US Pro XCT Catamount Classic, Vermont, USA.

The USA. A country whose national animal is the awesome bald eagle, but in which 1 in 3 people are obese. The home of big SUVs and free cokes if you take long enough getting your wallet out (that actually happened).

We decided to jump on a flight over ‘the pond’ predominantly to take in our first World Cup of the season in Monte Saint Anne (Quebec) which would be a week after a tune up at The Catamount Classic XC in Williston, Vermont. We had never raced a US Pro XCT series before and were really excited to see what it was like compared to Euro racing.

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Which way to the jumps?

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The East Coast of the States isn’t actually that far from the UK so the flight is a fairly painless 6hrs which ticks by nicely with the aid of Tom Cruise movies on the in-flight entertainment and complementary meals every couple of hours. It’s the time difference that gets you. 5hrs behind the UK feels a bit weird to begin with when it’s like you’re going to bed at 2am.

Needless to say we were pretty wrecked when we got to our hotel at the airport in Montreal. Two double beds is a standard room over there so you get plenty of room to spread out and have a good night. Thankfully our rooms weren’t overlooking the enclosed aquatics centre in the middle of the hotel which was driving the humidity up to 100% and temperature into the 90′s (as they would say). Plus the noise from the Chinese tourists jumping in right by the ‘NO JUMPING’ sign would have become quite tiring.

Everybody is so polite in America. People wave out of their cars at you whilst riding,  we wouldn’t have been surprised if we had gotten a wedding invite in the short time we were there, and it is great how your restaurant waitress introduces herself and shop assistants say ‘have a great day’ as you leave. Thank you. I will. And for some reason they love the British accent, that stereotype is true.

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 Just warming up on the smaller pump track.

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We arrived a few days before the Catamount race, so had some time to ride on the dirt track roads around Hillington where we were staying. It seems they only bother laying tarmac (‘asphalt’) on the major roads in Vermont. That means a massive 4×4 is essential, maybe even double tyre on the back. So our cabin in the woods, true slasher movie style, was a good trek up the hill to the end of the last fireroad then a little bit further, which meant it was incredibly quite and isolated enough that no one would hear you scream. It also offered a nice view out over the forests from the deck while you grilled steaks on the BBQ. The in-cabin DVD and video (‘VCR’) selection was a bit poor though. The theme was rom-coms, preferably with Tom Hanks in a major role.

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 Winner of the [hypothetical] $10,000 hole-shot prize. 

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They hold big cyclocross races in Williston, one the US UCI National Series weekends, over winter so we expected the XC course to be fast, and probably pretty flat. However the US Pro XCT series nearly always throws in a few jumps and proper sender drops, and Seb had commented before we left the UK that he would be disappointed if there wasn’t at least one 6 footer. No worries as the track had three decent sized jumps (doubles which you had to clear, none of these soft tabletops) and one smaller warm-up drop all on the second half of the lap. The lap was long – 6.5km – which is more than double some of the ones in Europe. Too long really as there were massive sections of open field/grass which should have been cut out as they added nothing of any interest.

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 One of the foreigners racing.

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The field was strong with all the best US riders fighting out the XCT series overall (it was the final round) along with a few foreigners like ourselves who were out before the World Cup. The start was wide so gridded in 9th and 10th meant we snuck onto the extreme edges of the front row which always makes a big difference. Seb snatched the hole-shot, and if only we were racing motocross would have come away with the $10,000 prize instead of a short mention as “The British rider” on the post race coverage on BTB TV. It strung into one big line through the first grass section and singletrack. I had a wash-out on one wet corner (it rained heavily the night before, and was drizzling before the start) at the top of the climb (which wasn’t much of a climb) and slipped into the second group while Seb remained in front.

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Are those… barends?  

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I had felt a little sluggish on the second lap so decided that I would try to storm the second half of the race and pick off anybody fading. Onto the 4th lap (of 6) I started to wind it up, but at some point in the flat singletrack I punctured – a long way from the tech zone on such a long track. Anybody who has tried to ride a flat rear tyre knows that you go nowhere fast and probably wreck your rim while you’re at it. I rode it as far as I could then pushed on foot but unfortunately got lapped out before making it around.

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 Wells was running the Renegade. 

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On the last couple of laps Seb was starting to blow, fortunately not as hard as the Kiwi Dirk Peters who was basically going at walking pace, and slipped back a little. In the end he was 14th. The main purpose of the race was to have a smash out and try to overcome that dead feeling after lots of travelling, so all in all it was a good result.

Thanks for having us. Have a great day America.