Back in June, Samantha Kingshill, road-tripped 19 hours down to New Mexico with her family to compete in the 2014 USA Cycling Gravity Mountain Bike Championships. Read on for a day by day re-cap from Shine’s youngest athlete:
It took us about 19 hours to get to Angel Fire, New Mexico. My parents took turns driving non-stop. We ended up arriving at 4:30 in the afternoon the next day! As soon as we got there, I got my number plates and got on the DH track for some practice on my Ellsworth Method. I spent what little time I had getting runs down the mountain to feel the course and figure the line and try on my new CrankBrother Mallets clipless pedals and Cyclone FiveTen Shoes. I loved the new change up from flat pedals to clipless, they felt great and my brand new FiveTens were fantastic as always. As soon as I finished my last run, my dad, little sister and I decided to go ride some small bike trails on the other side of the hill. By dark we were back at the camp and I was exhausted. As soon as I finished dinner, which was grilled cheese and pasta salad, I hit my sleeping bag and passed out ready and excited for the next day.
I got up early, ate breakfast and then headed for the mountain. I was able to get 1 DH run, then switched out my pedals and headed up for my DS practice with my brand new Ellsworth Momentum built mostly from wonderfully gracious sponsors, Cheryl Ehniz and my grandfather from Mesqueti Ranch and Loaded Precision Components. I didn’t think this course was as challenging or as fun as the Sea Otter course, which is my favorite. After the practice runs, my dad got a lift ticket and we hit the mountain together. I took him on some of the trails I knew of. Good idea right? Wrong, poor guy was on a 6in enduro bike and I took him on mostly steep downhill trails which were the only trails I knew of. My poor dad crashed 3 times trying to get to Candyland, and once we hit Candyland I hit those moto jumps while my dad watched. He said they were pretty intimidating. After loosening up on the mountain riding trails with my dad I did my qualifying runs. For my first run the timer wasn’t on so I got to redo it.
Both of my qualifying runs felt good. I saw where I needed to get faster and by how much time to make a difference. I was too anxious to sit around and wait to see my place in qualifying so I went back on the hill with my dad and we found a nice slow trail to ride that was fun. It was like Livewire at Northstar, without the “high consequence crashes” if you cased or over jumped a jump. By the time we got down our 3rd run we were exhausted and we checked the board for my qualifying time… I had qualified 3rd!! I was very happy and couldn’t stop freaking out. We came back to the camp and I finally got to see my grandpa that I hadn’t seen in 12 years. He met us in New Mexico from Texas. We ate some food, cleaned my bike and shared stories then passed out for the big Dual Slalom Race Day.
I got to the top of the DS course exhausted from hauling my bike up the steep hill and nervous for the race. I did 2 practice runs down the DS course, one on each side and then went back to the top and waited for the finals. The course got a little dustier and was a bit of a mess, but not as bad as the previous day. Soon my name was called to the gate and I was set up to drop. After 6 runs of neck and neck battling for the fastest time against the other ladies I had claimed my final position for 3rd place.I found that this course had a lot more pedaling spots than pumping spots. After relaxing for a little, I switched out my pedals and did a few more DH practice runs. After that my dad and I went to check out the jump on the course that had been bugging me. I really wanted to hit it, but I needed to find the right line into it. With the help of a bystander, my dad and I found the perfect line. Turns out not many girls were hitting it. We watched Pro women go down and they weren’t hitting it either, except for Jill Kintner. I needed to hit it… So I slept on it.
I got up really early and got in 2 DH practice runs. On my first run down, the trail was perfect with a nice coating of dew. I hit the jump that was haunting me and I made it perfectly! I rode down to the bottom on the course jumping with joy. I was ready for another run down. I loaded back up and did it again. I did pretty good…but when I went to hit the jump that last time, it was all wrong. The berms going into the jump were blown out which didn’t set me up right for the lift off the face and ultimately messed up my landing. I came up short, felt my foot give and then I knew something was wrong because I felt a lot of pain. I pulled over and tried to walk. I couldn’t do it. I began to get worried so I quickly got on my bike and rode down. I got to the bottom where my parents were waiting and there was an intense pain in my foot.
I got off my bike and was able to walk with my dad’s help. I limped to a table and sat down while my dad got ice. I iced my foot for about 20 minutes and then got back to walking on it so that I could keep it moveable for the race which was happening in about an hour from then. I wanted to race my DH race. I wasn’t about to let something like this get in my way. And I especially wasn’t going home without my DH final run. Yeah, I was the only one in my age group and category racing (which I wasn’t happy with in the first place) but I qualified to race in a “National” race….and I was coming down that hill to claim my award one way or another.
At the top of the downhill course I stumbled around trying to go find a bush to pee behind because I was so nervous. It finally came to us ladies and Pro’s to go down the hill last. I got called up to the box, but before my run down I told everyone timed to go after me my situation, and told them that if they saw me on the course to scream for me to move over so that they could pass because I wasn’t going to stop. As soon as I hit the first rock on the course my ankle gave and I had a really hard time trying to stand on my Crank Brother pedals. Luckily my Cyclone FiveTen shoes were great ankle support. So I just tried as hard as I could to suck up the pain and make it down the course fast even though it felt like I was hitting every rock possible. I was passed by 3 girls and luckily they all came up on me during sections that were perfect passing spots to keep me still rolling down the hill. I got to the bottom and flew over the last jump landing with my pedal dropped, really bummed because I like to jump and my finish line jump was not at all picture perfect. At the bottom I unclipped from my DH Mallets by CrankBrothers and I began to internally scream. There was no doubt now that my foot was messed up. I rode down to the award ceremony to claim my medal thinking it was worth it. I mean I didn’t come here to just ride…my parents didn’t take time off work to just have a vacation… I came to New Mexico to compete in the Nationals… to do what I enjoy doing and prove I’m really good at it. I have the balls to hit jumps and the determination to win. My name was called for my category and I limped up to the podium with the help of the the nice man giving the awards. It was such a proud moment for me to be on the number 1 podium for all to see and to put on the red, white and blue jersey! After the award ceremony and pictures I rode down to the Medical tent, got x-rays, and found out that I had a dislocated foot, which was about the worst sprain in the book and hurt like a broken foot. So I got splinted up, got crutches and I headed out for some food. We went to Sunset Grill and the food there was amazing. Sadly, I couldn’t taste most of it because I was so hungry I just devoured the entire plate. We cleaned camp up, said our goodbyes to my grandpa and took the long drive home back to Sacramento.
Next stop on my schedule later this year, Kamakaze Bike Games!
I want to send out a special thank you to everyone who’s helped me get to the races this year especially the USA Cycling Gravity National Championships: Mom and Dad, Shine Riders Co., Michael Masuda, College Cyclery, Auburn Bike Co., Cheryl Ehniz, Mesqueti Ranch, TX, Five Ten Shoes, Loaded Precision, Kali Protectives, Happy Turtle Apparel, Smith Optics, Guayaki, Kenetics Jersery, and Loeka Clothing.
Also big thanks to Michael Masuda from College Cyclery and Curtis from Auburn Bike Co. for getting my slalom bike built and working for the nationals. You both are awesome!
– Samantha Kingshill