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!
What a mega weekend of racing for the team this past weekend. We had all factory riders and most of our grassroots athletes all competing in different regions all on the same weekend.
Starting off with factory rider Luke Whitlock and newest member to the grassroots program Dylan Cobern were both in Cedar City, UT at a mountain bike festival throwing down some big tricks and representing our freeride side of things at the highest level. Here’s what Luke Whitlock had to say “A music festival would be the last place you’d expect a mountain bike jam to come about, but that was not the case in Cedar City, UT at the Landslide Music Fest this past weekend.
With expected crowds of upwards of 5000 people Dylan Cobern and I headed up north to Cedar City to put on a show for the people attending the event. While dealing with the crazy weather that Southern Utah has to offer this time of year, we were still able to throw down some solid tricks and whips for the crowd in between rainstorms. This event was unique and special to us because we were able to reach a completely different industry and group of people and introduce them to freeride mountain biking, which is really awesome and rewarding to see, especially since the spectators were very engaged!”
Also, our other grassroots athlete Naish Ulmer was representing the team in the Utah/Idaho regional event coming away with double wins. Here’s what Naish had to say: “I raced the 2nd & 3rd stop of the Utah Gravity series in Pomerelle, ID. There was a double header race happening over the weekend and I was able to take both wins. I was super pumped to stay consistent and get the win for the team!”
While the freeride lads were holding in down for the team it was Steven Walton who was representing the team at the Strait Acres Dual slalom event happening in Big Bear California. This event had some of the best American athletes competing for one of the best Spector races of the year! Qualifying was on Friday evening with Saturday evening being set for the finals. Steven would be going head-to-head to make it to the top spot. At the end of the evening, he would place a respectable top 20th finish.
Sunday would be hosting the Pro men’s downhill race with some tough competition, basically all the top athletes competing in the Slalom race would be switching over to DH for Sunday. Steven would be racing the notorious famous DH track of Miracle Mile. This track has had some of the best DH riders from all the way back from the 80’s. Steven would give it 100% and cross the line in 2nd place!
All the way up in the Montana mountains you would find Nik Nestoroff and Kailey Skelton holding it down at the 3rd round of the Northwest Cup series! Nik and Kailey would be on the 4th consecutive race in a row keeping the focus sharp and race craft even sharper. This event brings some of the fastest racers from all around the West and Central areas. The athletes were really impressed with the track lay out and conditions they would be dealing with over the 3-day event. They would both be qualifying Saturday and racing finals Sunday. Qualifying would bring only the best results with both athletes taking the top spots. It would increase their pressure to lay it back down on Sunday’s finals and maintain the lead. Nik & Kailey would do just that and not let anything stray them from the wins! They would both have dominating race runs with 7-9 seconds leads on the completion.
The team did very well overall this past weekend with getting 3 podium positions and setting themselves up to continue their success on the National round 2 in Vernon, NJ at the famous Mountain Creek bike park. All the racers will be flying out Tuesday and preparing for Sunday’s finals. Kailey is currently sitting in 2nd place overall in the women’s Downhill National series. Steven in 4th and Nik in 5th for the men’s Nationals overall. The team will be reporting soon from New Jersey woods!
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!
Being one of the most pristine races that gathers all disciplines of mountain biking under one event was held this past weekend in Innsbruck Austria! The team would be competing against the best top riders in the world in Sunday’s Downhill Finals.
They would begin their journey with Thursday’s track walk which would be showcasing in the Austrian Alps with heavy vegetation, lots of roots and a big challenge ahead to memorize, calculate and get the best lines down to put in there one shot on Sunday to grab a solid result.
Friday would be day one of training which would consist of a dry track with over 200 Pro Downhill men fighting to get the top spot. With ever so many people including amateur racers going down the track every day the conditions were changing drastically every run for team athletes Steven and Nik. They would continue their training and practice into Saturday which did not hold a qualifying session being a Crankworx event they do not have qualifying and everyone is able to compete in Sunday’s final race.
The athletes were really feeling up to speed and enjoying the nice weather that the venue was giving out. It was mostly sunny every day except for a few quick thunderstorms that rolled in late PM hours. These mountain areas which are known for quick rain storms only made the track conditions better and kept the dust down with so many riders on the mountain practicing day in and day out.
Sunday’s finals came quick with only a couple practice runs to get up to speed and get the blood flowing before their final race run of the weekend. Both Steven and Nik we’re looking forward to the challenge and would put in their best to get the job done. Steven would have a few bobbles and wasn’t on his best form unfortunately would cross the line in 62nd place. Words from Steven “I guess I was just off the pace today. Not stoked on it but I don’t have any big excuses for my race run, I just straight up got my ass kicked today not stoked about it”
Nik would take off with a blazing run and would also fall short with a place of 49th. Needless to say this track was very short and times were very tight. Both racers are not super impressed with the results and will continue training efforts with an off week before round two of the World Cup series in France. Racing is always tough and the goal is always to win and get up on that podium. The athletes have been training super hard and will be brushing this event off and looking forward to another shot at getting that solid result! The team would like to thank everyone who has dedicated their time, effort and energy to always supporting us and giving the team the best shot at winning! See everyone in a few weeks in France!
Photos by: Sebastian Sternemann