All the major elements came together on Saturday for a fairly solid day on the race course. The gun went off for the elite men at 2:00pm. Starting 100th out of 102 starters was hectic, but nothing beyond expected. By the end of the first lap I had moved up into the high fifties, or so I was told by people counting riders going by. It had been almost two years since I had competed in an international event, and even with several big domestic races under my belt this year, World Cup level is still different. There is such a higher percentage of high caliber riders at the start line of a World Cup, you can't ever give an inch.
In the US, it's common to spend a large percentage of an off-road race in no-man's land, whether you are out front or tailing from behind. In a World Cup, you are almost always surrounded by riders, always a chance to pass or be passed. Starting in the back puts you at a disadvantage from the start, as the riders up front (who are already the fastest) have a clear track in front of them, whereas the riders in back experience the cattle-herd effect once the course enters the first section of trail. I lost 2.5 minutes on the first lap, almost half of which was spent standing or walking my bike through a clogged section of the course. It all opened up by the second lap, and I focused on moving up as far as I could. My goal was to finish top 50 on the leaders lap, and at least as the seventh American to prove my position as one of the elite team members for Worlds. Several riders experienced flat-tire misfortune on the first lap, including Amerians Adam Craig and Todd Wells. Going into the fifth of six laps I was the fifth American, somewhere near the high 40s. I felt strong and consistent until the last lap, about 2min slower per lap than the leaders. It was enough to finish definitively on the leaders lap, but I started to experience strong leg cramps on the last time up the climb and was an extra two minutes slower. ouch! With World's in mind the next weekend, I did not want to induce any unnecessary leg damage. Carl Decker caught me at the very top and I followed him in through the finish. 54th on the day. I'd give the day a B+. I'm not sure what I could have done to avoid the leg cramping, but I think a finish closer to the top-40 would have been more satisfying. Regardless, I have never finished on the leaders lap in a World Cup. I've always been lapped before finishing, so at least now I have a home-base performance margin.
More pictures to come. Today was the first practice day up at Mt. St. Anne. It felt great to pull on the USA kit for the first time. Kept things extra entertaining with a severely taco'd front wheel - result of avoiding a rider who fell right in front of me on a steep descent (pic to come). Opening ceremonies tonight, and a week of practice before the big race on Saturday. Looks like rain is coming.
Best friends ever! There was a huge crew that came out to cheer on Saturday's race. l-r Sage, Lizzy, Will H, Will C, me, Joe, Scott, Caitlin, Emmy/Dooky. Thanks everyone! My dad and Will C's parents were also at the race. Will C's parents cooked up a delicious feast after the race, served tail-gate style.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Arrived late Wednesday night in Albany, NY. This is the longest break I've taken from working at Ridgeline (www.ridgelineenergy.com) since I started two years ago, but thanks to the amazing support and encouragement from my supervisors and colleagues (and doing my best to finish up any loose ends before leaving), it is a well-timed and welcome break.
August 28th - World Cup Series Finals, Windham, NY
September 4th, World Championships, Mt. St. Anne, QC (the big one)
I'm on site for the first race of the trip, the World Cup Series Finals in Windham, NY. It's the first time a World Cup has been in the US since Angel Fire, NM in 2005. The elite men XC is on Saturday. I'm starting #100 out of 124 riders. The climbs should favor passing, but it will be a challenge. For the last two years this race has been part of the US Cup series, so the course is familiar.
The Windham race will be good prep for World Championships in Mt. St. Anne the following weekend. It's been over a year since I've competed in an international event, so having a chance to experience the intensity of a World Cup before racing in the big one will be good. I got the long plane flight out of my legs today with a spin on the road, and am looking forward to testing out the course tomorrow. The dirt should be tacky and fast. The Kona 120 is all ready to go, and recently perked up with a new set of wheels from Stans NoTubes. Thank you Stans!! (www.notubes.com). They feel very fast. For those who care, Stan's products are the industry standard for tubeless tire technology, not to mention a great product for the privateer racer. I don't have to worry anymore about finding an air compressor to get my tires seated. That's nice when you don't travel with the perks of a factory team.
This shot is from last weekend which I spent with the whole family up on Lopez Island, WA. The last family photo I posted was almost complete, but this time my brother Adam was able to fly out from Boston and we got him out on the bike, too! It's rare and special when all six of us can be in the same place. A great weekend of r&r before the big trip.
More to come....thanks for reading.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Worlds???!!! This time last year the whole idea seemed kind of improbable. Even until May of this year, it still seemed like a long shot. But now it's real. The full time job, a full National racing calendar, and now Worlds is happening. Erik says it was the 6hrs of Skibowl Race where he noticed a turning point. After that weekend at Mt. Hood, I felt a hint of real possibility after getting 14th at the Pro XCT in Wisconsin, but the first real sign for me was the Pro XCT Finals in Colorado Springs where I finally got my first top-10 in the XC, 9th overall on the weekend, and sealed 8th overall in the series. Nationals the following weekend returned to Sol Vista, and instead of feeling intimidated by the pressure to improve on last year's performance, I felt calm and focused. I feel best at the big races. Somehow the big pressure has a fortifying effect. By the time I had moved into 7th on the last lap, I felt like I was floating. I was racing smart, and I could feel all of the lessons I've learned from Erik over the years playing out, all the motivation from being part of such a great squad of people on the S&M crew, all of the support that has helped to make it what it is. It felt great to finish so far up wearing the Orange and Blue. Erik came in behind me in 16th despite his lingering broken ribs, and the one-and-only Sean Babcock pulled off an impressive 19th. Pretty damn good for a guy in his "off season".
Since Nationals, everything has felt in a slightly new realm. I have that feeling of satisfaction but without the complacency that often comes with the notion of "I made it". Finishing 7th at Nationals, and subsequently being selected to the National Team for World Championships, has kicked me into a new gear. If anything, setting my sites higher from this point is more humbling than anything. I have nowhere NEAR "made it." I've just been kick-started into a new phase. I'll try to be better about posting the events of the next few weeks. I'm heading out to New York on the 25th for World Cup Finals in Windham, NY, and after that, up to Mt. St. Anne for Worlds. I'll be sure to put in a good one for all of us full-time jobbers and privateer bike racers.
In other news, this last weekend the Paxson family did an amazing ride in the Gorge with my family. It was a monster 100 miles and 10,000' of climbing as part of a Northwest Sarcoma Foundation fundraiser. My mom, a sarcoma survivor, did the whole thing in amazing form, and I'll never forget cresting the top of 7-mile hill with her next to me at the 85-mile mark. My dad Fred, sister Emily, and brother Michael also did the big ride. Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause.