Monday, November 8, 2010

That's a Wrap!

Thursday Nov 4th 2010
Pre-rode the entire course. Legs feel good. Course is super dialed. Bike is dialed.

Friday Nov 5th 2010
Rode from Williamsburg to the finish. 2 inches of snow overnight has me thinking the course is going to get sketchy.

Saturday Nov 6th 2010
8AM – Slept well. The cabin in Grayling is relaxing. Wolfed down 3 huge whole wheat pancakes. Dan O’Dea makes the best pancakes.
11AM-One more pancake down the hatch. Drinking water like a fish. The nerves are building. We sit in the cabin waiting in anticipation. Got a phone call from some of the early finishers. Course sounds like it’s holding up.
12:30PM- We leave in route to the start. I’m totally focused. Everything has been planned and rehearsed. I feel relaxed yet excited. I hop on the bike for a 30min warm-up. Course seems fine. 2:30PM- I line up at the start and get called up to the front. It’s a huge moment for me to stand there on the front line with the superstars of Mountain Biking in the United States. The only guy we’re missing is Lance Armstrong. Lots of hard work and sacrifice to get here. I feel proud.
2:31PM- The countdown starts. My heart is pumping, my legs are primed. 5-4-3-2-1 I rip off the start line. I know taking the hole shot isn’t the best idea, but I do it anyways. I couldn’t stop my body. I may never have the opportunity again. It seems fitting someone from Michigan leads it out.
2:35PM-It’s a full out scrum as we hit the dirt. Bikes and bodies everywhere. It’s fast, really fast, but my legs are doing it. I stand on the pedals and I move up thru the carnage.
2:50PM-We hit Tornado Alley. I’m the first one in and I lead the train thru the twisty singletrack. My course recon is paying off.
3PM- We hit the next section of singletrack. I’m still on the front. I let up and let Tristan go by. The course has turned into total peanut butter. We’re sliding everywhere. He pushes the pace hard and I focus intensely to stay with him. A couple more guys get around me including Todd Wells, Jeremiah Bishop, and Sam Schultz, but I emerge with the group as we head back onto the two track.
3:15PM- I’m totally stoked at this point. Everything is going to plan. I make the front group and I can take a break and sit on as we navigate down Sand Lake Road.
3:16PM-I go from totally stoked to a fit of rage as I drop my chain. I’m in full on panic mode as I try to un-wedge the chain from the crank. I finally get it out, but the chain is skipping from all the mud packed into the cassette. I try my best, but I’m totally deflated as I limp along doing my best to try and take spots back.
3:30PM- I arrive at the Williamsburg Road crossing. The drivetrain is so packed up, I can’t find a gear that works. People pass me in groups of 5. I stand on the trail with Mitch and my in-laws ready to throw in the towel. Mitch already knew it was over when she saw the front group fly by without me, but I don’t think she had the heart to tell everyone else. Dan begins pushing the bike. I can tell my family is bummed and I can barely look at them in the eye. I decide I need to try and finish anyways. I grab cup after cup of water at the aid station and rinse the drivetrain clean. I think I pulled an entire pine cone out of the cassette. The bike works now and I’m off. All the 100 milers have honed my trail side engineering skills.
4PM- I’m moving thru the field. I don’t know why I’m even trying at this point, but it’s fun and I continue to crank away on the pedals.
4:10PM- I roll up on some riding buddies. First it’s Dan K, Chris Peariso, then Scott Stewart, my old time home boy from Oxford. We’re having fun. I take it up a notch and attack him. Elbows start flying, bars are banging. We come into the final shoot. The crowd is screaming like we’re racing for the win. I open up my sprint and we decide to give them a show. Scott tries to come around the inside. I feel his handlebar touch my leg and I know we’re in trouble. Bam! We go down. I get up instantly and run for the finish line. Scott’s sprinting. It’s close. I cross the line and realize I’ve been struck in the groin with my seat in the crash. I’m in extreme pain as I go to the ground with my family watching in agony. What the hell am I doing? Why do I do this to myself? The hours, the sacrifice, it all seems like such a waste at this moment. This kinda shit happens all too often. But I love the sport. I love everything about it. The dream never dies, not even in a dodgy sprint for 28th and you find yourself rolling on the ground covered in mud and your own bike kicks you in the nutz. That’s how much I love this sport.
4:30PM- The pain in my groin subsides. I don’t need to go to the hospital, I’m fine. I clean up and work my way over to the Kuhnhen beer tent.
4:50PM- My good buddy Don pours me an 8% IPA. A couple of these bad boys and I’m challenging Rob Selle to a squat off and other random human feats of strength.
5:00PM- I’m dropping love bombs on everyone and speaking to my buddy Adam in a British accent.
8:00PM- We show up at the bar. It’s within walking distance to our hotel. Is this good or bad? Dang we’re here early.
9:00PM- Deep conversation with Randy Laprarie about being cold and hungry. I tell Danny Klein I love him.
10:00PM- We’re organizing a ride for tomorrow morning. This isn’t gonna happen in a million years.
1:00PM- I run into Brent Bookwalter in the bathroom. I squat him 10 times. We take our shirts off and flex in the mirror. That’s the last thing I recall.

It’s been a great season. I feel so fortunate to even be able to compete in this sport at this level. Thanks goes to all my sponsors, Notubes, Trek, and SRAM, and to all the people that helped and inspired. Congrats to Brian Matter for stealing the show. He is hands down the man to watch at these races. I’ll take a short break now, and begin my preparation for spring 2011. Thanks for reading, and keep the rubber side down over the winter!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Almost Time!

Iceman is just around the corner, then the 2010 season will officially be wrapped. Managed to keep the legs turning over through October by getting out to two great events in Northern Michigan for a couple race tune ups, the Crybaby Classic, and the Peak to Peak. If you didn't get a chance to partake in these two events this year, you really missed out.

The Cybaby is a super fast course with enough climbing to well... make you cry. These guys did a great job with this event this year, as well as putting together a killer course. Mike Anderson throttled it super hard on the Crybaby climb, and that's all it took. That saw me seeing stars and almost rolling backwards while trying to recover from the all out V02max effort. I'd eventually work my way back to 3rd by the end, but it was after a hard effort on the last lap to get ahead of Chad Wells and Cameron Walters. Great event. We had an awesome time.

