Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keep Turning!

versatile - c.1600, from L. versatilis "turning, revolving, moving, capable of turning to varied subjects or tasks," from pp. stem of versare "keep turning, be engaged in something, turn over in the mind," frequentative of vertere "to turn" (see versus).

ver-sa-tile - capable of doing many things competently

Photo Credit: Blake Jorgenson - From the peak of Whistler to the bottom in under 20 minutes aboard my Kona Entourage

At a certain level, all elite athletes are specialists by trade.  Cyclists, for example...they tend to be quite talented at riding bicycles very swiftly and smoothly.  They are known by their friends and coworkers as "the biker" or "oh yeah, that skinny person who eats lots of rice cakes and wears the coordinated spandex outfit."  Generalizations aside, the sport of cycling is anything but specific.  Take mountain biking, for example.  What is unique about the sport of elite mountain biking, especially in recent years, is that it presents an opportunity for tremendous versatility, all within the specific realm of "cycling".  In fact, elite mountain biking almost demands that a marketable rider be capable of competing in different realms of "the dirt."

When I became interested in mountain biking in the late 90s, cross country was the ticket.  As I became fascinated with racing, the World Cup circuit was considered the pinnacle.  If one was to become a "professional" mountain biker, then they ought to be on a path towards the World Cup, otherwise be content with obscurity.

Regular cross country racing: i.e. back in July during the Mt. St. Anne World Cup, en route to finishing as top 50 in the World for a day...
Since I've started racing, I've been known as a "cross country" specialist.  From here on, I'd like to change that.  Today, one might argue that cross country racing is on the way out.  A less drastic view would say that it's certainly not the only show in town anymore.  Today, you can be a professional mountain biker with a focus on cross country, or marathon, or stage race, or enduro, or downhill, or slopestyle, or dirt jump, or...well, nevermind...and not to mention cyclocross!...

Now of course, in order to be the BEST at any one of these disciplines, one MUST specialize.  But we can't ALL be the best every time we line up to a start line.  Aside from working hard to win races, I would argue that in order to maintain a successful mountain bike career, it's important to be versatile.  I emphasize the word career. I mean...even the New York Times has been talking about the merits of versatility in the workplace since 1934!

Anyway, that's enough of a pompous buildup to my race report from the last two weekends.

During the weekend of the Olympic MTB race, I decided I should "turn a new leaf" so to speak, and head up to Whistler for Crankworx 2012.
video

My first enduro event.  I've got some things to learn, but I held my own and came away with a respectable top-15 finish in the Pro Men's division.  


Photo Credit: Blake Jorgenson - In the gondola house on the way to the summit.  Nice to be in a race once-in-awhile where the uphill sections are not timed
On the way up to the Whistler "Top of the World" trail with teammate and Enduro Specialist Matthew Slaven
Yes, it's my personal bike!  Getting the Entourage dialed.
Photo Credit: Colin Meagher - Earlier in the weekend, leading out the Fat Tire Crit, a fast-paced race through the Whistler Village in front of a rocking concert venue and big crowd
Photo Credit: Colin Meagher - ...with an awkward fly-over jump right before the finish line


 After Crankworx, it was time to get back to work in Seattle before flying off to Wisconsin to wrap up the Pro XCT series.  Lately, the Pro XCT has been touted as the "premier" cross country racing series in North America.  However, during 2012, attendance to the events was diluted by a combination of the Olympic qualification events and other equally interesting events back in the US country.  Mountain biking in the US is still leveling itself out after the influx of so many new options available to elite-level riders.  While all of us Long Team members ran around to the World Cups in Europe, the top riders remaining in the US were not all necessarily pursuing the same series or events.  Good to keep the action going in multiple venues...but sad to see what was once the most hotly contested race events become less of a scene.  

Regardless, the crew at WORS know how to put on a world class race!  The Subaru Cup was, indeed a healthy scene.  Most of the usual suspects were at the start line, including both Specialized's Todd Wells and Trek's Sam Schultz, hot off posting the best Olympic finishes EVER for a US rider!  Hats off to Todd and Sam.  You are both very inspiring.

Maybe I had too much enduro left in my brain from Crankworx, and after a lackluster start, I rode an aggressive race to finish in the top-10, beat an Olympian to the line in a sprint finish (note, Sam was tired from London), and come away 6th overall in the series.  Not a bad finish to a long, challenging XC season.  Along those lines, some of you consistent readers may have noticed that my name was not on the list for the US riders headed to the 2012 World Championships.  I've decided to pass on my opportunity to compete at the this year's World Championships.  It was a difficult decision to make, but I'll be back! Right now, it's all part of the plan.  After a full season of giving my all at the international scene, I've decided that a break from international competition is going to be the best approach for my long-term goals.  That is, I'm already thinking about Rio 2016...this time taking what I've learned in 2012, rebuilding some momentum through 2013, and starting a serious campaign well in advance!  It all starts now!  In the meantime...

Lucky Number 7, wrapping up the 2012 Pro XCT Series in 6th overall. (cyclingnews.com)  

From the slopes of Whistler to the ferns of Wisconsin (www.cyclingnews.com)




And after it all...back to Bellingham, WA for the 2012 Kona Dealer Launch!  Great to see everyone from the company and so many great dealers out enjoying the sun and the trails!
...and speaking of turning a new leaf...get ready...'cross season approaches
 
Thanks for reading.