Monday, September 16, 2013

Battle at the Burg

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The mild temps and the dry air set up perfect conditions for bike racing, and this weekend was no exception. I decided to check out the 2nd running of the Battle of the Burg mountain bike race at Cannonsburg Ski Area as my sponsor 616 Fabrications is located only a stones throw away from the venue.

The Cannonsburg course is a mix of tight twisty singletrack with a lung searing climb to the top of the ski hill each lap, which means we get to drag race straight up the 25% grade 4 times at the end of each lap. Ouch! The course was pretty dialed, but technical enough to where if you tried to push it too hard, you would pay the price. Matt Schmuker did an excellant job with the promotion, and everything went really smooth. It's a cool event worth throwing on your calendar next year.

The pace set off fast as we made our prologue loop around the parking lot area, and it was Dan Yankus who led us through most of the first lap. He was ripping through the corners and using every inch of the course. I sat 2nd wheel. Heading into the 1st ascent of the ski hill, it was Scott Hoffner putting in a good push which saw my heart rate sky rocket.

Derek Graham took over for the 2nd lap. He may have been pushing through the corners even faster than Dan was, as little gaps would open up that I would have to close back down. I was beginning to worry Derek might just ride away, but I held it together. Again, it was Scott to push the pace on the ski hill, but this time I felt more in control. A group of 4 formed for the 3rd lap. It was Scot Hoffner, Derek Graham, Alex Vanias, and me. Derek led us out.

Towards the end of the 3rd lap, I decided I was going to make a move on the ski hill and try to get away from the others for the 4th and final lap. As we approached the hill, I locked out the fork, made the left hander, and stood on it as hard as I could. The bike instantly jumped forward and my legs seemed solid. A few more hard pedal strokes, and the legs were still there! I downshifted, dug in harder, and threw the kitchen sink at it… the bike just kept accelerating. I looked back and I saw the gap opening, this was working! I downshifted again and could see the top of the climb coming closer and closer, and my gap was getting bigger and bigger, so I just decided to stand on it the whole way to top, and the legs held strong.

I kept on the pace heading into the 4th lap, but I could see Alex wasn’t far back. I knew if I could keep the gap going into the singletrack, I would be able to hold him off to the finish. I pushed through the singletrack, and suffered one more final ascent up the ski hill. Ripping down the back side, I knew I had it. That felt really good. Alex Vanias crossed the line in 2nd, Derek Graham 3rd, and Scott Hoffner in 4th. We were all really close.
I remember racing at Cannonsburg maybe 10yrs ago. It was Derek Prechtle who lit up the ski hill climb, and I remember thinking how cool it was that I was able to line up and race with him. It’s kind of ironic that I got a message from Scott Hoffner after the race detailing similar sentiments. Winning a bike race is always such a cool experience that never gets old, even after 12yrs of racing. I just feel so fortunate to live in a state where I get a chance to race with such cool competitors like Scott, Alex, Derek, and all the others who toe the line in Michigan. So here’s to the fall season of bike racing! Next up are 2 ultra cross races, Three Peaks in North Carolina, and Iron Cross in Pennsylvania, where I hope I can keep the streak alive. Thanks for checking in, and we’ll see you out there this fall.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

2013 Ore to Shore

Marquette Michigan is one of my favorite places to visit during the summer time. Throw in a kick ass mountain bike race called the Ore to Shore and it makes the decision to visit even more enticing. We decided to take Boonen, our hyper active Golden Retriever, along for the road trip. I think he was even more excited about the trip up North than we were.

I’ve done this race quite a few times, and have even managed to win it on a few occasions, so I knew exactly what to expect. The familiar names dotted the start line and I knew it was going to be a hard race. I got off the start really well, and I could tell the legs felt good. I maintained my position right near the front all the way up to Lucey Hill where Cole House threw out an attack. I decided to lay up and let Brian Matter cover the charge, which he did, and it sent my heart rate skyrocketing.

I managed to recover well, and the whole race came back together. A huge pack swelled all the way up to the first section of power lines. I went to the front, but Brian got around me and went hard through the rolling hills. I was OK with that, and I managed to stay within myself. So far, so good. The next round of punches wouldn’t come until we hit the next section of powerlines. This time, things got a little tougher, and I could feel myself struggling with the pace, but I was hanging right in there with the attacks.

In no time, we were back onto the power line trails where Brian Matter decided to go for it. He had a gap leading into misery hill… with a driving Cole House on the front determined to chase him down. We approached Misery Hill, and Cole punched it across to Brian. That was the last time we would see them. I thought it was a good idea to get back on my bike and ride the 2nd half of Misery Hill… Big Mistake. I was totally gassed and seeing stars as I got to the top.

As I fumbled through the rest of the rocky power line trails at V02max, I watched the 2nd pack of riders pull away into the distance. I kind of thought my race was over, but I pushed on and tried to recover the best I could. I thought maybe there was a chance to catch back on during the paved section.

Sure enough, Derek Graham came rolling up to aid… then shortly after that, a raging Tom Burke flew by. I grabbed Tom’s wheel. I figured there was no one better to ride the pavement with then the state road time trial champion. A few flicks of the elbow later, and we latched right back onto the 2nd group. All of a sudden, 3rd place was a possibility.  