Two weekends later, we were back up North to take on the Peak to Peak. I'd won it the past two years, so needless to say I had a target on my back. The first lap went well... until we reached the equalizer climb at the end of the lap. This climb just to seems to grind on and on. You turn one corner thinking you're almost to the top, only to turn another corner staring at another pitch. I attacked at the bottom, which proved to be a mistake as it left me struggling on the upper slopes. It was the mighty Manderson again who managed to pop me before the top with a strong Derek Graham in tow. I battled with Chad Wells the rest of the race and managed to get away after Chad bobbled a tricky little corner to finish on the short box. Another wonderful event put on by Endoman Promotions which seems to get better and better each year. The weather was awesome, the course was dialed, and competition was hot!

Two races under my belt and a few more tune-ups should see me in good shape to take on the season finale. There's no doubt Manderson and Graham will both be going strong, as well as the other dozen top gun pro's coming from all around the country including both the past US Olympic MTB athletes. The start line will be loaded with talent. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Chequamegon 2010

Sorry for the late post. This past weekend was round two of the Midwest Tripple Crown, the Chequamegon. Every year I seem to do great in round one at Ore to Shore, and every year I show up in Hayward WI with hopes of pulling off something special at Chequamegon. This year was more or less the same.

The Chequamegon is a difficult race. Not only are the constant up and down hills relentless, but you’ve also got to be quite a crafty bike rider. Knowledge and understanding of the course and the flow of the lead pack are crucial… especially at the start. Unfortunately, this is where I made my mistake. The pack of 1500 amateurs rolls down HWY 71 at warp speeds with the aid of a draft from a 4 wheeler. This year there was a tailwind which aided the speeds.

A lot of things go through my mind during this frantic scrum. Is someone going to bite it right in front of me doing 40mph? Will I be hurled to the pavement as a wheel crosses up with mine? Will I die? Will I break my neck? How bad will my road rash be? How much repair will my bike need after 1500 people roll over it? All these things roam around in my head as I attempt to risk life and limb to be in the top ten as we hit Rosies Field. One must ask themselves… is it really worth it? Apparently I didn’t think so this year as I let 200 people beat me to Rosies Field.

I had good legs though. I felt strong. I immediately went to work and started passing people. I came within 10s of the lead group, but just couldn’t seem to close the gap down. I was frustrated and wanted to quit right as we crossed HWY 00 at mile 15. I knew I wouldn’t be racing for the win. I quickly slowed up and formed a chase group. We worked together pretty well. The course was wet and you had to be careful to get around the mud puddles. My motivation was pretty low and I didn’t really feel like racing anymore.

However, people out on the course would periodically shout out our positions. I heard 19th, then I heard 15th, then I heard 13th. I started getting excited again at a shot for the top 10. Sure enough we picked up a few stragglers and the stage was set for a top 10 finish. I attacked as hard as I could coming into the last XC ski trail. I looked back and I instantly had a gap. I was lucky enough to even pick off Marko, and Chris Peariso right near the line. I apologize for that. I rolled in 9th, my best Cheq 40 finish ever. Even better was Michigan’s own Mike Anderson who ended up 4th. He also coincidentally traveled to the race with us. Last time I teach a young kid the tricks of the trade J No worries though, I’m proud of him. He deserved it.

Now I’m more motivated than ever to get out there and make one more push to November, then the season will officially be over. Beer and football, here I come… but first I have to get through Iceman! I can’t wait. It’s going to be a blast!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Shenandoah 100 NUE Series Final

Wow… it’s hard to believe it’s September already and the final NUE 100 miler is in the books. I started training for the season in December, and it’s been going full on for 9 months… and still going. The Shenandoah 100 brought out some tough competition as well as a tough course. The weather was picture perfect and Chris Scott did an amazing job preparing the event.
I knew I had 3rd place wrapped up in the series, so my goal for this race was to have a solid finish with no mechanicals or crashes, and I almost pulled it off. I barely made the start, well actually I didn’t, but managed to jump into the group right as they crossed the iron bridge. Whoops! 6:30AM start!? We made our way up the first climb and I was sitting 4th wheel and feeling good.

Then, as we hit the steep section of the climb, Christian Tanguy was pushing the pace a little too hard for my liking as he eventually went on to win the race. Congrats to Christian, he was having an amazing day. There always seems to be a moment in a race where you make a decision about how bad you want to stay with the front group. I can’t say I didn’t want to be there, because I did, but there just felt like some sort of disconnect between my brain and my legs. I just flat out couldn’t push myself deep into the pain cave this time and I watched the leaders ride away.
I still kept it steady and was riding within myself. I joined up with a group including Tim Dickey, Chris Eatough, and Sven Neilson. We made our way up the 2nd steep singletrack climb. I was chugging right along, then snap! The chain unraveled and fell to the ground. It really took the wind out of my sails. I almost felt like pulling the plug, but Chris Eatough gave me his powerlink and encouraged me to continue. Thanks Chris! It was a pretty quick fix, but by the time I had it fixed, over 50 racers had passed me. I got to work and did the best I could to work my way through the conga line up the rest of the singletrack climb.

The descent off the mountain was pretty rough, and with the sun in our eyes, it was hard to see the trail. I must have passed 10 guys fixing flats and what not. All the downhills on the course were really rough this year, and it was really taking its toll on me. I opted for the hardtail this time, but wishing I had the full sus. I wanted to push harder on the descents, but I felt paranoid about a bad crash, or another mechanical, so I just kept gingerly picking my way down the hills.
The rest of the race, I would sort of leap frog from one group to the next. I’d push hard on the roads and the climbs, and then take it easy on the descents to make sure my bike and I would finish. Before I knew it, I was sitting in 8th just as I crested the soul crusher climb at around mile 75. I’d continue to keep the tempo up the final climb and roll in for 8th overall. Not too shabby. Barring the chain issue, it was a good performance considering where I’m at in the season. I’m glad the 100 milers are over! One more and I’m not sure my body could take it. Making the drive home to Michigan after a 100 mile race and the podium presentation is a true test of metal to one’s ability to endure great pain and suffering. We didn’t get home till 6AM! Ouch! A 26hr day.

