe leading the charge up the first fire road climb. Madigan and I had travelled to Canada together earlier in the season and had been at many of the same races, all of which she beat me, so I knew she would be one of my toughest competitors. At Nats, I sat on her wheel until the top of the fire road climb, where I made my first attack. It was important for me to go into the single track with the lead, since Madigan was a strong climber. Being in the lead would give me the ability to control the race. After this first attack, I made many more, and Madigan tried her hand. In the end neither of us could drop the other. Madigan and I rode the entire race together, but I made sure to never let her in front of me. I countered all of her attacks so that I could maintain control of the race. Going into the final lap, I had the lead. Madigan sat right on my wheel, but coming out of the final singletrack traverse, I put my head down and sprinted for the line. I looked up about halfway down the straightaway, and my view was immediately filled with the faces of so many cheering spectators. I could hear the screams and shouts of everyone lining the fence. I could see the finish line, just a few hundred yards away. Adrenaline was rushing through my veins. The thought of winning raced through my mind. I put all I had into those last few pedal strokes and crossed the line first! I was overcome with joy and relief. My year of recovery had finally come to an end. I had done it! But not without the incredible support of all those around me. That support became even more evident as I was swept into the arms of so many amazing people when I crossed that line. I cannot thank the Bear team, my friends, family, doctors, and coaches enough for all the incredible support and belief each and everyone of them had in me! It truly makes a difference.


After a thrilling day of XC racing I was content with my showing at the National Championships. For me the STXC is always a blast and I was excited to race with less pressure. To win would be the cherry on top of an already fantastic weekend.

The morning of the race I was feeling strong, but when the gun went off, I didn’t have that feeling of strength anymore. Katie Clouse and Madigan Munroe led a charging pace from the very start of the race. I was doing everything I could just to hang on. I sat in the third position for multiple laps, letting the others jockey for the lead. My plan was just to hang back and let the others pull. All was going swell, until I hit Katie’s wheel on the sharp uphill transition from the gravel road to the paved road. My foot unclipped. I struggled to try and clip back in, but rather than successfully re-clip, my other foot unclipped. I was heart broken as I sat there floundering. The race was disappearing in front of my eyes.

I didn’t think I had it in me to pull back to the group, but I gave it a shot. I put my head down, took a few deep breaths and began powering. I knew I wouldn’t need to make it all up in one stretch. Instead I raced a pace I could maintain, and waited for the flow trail section, where I knew I could make up a significant amount of time. Before I knew it, I was back with the lead group.

My confidence had boosted from this comeback, but my legs were slowly dying. The day before, combined with that comeback had taken a toll on them. I continued to sit third wheel, until Ada Urist of Boulder made an attack, and took over my spot. I was then in fourth. I stayed in this position for many more laps. Each lap the group would make an attack right before the single track. I never had the legs to go with them, but each lap I would reel them back in on the flowtrail descent. During this stage of the race, I was uncertain I would even make the podium. My legs were pretty dead and I didn’t think I had it in me to hang with the crew for much longer. At some point though, with a couple laps left, it hit me. I wasn’t going to give up. I was going to put every last bit of strength I had into the race. I was going to race a race I would be proud of.

With two laps to go I made an attack to sit second wheel. It worked. And then, to my surprise, both Urist and Clouse dropped off the back. It was just me and Madigan. Just like the day before. I could tell Madigan was fading, so I patiently waited behind her, until the final lap where I made my move. I attacked, gained the lead, and held it into the single track. Upon coming out of the flow trail I powered, only slowing to make a clean exit on the steep uphill transition. I came out of the transition and sprinted for the line. And then it finally hit me. I was back to back National Champion!

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Carson City Off-Road Race Report

By Riley Amos

This year I made the last minute decision to attend the Carson City Offroad. I had a nice training block leading into it, but didn’t want to go over a month without racing before Mountain Bike National Championships in Winter Park, Colorado, so this race was a perfect opportunity to test my fitness. This was my first ever epic rides event, so I was super exited to try out the format of the Friday night fat tire crit followed by the 50 mile backcountry race on Sunday.

