Travails of An
Aspiring Pro: Rebuilding
Written by: Ernie Watenpaugh
I don’t think there is anything more draining or more
demanding then having to start over. The
last month has brought me an engineering degree, a move to the San Juans, some
horrible and some mediocre mountain bike races, unemployment, and a whole lot
of uncertainty. Sleepless nights filled
with doubt and ambiguity tend to drown out what really matters, and training
only seems to wear you down instead of build you up.
As I packed up the U-Haul to make the journey south, the
Hewlett’s Gulch Fire northwest of Fort Collins was taking some of the trails
that had given me a home these past few years. Then a couple weeks later, the High Park Fire above Fort Collins took
the rest. I was leaving the home that
had carved me into the rider and man I am today, literally in ashes.
I was able to struggle under the weight of all those
uncontrollable burdens, but it was a broken chain in a race in Angel Fire, NM
that brought it all crashing down. I was
finally starting to come into some fitness reminiscent of my rookie season,
fending off the whispers of the sophomore curse. But a last lap chain explosion brought that
momentum to a grinding halt.
A long lonesome drive home brought it all into perspective.
I had become completely absorbed in the outcome, and was forgetting about the
force that really propels those wheels. I moved back to the San Juans because I love those mountains. I race mountain bikes because I love to ride
my bike. I have no control over the ruts
and sidewall tearing rocks in the trail. All I can do is ease off the brakes and let the wheels take me where I
need to go.
I came into the third round of the Pro XCT last weekend
feeling more relaxed then I have all season. The Colorado Springs course was a lightening fast, classic high desert
course that was filled with rock ledges and quick punchy climbs. Not an ideal course for me, but man was it a
blast to ride. Things got real
interesting when a 30% chance of rain turned into a near flashflood an hour
before the race.
Once again I was faced with a back end starting position,
which meant a quick start was going to be critical. I pulled off one of my best
starts ever on the dirt running track that comprised the start/finish, but
quickly got my wings clipped in a bottleneck when the race went through a tight
gate going on to the real course. My
legs would not disappoint as I picked off pros one by one coming off near dead
last to finish 31st in a 60 plus field. The numbers are not that impressive, but I
was happy with my speed. Even more
important, I had a lot of fun.
These are trying times for a lot of people and I am no
exception. There is something that sets
me apart though. I am one of the few
people that get to chase their dreams. I
get to race my bike all over the country, riding the best trails in the
world. Stop in to see old friends when I
have the chance, and even make some new friends along the way. I feel like the luckiest man in the world,
it’s just hard to keep it all in perspective.
I would like to thank Tokyo Joe’s, Slipnot Traction, Larry
Young at Trek Bikes, Box Canyon Bikes, and Gale Bernhardt for all the
support. You can also follow me on