Overall, I finished 3rd in the NUE points series which is one spot better than last year! Woohoo! I couldn’t have done it without all the great support from my sponsors Trek29, Notubes, and SRAM, and most importantly of all, my wife Mitch, who takes the brunt of a lot of the behind the scenes work. Next up is the queen of all road trips… Chequamegon. Wisconson seems so close, but yet it’s so far away. Time to rest up and rally for the push to the end of the season in November. See you out there!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fool's Gold Mud-hundred

This weekends mission took us deep into the Appalachian mountains of Northern Georgia to a town called Dahlonega for the Fool’s Gold 100. It’s two 50 mile laps of fire roads and technical singletrack with lots of climbing. Rain during the night meant the trails were gonna be a muddy mess, and there was more rain in the forecast. I was kind of relieved it was going to rain, because I’d rather deal with rain than super warm and humid temps. It’s just that 4” of rain was probably a little much. I decided to ride the hardtail setup 1x10, which I think was a good decision. Other than completely toasting my brake pads, I didn’t have one mechanical issue, not even a missed shift, which is quite miraculous given my reputation of completely destroying mountain bikes.

The start of the race quickly made its way up the long fire road grind with Schalk driving the pace. I never really felt like I got into the race. I let Schalk ride away without too much of a fight. I guess I just knew it was going to be a hard day and I really just needed to focus on finishing in a solid 3rd for the NUE points series. After Schalk and Tanguy rode away, I hooked up with Harlen Price and Gerry Pflug. They drove the pace until we hit aid #1. Both of them stopped. I pushed on down the descent and shortly after Robert Marion came ripping by. I stayed with him until we hit a little tricky section of uphill singletrack we both had to run. I put some distance into him and I was feeling good. Shortly after, Harlen Price caught me, and I was content to try and ride with him and put distance on the others.

“Hey Harlen, was that aid 2?” We rolled by a blue tent, but there was nobody there. He said, “I don’t know, but we’re at mile 20 and it makes sense.” I immediately turned around and rode back up the trail to the tent. Riders had a confused look on their faces as they passed me going backwards up the trail. At the blue tent I met a volunteer with a garbage bag of bottles. I ripped through the bag, but I couldn’t find my number. I asked him where the others were at. He said, ”they’re in a truck about ½ mile down that road.” I quickly grabbed my bike and pursued the truck. I climbed into the bed of the truck and riffled through the tubs. I found my bag and I was on my way.

Once back on the course, I began to pick riders off one by one. First it was Ernesto and my home boy Dan K. Then David Wood came back to me, and finally Robert Marion. I had clawed my way back into 4th overall. At this point, it was just a battle of survival. The rain was coming down in buckets, the river crossings were knee deep, and the trails had turned into small creeks of running water. My brake pads were down to the metal and they screeched on each descent. Each time I took a drink out of my water bottle, I’d get mouth full of the grittiest dirt you can imagine. It was in my teeth, my eyes, my shorts, and my shoes. I managed to re-focused and when we hit an uphill section of singletrack, I was able to gap Robert. I continued to push on alone. The course was hard and I was beginning to feel it. Slogging through the mud just saps the energy right out of you.

I passed aid #4 with 10 miles to go and I was beginning to think the promoter was going to have to call the race at the lap. With this thought in mind, I made sure to keep the wheels turning to stay in front of the chasers. More singletrack and what seemed like an endless amount of climbing saw me at mile 50 where to my delight, the promoter said I was finished. Those last 10 miles of trail where some of the most treacherous moments in my career as a MTB’er as I went careening down the mountain with no brake pads. It was the right call to end the race. I ended up 3rd in the geared mens class, which meant I took back 3rd place in the NUE points series! I was very happy about that and it made the whole trip worth the effort regardless of the epic conditions.

Now I’ll take this next weekend off and prepare for the final NUE showdown at Shenandoah. Let’s pray for a dry course!

Monday, August 16, 2010


August in Marquette, does it get any better? I’ve won this race 3 years in a row in 06, 07, and 08, so I knew I was going to be a marked man. As I was going through the list of pre-registered riders, I pulled out about 10 names I thought had a shot at the win. It was going to be a tough race. I decided to go with the hard tail Superfly set up rigid. It was 17.5 lbs of solid. Mitch and I arrived on Thursday afternoon just in time to pre-ride the first 30 miles of the course. There were a couple surprises and I was glad I got a chance to preview them. Friday I was able to ride the last 18 miles with Jason Lummis and I was ready.
Start: The start was a bit fast and hectic. I found myself buried about 100 deep going into the railroad bed. I found a little line on the grass and quickly throttled myself to the front before we hit the Loge hill. I had a little chain issue at the base of the climb and I lost about 10 spots. It turned out to not be that big of deal although the chain problem hit me a couple times later in the race.

Sand Sector: I went to the front most of the way through the sandy two track. I didn’t want to get into trouble if someone stacked it up in a corner. Better safe than sorry.

Water Crossings: As we navigated through the two track, we rolled up onto the creek crossing. Normally this is no big deal, but this year it was deep, like swallow your whole bike deep. I knew the pallet bridge was to the right and made sure I was the first one to cross. I think we dropped a couple riders off the back there. Shortly after we hit a series of long deep mud puddles. DG drove it hard through the hub deep water, but all 8 of us made it through.

Power line Sector 1: Nathan Guerra was the first into the steep rocky pitch with me right on his heels. He and I drove the pace at the front. I was breathing hard to keep up. I knew there was a tricky little pitch in the middle, so I made sure I was the first to get to it. The line to the left was solid and I cleaned it without bobbling. We pushed on, and a group of 8 of us emerged. Me, Schouten, Matter, Lalonde, Guerra, Tanguy, TJ, and Graham.

Power line Sector 2: Things calmed down for a minute before we hit the next decisive section of the course. Nathan drove the pace up the sandy pitches and continued to push it through the lumpy mud holes, but we all stayed together.

Power line Sector 3: This includes Misery Hill, a tough loose rocky run up. I made sure to be the first to get to the base. Nathan flew around me and actually rode up a short portion at the bottom before realizing he would have to hike. Tristan Schouten quickly put his cross skills to work and had me gasping to keep pace with him. As we crested the top, we re-mounted and I put in a little attack of my own. We gapped Tanguy and Graham, and I wanted to keep the pressure on. It was all for not though as they eventually bridged back up.