Most of the XC races I do are between an hour to an hour and a half, so I wasn’t sure how I would hold up in a 3+ hour race. Friday night was the downtown crit, and boy was it an experience! Racing in a pack with the fastest pros in the country like Keegan Swenson and Russell Finsterwald was anything but easy. This kind of race was unlike anything I had ever done, and the amount of patience and skill required to use the least amount of energy and deliver a podium ride in this event was something I was lacking. It took everything I had just to stick with the front group and not get dropped, and I rolled across the line in 14th.

The next day the pros had a day off before the backcountry event, and I went for an easy spin to loosen the legs up a bit from last nights effort. As I was just cruising down one of the flowy downhills, I lost the front wheel in a corner and I slid face-first in the dirt. When I got up, I noticed my wrist was a little sore, but rode the rest of my ride and didn’t think too much of it. Later that night, it was still pretty sore, and I was a little bit nervous but still wasn’t too worried. It was when I got up to race Sunday morning that I was concerned that something was wrong. It was really sore, and I wasn’t sure if I could ride. Luckily I had some Rocktape with me, and I was able to wrap it enough to have some support, and since where it was hurting was on the outside of my wrist, I taped a piece of wood on the outside of my grip to act like a shim, so the outside of my hand was raised and most of the pressure was directed to the inside of my hand. That combined with 2 ibuprofen I felt well enough to start the race. I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish and I had a plan to pull out at the first feed station if it was still hurting.

The 50 mile backcountry race started and the group rolled fairly easy through town before starting up a dirt road where everyone started to attack in order to break the group apart before it funneled into single track. The pace felt like we were starting an XC race, and I was worried that there was no way I was going to be able to hold this pace for another 45 miles. I held back a little because of that, and was sitting just inside the top 15 going up the first 45 minute single track climb. After that first climb the course dropped us back onto a long dirt road climb, and I started to gradually move up, group by group. The first feed station came and went, and I wasn’t thinking about or feeling my wrist. It was at this point Ben Sonntag caught me, and I realized I was in contention for a possible podium. Ben was riding a very similar pace to my own and we worked together, taking turns pulling and slowly picking off riders.

On the road into town just a mile from the finish, it was a crazy powerful feeling to realize I had just secured my first ever pro epic rides podium among the best riders in the country. The feeling of rolling across the finish line in 4th place behind Ben is an unexplainable feeling. Shaking hands with those guys and standing on their podium was truly amazing, and something that I will be trying to repeat in the future. On Tuesday I learned that I had fractured my ulna, but luckily I am still clear to ride and train, so I will be finishing preparations for National Champs in Winter Park, Colorado at the end of July. 

Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Race Report

By Ruth Holcomb

Every year for one weekend in Durango, Colorado, there is nothing on the towns mind but racing bikes. In my opinion, this is the best weekend of the year. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic has been a tradition in Durango since 1972 and every year has grown to become the event it is today. From the hundreds of people that ride the road race on Saturday, to the BMX track built in the middle of the street for street rhythm, to the mountain bike race that rides through a brewery downtown, the weekend is truly the coolest biking event. I’ve been racing this event since I was super little, and after many years of racing the junior division, I decided to try racing the pro race.

I’ve grown up riding and trying to stay with the pro women that live in Durango, and until this year I couldn’t really hang with them. I was pretty nervous to jump into this race. The day before, I had raced the road race that conquers two mountain passes, each over 10,000 feet elevation, and ends in a small mining town called Silverton. To my surprise, I placed 8th in that race. When I lined up Sunday for the mountain bike race, I had no idea what to expect. My legs were tired from the day before, but I also knew I had an edge on some of the ladies on a mountain bike.

