The University of Wyoming Mountain Bike Club returned to the national stage this fall with a top-10 finish by junior Kat Bush at the national championship race.
Bush, who is from Jackson, placed eighth in the women’s cross country race at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships, which took place Oct. 20-22 in Missoula, Montana.
The race was the just the seventh of her competitive career, as she decided at the end of summer 2016 to join the UW club team and give mountain bike racing a shot. She only found out she qualified for the national competition the week before.
“I’ve wanted to race,” Bush said. “It’s been in my blood, and I’ve really wanted to for a long time.”
Bush grew up in Telluride, Colorado, and remembers trying to keep up with her dad, Jeff, as they ascended the steep slopes surrounding the mountain town.
“I grew up biking with my Pops,” she said.
Her dad said he is an avid biker, and it was natural to introduce the sport to his daughter, whether on rides around the neighborhood or trips on local trails. He remembers taking his daughter on a six-day trip from Telluride to Moab, Utah, when she was 11 years old.
“She has always been a natural athlete, and she’s always been really natural on a bike,” he said.
Bush, who moved with her dad to Jackson in high school, said she competed in a variety of sports while growing up, but none since graduating and moving to Laramie to attend UW. In summer 2016, she saved up to buy a new bike and decided she would try racing.
As a competitive person, she was nervous heading into the season.
“I was shaking in my skin,” she said. “I had no idea what it was about.”
The UW Mountain Bike Club competes in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference, with athletes racing six times this fall in Colorado and New Mexico.
As the season progressed, Bush said, she began to gain confidence as she learned the routine and honed her strategy. At the national race, she didn’t know how she would fare, but her goal was to represent her team well.
“I didn’t know how I would end up,” she said.
Cross-country races are part of the endurance arena in the mountain bike world. Cyclists compete on singletrack trails in races that last at least an hour. Courses feature long climbing stretches followed by long downhill stretches.
Bush, who is majoring in international relations and Spanish, also qualified for nationals in the short-track race but didn’t compete because of a scheduling problem.
She said she loves the positive energy she’s found in the bike culture.
“Everybody wants to help everybody,” she said.
She’s hoping to race her road bike this spring, stay in shape over the summer and come back next fall with even better fitness.
“My goal is to place better next year at nationals — try to work my way up there, try to compete with the bigger and better girls,” she said.
Jeff said he’s enjoyed watching his daughter have fun and find success in the biking world.
“I get goosebumps that she’s doing some riding on her own because it’s a beautiful sport,” he said.