Love at First Flight

A lot of people talk about love at first sight. Mine was love at first flight. I just let go of the brakes and put my fear aside, and landed on the other side. That was all it took. It’s hard to describe how fast I fell for downhilling… but I’ve been wanting to race since my first time at Northstar in August. I finally got my chance at the Tara Llanes Classic at Northstar on September 25th.
Wyatt, Dad and I carpooled with friends Eddie and Julie. We got to Northstar at 8:30 AM to get our numbers and do some practice runs. However, when we got to the registration, they told us we’d gone to the wrong site with the wrong information. We thought racing started at 1 PM, but instead it started at 11 AM. I was racing Cat 3 13 & Under (B13), which is the first category to start. My start was at 11:09, and we got to Mid-Mountain at 10. We figured that I had enough time to get one run in on the more technical section of the course (Sticks and Stones/Speed Control) that I’d only ridden once before. I was super nervous that my hand wouldn’t hold up, because I’d broken my left middle finger two days before. But once I hit that sweet track, I could hardly notice it. The dirt was a little loose and rutted, but my tires were hooking up surprisingly well. We got back to Mid-Mountain with 20 minutes to head up to the start.
Wyatt and I didn’t realize that we had to take one lift, ride for 10 minutes and get on another (extremely slow) lift. It took us around 30 minutes to get to the very summit of the mountain for the start. We missed our starts, so we had to wait until they could shuffle us in. It was freezing cold at the top, and I was shivering in full armor and a long sleeve jersey. I ended up standing up there with Wyatt and some friends for over an hour. When I finally got to start, my muscles were cold and stiff, and they felt locked up once I was in the gate.
Right off the start is a tiring peddling fire-road section, and by the time I hit the real downhill, my legs were jolted awake from such a sudden effort. The track didn’t get really steep until after the two tabletops at the beginning of upper Sticks and Stones. I kept trying to take the lines that I rode in practice, but I was going so much faster now that I ended up just flying down in whatever direction I came in. On my practice run I had taken the go-around on a 2 to 3 foot drop that was sketch in the powder dirt. I came around the corner into it so fast that I didn’t have time to turn out of the line, and I was launched off the drop. I landed with so much speed I could hardly keep it under control. I slammed my rear brake and slid around the turn tight. After another fire road section near the bottom of the course, I hit the steepest, most technical rock garden. I took a little risk and cut close to the turn, hitting a loose rock drop and then dropping perfectly into a rocky rut that led into a huge berm. I came in hot to the one part of the course that really scared me; A double rock drop straight into a hard turn. I didn’t have time to over think it, but I forced the thought that it would be okay into my mind, and launched down the drops. I railed the last few switchbacks and was finally in the finishing stretch. I cleared the backside of the big bridge jump and skidded under the finish arch.
About 10 minutes later, as I was sitting at a picnic table eating lunch, one of the other B13 guys came over and said “You’re Avery right? I think you won.” I almost choked on my PB & J and said “WHATTTT?”
Sure enough, I came in first out of 15 other racers (all boys) by a gap of 19 seconds. My time was 13:04. I was pretty stoked!
Julie, Eddie, Wyatt and I did some fun runs on Livewire and Gypsy, and then Julie and I got to do a run on Livewire with Cierra Smith and Lindsey Voreis, which was super fun! I can’t wait to ride with them again!
I was so proud to be on the top of the podium with all the boys. When I was called up, Tara Llanes herself gave me a high five, a giant hug and a big congrats for being the only girl in the class. I got to chat with her a little afterwards, which was really cool too.
Next year I hope to race a lot more DH. I’m already in love with downhill.
Thanks to Asa Salas for the bike, Eddie Fontes for the armor, and my sponsors and family for their never ending support.
Keep chasing (and flying)…

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