That’s a wrap! another mountain race season is in the books. Let’s take a look back on this past season and look what the team accomplished.
Downhill National round 2 is one of the most premier races of the season and who would be taking the top steps? The team would be flying out to New Jersey for one of the most decorated Downhill events of the season hosted by Mountain Creek Bike Park located in Vernon, New Jersey. This mountain has hosted some of the best athletes in the world from Steve Smith to Sam Hill dating back to the mid 90’s. It’s always great to see the young talented athletes coming up through the ranks racing the same tracks as legendary athletes did in the past.
Track walk got underway on Thursday with a short, but always explosive track created by the best mountain bikers to the likes of Lars Tribune and George Ryan and the entire mountain creek bike park. The weather in store was unusually dry for this type of area which would play in favor for some of the West Coast athletes attending this race. The track would consist of lots of rocks, steep sections and jumps. Overall full demanding track from top to bottom.
All the athletes were very excited to get up on the track and start training for Friday’s official practice day with only a four-hour block to gather lines, set up bikes and initially memorize the track from A to B and everything in between. Kailey Skelton would be under the weather with a cold and would only be doing minimal practice and trying to save her energy. Steven Walton and Nik Nestoroff were both feeling the flow in day one practice session. They both had great days up on the hill and were fine tuning themselves and their machines for Saturday’s qualification.
Some of the best athletes in America would be attending. Riders such as Neko Mullally, Aaron Gwin and others all chasing for the top spot. Qualification would fire off for all three athletes with a consistent dry track. It would be Kailey Skelton who would qualify second with a very mellow run, who was still under the weather and not feeling 100%. Nik Nestoroff would qualify third only three seconds behind the top spot and Steven Walton would qualify in a solid fourth place. All the athletes took their knowledge from qualification and would bring it into Sunday’s final event.
Finals would be firing off roughly at 2PM Eastern standard time. All the hard work, dedication and multiple practice runs would come down to one single run for each athlete. Kailey Skelton would still be under feeling the effects of Her cold and would really have to dig deep and mentally prepare herself for her final run. She pushed as hard as possible to come out with the win five seconds up on her competition and would be leading the national series going into the final round come September! It would be Nik Nestoroff with consistency that would continue his third-place seating run and manage to grab a great result with a third place overall. Steven Walton would unfortunately have a mechanical issue midway through his race run with losing his chain but would still manage a great result in seventh place. Overall Nik and Steven would still be going into the final national series in the top three positions.
Overall it was a great weekend for KHS Pro MTB with both categories of Downhill on the podium and everyone was healthy going into the future races. With Kailey and Nik getting selected for World Championships to represent team USA over in Italy their sights would be set on going back overseas for one of the biggest races in the world to represent us all at the top stage. Before they can go overseas, they will be heading out to Winter Park, Colorado for the third round of the Big Mountain Enduro series. Nik is sitting in a top-five position overall with two more rounds to go.
As always, the team would like to continue to thank all their fans, family and sponsors who make all these dreams come true. It’s a team effort with mechanics behind the scenes doing the hard job and management providing the overall logistics to make it all a well-rounded program. The team is in the heat of the season and will be pushing hard till the end!
Big Sky Montana, Round 2 of the Big Mountain Enduro Series brought some of the best Enduro racers from the world (Richie Rude, Cody Kelley). The racers would have to ride 8 grueling stages throughout the Montana Mountains. They would be climbing over 5,500ft day 1 and 1,500ft day 2. The 8 different tracks were unique with all different types of conditions. From steep shoots, rock gardens, and natural fresh cut sections the 8 stages truly brought everything to the table condition wise.
Day 1 would start out with the first 4 stages; stage 1 was one of the longer and more physical tracks. Nik Nestoroff would drop into stage 1 and end up 14th place. Kailey Skelton would unfortunately have a massive crash in her stage 1 run and suffering a mild concussion which would force her to pull out of the remainder of the race and completely. Nik Nestoroff would carry on to stage 2 with the climb being difficult 1,200ft climb at a high altitude. After stage 2 he would pull some time back and move himself into 12th place going into stage 3. Stage 3 and 4 were also very physical tracks with times being over 5 minutes long. Nik’s consistency with during the day 1 stages would place him in 9th place going into Sunday’s day 2 stages.
