Something Old and Something New

Chequamegon 2013 Post Race

The Dakota Five-0

Mixing it up this year, I decided to make the trip out to Spearfish, SD on Labor Day weekend for the Dakota Five-0, a 50-mile endurance mtb race of mostly singletrack and no shortage of climbing.

The race was HARD. Not so much in the technical nature of the trails, but more in the length of the race. The leaders finished in 3:45, and I was about 15-mins back at 4:00 even at 15th place.

Dakota Five-0 2013

Making the trip out there was me Evie and our friend Ben and boy was it worth it. The few days leading up to the race we got out and rode the trails and they were some of the most fun singletrack I’ve ever ridden. Hilly, flowy, and fast!

The race kicked off with a 2-mile climb up this gravel road which forced a selection pretty quick. I was riding in the front group of 10-12 as we headed into the singletrack, right where I wanted to be.

When you’re racing in a local WORS race you know all the riders and everyone’s abilities. Traveling across the country to race you lose this capability. There were a few familiar faces in the likes of Nathan Guerra, Brian Eppen, and Trevor Olsen. A few guys stood out with prominent kits, but otherwise I was going in blind.

We spent the first 23-miles mostly climbing. I think I had something like 4500 feet after 1.5 hrs. The climbs were long and grinding, my kind of climbs. I put a dig in on Dakota Ridge, one of the harder and longer climbs on the course. I managed to drop the group I was with and then put more time in on the descent. I felt good at this point, but knowing there was still around 2.5-hrs left I knew I had to stay in control, keep fueling and manage my fitness as best I could.

I finished the last 3rd of the race by myself, knowing that everyone would be riding at their own pace by this point. As soon as I hit mike 36 I knew I was home free because the last 14 miles was mostly downhill.

Crossing the line felt amazing, and the after party of free beer and food for racers was even more awesome. Pretty satisfied in my finish for my first marathon style race and I’ll definitely be back again to ride the trails in Spearfish!

Chequamegon 40

The Cheq 40 is pretty much the cap to the mountain bike season and this was it’s 31st year running, needless to say there’s a ton of talent and history here.

After slating the D50 into the picture this would be my 10th weekend in a row of racing and traveling. Looking back, my only real weekend off of racing was before nationals in June. This season has had a lot of high points and I have a lot to be proud of, but I really wanted to cap things off with a top 25 in the Cheq 40.

Cheq 2013 Photo by Tom Kelly

The race started out pretty tame. A mass start roll out keeps things somewhat controlled and as long as you tuck and hide from the wind on the highway before Rosie’s you can conserve energy. I made sure to come around to the front just before Rosie;s and was in good position (although the left pro line was fenced off this year).

Once we hit Rosie’s field I knew things would start to break up so I made sure to stay on it through the descent. As we hit the first few Birkie rollers the front group of 20 or so riders opened up a gap and I settled in behind the riders in my group. I wasn’t going to burn any matches to chase this early in the race.

The rest of the race was pretty textbook. Conserving energy on the gravel roads, staying near the front of the group (but not on the front), and carrying your momentum through the corners to conserve energy and move up as needed were all things I made a conscious effort of doing.

The most defining point in the race is Fire Tower climb 3/4 of the way through the race. As we passed mile 28 I knew it was time to get to the front. Moving to the front at the right time just before Fire Tower allowed me to lead up the climb and ride my own pace without worrying about other riders. Once we crested the top and made the bombing descent down I looked back and our group was down to about 5 guys from 20, perfect.

In the last few miles it was myself, Dallas Fowler, and Justin Reinhardt. I rolled in just behind Dallas for 27th overall and I was more than satisfied as I raced a flawless race, doing what needed to be done, putting myself in the right place at the right time.

Sometimes you try and turn yourself inside out pushing as hard as you can early in the race until you begin to fade and hope you don’t fall to far back. This race was more about delivering a realistic result to cap off the season on a high note.

Now that I’ve finished Ore to Shore and Chequamegon in the top 30 and been inside the top 10 in WORS, I can feel more comfortable taking bigger risks in hopes for bigger rewards. Another result for the race resume, but more importantly a mental boost to carry through the off season.

Mountain Bike Nationals

Tuesday morning Joe and I headed down to Illinois to pickup my dad and start the trip out to Bear Creek Resort, PA. This will be the home of mountain bike nationals for the next 2 years. We made it to the course on Wednesday afternoon in time to get a couple of laps in.

I heard the course was technical so I was excited to see what we’d be racing on. The course was littered with bowling ball sized rocks, big enough that you had to pick your lines and work the bike through the obstacles.

Things started with a big climb which was pretty protected by tree cover as it was 100+ degrees and 90% humidity every day. There were some very technical rooty uphills and once you made it to the top the real technical part began, the descent.

The amateur course was about 6.5 miles (the pro course only ~3 mi). I chose to race my Trek Top Fuel and didn’t even do one lap on the hard tail. The descent was so physically demanding even with the full squish you had to do everything you could to focus on taking clean lines while going as fast as you could down the switchbacks with little or no brakes.

After the pre-ride I was pretty spent, a few crashed and couple dabs, I was ready for bed. We rolled over to the hotel in Reading and passed out.

Mtb Nats Short Track

Thursday was the Cat 1 short track. I did my warm-up and the legs felt good. There were only about 30 guys maybe in the short track race. Once the gun went off and we finished our first lap I filed in to a comfortable top ten spot and pretty much finished the race at my own pace, finishing 7th. I wasn’t 100% amped for the race and didn’t want to burn too many matches for Saturday’s XC.