Road Sector: I wasn’t sure how to handle this section. Someone has to work, but it’s beneficial to just sit on. If you’re not careful, people who mechanical’d or were dropped on Misery Hill, can bridge back up. It’s downhill to the finish and each person that latches back on will have to be dealt with in a finish line showdown. I tried a little attack, but it was quickly countered. It was more of an effort to just try and lift the pace. Tanguy took over after we crossed the bridge and did a nice job of keeping the pace up over hilly rollers.

Run into the finish: Once we get back onto the trail, it’s all downhill to the finish. I tried a little attack heading into the trail and I pushed the pace hoping someone would make a mistake. No dice, everyone was solid. Things sort of calmed down for a while once the trail leveled out and we just ran tempo. With about 10 miles to go, we hit a series of downhill pitches. I led the pace down each one and just kept hoping I could get a gap. Finally with about 8 miles to go, I snuck off the front and opened up a scant 5 second gap. I laid it on the line and went like gang busters, but I could see the group not far back. I ripped down the big sandy hill and crested Wood Chip Hill holding onto my gap. I thought I had it! My whole body was struggling. I was going flat out with everything I had, but it wasn’t enough. Just as we went under the bridge in the closing miles, they caught me. One more quick attack from TJ to shuffle the bunch, and it was going to come down to a sprint.

Sprint: As we hit the pavement, Nathan surged and TJ was glued to his wheel. I rallied with everything I had. Tristan got around me and Nathan going into the corner just as TJ got to the front and began opening up his sprint. I charged around the corner and hit the sketchy dirt. I almost clipped a hay bail! Out of the corner of my eye, I saw TJ raise his arms and I knew he had it. Tristan flew in for second. One more little push and I got around Nathan for third. Dang, that was a close one!
I was happy and it was a good performance. I had really good legs, perhaps too good, but to take third in such a close finish in this field was considered good luck in my book. Congrats to TJ as he moves on as the anointed one for the Triple Crown. After the race, Mitch and I went straight to the beach for a soak in Lake Superior. The weather was beautiful. Soon after we headed over to Presque Isle and jumped off the cliffs! It was good weekend.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tripple Crown Time

After a little tune-up at PLRA this past weekend, it's time for the underground war for the Midwest Tripple Crown to begin. Read Brian Matter's write up on the history here

Monday, August 2, 2010

NUE Stop #5 Wilderness 101

I rode strong for the first 50 miles. I was feeling good and and I could tell my form had improved since the last NUE race. I hung tough on the first couple climbs and even managed to muster out a couple of attacks. The course was dry and fast, and the weather was awesome! A huge group formed and didn't whittle down till after aid #1 where I put in a good little effort on the climb.

Shortly after aid station #2, the road turns up for the hardest climb on the course. It starts out slow, then gradually gets steeper towards the top. It was down to 5 of us including Bishop, Schalk, Draugalis, Waite and me. I matched the pace set by Jeff Schalk up the lower slopes, but began to suffer. As we neared the top I had tailed off the back. I descended like a mad man and was able to bridge back up to the leaders. Bishop had suffered a flat on the descent, so that left only 4 of us. On the next climb, Nick Waite turned up the pace, and again I was off the back. Just as I crested the top of the climb, Bishop caught me. I thought, "great, the two of us can work together and bridge on the descent!"

All of a sudden I went from feeling great with a shot at the podium, to "how the hell am I gonna fix this?" Dented rim, two broken spokes and a flat tire, all in one swoop. "Dang, maybe I can fix this quick and press on for the top 10." Rider after rider passed me as I fumbled with how to get my bike working again. After my C02 blew up in my face I had to go into full on McGuyver mode. I have to thank Rob Lichtenwalner who stopped and gave me his pump.

I limped into to aid #3 and finally got my tire pumped up with enough air. I started getting back into the race and passed quite a few riders. Then on the following steep knarley descent in a moment of panic, I ran head on into a tree! I can't believe I didn't have a scratch on me. Too bad my front wheel was totally bent in half, as well as my tire. Greg Kuhn was with me. He gave me a tube and helped me fix the tire. We straightened out the rim with a little help from that same tree I ran into. Thanks Greg!

Wobble wobble wobble... the bike was riding very strange and I wasn't sure if one good lean into a corner would fold the whole bike in half. I went slow until I gained confidence the wheel would hold and got back on the gas again when I made it to the dirt rds. Just before aid #4, I suffered another flat. A cool dude on a single speed offered me up his tube, and again, Rob's pump saved the day.

I knew Mitch would be at aid #4 and it was going to be a little dis-heartening for her to see me struggling with mechanicals. She was a little upset at first and just shook her head. "All that effort you put into this and this kinda @#$% happens." I know exactly how she feels. I decide to press on and try to finish. I gained back a few spots and I had a chance to ride with Tom Parsens from the 29er crew which was cool. The last dirt rd climb of the day stung me pretty good. I was totally spent when I crossed the finish line... but I finished. 23rd overall and my best finishing time at W101 yet. Now if I can just figure out a plan with all these mechanicals.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Perfect Number

A 65 mile road race on an early Saturday morning close to home just sounded too tempting to pass up. It was the Maillot Jaune road race in Fenton MI and I'd been searching high and low for a road bike to borrow all week. It's an impressive course for Southeastern Michigan and I didn't want to miss out. The idea of riding my 29er MTB with the Cat 1/2's had been lingering as a last resort. Could I hang? The idea sounded more like a suicide mission and a sure DNF, but the workout alone would be worth the effort. I decided to try it anyways. The plan was to sit on big Ray and just survive as long as possible. I threw on my fastest set of Bontrager knobbies and prayed for the best.

So there I was, sitting on the start line with the some of fastest guys in Michigan. I'm not quite sure what they were thinking, but I assured them I was only here for the workout. We rolled off and I was quickly shuffled to the back. I was beginning to think this wasn't a very good idea. The pace surged and clumped as riders tried to get a break organized, but nothing was sticking. To my suprise, at the end of the 2nd lap I was feeling decent. In a relaxed moment in the peloton, I took a roll off the front. I actually had to go into the dirt shoulder for a moment! And that was it, the pack let me go. Riding the MTB solo off the front through the start/finish area gave me new invigoration. I could hear people saying "go Simonster"and I knew I couldn't sit up now.

