FROM 2012 THROUGH 2015 YOU LANDED A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE, PLUS SEVERAL NATIONAL SERIES WINS AND PODIUMS. ENTERING 2016, YOU MUST’VE HAD BIG PLANS?
Living in SoCal my whole life, year-round racing is one of the things I always enjoyed. The winter downhill series at Fontana used to have a really fun scene, and it was always a good time hanging out with friends and with so many people from the industry at those winter races. Nothing else is going on in the sport that time of year, so it was a fun way to stay sharp and competitive.
In January of 2016, I went to the first of the six winter races at Fontana. Anyone who’s been there or seen videos of the place understands most of the DH tracks are pretty rocky at the top, but then have a ton of flat-ground pedaling to get to the finish line. Since it was so pedally, I’d been racing my 160-mm-travel bike with DH tires. For that first race, I also switched my shock from a Fox Float X to the Fox Float X2 air version on race morning.
Out of the gate, the track had a really rough section which I would power-wheelie over and let a huge rock at the end of it kick my back wheel up so I could air over the entire following rock garden. The X2 had a lot more compression than the shock I removed, and I didn’t expect the bike to handle differently in my race than it did in practice; but when pushing at race speed I guess it did. My rear wheel hit the rock to gap the following section as planned, but I got bucked forward at full-speed. I rode my front wheel for about 20 feet and was heading for a 5-foot drop on the course. In practice, everyone was hitting the brakes before that drop, so a big hole had developed. My front wheel fell into that hole with all of my weight on the front end, which then rebounded and launched me forward off the front of my bike and sent me free falling down to the bottom of the drop. It felt like I jumped off a diving board head first into an empty concrete swimming pool.
I hit my head hard and I was pretty rattled, but immediately knew something was wrong with my arm. Once I got off of the track, when I moved my elbow it was super painful and I could feel things grinding, popping, and just felt out of place, so I knew I blew something up.
At the hospital, the doctors said I had broken the radial head, which is the top of the forearm, and it impacted with the humerus bone in my arm so hard it split the radial head and broke chunks off of it. There were several pieces of bone floating inside my elbow they were going to leave in there. However, when I was eventually sent home from the hospital, I was instructed to keep moving my arm so it didn’t stiffen up and develop more scar tissue.