After leaving Harrisonburg, I drove across the country as quickly as possible. I arrived in Missoula, MT a few days before the first race of my cross country trip. I picked up my travel partner, Dylan Johnson, from the airport and met another local pro, David Flaten, at the course. We all set out together to pre-ride the race course. We all wanted to be 100% comfortable with everything the course could throw at us. I heard a lot about an "A-line" drop that was supposed to be scary, but I hit it after a lap without any issues...although it did make for a fun spot to watch other riders.
The next day I sat around for hours waiting for the 7pm race start. It was extremely difficult to sit around for 12hrs before such a big race. The only thing that kept me from walking around was the amount of money I spent on gas to get out to Missoula, MT. My dad's truck was awesome, but 13mpg is rough... Anyway, after 12hrs I was ready to get to the course and warm up/prepare to show all the West Coast guys how to ride a bike.
I was called up at the back of the field, but I knew the course was open and very hilly so I could move up through the field easily. I was caught behind a crash almost immediately after the start, which was not ideal, but I started moving up once I passed it. By the top of the first lap I was sitting comfortably in the top 20 riders and feeling good. I saw David right ahead of me as I approached the "A-Line" drop. He decided to take the "B-Line" around the drop and I flew over the "A-Line" to get ahead of him. A little further down the trail I glanced back towards him and immediately crossed up my front wheel and drove my shoulder into the ground hard. I jumped up, fixed my handlebars and kept descending...until I hit a series of smaller drops further down the decent. The pain in my shoulder did not go away like it does in a normal crash. The pain just kept getting worse and I was holding a bunch of riders up so I pulled over to let them by. A medic immediately came over and demanded I quit and get an x-ray after examining my shoulder. I almost kept riding, but I knew I would have to ride slowly down the downhills and I would get pulled in a lap or two anyway.
Still pumped up on caffeine and all kinds of adrenaline, I headed over to the local hospital to get an x-ray. I was hoping that I had just separated my shoulder and I could man-up and try again in Colorado Springs, CO the next weekend. Unfortunately, the doctor came in and said I had broken my collar bone and recommended I take 6-8 weeks off. He did say I could carefully ride my road bike which was better than not riding at all. Since I could not ride or race my mountain bike I decided to travel to Colorado Springs to help support David and Dylan. After the race in CO I would travel back to Harrisonburg, VA to start training...on the road bike... and working towards next summer.
I took the scenic route to Colorado Springs through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. I managed to grab a camp spot right before exiting Grand Teton National park and didn't have to pay a cent. I woke up in the morning and cooked breakfast while looking out over the Grand Teton mountain range, which was a cool experience. I also stopped in Vail for a day before heading through the mountains to Colorado Springs.
I had a bit of time to explore Colorado Springs before the race. I was able to painfully ride my bike around and explore the Garden of the Gods which is a series of rock formations in a small park at the base of Pikes Peak. I also got to explore downtown Colorado Springs and help a few homeless guys fix their very sketchy bikes. Between the 4 bikes I think maybe 2-3 brakes worked. I couldn't do too much with a multi tool, but I at least made the bikes ride-able. I had to find some way to make my short/painful road rides interesting right?
The next day I set up camp in the feed zone of the PRO XCT to feed David and Dylan water bottles. I wish I would have been able to race, but it was a nice change to be able to watch all the pain from the sidelines. After the race I dropped Dylan off at the airport and started the Journey Home. Not quite the way I expected my trip to go, but now I can focus on next year. I am happy I got to go out West and try to race even if it didn't go as planned.