Day 2 would be an exciting day for Nik with the tracks being more downhill oriented. He would fire off his first stage of the day with 7th place. Only 3 stages left, and Nik was really giving it his all to pull back time. Stage 6 would also be a great stage for him with a 4th place finish, and only 2 stages. All of the racers were really feeling the physicality on top of the long endurance days. Nik would go into stage 7 with a 5th place finish. The final stage would be the highlight of Nik’s weekend with a 2nd place stage finish. This was impressive as it was the most challenging and technical stage of the event. With all the times combined Nik would complete the race with an impressive 8th place overall.
Nik stated “It was a very successful weekend of learning more about Enduro Racing. You have to keep consistent and it’s a fine line of pushing too hard or not enough.”
The team’s next stop will be Nik and Kailey in Whitefish, ID for a Northwest Downhill Cup Race, and Steven Walton will be competing in the Strait Acres Slalom Race in Big Bear, CA. The following weekend August 3-8 the team will all be meeting up in Mountain Creek, NJ for round 2 of the National Downhill GRT Series.
U.S National Championships are back in action after missing the 2020 Championships all athletes were beyond excited and very eager too claim all the titles that would be happening over the weekend. Showcasing all disciplines from Downhill, Dual Slalom, Cross-country, and all professional & amateur categories. Located in Winter Park Colorado at a elevation base of 9000 feet that would be the venue for the 2021 USA National Championships!
Kailey Skelton, Nik Nestoroff and Steven Walton would be competing in the Downhill category to try their best and claim victory and hold the national title throughout the 2021 season. The national title would consist of being the best racer on the mountain against the best American athletes. It is a very pristine title and each rider only has one shot at it each year. With that title it holds a lot of pressure to be victorious at other races like world championships and other national events that require each national champion to wear an American Stars & Stripes sleeve representing their title.
The KHS Pro MTB team arrived Tuesday evening to prepare themselves all the way for Sunday’s finals with that said Wednesday would be a day for track walk and also a day for acclimating for the high altitude in the Rocky Mountains. Not only is the base of the team pits located at 9000 feet, but the top of the downhill start was located over 12,000 feet in the pinnacle of the Colorado, Rocky Mountains.
Wednesday would consist of a great track walk with all the American downhill racers both male and female collaborating together to do one track walk together. It was very cool to see every competitor on the hill from all over the country join together and help each other out on the track walk. There were great vibes happening on the mountain for their first looks and glances at the track they would be competing on for the national title.
After the team’s successful track walk it would go into their first day of practice on Thursday afternoon. It consisted of a three hour practice with many riders and a long gondola lift ride to the top of the Rocky Mountain track. Practice went very well for all athletes. They were all acclimating to the high altitude and dry terrain. Steven Walton and Nik Nestoroff were coming off of the World Cup in Europe which was very muddy and quite different terrain compared to this national championship race. Also Friday consisted of another great day of practice with only a three hour session which would allow each team to focus on their athletes and adjust what needed to be adjusted to the harsh demanding terrain on their bikes and equipment.
All three athletes would be making drastic changes with their suspension tire and overall bike set up to accommodate their needs and make them feel as comfortable as possible for Saturday’s qualifying and seeding event that consists of a full-timed run from USA cycling‘s official timekeepers. Once Saturday rolled around the pressure was on for qualification and seeding. The athletes all went to work after countless days of practicing tuning, learning and focusing on their final goals of winning. It would be Kailey Skelton in the professional Downhill Women’s category who would qualify first! Nik Nestoroff would qualify 7th and Steven Walton would qualify 12th.