Shortly after, I could see a rider storming across the gap. I slowed a bit to let him catch up. It was Greg Christian, one of Michigans strongest. He was pushing a massive gear and I latched onto his wheel. I looked back to see 2 other guys bridging the gap, and in a few moments we were a strong group of 4 riders dangling off the front. I was hanging tough, and even managed to take my pulls. But after a couple laps with the break, I was beginning to drag and I floated back to the group. Little did I know that was going to be the winning break. Maybe if I would have just sat on and relaxed, I could have survived? Ahh well, that's racing.

Things were going well back in the group. The pace slowed significantly and I was able to recover on the last lap. One more guy got off the front solo near the end. I survived a few more attacks and surges and was able to roll across the line in 13th place! I couldn't believe it! I was just hoping to sit on and make it a few laps before I got dropped. I really suprised myself by actually instigating the race and being a part of the action. What an experience.

29er mountain bikes are so light and fast these days, I'm not sure how much slower the bike may have been over a road bike. Not sure if I'll ever try a stunt like that again though. I have a feeling the roadies are going to have their eyes on me. I just might have to get a road bike. That was way too fun!

Monday, July 19, 2010

6 Hrs of Power

Nabbed the solo win, and the overall at the 6hrs of power in Ellicotteville New York last weekend. Course was in great shape. Total East Coast style with lots of climbing, rocks, and roots. Wonderful event and worth the trip! I highly recommend adding it to your calendar.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mike Simonson sits down with Simonster

Mike Simonson: State your age, height, and weight.
Simonster: 30, 6ft 2in, 185lbs

Mike Simonson: State your occupation.
Simonster: Mechanical Engineer for Dept of Defense, Professional MTB racer.

Mike Simonson: State your sponsors.
Simonster: Trek/Fisher collection, Notubes, SRAM, Ergon, Wingnut

Mike Simonson: It must be tough finding time to carry out two jobs. Elaborate on the details.
Simonster: Yes, very busy. I work 7 to 4:30, then the training starts after work. We run a super tight ship. All my training and meals are planned out in advance so I get the maximum use of the training time I have. Racing and traveling is on the weekends. If there’s no race, I’ll squeeze in more training and more rest. There’s not much time for much else. Sometimes I feel like such a shitty friend when I have to deny drinks after work on a Friday, or pass on a fun weekend with friends. That’s the price you pay for being determined to carry out a dream. Sometimes you miss out on a few of life’s special moments.

Mike Simonson: You are married correct? Tell us how that works with all the racing and training.
Simonster: Yes, married for 5 yrs to my wife Michelle. She goes by Mitch to most of our friends. Mountain bike racing is sort of a selfish sport. I’m the one racing, and I’m the one on the podium. But I couldn’t do it without the help from Mitch. She helps me out tremendously. She’s my number one fan. When I do well, it’s kind of like a small victory for both of us and she feels the same happiness and joy that I do. When I don’t do well, I’m not sure who’s more upset, me or her. Sometimes I have to calm her down after a race. She sees how much I put into it. I think it exhausts her enough just helping me carry out this three ring circus day after day.

Mike Simonson: What’s your schedule look like? Which races are you gunning for?
Simonster: I’m gunning for any of the NUE 100 milers and a solid placing in the points series. In the fall, my focus will switch to the triple crown races, Ore to Shore, Chequamegon, and Iceman. It’s a long tough season.

Mike Simonson: Who would you consider your toughest competitors?
Simonster: In the 100 milers, of course Christian Tanguy and Jeff Schalk. For the triple crown, it’s always been Brian Matter and Tristan Schouten with Mike Anderson being the up and comer. I have a ton of respect for those guys. We all have other jobs and responsibilities, but we love the sport so much we’re still able to drive ourselves to compete at a very high level with other pro’s. These guys are loaded with passion and determination. I have respect for anyone who competes at a high level while holding down significant responsibilities outside of racing. There's so many hard hittin mo fo's out there I'm sure I'm missing.

Mike Simonson: So the 100 milers must be pretty tough to recover from. How do you recover and keep ticking out the 100 milers one after another?
Simonster: I have to give some credit to my coach Art Fleming. He keeps a very close eye on me and has taught me how to pick up on the slightest irregularities. It’s key to be able to pick up on the early warning signs of improper recovery. It’s almost a full time job. I talk to him daily. He’s one of my best friends. We take the training plan day by day, but try to keep things as consistent as possible. The only way to communicate with your body is to do things over and over consistently until it finally gets it. It’s kind of like training a puppy. It took a long time to train my body how to race 100 miles with 12,000ft of climbing.

Mike Simonson: 12,000ft of climbing is a ton of climbing. How do you manage to compete against the flyweights when you’re checking in at 85 kilo’s?
Simonster: Hey A-hole, what’s that supposed to mean? I’m fat? Seriously though, I have to turn myself inside out to hang onto a guy like Tanguy or Schalk in the mountains. I go to the deepest place I can muster sometimes. Sometimes I have enough to stick it to the end, and sometimes I don’t. I’m still working on this whole 100 miler thing. Schalk is amazing. He doesn’t seem to slow down. I can do maybe 50 or 60 miles at his pace, then I run out of gas. I’ll figure it all out eventually. It’ll take the perfect race. All I can do is keep training and keep trying to work on my weaknesses, which Art is always on top of.

Mike Simonson: Have you ever thought about doing some road racing? I’ll bet you could smash it on the road.
Simonster: I get this question a lot. I’ve spent a lot of years honing the MTB craft. It would almost be like starting over switching to the road. Plus the added headache of another bike and another race schedule. It would be like another job, which I don’t have time for. I think you need to have total focus to do well. Pick the style of racing you love the most and go after it with everything you’ve got. You need a set schedule of a few select races, then plan and dedicate your season around those few events. I find it might even take a few years to get the result you want in a selected race. Too many races screw things up for me. I’m one of those guys that likes to show up at a race ready to give my best.

