It started last year, when I qualified through my results to attend a regional junior development cycling camp, a week-long camp with the top junior cyclists from the West Coast.
I showed up thinking it was a camp just for fun … wrong.
After chowing down on a hot dog and fries, the coaches let us in on a secret: it’s a race with four stages.
With me eating junk food and not training for a race, things weren’t looking good, especially since the top three get invited to the Olympic Training Center. That year, I placed fourth.
This year, it was OTC or bust. I qualified for the regional camp and kept my regular training routine up. This time was different.
I had a teammate, Christine Weir, a fellow member of the Miners Independent MTB team. This girl is fast! She is the freshman state champion, and there is no stopping her.
The regional camp was just as exciting as last year. We had world class professionals riding with us, even playing tag with Barry Wicks.
This time, I stuffed my face with pasta, chicken, bread, and water; the perfect race combo. The racers and time trials were close.
Of the four races, I had one loss, by a mere three seconds. Christine, on the other hand, dominated, as usual, winning everything.
That was that. We had a double victory and both were recommended for the Junior National Talent ID Camp at the OTC, which meant more training.
It was hard to stay motivated not knowing if I was invited; I had just a hope.
The hope came true when I received an e-mail invitation to the OTC, all paid for by USA Cycling.
After jumping up and down like a little girl, I called Christine to learn that she had also been invited.
There was only one catch: it was a road racing camp, and Christine and I are full-time mountain bikers with little experience on the road.
The Olympic Training Center is located in Colorado Springs at about 6,500 feet in elevation. We stayed in dorms on the campus, and I roomed with the national champion. There were about 25 cyclists there, almost all who had been invited to attend the camp.
We had two time trials and many rides designed to help us learn racing techniques.
Competition was tough! I placed 10th and Christine earned third.
Aside from all of the racing and riding, we got to hang out with the resident athletes, pull pranks on people in our dorms and chow down on great food. In the cafeteria, everything was labeled, including calories, carbs, and protein to ensure we got the prescribed amount of nutrients to fuel us.
Staying at the OTC is one of the best experiences I’ve had as a cyclist.
Thanks to my parents and coaches of the Miners Independent MTB Team for making it possible for me to have this opportunity.
Nate Byrom is a Nevada Union High School student and a member of the Miners Independent Mountain Bike team and the Sierra Express Racing Team.
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