Seamus Powell on the XCE Short Track

There has been an itch developing over the past few year. The kind of itch that you get on your back and have your significant other or best friend scratch the hell out of it  only to find its moved places… “a little to the left…!!! Yeah yeah yeah… that’s the spot!!”
Well that has been XC racing for me. Not only local or national level XC but World Cup Level XC!! This year marks 6 years since I last lined up at a World Cup XC race. I was nothing to write home about when I left the XC circuit but I could hold my own at times.
Enduro and Downhill have scratched the competitive itch for many years but I had it in the back of my head I would race at the highest level XC again. Over the winter my coach recommended that I try out a XC Eliminator race. Eliminators are high intensity technical sprint races, based in city centers and raced in heats of 4 riders over a 2 minute track with the top 2 riders of each heat advancing to the next round…. SOLD ! Better yet the UCI World Cup XCE series opener was ONLY a short 18 hour drive in Columbus, Georgia.
After the Sea Otter Classic in April I went into a 5 week training block before the race on June 3. Two workouts a day and riding my KHS Team 29er Hard Tail, my weapon of choice for the race while also reacquainting myself with a bike that has no suspension per say of other than a mere 3 inches in the front. I didn’t take long…
The race day rolled around fast. All tuned up physically and mentally I loaded up and made the trip to my first UCI World Cup in 6 years. Slightly nervous but incredibly determined I went to the race venue Saturday to walk the track and start to plan my strategy for Sundays race. Wood features, berms, dirt jumps and tight corners on pavement, were all elements that made up the track. I left the venue Saturday seeing the technicality of the event with a renewed feeling of security knowing that I have all the elements to do just fine as long as I can execute my race strategy correctly…Which pretty much consisted of getting the “hole shot” and blocking the rest of the riders from passing and advance to the next round. Easier said than done…
Sundays racing started off with an individual time trial to place the brackets for the eliminator race. one lap as hard as you can go to determine your placements. Sprinting my way around the course I seated myself in 7th place and was in the 3rd bracket in the first heat. Unfortunately  for me I had a poor start and was battling over the two lap heat to solidify myself into that 1st or 2nd place position to advance but was just edged out by half a bike length in the final sprint and did not make it to the next round.
Luckily for me I had a second chance to race on the same day for the UCI Short track. 20 min of pain on the same track we raced for the XCE. I had a great start and was with the lead group for much of the first half of the race but a crash in front of me required a ton of effort to make contact again with the shattered lead pack. A dropped chain 1 lap later didn’t help the matters and left me in no mans land and suffering all by myself all the way to the finish.
I finished 9th in the XCE and 8th in the Short Track respectably as the top American at the event. Initially I was really disappointed but realize that everyone I’m racing against does this style of racing all the time. I trained  hard to be in the mix, I didn’t get shelled off the back and I had some fun with it.   Showing up is half the battle and being competitive is the second half. I checked both those boxes and that itch I referred to earlier just moved…
“Keep evolving” is my saying for this race season. i’ll be back for more of this style of racing but for now back to work on the enduro bike as I head toward my biggest goal of the year defending my National Championship title.