Words: Anders Nyström
Photos: Kent Baumgardt
Louisville 2018 was my last CX Nationals as a collegiate rider with myself graduating right at that same time in December. It was definitely a week to remember, and a great way to go out as a Marian Knight aboard a Niner BSB 9 RDO. The course itself is both tough physically and technically. Though I’ll always have a soft spot for the old Eva Bandman course, Joe Creason has become a course to be reckoned with if conditions go sour. Course recon days ended up being dry, though the current main lines were tackier to the point of sticky, which made the climbs even more sapping of power. But fortunately there was rain in the forecast and I was excited
Race day rolled around and the Collegiate Varsity Men’s race was the last on the list for the day. With rain pouring through the previous night and off and on throughout the day, the course was an absolute mud fest. A quick day-of recon proved that there would be lots of decisive bike handling on the flats and descents, and even more decisive running on the up-hills and off-cambers. I was the 4th row call up, not terrible but the first lap would be extremely important for making up places. I ended up improving up from around 30th to getting inside the top 10 by half way through the second lap! It took everything I had to keep pace on the off-the-bike sections (I definitely did more running during this one race than I did during my entire season both in racing and training!) but the handling through the ruts and descents I knew I was taking much better than a lot of other riders. Can’t thank downhill and enduro racing enough for giving me the extra handling and confidence.
The last lap was by far the most brutal; I was riding alongside my teammate Cade Bickmore in 9th and 10th with a Brevard rider in front of us and a Brevard rider behind us. Coming up through the climbs back to pit 2 I made a small bobble and gave some time to the Brevard rider behind me, which bumped me down to 11th. I pushed to my max running up the final climb, exchanging one last time in the pit, and giving everything I had on the pavement towards the final 90-degree corner into the barriers, gambling by not touching my brakes into that rut and holding it through the barriers to try and chase down 10th place. I only just barely lost the sprint, initially upset but after the rest of my ride set in I was extremely happy with my performance. To make up so many positions early and hold it through the race to ultimately just miss the top 10 was still a great accomplishment, and looking back I know I gave everything I had in that race and couldn’t ask for a better ending to my collegiate career.
I run my Niner BSB 9 RDO with a bit of a unique set up. The bikes are identical in measurements and componentry, aside from wheels. I opt for wider than normal handlebars, 46cm rather than the usual 42-44cm. This plus slightly angled up hoods allows me to sit more upright on the bike and have better control of the front end, giving the bike almost an XC Mountain Bike type of handling. I also run my SRAM Force CX1 drivetrain with