Here we have yet another great insight from Yeti about the lives of their pro riders, and this time it’s from none other than Richie Rude, the newly crowned Junior World Champion…
RICHIE RUDE – JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPION
Coming into the 2013 season with the knowledge that the World Championships were being held at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, I was confident and ready to strive for the number one spot. The PMB track suits me well and I was excited to get back on the track for my last Worlds as a junior.
High speed, big jumps, and a few technical sections make the track relatively straightforward, but you have to carry speed well and be fit enough to be competitive on the pedal sections. I knew that the pedal section was going to be a big factor in the race. After being one of the stronger guys on the section last year, I was confident I could pull back time on the bottom two thirds of the track this year.
Leading up to Worlds, I had had one good race (out of the four World Cup rounds) and my confidence was down. I couldn’t figure out what I was missing this season with my racing, and refocused my attention on my last chance to snatch the junior rainbow stripes. It was definitely odd having not raced all year with the juniors at the World Cups, and I was nervous that I hadn’t been able to compare myself to them throughout the year.
When the USA team was announced, it all started to become reality that Worlds were only a week or so away. With Mount Sainte Anne over and only PMB in my sights, I tried to forget all of the poor performances that I had this year and focus on winning.
Through every trainer session, I thought of winning. I focused on the one race of the year where I could grab the number one spot…the only race in which I had no other choice. I wasn’t going to go to Worlds to get 2nd again. That vengeance within pushed me through all of the hours spent on the trainer or miles on the road. I pushed myself to my limits until the thought of the PMB pedal section became less and less of an intimidating obstacle.
I may not show much expression towards my confidence or excitement for things, but it was hard not to show it to my family, friends, and the Yeti crew for helping provide the support I needed. My Mom, probably one of the people who I give the most credit to for keeping me focused, helped me to stay motivated in the lead up to the race. Whenever I questioned things, she reminded me of all the hard work I have put in to be where I am today.
The week before heading to South Africa, Yeti flew me out to Colorado to spend some time at their new headquarters and freshen up a bit. Those few days in Colorado couldn’t have come at a better time. Shaun Hughes and I made some beneficial changes to the bike and decided to stick with the normal DH setup (aside from a minor Maxxis Minion modification). We also ended up going for a bigger Shimano Saint chainring, smaller Saint 185mm rotors, and a sweet 10-speed cassette that Shaun rigged up.
Without realizing it, riding Colorado dirt a few days prior to PMB made for a smooth transition onto the Worlds track and I felt comfortable right away in the first practice session. Throughout the week, I could not wait for Friday to come around. Before I knew it, it was Friday and I was getting some pre-race jitters knowing that the race winner would be decided that afternoon. Like a gift, my two best practice runs came the morning of the race. The course had taken a beating throughout the week and was looser than ever and full of dust with loose dirt over hard pack.
Throughout the day, I tried to keep the mood light and joke around with Shaun. The only thing that ran through my head before I set off was putting all of my hard work into my race run. As the final beeps counted me down, my mind zoned in on one thing, my performance. I remembered all of the work I had put into this one run. My head and body were in focus, only reacting to what was coming up in the course. One thing that stuck in my head was to land the third big tabletop jump and begin to lay down the horsepower as quickly as I could. I remember hearing the announcer saying a few words about me being ahead while I was on the final straight, and it gave me that extra bit of motivation to dig deeper and keep pushing. I crossed the line and had opened up a 6-second margin on the current leader. At that moment, I knew I had put in a good run as I had found 8-seconds on the track from Thursday’s qualifier.
I think it must have been the adrenaline and rage still going, but it didn’t immediately feel like I had won World Championships. The immediate congratulations and the hustle to the podium puts it into perspective. Standing atop that number one step was the biggest relief for me; I had completed the biggest goal of my junior career.
This win makes the entire season worth it. Having not done as well as I hoped all year and pulling off this win really made up for the depressing prior months. With this win ticked off in my book of accomplishments, I think it will help me stay focused and motivated for next season. The task of mixing in with the Elite men will be difficult, but it’s one that I’m ready for. I want to keep improving on what I know I can do. Being just outside the top-20 last year and then not being able to pull runs together this year will make me even more driven to lock myself into the top-20 for 2014. I have high hopes of cracking top tens like other first year elites that have come up through the junior ranks.
Throughout the season and into Worlds, bike setup was always at its best. I cannot thank all of my sponsors enough for supporting us as a team. Thank you everybody at Fox Racing Shox, Shimano, Renthal, Maxxis, DT Swiss, Stages power meters, Giro, One Industries, USA Cycling, and Smith Optics. Also, thank you to the supportive fans, and my loving friends and family back home! And, of course, I cannot forget about the entire Yeti Crew! Thanks for making my dream of wearing the Rainbows a reality.
2013 Junior World Champion