Congrats to Jessi Kruse on her 2nd place finish at the 2011 MTB Nationals. Here is Jessi's race report...

Race day: I got up, had breakfast and then tried not to have a nervous breakdown, I felt better once I got on the bike and started spinning around... Chatted with some Cali girls and tried to take my mind off the race. Before I knew it, it was race time, I turned back to the staging area (I was on a rail trail) it was all going good, I did some efforts and felt blah, but I hoped that I had worked the blahs and was ready for some action. About 5 minutes from the staging area my chain had a temper tantrum and I ended up with a chain stuck between the cassette and rear wheel I went into total panic mode...

After a couple of failed attempts at yanking it out I was forced to admit defeat and called in some back up (Aka my dad) after hiking my bike cross style for 1/4 of a mile a woman stopped and helped me out... My bike race ready again I sprinted out to the staging area and managed to still get a good spot in the front. The start was hectic to say the least... I had no idea when we were going to be up and a bunch of the fields were jumbled up. After about 5 minutes at the start line I was able to see the announcer and after another 5 I was up to the line... All I could think was 'this is it, don't screw it up!' The whistle blew and suddenly the race felt just like every other race. Everything just kind of melted away and it was just me and my bike. I got the whole shot and sprinted out and up the first short climb.... realizing that nobody had caught up to me, I put some power down and tried to get as many people between me and the field as I could. I came upon the other fields in a grassy piece of single track, where they were all waiting in line to walk up this steep loose 5 foot section of uphill. I've always been bad at waiting in lines so instead of waiting for a bunch of 50+ guys and loose my time gap, I passed about 15-20 guys by riding next to the "official" piece of single track and then cutting back into the line when I was right in front of the hill... my strategy worked beautifully and I was all by lonesome coming down the twisty switchback descent. I came out and once again laid down the power on the paved crit like section of the prologue.

My next big challenge was the rock garden (artificial of course!) Everybody around me was  falling and yelling and cursing and it was totally different then the rock gardens I ride at  Moochy, still I somehow managed to weave my way between the chaos and get out in one piece. My second prologue lap was a less fun. I had to walk up the tiny fire road climb because of a guy in front of me that bobbled and by the down hill #2 was breathing down my back. I was able to gap her out by putting some power down on the paved crit again but she caught up to me and passed me (running) on the rock garden. I chose to stay on my bike because I had a good line and was hoping that I could pass her when she got back on. Although this strategy could have worked out beautifully, it actually just put 3 people between us by the end of the rock garden. I managed to pass two of these guys really quickly but the third guy was a jerk and made me loose precious time by weaving and refusing to let me pass. I passed him though despite his best efforts and sprinted back to #2's wheel where I decided to hang until I could see what kind of rider she was.

I soon saw that she wasn't really that good at technical ups and could only ride things going slowly, I changed my race strategy and decided that instead of hanging onto her wheel and then gapping her on the fire road up, I would just pass her on the single track up and hope that the gap I put down would be substantial enough to keep her from passing me. So on the following hill I passed her and started to ride away from her. I managed to get 5 people between us and then decided to just hang in with a pack (extra motivation, drafting, and pacing!) I got lucky as the guys put down a pretty aggressive clip on the hill and I was able to put down more of a time gap. We finally hit the fire road climb which was the last leg of the hill before the descent started. I reached the top in first place and was doing my little victory dance when a woman came up behind me. I thought that she was 15-18 and realized that the race wasn't over yet, I asked her if she was racing 15-18 and she said no so I was able to breathe but I was still a little shaken. About a minute later a girl that was in my field passed me (she wasn't the Devo girl who I had been battling in the beginning) I tried to stay on her wheel but she was too fast of a descender and she was able to get in a 5 man pack about 6' ahead of me, unfortunately this pack kicked up a lot of dust and I literally had to allow the gap to grow just so that I could see where the trail was. By the time we hit the single track down hill I could barely see her but was still optimistic about my chances of catching her. So there I was, bombing the descent when my left contact started to fall out. I have 25/30 vision with astigmatism so contacts are kind of a crucial component of sight for me. I stopped once to try to fix it didn't work and about 5 minutes later my contact just kind of fell out into the woods. I decided to just ride a clean race and get down the mountain in one piece, so I calmed down and kept a good pace up, a bunch of guys passed me and I started to worry that the Devo girl would catch up to me again. Sure enough she caught up to me with 5 minutes to go and was breathing down my back. The only thing that saved me was that she had a difficult time and was literally walking around all of the tight switchback turns. Once I saw that I started going really fast into the turns, pivoting and then powering in the hopes that I could form a gap, this kind of worked until we hit the last little section which was just basically a long down, she bridged the gap and was right on my tail by the time we hit the final turn. The finish line was literally 20 yards away and we were even coming out of the turn (I had taken the outside line and she had managed to hit the inside line without falling) Needless to say I took one look at her and sprinted like a bat out of hell, just like in the tour de france  In the end I beat her by a wheel, a picture perfect finish to an awesome race.

Even though I had my eyes on first, I was really proud of second... if I did that race again there isn't a thing I would do differently except maybe not wear contacts!