Trevor McCutcheon who is a Temecula resident and has been flying the flag for the SPNDX MTB Team this season showed his strong results early on which resulted in an invitation to join the USA National team. No easy task to be invited by the National team Trevor jumped at the chance to go up to Canada and get his first taste in what the next level looks like. We’ll let Trevor take it from here…
My first experience as an international racer, albeit probably not unique, was a respectable blend of blood, sweat, and tears that usually follow an elite level race. What was different though was the frustrations, dead ends, and untimely emotions that seemed to constantly remind me that I am nobody special – your work is worth and your worth is your work. Being invited to Canada was my first shot at racing for the USA Cycling National team which resulted from a series of good results at the local Southern California Jr races.
California is the host of a few elite races that highlight a riders ability to ride in hot, dry, and rocky conditions – a characteristic not common in eastern Canada. After a fourth place finish at both the Fontana Pro XCT and Bonelli Jr. UCI, I was presented with an offer to race for my country the following month in June. The offer did come at an expense though as I was responsible for covering my airfare and baggage.
What seemed like an easy decision for most presented a difficult challenge for me. The expense alone was far beyond anything I could cover and in addition, the week of the trip would interfere with my final week as a High School Senior. Missing every single final and blowing off all exit assignments isn’t exactly the best way to maintain a 4.4 GPA. Nevertheless, my community and teachers supported my trip in every way. I was able to gather donations from family and friends to cover the cost while my teachers moved dates and waved assignments in an effort to make my trip as stress free as possible.
To minimize the cost of airfare, I booked a flight out of San Diego that had a long layover in Washington DC. I wasn’t scheduled to land in Montreal until almost midnight, where I would then have to take a 90 minute shuttle to my condo in Mont-Tremblant, the location of my first race. Of course, when time seems to be so crucial, the forces of nature apply the resistance; my layover flight was delayed an extra 90 minutes. The team manager, Marc, didn’t seem to even flinch at our predicted 3:00 a.m. arrival. Finally, the day before my first race, I dropped my bags and climbed into bed at about 3:30am only to be woken up a few hours later for our riders meeting.
After the meeting and quick introduction of the team, we were allowed for our first and only course preview. The conditions on course were incredibly wet and tangled with roots. For a majority of the team being from the southwest, this presented an issue. It’s difficult to complain about epic riding conditions such as loamy dirt and technical trails, but racing on them with only one day of training under my belt was another story. However, I made the most of my training day by tackling the muddiest and roughest sections I could find. As a biker, I know it is not common to trash your bike with mud and debris the day before a big race, but our team also consisted of two elite mechanics who laughed at our “muddy” steeds; they washed, stripped, and reassembled our bikes every day.
The first race was incredibly tough. I managed to slip into the top 6 before a technical single track on the first lap, putting me toward the front of my American teammates. Unfortunately, my anxious jump gassed me and I found just a lap later having less fuel than usual in the tank. My legs were feeling fatigued and it was difficult to find rhythm over the roots. The course had one long climb and one long descent connected by a couple small punchy climbs. This made recovery difficult, especially when battling the mud and water crossings. I ended the day in a disheartening 10th position behind a few American riders and a handful of fast Canadians. It was far from the result I wanted but I had another race in one week to prove my worth.
At this point of the trip, the entire team had gotten comfortable with each other and jokes were starting to crack. The next few days were filled with hilarious recovery rides, countless shenanigans, bobsled racing, food fights, hikes, and everything in between that made the trip most memorable. By Thursday, it seemed the whole town knew who we were. The week did not go by flawlessly, however, and each rider found small issues with either themselves or their bike, including me. The sloppy conditions mixed with a daily power wash did not agree with the mechanical pieces of my rear hub body. A small issue I found after my race only got worse with each ride and before long my hub wouldn’t engage at all. After calling around to our resources in Canada, we were coming close to a dead end. With just two days before leaving to our next race venue, a fix was needed fast. Miguel Stonge, our lead mechanic from Montreal, who fortunately spoke French fluently, was able to line up a potential deal at a bike shop in Quebec City who agreed to let me use a loaner wheel.
When we arrived at the bike shop on Thursday, I spent an hour alongside Miguel who spoke to two mechanics, a sales associate, and a manager. In the midst of the conversation, I was able to gather a few words as well as my name and “team USA.” It was an amazing feeling even though I had no idea what was going on. Minutes later, the manager and I were taking a picture and shaking hands. At this point, I was still immensely confused but excited that this possibly meant I would be getting a wheel. What followed was the sales associate literally pulling a Cannondale Scalpel off of the sales rack and handing it to me. “Good luck!” he said with a humerus smirk.
I could not believe the level of customer service and hospitality that this bike shop conveyed. I was now racing an almost brand new bike at the second race in Baie-Saint Paul and this team we had two full days of practice. Things were looking good and my confidence was rising. The day of the race quickly followed two successful training days on the technical course. This track consisted of shorter climbs, steeper descents, more rocks, and a couple drops. Not surprisingly, all the southwest kids on the USA team had no problem with the rocks, chutes, and drops that were connected by dry sections of single track.
It was business as usual getting called to the starting line for the second row. Out of the gate, the pace was pushing really hard and everyone was fighting for the next wheel. A long start road connected to a chunky single track that winded up the mountain. It was me the classic rookie, who ran at the front of the group and tried to make a pass before the single track, hung up on a tree, and caused a huge bottleneck- oops. It wasn’t long though before everyone found their position and pace and starting grinding toward the front. I was running around 10th position when an attempt at a pass over a blind rooted section slammed me on my ribs. It wasn’t a huge crash however, and I jumped up ready to hop back on. Unfortunately, it was still early in the race and much of the pack hadn’t been divided yet, so I watched as teammates and other riders passed about 30 deep before I could get back on the course. At that point, my energy was consumed by frustration. I fought through my fatigue as best I could and ended 19th.
The trip itself cannot be weighed on my results as I met many new friends and established connections for the future. I now have a good idea of my pace on the junior level as I focus my attention on a solid result at the National Championships in July. I cannot thank everyone enough for this experience and the tremendous amount of support offered by USA Cycling and to my support at home from SPNDX Stampede, Cannondale, 100% & The Bike Shop Temecula.