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Pitts takes fifth in national series

Lesley Pitts
Special to The Union

In competition, there is always the roll of the dice. Will it be the thrill of the podium, or the agony of defeat?

Nevada City’s Graeme Pitts celebrated his 18th birthday on the podium at the fifth race of the National Mountain Bike Series in Windham, NY, putting him in fifth place in that series.

Having a race on his birthday was a huge treat, and being on the podium was icing on the cake. Scheduled the next weekend was the USA Cycling National Championships in Mt. Snow, Vermont, where Pitts earned a 4th place podium finish, putting him in 2nd place in the national points rankings. Riding for Dark Horse Racing, Pitts has had an awesome year.

After incessant traveling this year – two trips to the east coast, New Mexico, Southern California, Italy and more, Pitts decided to stick closer to home this month to focus more on his training in order to get ready for National Mountain Bike Series Finals at Brian Head, Utah later this month.

His favorite training ground is Northstar at Tahoe Ski Resort, which he considers home turf, having raced there the last few years and working on the trail crew last summer.

Northstar hosted a downhill race there over the Aug. 9-10 weekend, and Pitts was ready for a home race after such a hectic year of traveling.

Last year, Pitts dominated in the Pro category at one race there, and was eager to repeat his performance, but it was not to be this time around. Near the top of the race run, Pitts had a minor crash which put him out of contention for first place but he was flying the rest of the run, which helped him place eighth out of 17 pro riders.

It was at the finish line where things took a turn for the worse.

Coming through the Red Bull finish line at high speed, Pitts decided to do a crowd pleaser that he had been working on successfully all week.

He launched off of the stadium jump for a monster 20-foot foot height while doing a “suicide no-hander,” which means that at the pinnacle of the jump, he took his hands off the handlebars and clapped them behind his back.

The crowd cheered wildly, just before the other kind of sound a crowd makes when they witness a bad crash.

According to Pitts, a race run is different than a practice run. He learned the hard way that a race run can make a rider pretty anaerobic, with no reserves left at the bottom of the run. This caused him to not get the grip he needed to land the stunt successfully.

Sitting in a pile of “moon dust”, which Northstar is famous for, the emergency patrol examined Pitts and reported a broken collar bone.

The break is not the kind needing surgery or braces, it is healing as fast as it can for Pitts to be able to ride in the season finale at Brian Head, Utah at the end of the month. That may not be the fastest run of his life, but a necessary one in Pitts’ view.

Pitts’ advice: “Stay on top, keep the rubber side down, and your hands on the handlebars!”


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