Mike Simonson: Do you have the desire to race MTB’s full time?
Simonster: I wish I could, but I’m not sure there’s a contract out there that would enable me to continue to live the same lifestyle. I’d have to be one of the best. Endurance racing and festival grass roots events just don’t seem to draw the sponsorship dollars for the athletes. The good contracts come out when you’re a contender for an Olympic spot. I think that’s what most of the big sponsors are looking for. Although I have heard of a few decent contracts in the endurance realm. I’m happy with doing it the way I’m doing it. My sponsors help me out the best they can which I’m totally grateful for. I’m free to choose all the events I want to go to. Perhaps one day I could make a little money at it as a side job along with my engineering job. That would be a dream come true.

Mike Simonson: Have you ever thought about going after World Cup racing or maybe the National XC points series?
Simonster: I know that’s where the highest level is, but I don’t think there’s enough hrs in the day to compete there. Most of the XC races are out West too. It takes time to figure the courses out and to develop enough points to get a front row call up. It’s just not realistic for me. It turns into a lot of travel $$$ and too many days off work. The 100 miler series works out great! In a 3 day weekend, I can drive to 6 out of 8 in the series, and the races draw a good amount press and exposure to keep the sponsors interested. The level of competition is perfect for me too. All the 100 mile courses are worth the effort. They’re grueling, but worth the price of admission. I mean if I’m going to drive 8hrs to the mountains, I want to get a lot of riding in. The 100 milers let you do that and then some. Same with the Tripple Crown events. We always seem to get a few A-listers at Chequamegon and Iceman, so I get to see how I stack up against them. On a good day, you can collect a nice scalp if you play your cards right. It’s the perfect level of competition for me.

Mike Simonson: Name some scalps in your collection.
Simonster: I have a few I’m proud of. JHK’s for sure. Ned Overend, Tinker Jaurez, Chris Eatough, Josh Tostado and Travis Brown to name a few. I’ve looked up to these guys my entire career. It blows my mind I can even compete with these guys. Mucho respect.

Mike Simonson: Who do you train with? Whose your favorite person to train with?
Simonster: My most solid training partners have to be Robert Herriman and Greg Kuhn. When I need to get it done, these are the guys I call. Whether it’s an 8hr death march in 20 degrees or intervals up some crazy ski hill, no BS, these guys show up ready to train hard all day long and not complain once. I’m fortunate to have such great training partners… and friends. On fun days it’s always a treat when I get Jason Lummis out. That dude cracks me up all day, same with Scott Stewart too. All classy dudes.

Mike Simonson: Where do you train? Where are your favorite places to train?
Simonster: I have a ton of awesome options right from my door. The huge series of interconnected dirt roads is my favorite place. It’s actually quite impressive. I’ve been training on them for years, and I have a giant map in my head of 100’s of miles of them. I know where all the biggest hills are. Most people I train with out there have no idea where we’re going. It’s a very Zen place for me. I hope 30 years from now I can still ride them. They already feel like old friends. There are also about 6 different trail systems within riding distance too. I really don’t have a reason to train anywhere else.

Mike Simonson: What’s the craziest ride you’ve ever done?
Simonster: I do this little 7 mile dirt rd loop near my house. It has 700ft of climbing per lap. I remember we had a weekend over the winter where we had single digit temps. I did 15 laps out there for 105 miles and over 10,000ft of climbing. It took me over 9 hrs with all the snow. I was ready to die that day, but it turns out committing suicide by riding your bike is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking when I did it, but I do know that if you want to be good, you’ve gotta do some sick shit sometimes. You’ve got to do some things that no one in their right mind would think of doing to try and get to the next level. It’s a day I can look back on when I have a hard race and draw strength from it. Perhaps that’s what I was thinking.

Mike Simonson: Are there any words of wisdom you could give us?
Simonster: Some favorite words of mine… persistence, determination, passion and most of all patience. That’s the beauty of bike racing. There’s always plenty of opportunities to keep trying over and over. It’s a sport which has endless opportunity to grow. You can push yourself to your utmost limit as fast or as slow as you would like.

Mike Simonson: Keep the dream alive, and luck be on your side the rest of the 2010 season.
Simonster: Thanks! I can always use a bit of good luck.

Monday, June 21, 2010

NUE Stop #3 Lumberjack 100

Well... sort of OK. I'm still a little stiff and sore. 300 racers came out to Northern Michigan this past weekend to test themselves for round #3 of the NUE 100 miler series. The weather was great and the course was fast with the 3 lap format and some two track added in this year.

Once we hit the singletrack, things started to heat up as Christian took a pull up the gradual climb. Soon after, Jeff took over and continued to push the pace. Then I took a couple digs on the two track sections, followed by Derek Graham setting a blistering pace through Road Monkey. I was feeling pretty good, then that's where my luck ran out. I could feel my front tire going soft on me. For a brief moment I thought about just hitting it with the C02, but then memories from Cohutta crept in and I decided to put a tube in it. It was a pretty smooth fix, and I was off to regain as many positions as possible. Near the end of the 1st lap I rolled up on Derek Graham in which he had suffered the same fate I had. I tossed him the rest of my Big Air cannister and wished him luck.

By the end of the 1st lap, I was back into the top 5 and feeling strong riding with Bells superstar Steve "McDreamy" Dempsey. I continued to push the pace and worked my way all the way back up to 2nd place! I heard Scott Chambers yell out "Jeff's 8 minutes up, Christian's right there!" I worked my way around Christian, but there was no shaking him completely. He rose from the dead and came flying around me.

At this point I tried to ralley and make a charge, but the hard chase after the flat left me a little gassed. The heat of the mid day sun began to take its tole and I was feeling uncomfortable. I kept pushing as hard as I could just trying not to redline. Then sure enough, Derek Graham came flying by me like a torpedo on the two track near the end of the 3rd lap. I latched on for a moment, then my body decided it didn't want any part of that.

I went into total survival mode on the last few climbs. A quick glance down the trail on the last climb and I saw the Aussie bridging. I threw everything I had left into the final 2 miles and crossed the line in 4th. Not quite the place I was looking for, but it was my best effort and I'm happy. So that's a 3rd, a 2nd, and a 4th. Not looking too bad so far in the series.

