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Tam Students Compete in Mountain Bike Nationals

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Tam Students Compete in Mountain Bike Nationals

Sophomore Clayton Puckett racing Super D

Sophomore Clayton Puckett racing Super D

Sophomore Clayton Puckett racing Super D

Sophomore Clayton Puckett racing Super D


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Sophomore Clayton Puckett and fellow mountain biker Skyler Taylor, who rode for Tam from 2009 to 2012, raced to impressive finishes at the National Cycling Championships in Pennsylvania this summer. Puckett earned third place in the Junior 15-16 Super D race (a mixture of cross country and downhill) and ninth in his cross country race, while Taylor placed fifth in the Junior 17-18 Cross Country race. Both riders race with the Bear Development Team, a competitive mountain biking team based out of Santa Cruz.

Sophomore Clayton Puckett racing Super D

Sophomore Clayton Puckett racing Super D

The National Cycling Championship is a four-day event that attracts over 1,000 riders of all ages to compete in Cross Country, Short Track Cross Country or Super D races. This year, the event took place July 18-21 in Eastern Pennsylvania at the Bear Creek Resort, the first time since 2008 that the race was held on the East Coast. “The terrain over there is completely different. It was much rockier and rooty-er, not dry or loamy like here,” Puckett said. Puckett and Taylor both competed in the Cross Country event, which is described by USA Cycling, the race organizers, as a “mass start competition held on a circuit course with forest roads, single track, or field trails and unpaved dirt or gravel roads.” Additionally, Puckett competed in the Super D Event, which he described as an individual start time trial as well as “a downhill race mixed in with a little bit of climbing…”

Puckett and Taylor both raced in the Cat 1 category, which is one level below professional. “Right before Nationals, I [upgraded] to Cat 1,” Puckett said. “I had to send in race results and give a proposal to upgrade, which [USA Cycling] approved.”

Puckett said the most exhilarating part of his experience was the cross country race. “Right around halfway through [the race] I was feeling good…I started dead last, out of 26 riders. I thought I might have passed about 15 of them. The last lap I could tell I was closing in, I ended up passing two or three more riders, which is rare. The uphill sections were really technical. People were jumping off their bikes and running. It was chaotic.”

Skyler Taylor and Clayton Puckett preparing for their race

Skyler Taylor and Clayton Puckett preparing for their race

Taylor’s fifth place in the Men’s Junior 17- 18 Cross Country was his third Nationals race; he first raced it when he was 13, and has been progressively more successful each time. “I think the course was the most exciting [part of] this year. It’s interesting because… all the courses here [in California] are relatively tame… they’re more fitness oriented. [The technical terrain] made racing challenging and was overall just a really cool experience.”

In addition to participating in Nationals, Taylor also raced in two of the three World Cup events, this summer one in Germany and one in the Czech Republic. Of the World Cup, Taylor said, “The terrain is different and they just make the courses unbelievably technical. They’re very short so they’re spectator friendly…[The courses] are really demanding and the amount of people in the race made it hectic. I had a lot of fun, the racing was really awesome, although slightly frustrating at points.”

Taylor placed 64 out of over 100 contestants in Germany and 47th out of over 100 in the Czech Republic against the best Junior riders in the world.
Puckett said on racing at Nationals, “It was the most competitive race I’ve raced, and I, along with my team [Bear Development], coaches and parents, were super stoked to have results like I did,” he said. “It was also huge to have family and the team there for support and guidance.”

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Tam Students Compete in Mountain Bike Nationals