By: Sabrina Plesner
Photo credit: Chris McFarland
Driving through Washington, Ples suggests that I sign up for the Sugar Showdown. I grin at the idea but the possibility seems unattainable. Several times in the past I have mentioned the idea of participating in this jump clinic but never acted on it. Ples’ rationale: we will be in the area and the only thing keeping you from upgrading to pro is your jumping abilities. Ples sure is a smart man. With Ples’ support and a little extra money that we had saved up I was able to participate in the clinic. I had some reservations about the clinic. The last girls bike clinic that I went to did not fulfill my expectations. Bike clinics are great and I highly suggest taking a clinic. The problem that I have experienced is that once you get passed the intermediate stage and are tiptoeing between expert and pro you feel left out on a deserted island. My coach from Sugar Showdown, Lauren Patterson, describes it as; “while you drive through the country you get further away from the usual group, but that’s when it gets really creative and fun!” I was stuck in the “attack” position and couldn’t get out.
So anyway, I knew that there was something that I was missing and I wasn’t figuring it out on my own. I knew I could jump but every time I did it it was scary. Knowing that the clinic was specifically a jump clinic and a jump competition the day after I thought I was headed in the right direction. The best thing about this clinic was that Lauren Patterson, Professor Shred, was my coach. Lauren was one of the first girls that I rode with back in Colorado when I started getting into downhill. She taught me some basic skills in one day and since then I raced with her a few times. I knew she was an amazing rider and knew a few things about being in the air. I was so excited that she was my coach. I signed up for the semi-pro class, there were only 4 in my class so there was plenty of time for personal attention. My goals were to learn to move the bike in the air and not “dead sailor” when I landed. I wanted to come up to big table lips and not slam on the brakes. I also wanted to learn how to jump in steep technical gnar.
Friday was for checking in and bike checks. I was feeling the girl stoke and ready for the next day. Saturday we worked on skills and prepped for competition day. We worked on manuals, learned how to pre-jump a jump and lunge drop. We then worked on steep take-off lips. I now know all the steps I need to take before the take-off and one of the key things that I learned was to “spot my landing.” In the past I was always looking ahead, Lauren noted “You have to have active eye movement, you spot your landing and then look ahead.” Spotting my landing has now allowed me to arch in the air and move my bike and push down with the front, landing with both wheels on the ground at the same time. We then went over drops. I learned how to lunge drop which is what I needed to be able to jump in steep slow technical gnar. I also learned how to pre-jump a jump, which is super cool, just need more time dialing it in.
Sunday was competition day. We practiced the pro course on Saturday but wasn’t feeling comfortable with the big gap tables at the end. We decided to race the other course and had a great time honing in on our skills that we learned. The course started off with 3 levels of jumps that you were judged on then you were judged on the last 2 tables. Extra points for jumping off the “the big bad wolf”. You were scored on style, amplitude and skill. We each had 2 runs. I pre-jumped the biggest jump and went off “the big bad wolf”, I then threw a few tail whips on the last 2 tables. I had 2 great runs and ended up with the win.
This clinic was one of the best ones that I have ever been to and I know because the last few days of riding have shocked Ples and myself. I am riding with more confidence, I am “out of my head” and I am jumping so much better. Today Ples and I rode Whistler. When I really noticed it was when I said “blue flow lines are boring.” Bring on the black flow! I rode A-line and loved every moment of it!
I want to thank my support and sponsors. First of all, thanks to my amazing husband who wants nothing but the best for me and who believes in me more than I do. Thanks for Pedal Pushers Cyclery and Pedal Pushers Kind Racing for keeping us part of the team while we are traveling. XX2i interchangeable lenses were key for riding in the PNW and my 7idp Protection kept me confident. I am loving my new WTB Trail Boss Tire, it corners and tracks well. Thanks to Royal Racing, SwiftWick socks and Kind Bars.