A big thanks goes out to my in-laws Dan and Sandy for the awesome hospitality and volunteer work. Well done! As always, thanks to the sponsors as well. The full suspension SF100 was a real treat on the lumpy course. Next up is a couple marathon races right here in Michigan, to prepare the mid season surge for Wilderness and Fool's Gold. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

NUE Stop #2 Mohican 100

It was another one of those experiences where only a mountain bike race would take you. We rolled into Loudonville Ohio on Friday afternoon to our luxurious cabin at Mohican Adventures. Well actually... maybe more like a luxurious tree fort. Me, Robert Herriman, and my wife Michelle bunked with Greg Kuhn, Chris Goddard, and Greg's girlfriend Nicole. Upon arrival we were greeted by an angry wasps nest on the 2nd floor where our bunks were located. It was "epic" conditions already. The absence of screens on the windows of the 2nd floor had Robert and I hosing down the curtains with Deep Woods Off. It actually worked quite well.

The rain came and went, then came and went again overnight. I just wanted to scream at it to stop, but by morning, it wasn't going to matter how much more rain we got, the trails were going to be trashed. But it didn't matter to me. This race was on my calender since December and it was one I was looking forward to.

After the typical 4am bagels and Nutella breakfast, we prepped our things and headed for the start. The $200 prime definately made the start very fast. We hit the "wall" on our way out of town and my lungs were instantly on fire. Way way faster than I wanted to go. None the less I rolled with it and before we hit the singletrack, I was 2nd wheel. The trails were pretty slick, and the locals were ripping them. Again... way way faster than I wanted to go but I gritted my teeth and did my best to hang on.

After 10 miles or so, it came down to just me and Jeff Schalk. Jeff was moving pretty fast. I could tell his form had improved since Cohutta. The trails were sloppy and slick, but I was keeping the rubber side down. Last year I led a furocious attack up the trail run up utilizing my stair running skills I aquirred in the off season. This year however, I didn't posses those skills and Jeff was sure to eploit that. I hung tough but the run up really sapped my legs. We ripped down the super muddy water bar decent, crossed the road, then immediately hit the next hike-a-bike. I think Jeff rode most of it, which left me redlined and gasping for air. I gritted my teeth and dug as deep as I could, but that was the last time I would see him.

From here on out, I would ride by myself. I was feeling pretty cooked after redlining and I did my best to recover on the roads. By the time I got to the Mohican Wilderness, I was feeling better. I ripped through the aid station and pressed up the steep powerline climb, then back out onto the roads. Temps were starting to rise a bit as I rolled onto the buggy trail. The soggy false flat had me cursing. It was the low point of the race for me and probably the point where I gave up on any sort of chase. I knew 3rd wasn't too far behind so I just tried to move along as quickly and efficiently as possible to save 2nd place.

More roads interspersed with uphill trails and dirt rds. The true suffering really began as each steep climb was digging into me. Finally the last aid station. 6 miles to go! Grabbed a bottle just as the sky started to get really dark. I said to myself... "here we go again." The rain actually felt good and sort of revitalized me to the finish. The trails were beyond a complete mess. I hung tough for 2nd place!

Overall I'm very pleased with my performance. I could've had a total melt down, but this time I held it together. I'm starting to get the hang of how to suffer efficiently. Dare I say I actually had a little fun out there in the muck. It really is a great course and a well put together event. I'd do it all over again, no questions asked. Next up is Lumberjack. The course is actually better in the rain, so bring on the precip mother nature! She'll have to dig deep to make a mess of that course. Of course now that I said that, it'll probably be 90 and pure sun.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stoney 12 Hr

It all started out as a bright idea my training buddy Robert Herriman and I had. We figured we had a chance to top our one day mileage records in the Stoney Creek 12hr MTB race. His was 150 miles and mine was 140 miles. Besides that, it would be great to use as preperation for the upcoming back to back NUE events in June. The weather forecast looked beautiful, and Fun Promotions put together a really cool 11.5 mile course with 1000ft of climbing per lap! Fellow 29er crewer Tim Finkel also decided to join in the fun. He motivated me to work hard all the way to the finish.

A quick riders meeting and we were off. We were supposed to wait for the teams to start first, then the solo riders would go. Robert had his I-Pod turned up too loud and missed most of the meeting. He took off with the teams, so me and Tim just followed. I don't think it really made much difference in the end though. The course was fast and fun. We rode together for the first couple laps, then Tim and Robert decided to drop back and let me continue to cook myself. I wanted to ride at a 100 miler pace, then just hope to survive in the end. Throughout the day, people sort of visited me during my ride. First it was Cruise Bogedin, then my home boy Jeff Tewks hung out for a lap. On lap 13 I even got a chance to do half a lap with my coach Art
The first 100 miles went pretty quick and smooth. After that I began to struggle a bit. One minute I'd feel fine, then the next minute I'd feel aweful. I think it was my blood sugar dipping up and down as I sucked upwards of 30 ounces of Carb Pro and NUUN per lap. It was nausiating at times, but I knew I had to keep getting it down to survive. I started the last lap and decided to give it my all. Surprisingly I found some reserves left in the tank and was able to take my pace up a notch. I coasted in for the win with 14 laps and 161 miles in just under 12hrs. I was never so happy to be done with a race. I was very pleased with my performance. I never stopped for more than a minute and most of my laps times were pretty consistant. This will set me up well for the next stop on the NUE calendar... Mohican 100.

Monday, April 26, 2010

NUE 2010 Stop #1 Cohutta

First 100 miler of the year in the books. What a crazy race! The rollout up the 3 mile paved climb was just as fast as usual. I surged to take the wholeshot at the top, but Jeff Schalk shut me down and I took 2nd wheel going into the singletrack. Things were pretty calm as we snaked through the Tsali trail system. The dirt was a little moist from the rain overnight, but for the most part the trail was in good shape.

We continued to whittle down the front group as we head out onto the fire roads. Josh Tostado was pushing a torrid pace which left a 5 man group to duke it out. It was Schalk, Peariso, me, Tanguy, and Tostado. By the time we reached aid 3 at the top of Big Frog Mt, it was just me and Jeff left at the front. I encountered a little tire trouble on the descent, and Jeff rolled away. Thanks to a little help from Chris Peariso, I limped into aid 4 where I was able to completely fix my flat for good. I lost a couple spots and was sitting in 5th. As I continued on I was able to take back the couple spots I lost.

Then came the rain and thunder. I kept thinking they were going to call the race at aid 6 and just send us down the fire road to the finish. The lightning and rain was hitting us full throttle and I could barely see as the mud flung up onto my glasses. I finally got to aid 6, where I realized they weren't going to call the race and we were going to have to finish the full 100. Good thing my brake pads held out on my XX brakes! I pushed to the finish were I rolled in for 3rd place!

