Williams, Bingham rank among best at mountain bike nationals
Steamboat Springs — Hannah Williams placed 10th in the 2016 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals cross-country race, and this week, she did pause and marvel at her achievement.
She’s a top-10 mountain biker in the United States.
“It’s pretty crazy,” she said.
One breath later, she showed exactly the attitude it takes to achieve that mark.
“It’s pretty crazy, but I’m still looking to improve,” she said. “I think I can improve next year a lot, but, yeah, I just want to improve.”
Williams was one of two Steamboat Springs mountain bike racers to score big at the event, which took place at Mammoth Mountain, California.
She pulled out the best finish of her career, 10th in the women’s pro division, while Brad Bingham was 15th on the men’s side.
“It was a good, solid showing,” Bingham said.
For both, the strong finishes were the result of a season-long quest; the national championship was a focus for their spring and early-summer training.
Along the way, they ticked off plenty of other solid results. Each has won two of the season’s three Town Challenge mountain bike series races in Steamboat.
Nationals, though, is what it’s been about.
“My goal is to be one of the top mountain bikers in the nation,” Williams said.
Setting such a goal, she said, is almost therapeutic for her.
“It’s really good for my mental state to keep improving on something,” she said. “I always have to have something I’m working toward being better at. With mountain biking, you never can really reach your full potential. There’s always something you can improve on, always something to learn. That’s what makes it fun.”
The pair certainly had fun in California.
Wary of the elevation — 8,000 feet — and the temperatures — soaring into the high 80s — both started their races cautiously.
The men rode a total of six four-mile laps, and the women, five. Bingham said he tried to stay in control of himself for the first four of his laps and only then — two thirds of the way through — evaluated how he was feeling and decided how hard to push to the finish.
He was feeling great. After drifting back to about 30th, he charged late and picked his way up to 15th.
“I rode a really smart race. I was conservative, and I didn’t go out too hard,” Bingham said.
Williams also wanted to avoid burning out early in the conditions.
“I took the first couple of laps, not easy, but definitely not at my limit,” she said. “I didn’t want to go over that limit, because it would be really hard to recover from that, especially at that elevation.”
She, too, finished stronger than she started. She had a small crash on her final lap, but even that didn’t slow her down much. She hopped back on her bike and was rolling again without surrendering her position.
That was good enough for a career-best result.
Still, she said she can do better.
“A lot of it’s experience,” she said. “Having more experience will help, and it takes technical skills. I can also improve a lot on my fitness. I just know there are a lot of factors I can improve on before next year.”
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