Last week I was lucky enough to head down to the 2016 Sea Otter Classic. I felt like this was my initiation into the mtb community. I honestly had no idea what to expect. Luckily I had Amanda Cordell and Joey Foresta showing me the ropes and I don’t think I could have been in better company. Both of these riders were doing firsts this weekend. This was also Amanda’s first Sea Otter trip so I wasn’t alone there. She went down to race Dual Slalom, her first time ever, and Downhill. Joey went down to make his Pro Debut in Dual Slalom at 14 years old, race downhill, and the pump track invitational. To say the weekend was a success would be a massive understatement. But not just because of how well these riders did, it was who they were that was the most refreshing part of the whole experience.
One thing I always tell people about Joey Foresta is that he always takes good care of me. The first time he took me riding he always stayed right behind me to make sure I was ALIVE and to give me pointers. I have never once felt like I was an inconvenience to him no matter what the situation. That’s all fine and good at home where we train, but honestly when we go to these events its all about the athletes at that point. It is my hope to make sure that they have everything they need to feel as relaxed as possible the days leading up to and on race day. This was a huge weekend for Joey and I would have completely understood him being laser focused on the task at hand. Nope this kid just had a blast and literally included me in everything. Im old to him, 20 years older to be exact which is way worse when you say it out loud, but he doesnt care. He let me feel way cooler than I should probably and experience this with him.
He started off the weekend with blowing our minds in the pump track invitational with a 3rd place finish next to 2 of the best in the business. The next day he heads over to his pro debut in dual slalom. There was no pressure here, but of course like any great athlete he wanted to do well and push himself and see where he stacked up. If he had qualified for the main event that would have been a massive victory. Well he did that. We were stoked, he was pumped and then the round of 16 starts, he rode steady, rode his race, the other racer made a mistake and Joey moves on. Sweet, luck is a part of racing. Sure we all know it, but then the next round comes and Joey is staying super cool and collected and just racing his race. Round of 8, the other racer makes a mistake, Joey takes the win again. At this point I have just kind of stepped back away from the fence and to me it was very easy to see that Joey had made these top ranked Pros in the world nervous. He wasn’t letting all the hype get to him, he was just racing and kicking ass, while they had to deal with all the pressure. He went onto the finals and battled for a 2nd place finish in his Pro Debut. It was incredible to be in the crowd and have noone know my relationship with Joey because I just got to sit and listen to them all talk about how blown away they were this kid. And man it was awesome. So awesome.
The ticket here was that Joey controlled his emotions and stuck to his plan. This is an impressive feat for any high level athlete but especially for a young athlete stepping onto this level for the first time. To often we see athletes and just people in general being lead to much by their emotions. We see it in fighting all the time. The head games start to try and get the other fighter to get emotionally involved bc then we don’t think clearly. And WE MAKE MISTAKES. Using your emotions to drive you to work harder is fine. But if your emotions pull you off your game plan then its not so helpful. This is a very tough lesson to learn and many don’t. You can be passionate about what you do without be emotional. Find your focus to win and do it.
The other rider I was there with was Amanda Cordell. I had been working with Amanda for a few months now and knew that she was a driven chick that loved riding her bike and has some serious goals. She was always fun to work with and it was very easy to see that she had a deep rooted passion in what she was doing. Well, after 16 hrs in a car with me and getting to know her better I quickly became more and more impressed with this girl and was even more stoked to work with her moving forward. Not only was she just a badass amazing person to get to know, she too took me under her wing and let me experience this weekend with her and actually introduced me to people. I think I only embarrassed her about 15 times. Anyone that knows me, knows that I just kind of say what I think whether or not you want to hear it. I always tell an athlete that I work with that my job is to tell them what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. So Im sure I drove Amanda a little crazy.
One of my favorite parts of being at this festival with her was that I got to watch this girl that to me was “famous” and a “big deal” walk around and just be in awe of the people she got to meet and talk too. You want to feel good, just go to a bike event with Amanda and you will watch her light up and love every second of it. This is a girl that is definitely not taking anything that she has worked so hard to get for granted. She is only working harder. The only thing that I really told her throughout the weekend was that she belonged there. This is one of the most independent women I have ever met and man she has no fear to go after it on a bike. She had never raced dual slalom before and after some heckling she got after and finished 8th among many of the women that she looks up to as a racer. I was incredibly proud to get to be there with her to support her and watch her chase her dreams.
She also really challenged me to grow in my own confidence as a coach. She helped me to see how very often I am limiting myself by my own insecurities. Having athletes that are also family is why we have one of the coolest programs out there. I strongly believe that. After we celebrated Saturdays success we finally got to sleep to get up early for her to race downhill. Amanda killed it. She finished 12th and took away some massive confidence knowing that she does belong on the world stage with these other ladies and man I can’t wait to be racing with her again soon. We have stepped up her training and she is not even close to her peak. Stoked to watch this journey with her. She taught me so much and made me laugh a lot. Will never forget this weekend.
All in all this weekend really solidified to me how lucky I am to work with the athletes that I do and how much we truly are like a family. We celebrate together, we struggle together, and we pick each other up. I wouldn’t want it any other way. We have some other big trips planned this summer to travel with all our amazing athletes and I can’t wait.
See you guys at the tracks.