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Damon flying the stars and stripes

Auburn mountain biker surges to masters title in his first attempt
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Billy Damon doesn’t plan on utilizing the bragging rights that come along with a national title. He’ll let the slick stars and stripes jersey he rides while cruising down the mountain bike trails do the talking for him. Damon raced to the USA Cycling national championship in the Super-D last month in Sun Valley, Idaho. The mountain biker won the Masters (age 30-39) class and brought home the red, white and blue jersey to Auburn for his Bicycle Emporium team along with a medal and a 2012 Shimano derailleur that has not been released to the public. “The bragging rights are probably the biggest thing, but I’m not really that type of guy,” Damon said. “I’m still kind of in shock about it. I went there thinking I could do pretty well, but there were lots of fast dudes. It was my first time at nationals.” It’s been a relatively quick ascent to the top of the pedestal for Damon, 33. He started mountain biking seven years ago as a way to cross-train for motocross. But he found himself on his bike more and more and Damon began racing in 2007. Earlier this year, Damon landed a job as a mechanic at Bicycle Emporium and he joined the shop’s inaugural mountain bike team. Curtis Christensen started the team this year and said Damon was a welcome addition. “I’ve known Billy for about four years and he’s always been an exceptional rider,” Christensen said. “He doesn’t ride the bikes that most people are winning races on. He’s got a lot of skill and strength.” The Super-D races Damon excels at are a mix of cross country and downhill, testing endurance, technical skills and strength. Damon rode to victory on a Santa Cruz Nomad, a full-suspension bike with about six inches of travel. He gave up some ground on a demanding climb to start the national championship race, but he made it up by showcasing his skills and utilizing his bike’s suspension on the downhill portion. Damon clocked in at 21 minutes, 33 seconds to beat out second place Jon Freckleton, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., by 21 seconds. A move to Auburn early this year helped Damon hone his craft. He said regular rides at Mammoth Bar, following the lines of the motocross riders, paid off. It’s fitting, considering he got into mountain biking after reading about motocross legend Ricky Carmichael, who cross-trained on bikes. “It goes back to moto and Ricky Carmichael,” Damon said. “I was reading up on his training regimen and thought it sounded like a good idea. I never really went back to motocross.” Damon often hits the trails in Auburn before work on weekdays. “It’s a great way to start the day,” he said.” He steps up his regimen on weekends and sometimes even rides after eight-plus hours at the shop during the week. “He’s spent a lot of time on the bike, all while working a regular job like everyone else does,” Christensen said. “He’s able to really stay focused on what’s important – his diet, training and following a program that builds up to an event. He’s come a long way in six years and a lot of it is just determination, and loving it.” Damon tuned up for the national championships with a strong showing at the competitive Downieville Downhill in early July. He placed 13th in the pro division downhill race. Damon rode to Idaho in a car provided by Volz Bros. Automotive in Grass Valley with Bicycle Emporium teammate Stosh Bankston. The pair represented the team well. Bankston, from Nevada City, actually topped Damon’s time by one second, taking second place in the Masters (40-49) division. After competing on his own last season with solid results, Damon is hitting new peaks with the Auburn team. At age 33, a full-time professional career is a stretch, but that’s alright with Damon. “I don’t think it will ever be my only profession,” he said. “But mountain biking will definitely be a part of me the rest of my life.”