Breckenridge fat tire rider now a national champion
summit daily news
For 24 hours leading up to the final race, Chris Cawley could think of nothing but what lay ahead. He pictured each turn of the dirt-track course, each menacing jump and what he’d have to do to best the other three riders going alongside him.
Because, as he said, “one mistake and you lose” in four-cross racing. And when a national title is on the line, everything is that much more important.
As he stood in the gates, though, underneath the glow of the construction lights illuminating the course at Granby Ranch in Sol Vista, everything became a bit more simple.
All he had to do was race.
“It was one of those days that everything just came together,” Cawley said of the finals of the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships. “I didn’t have any bobbles, didn’t really make any mistakes. It was great.”
By the time Cawley crossed the finish line as a national champion, he was well ahead of any other rider in the event that closely resembles the format of snowboardcross. At that moment, Cawley was the best in his country in the 40-plus age division.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” the Breckenridge resident said of hitting the top of the podium. “I’ve never experienced anything like.”
Cawley was one of the many champions crowned at the national event, which held competitions in cross country, short track, single speed, downhill and super-D, as well as four-cross. And with everyone in the field having to qualify to earn a spot, the event turned into a who’s-who of fat tire riders.
“It was one of the biggest races you’ll see in America,” Cawley said of the nearly 2,000-person field. ” … Basically everyone you see in every one of those (mountain bike) magazines was there.”
The race, which was held in Colorado for the first time ever, awarded titles to age divisions ranging from junior-levels to ages 50 and up.
Cawley’s win was in the Category 1 40+ division.
Of course, Cawley’s title didn’t come as easily as it might have looked. (He won every heat in the competition before winning by a substantial margin in the finals.)
Since qualifying for the national championships through a series of smaller events, Cawley trained constantly. Cawley, who works as the event coordinator for the Village at Copper, made the jumps and tracks in Silverthorne and Breck his second home for the summer. He and his friends would take off the biggest jumps they could find, and Cawley not only built up his technique but also his confidence.
“At the course in Sol Vista, there’s a huge jump at the bottom, probably like 25 or 30 feet high,” he said. “Some people in my age group might have been a little intimidated by it, but I was kind of used to doing that stuff. So, I was pretty confident.”
Cawley also credited his past experiences as a BMX racer in helping him to the level he’s reached now. As a kid, his mother would take him across the country to help him compete, and up until her passing a couple years back, she always was eager to hear how Cawley did in competition.
“I definitely owe this to my mom,” Cawley said of the national title.
The win last week in Sol Vista, Cawley said, was by far the biggest of his biking career. Even at his age, today, Cawley takes competing seriously and treasures the accomplishments.
“I always go into races, even at 40, believing I can win,” he said. “I eyed up this competition and figured my chances were good. … Still, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Other Summit County racers that won their respective divisions in the competition were Dillon’s Andy Proctor and Seth Strickland.
For full results from the national championships, visit http://www.solvistanationals.com.