Friday was a rest and relax day. My dad and I went over to the Martin Guitar factory which was pretty cool. I got in a short spin to keep the legs loose, ate dinner and went to bed, trying to focus on the progression of the race and running through the course in my mind.

Race Day!

The alarm went off at 5am and we grabbed our stuff and headed over to the course. Luckily the Cat 1 race was at 8am so it was only in the 90s, but still humid. It had rained the night before and made the first couple laps really sketchy.

I got called up 2nd to the line behind Tyler Jenema which was really cool. Racing was broken out into waves by age group so I was in the 25-29. As the gun went off I had a good start and slotted in 3rd into the single track. As we made our way up the climb we immediately ran into slower riders from the 19-23 wave. A few guys made a pass in a tight corner, I wasn’t able to squeeze in and had to run up the first technical climb.

I put in a dig to latch back on to the lead group, but knew it would be a 2+ hr race so backed off a little at the top of the climb. It was so humid everyone was already completely soaked and I could barely hold onto my grips.

I felt better on the descent than in the pre-ride. Some of the lines were worn in a bit more from races earlier in the week. It also helps when I break the course up into sections so I can focus on one section at a time during the race.

On lap 2 I was by myself and made sure to keep the pace hot, but ride within myself on the descent so as to not get too cross-eyed. There were tons of people on the side of the trail with flats and others who had crashes so I knew if I could stay on my bike and be smooth to conserve energy in the super technical spots I could hold my position.

Near the end of lap 2 a couple guys from my wave and the 30+ wave bridged up to me on gravel climb. I knew this was the last time up so I took a gel, had a sip of water and tried to hold on, but they were just a bit too fast for me so I continued to push my pace and keep things controlled through the last descent.

Here’s a video of the pro racers coming down one of the technical descents.

On my way down there were even more people on the side of the trail with flats. One guy asked if I had a 26” tube, figuring I’d be one of the only guys on a 26” bike I ripped it off from under my seat and tossed it to him. I think all I could let out was a deep sigh “uuhhhhh” as I kept pedaling past.

Coming into the final switchback descent I could hear another rider creeping up on me so I flipped my Fox CTD shock to full open (descend mode) and pushed it as hard as I could to keep the gap, making sure to stay extra light on the pedals to float over the rocks without flatting. I think he ended up crashing because after blasting through the final rock garden and coming out into the final 200m I looked back and didn’t see him behind me.

Rolling to the line I was completely spent. I knew I gave it everything, that was good for 5th place, a spot on the podium, and satisfaction all around. Capping off 6 months of training that began back in January out in Arizona I was super happy with the result.

Mtb Nationals 5th Place

Later in the day Joe raced in the pro race along with fellow WORS mates Tyler Gauthier and Justin Piontek. I helped out in the feedzone. It’s super nice to have two of us in different races because while I’m racing Joe does bottle hand ups for me and vice versa. He had a great race and got 21st.

It’s great when all the hard work early season comes together. We were both happy with our results, and exhausted. We left it all out there, and that’s all you can do.

Mountain Bike Nationals 2013 Cat 1

Subaru Cup ProXCT

Wow, July has been a whirlwind. WORS, Subaru Cup, peaking for Nationals. I’ve finally had time to wind down and think about the last few weeks. I’m guessing this will be a two-parter…

This season’s focus was around mountain bike nationals in mid July. Leading up to nat’s was the Subaru Cup ProXCT a great primer the week before nat’s.

Joe and I drove up to the course the Weds before to get in some hot laps and really get to know the course. Doing this earlier in the week was really helpful for two reasons. We had time the rest of the week to visualize the course, which spots to attack, which spots to rest. It also allowed us to ride at race pace without worrying about going too hard for too long if it were the day before.

Coming into the weekend the legs were feeling awesome I could tell I was peaking. I wasn’t 100% sure on the timing of the exact day of the peak, but when you’re training for 6 months leading up to a big block of races feeling good on race weekend is close enough. Mentally I was psyched and ready to go.

The course at Subaru Cup was pretty much the same as last year with 1 or 2 small alterations. When the gun went off we climbed a short, but steep climb into the first section of singletrack. I put in a solid dig and filed in for 2nd. As soon as we rolled the Bontrager boulder in the amphitheater I could see we and opened up a small gap on 3rd wheel.

During pre-ride, while it’s helpful to get a feel for the entire course, it’s that first section of single track that really counts. Knowing which line you are going to take off the line and how hard you need to pedal to be where you NEED to be is something I’ve really come to understand after this last month of racing.

The pace on lap 1 was really high. I could tell I was riding just outside myself, but new if I wanted to win I would have to hang with the leader as long as I could. After the first lap I began to lose contact and that was the last I saw of him.

On the start of lap 2 Trevor Olsen put a dig in on the climb that I went with, but I could tell I needed to slow the pace down if I wanted to hold my position. On lap 3 I was caught by Ben Jenkins and Tyler Jenema and felt my pace starting to slow a bit going into the last lap.

In the end I rolled in for 11th. Not the result I was hoping for, but I went as hard as I could to stay with the leader as long as I could so I was satisfied. After the race I talked with the winner, Dario Frederick. Turns out he’d won nat’s the past 4 years and runs the Whole Athlete/Specialized team. Super talented group of kids.

For short track on Sunday my legs felt pretty good, but a dropped chain multiple times kept me from the podium. All in all a super fun weekend good friends, good eats in town after the race, and lots of laughs.

It felt good to shake out the nerves. Next up the big one, mountain bike nationals in Bear Creek, PA.