Overall I was pleased with my performance. The legs felt solid. It's 100 miles and 9 times out of 10, you're going to have something not go to plan, like a flat, a mechanical, or the dreaded bonk. Thanks goes to all the sponsors for the support. It's a good start to 2010 and there will be more good things to come! Take care and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Finally Have The Ultimate

SF100 frame + Full SRAMXX kit with the tapered head tube REBA XX + Stan's Race wheelset + Crankbrothers 2ti pedals with ti axles + All the lightest Bontrager components = one light ass 29er full suspension bike! I love it! Mucho thanks to the sponsors for making this ultimate bike come to life!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mitch check's in

Mitch will be writing a few entries from time to time this season to give a little perspective from a wife's side of things. Without further ado, I introduce my wife... Mitch

You and I’ve got what it takes to make it….

Mike and I married in 2004 at Addison Oaks…the venue of the first race that I ever came to support Mike at back in 2001. Guns N Roses - Patience was the song Mike and I first danced to as a married couple, this puzzled some people as it may not be the “typical” first dance song for newlyweds, but we liked it and felt a connection to the lyrics. Looking back on it today, there is definitely some significance and connections from it to the places that our journey has taken us. Many of you are aware that the past 8 months or so have been personally difficult for us to say the least…from a cycling perspective those of you that usually enjoy hanging with Mike and I and sharing a beer or two with us at Michigan’s two biggest races the Ore to Shore and Iceman may have noticed that we were “a no show” and “a DNF.” We had not missed these two events in nearly a decade, Mike plans his season in preparation to be at his best for them; they are a major focus of the season.

Mike has often referred to me his “teammate”, in life and in terms of the support that I provide him with his cycling…we just want everyone to know that the team is ready to take on another season!

A big “thank you” to all of our family and friends that have been and continue to support us while we have been picking up the pieces and getting the wheels up!

See you at the races!

Mikal and Mitch

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Rat Race

Up at 4:30am, get the cycling gear on, get on the bike and pedal to work like crazy! Finish work at 4:30pm, get the gear on and pedal home like crazy! Rush rush rush. Rush everywhere to everything. Getting in the hrs and miles can prove to be quite a challenge. I'm always on the lookout for any way to save an extra 5 minutes here and there. I thought I would share a few of my time saving secrets which help me grind out the dual lifestyle.

1. I make all my meals for the whole week on Sunday, then save them in the refrigerator. It saves time, and I eat a lot more healthy this way.

2. Grocery shop and do errands on my lunch breaks... on the days I drive of course.

3. I train on a singlespeed rigid mountain bike. This cuts way down on the time I have to spend on maintenance. Save the race bike for race day.

4. I train and ride right from my door 90% of the time. Driving to the ride = waste of time, unless I get to ride Lummis and McDreamy ;-)

5. Of course my wife Michelle helps me a ton with keeping the house cleaned up, doing the laundry, and a bunch of other glorious household chores like caring for the animals and paying the bills. Thanks Mitch!

6. I also lay out all my cycling clothes and my work clothes for the entire week. All I have to do is grab them and go.

I'm sure I'm leaving out more time management stuff, but you get the idea. It's a ton of effort to find the time to eek out that last bit of performance that may be overlooked. But I guess that's why they call it a rat race.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

February Update

Training is going well. Getting in some good rides and staying healthy. Look down on the right side of the blog. You'll notice I updated the 2010 calendar. I'm pretty excited about hitting 6 of the 8 NUE series races and Fools Gold will be a first for me. Being on the road during the weekends and working during the week takes it's tole pretty fast, so I have to try and ration out my road trip efforts. I'm glad to see the NUE schedule is spread out pretty well. We'll see if I have one more road trip in me to hit Iron Cross in the fall. It's such an epic course and I'd love to return there and have a good race.

I'm also excited about heading to Boyne in July for the Boyne Marathon. It's one of my favorite courses and a great time to get up North and enjoy the beauty of Michigan. And of course who could forget Iceman. 2010 will be my 11th one in a row! Has it really been that long!? I'm starting to feel old. Peak to Peak is slowly growing into it's own Michigan classic and I'll be back again going for the three peat!

Not too much longer and I'll be able to start commuting on my bike again. That will be nice. As for now, I'm slowly ramping up for the Spring races on the calendar. Barry Roubaix is an instant favorite, and I'm planning on returning for another go at Paris Ancaster to prepare for the first big race in the NUE points series, Cohutta. So stay healthy and get ready to race your bike! It won't be long. See ya next post.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stuff For Sale

I have a pair of 26" Velocity VXC wheels. They're the standard 32H disc hubs. The website has a claimed weight of 2060 grams. They're brand new, never taken out of the box. $300 or best offer takes them. Great set of spair wheels to train on. They come with Skewers too. Here's a link to the website with the info. email me: mikesimonson at hotmail dot com

Thursday, January 21, 2010

January Update

Wow, it's been a while since I've updated. Well, 2010 is well underway. I'm all fixed up with Gary Fisher again for 2010, as well as Notubes, and a couple new sponsors this year with SRAM and some help from Crankbrothers. With this combo, I should be able to make one of the lightest, most bad ass 29ers on the planet!

The training has been going pretty well. I got a nice block in over the holidays with little Stewy, and with the MLK holiday and my regular Friday off, I'm working on another big block this week. I switched over to the paved roads instead of my typical dirt rds as the dirt is still pretty moist with the higher temps. Art's keeping a close eye on me and trying to keep me healthy as possible. He's been a great coach, and a great friend.

Looks like Barry Roubaix will be the first race on my calendar as Southern Cross was postponed to a later date I can't make. The beird will have to grow till March now. I'm full on for the NUE races starting with Cohutta. I was also thinking about Dirt Sweat and Gears 12hr in TN too. Lots of cash there up for grabs.

On another note, I turn 30 years old this week! Egads! I always said I was going to something crazy for my 30th, but I'm not sure I have the energy for that right now. I'm still recovering from New Years... thanks to the Collins' ;-)

Well that's it for now. Stay healthy and get ready for another awesome season of mountain biking!