After qualifications all athletes would be reviewing their setups and discussing team tactics to get them on top of the podium for Sunday’s finals. Also they would be reviewing video footage and trying their best to get prepared for the final race run coming Sunday. Final adjustments would be done after qualification from the team mechanics and the riders input. Sunday morning would come quickly with high pressure on each athlete which obviously they had great expectations to do their best in their final race run. Each athlete would only get one or two practice runs to warm themselves up and make sure they were flowing for their final run.
First to drop would be Steven Walton who was struggling from a little bit of altitude sickness and some arm pump, but would ultimately be able to push through the finish line with a top 15 result. Next to drop in would be Nik Nestoroff who would have a blistering run and only be a few seconds off podium position with a six place finish, an overall great run and very respected among the best.
The highlight of the weekend would be Kailey Skelton who would drop into a race run focused, determined and eager to cross the line with limited mistakes. Kailey had an amazing run from top to bottom. She did her best and would really exert herself physically and mentally to push as hard as she could. When she crossed the finish line it was huge cheers from the fans family and the announcer. Once she gained her bearings and could focus on herself from her tunnel vision race run she would hear over the announcement that she had just won her first title by 12 seconds over second place claiming the 2021 U.S national championship title.
Kailey and all the athletes, team members and team managers were beyond stoked. The entire team put effortless amounts of time and dedication into getting this title. Everyone was beyond stoked that KHS Bicycles had claimed their 2021 title with over a decade of their last title being claimed in 2011 by Logan Binggeli. After the victorious race run and podium the team would be celebrating Sunday night’s dinner and congratulating Kailey and her first national title.
Once again KHS pro MTB wants to thank all their fans, family and sponsors for countless dedication and help throughout the season. All the athletes will have a one week break until heading up to Big Sky, Montana for the big mountain Enduro series. Everyone is very excited to get up in the Montana mountains and test their skills back into stage racing with one of the biggest Enduro races of the year. We’ll see you next time between the tape!
This would be Kailey’s second time at this venue; she would complete a track walk Thursday which would entail a steep dusty loose track with lots of technical drops corners and tree sections that the Idaho mountains would create for this weekend’s race. Being a dry track Kailey was very familiar with these types of conditions which would play in her favor for Sunday’s finals.
Friday’s practice started off early morning and would go till 1 PM which would give plenty of time for Kailey to get up to speed and dial her lines in. With Kailey being solo at her first regional race in her career she had a lot of pressure on herself and would have to really tackle the course with her own set of skills without having the backing of Nik & Steven to trade questions and bounce ideas off each other. Friday’s practice went very well, a lot of confidence was gained on Kaileys part and would help out going into Saturday’s qualification.
Qualification would be going off Saturday late afternoon Kailey would be up against some tough competition. The ladies that she was competing against are some of the best known racers in America. Kailey would fire out the gate and start heading towards the finish line on a great qualification run until about midway when she had a slip up and accidentally would wash the front and run into a tree. Luckily Kailey was OK and got right back up on her bike, straightened her handlebars out and continued on her qualification run. Even with a mishap crash Kailey unbelievably would still be able to qualify in the number one spot going into Sunday’s finals.
After the qualification Kailey would have to do some simple bike work to straighten out her handlebars and make sure her bike was running properly going into Sunday’s finals. Kailey knew if she could just keep two wheels up and stay off the ground she had a very good chance at winning this race! Sunday morning would Intel for each rider’s final race run and only one sighting lap would be allowed for each rider. Kailey took her sighting lap really slow and steady to make sure that all her lines were staying consistent and nothing drastically would be changing on the track.
Kailey would come out of the start gate on her final run with lots of confidence and pressure on herself to win the race. She was on an amazing run all the way through start to finish. Kailey stated “it was the best run all week for myself, everything came together and I stayed on my bike” with that being said Kailey crossed the line over 15 seconds up on the competition having a fabulous weekend and the overall win being hers! She had a blast racing the Tamarack track and gained oodles of confidence going into her next race which would be U.S National championships in Winter Park, Colorado only two weeks away! The entire team Pits and Racers will all join back together at the U.S National Championships here very soon. We are all very excited to have a shot at winning the National title in the men’s and women’s downhill category! See everyone back between the tape in the next two weeks!