For Jill Kintner, 2010 has been all about doing something different. First, there was a new team. Then there was a new discipline of racing: downhill.
Kintner is a proven four cross and BMX racer. The American has won three four cross world titles and a bronze medal in BMX at the Olympic Games in 2008. However, the 28-year-old has been racing her bike since she was seven years old, and it was time for her to mix things up. At the start of the year, she joined Team Transitions and made a commitment to downhill racing.
"It's my first year racing downhill, and I've been doing a lot of it. I feel like I have accomplished something," she said to Cyclingnews after winning the US Downhill National Championships in Granby, Colorado, in the middle of July.
"I was up for a new challenge and am feeling pretty good," said Kintner. "It's good to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. I'm really enjoying it. I like the technical aspects of downhill and no one really runs into you. There is more variety in the downhill training. You're not limited to a BMX track. It's a great vibe and good people."
Kintner is taking a break from four cross training and racing. "I'm taking a full year's break from four cross this year. Doing full gate starts every day is not how I want to spend my time any more."
To make the switch between disciplines, Kintner has had to alter her training.
"You take more hits in downhill, but the main difference is that it's 3.5 minutes verses 30 seconds, so I get really tired. I've changed my training a lot to adapt."
Kintner's biggest challenge en route to becoming the new US downhill national champion was finding her way over the jumps on this year's course.
"I don't think any other women rode those jumps but Katie Holden, and she broke her wrist in practice. I was happy to accomplish those jumps. I felt like I won just by doing those before I even knew I won ... just by getting the courage to do them. It took me a long time to get the courage to do them, and I finally squeezed them out in the final run."
Kintner credited the injured Holden for encouraging her to do the jumps and dedicated her title-winning run to her.
"I got a little funny in the air over the first jump in my final run because I was tired, but on the big one at the end, I dabbed a little. It could haven't gotten ugly. Sure, there are go-arounds, but they are usually a second slower."
Kintner was especially happy that her national title qualified her for the World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada in early September. "Qualifying for worlds was my biggest goal. I stayed in North America all year so I could build up my expereince."
Her only World Cup appearance this year will be at the finals in Windham, New York, at the end of August.