Racing in his first year in the elite category, 22-year-old Cameron Dodge (Pure Energy Scott Mountain Bike Team) put in an impressive ride at the US Cross Country Mountain Bike Nationals last weekend to finish on the podium in fifth place. It was a break-through performance for the up and coming racer.
"It's been a bit different racing with the elites - the guys are stronger," said Dodge, who was third last year in the under 23 cross country race. "Obviously, the bigger guys are some heavy hitters, and the extra laps hurts. That sixth lap in the cross country race - I was pretty smoked!"
Elite racers tend to race one or sometimes two more laps on a typical course than the under 23s do.
Dodge lives in Hungtington Valley, Pennsylvania, a little over an hour from where the cross country nationals was held.
"I came up a couple of times to pre-ride the course, but I've raced here for years. It was definitely a home court advantage for me."
Dodge juggles working for his dad in general contracting with training. "I get home from work, eat some food, get a bit of rest and go out and train. I don't have a coach - I keep it pretty simple. I used to work for an electrical contractor last year, but I quit so I could race a little more. It's working out well."
He takes inspiration from other young riders who are about the same age, but also racing well with the elites. Dodge named Kerry Werner, who won the silver medal in the elite race and Russell Finsterwald, who was having a great race in the top three until he flatted.
Dodge plans to race next at both the Mont-Sainte-Anne and Windham World Cups during the first half of August. Last year, Dodge finished in the top 20 in the U23 race at Mont-Sainte-Anne, and he's hoping for another good performance or two at the North American World Cups.
"Then I'll take a little time off and get ready for 'cross. I did more 'cross last year and I'll probably do more again this year, but I like both 'cross and mountain biking" he said. Last season, Dodge won the UCI C2 'cross race in Highland Park, New Jersey.
His 'cross season will begin with the Nittany Cross, then it's onto 'Cross Vegas and Charm City. Racing his second year among the elites in 'cross, Dodge said, "I'll do lots of big races and do the best I can." Since last year, he's been accumulating UCI points that should help him with better start positions.