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Travails of An Aspiring Pro: Rebuilding

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |July 16, 2012 11:48 PM
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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 Twitter @earnestbuck.

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