The race start was located in downtown Durango and there were people lining practically the whole race course to watch. As the race started, I got pushed back quite a bit, as the course narrowed almost immediately after the start. After a quick single track section through a park, we popped back out onto the road. Up ahead, I saw my Bear Dev teammate, Katja Freeburn in the lead. I decided to try and work my way up to her. By the time we hit the singletrack again for our first climb of the race, Katja was almost in sight. Climbing is one of my strengths, and by the time we reached the top, I had caught up to Katja and we were leading the race. For the rest of the loop, Katja and I took turns pulling, she would pull the flats and descents, and I would pull the climbs. We looped back to downtown and reached the section of the course where you ride through a brewery.

This was definitely the most amazing part of the race. As you climbed up the ramp, you couldn’t help but smile as you heard tons of people screaming and cheering for you. As we looped back up for lap two and headed up the major climb, I looked back to see that Katja had disappeared. From then on, I rode solo. Midway through the lap, there was thunder and lightning, which eventually progressed to hail and sleet. This definitely became a challenge as the lap went on, as the course got slippery and cold. As I descended down into town, I saw my coach on the side of the road. He informed me as I rode by that the race had been shortened to two laps. At this point, I was in shock. I never expected I would do this well in the race. As I approached the ramp for my last lap through the brewery, the crowd greeted me louder than ever. I raced down the road and finished down in the park where I started. It was such an honor to win this race in my hometown. My goal for this race was to get top 15 and I completely surprised myself. The Iron Horse Bicycle Classic remains my favorite race and I cannot wait until next year to line up with the fastest in Durango and race in my hometown once again.

Mental Periodization

By Dr. Michelle Cleere

Having been a coach and an athlete for many years, the notion of periodization is not only familiar but incredibly important. Periodization should be one component included in any good systematic training approach for sports.

It’s about understanding how to train for competition where at the height of training you’ve done as much as you can do. You can’t do any more and it’s time to back off training for a short period of time to not feel over trained and give your mind and body a brief moment of rest leading up to the big day.

What is periodization?

It’s common practice for cyclists to slow down physically as a race draws near but it’s far less common to go through mental periodization prior to a race. It is equally important to physically decrease training and mentally take a break as well. But what usually happens is you tend to have a lot of fear around physical periodization (Will I be ready? Have I trained enough?) and your brain actually ramps up more.

This is not the time for your brain to ramp up and be gripped by fear. Instead it’s important to understand your physical periodization (what, why and how) and then complement it with mental periodization. Mental periodization means learning to let go of the elements that create more angst than good. These are different for everyone, but you might recognize them as overthinking, planning, reviewing splits or times, watching video of opponents, worries, doubts, and/or fears at least a week prior to competition.

If you’ve already developed the proper mental skills, this won’t be as difficult as not having developed a mental game plan. Why? Because if you’ve already worked on this stuff, you have a sense of how to deal with the mental and emotional things that pop up.

How to think about mental periodization

One week before your race, nothing is going to change and you are as prepared as you’re going to be. Even if you aren’t as prepared as you want to be, one week is not going to make up for lost time.

Take the necessary steps for mental periodization:

  1. Develop your mental skills – learn how to deal with overthinking, planning, stats, watching video of opponents, worries, doubts and fears.
  2. Accept where you are – whatever training you’ve done is where you are physically.
  3. Respect the process – your mind and body need a break in order to compete optimally. Allow the break and know it will only make you stronger for your race.
  4. Trust your coach – coaches have a different way of transitioning their cyclists from training to being ready for the race. Trust your coach and the experience they have to prepare you.

Practice physical and mental periodization

If you want to be a great cyclists, it takes mental and physical work – skill development and deliberate practice and acceptance for where you are. Deliberate practice is an important concept for you to understand and is a critical skill to reach your goals. It is a systematic approach to training and includes mental and physical periodization. Part of that system is knowing you have done all you can do up to now and for this race.

Know how to rest and prep your mind and body for the big race!!

Contact Dr. Michelle with any questions.

Dr. Michelle

Elite Performance Expert

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