Things would sort of string out, then slow down periodically with none of the moves sticking. I rode near the front and just tried to cover, rather than attack. I figured I would save it up for one big move near the end. As we rolled up to the big sandy downhill 4 miles from the end, I saw my chance. I railed the downhill with everything I had, then tore into the Kerby woodchip hill. Just as I got to the top, Tristan Schouten, and Nathan Guerra counter attacked. It was perfect. I latched on as Tristan pulled us right along. We had a gap! This was going to work.

Tristan pulled hard all the way thru the final singletrack and right up to the woodchip trail. He abruptly sat up. I looked back and saw TJ Woodruff and Tom Burke charging at us. I knew I had to keep the pace up, or else the 3 up sprint for 3rd was going to turn into a 5 up sprint, and I aint no sprinter. I rolled thru and took over. But as we approached the finishing straight, my legs were so loaded up, I didn’t have anything left for a sprint and Tristan took the final podium spot. I would end up 5th. In hind sight, I wished I would have attacked hard when Tristan sat up, rather than just rolled thru, but it could’ve been much worse.  

I went from thinking I was out of the top 10, to sprinting for 3rd. I guess it just goes to show that races are never over till you cross the finish line. After the race, we all stood around and reminisced a little. I reminded Brian, Tristan, and Cole of the times I had won, and how I couldn’t believe I rode that whole race solo one yr. It also reminded me that we’ve been at this sport for quite a while. It’s nice to see some new younger faces up near the front like my 616 team mate Jorden Wakely, and RBS team’s Ron Catlin. To cap it all off, we all partied late into the night after the race, and I got to know some of my new team mates. It was a great day.
Congrats to my team mate Cole House on the win, and everyone else who finished. Cole and Brian had some amazing fitness this year. So here’s to the UP, the Ore to Shore, fantastic friends, and everything else that makes racing in this state of Michigan so badass. Thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2013 Lumberjack 100

This past weekend at the Lumberjack 100 was a very special weekend. I always look forward to representing my home state on the national mountain bike stage and it’s awesome we have so many great races right here in Michigan. This year we made the trip up with the in-laws Dan and Sandy O’Dea and stayed in the uber comfortable motor home. You should see this thing, it looks like something team Sky would roll up in. This would be my 8th try at this race and each of them seemed just as painful as the last.

Things were going smooth all day Thursday, but on Friday during the pre-ride, I discovered I’d broken my XX1 crank and it didn’t look like it had many options. It’s not your typical drivetrain. You can’t just throw on any old crank. It requires the replacement of the whole drivetrain, wheels, etc. Good thing Bob from 616 Fabrications came to the rescue. He let me borrow his race bike. It was a little on the small side, but it would get the job done. Stressful, but crisis averted and hopefully the smaller size frame wouldn’t bother me.

I went through my typical pre-game ritual… up at 4am which Dan and Sandy thoroughly enjoyed I’m sure, but we made the 5:15am cutoff time for departure to the course and snagged a sweet parking spot.

This race always gets off to a quick start and this year was no exception. I made sure to stay right near the front because the bottleneck into the singletrack can get a little sketchy. A group of 5 quickly formed off the front during the first lap. It was Barry Wicks, Drew Edsall, Christian Tanguy, Kevin Carter, and me. The trail was pretty dry, and there were a ton of sticks popping up everywhere as we made our way through the Udell Hills trail system.  

After we broke away the pace calmed down. Wicks was on a single a speed. So he would murder it up all the power climbs, but never really pushed the pace on the flats. Anytime one of us would try to push it on the flats, he managed to wind up that gear of his and hold on. As Scott Quiring used to call it, “the sticky booger tactic.” I have to give him credit though. I think he torqued that giant gear up just about every single climb. I was ok with that because I like to ride with a similar style.

After a lap of that, we dropped Kevin Carter and it was down to the 4 of us. Christian seemed happy sitting back, while Drew and I made sure not to give Wicks an inch. Later during the 2nd lap, Christian took a pretty hard pull all the way up to the fire tower. It was the first hard move of the race, but you could have thrown a blanket over the 4 of us. Nobody was going anywhere.

Heading into the 3rd lap, I started thinking about what I was going to do to try and get away. I decided I was going to try on the series of hills before the fire tower. I got a little gap by the top, but I didn’t have the confidence to make it stick. Too many times have I faltered on the last lap of this race, so I laid up and let it come back together. Wicks took over on the ensuing rollers and the cracks began to show. Drew fell off the pace, but Christian was still close.

I decided I had to do something on the last climb, or else I thought this might come down to a sprint. I took the lead off the final dirt rd and pushed the pace as hard as I could. The legs still felt solid. We made the sharp right hander up the final steep climb which was pretty loose at this point in the race and I punched it as hard as I could. I looked back and Wicks and Tanguy were still right with me. Dammit! This was going to be a sprint finish and I ain’t no sprinter!

We made our way towards the finish with me leading it out, Wicks in 2nd, and Tanguy sitting 3rd wheel. My plan was to keep the tempo high and just go for it out of the last turn into the finishing straight. Tanguy at 3rd wheel would be too far back, and Wicks on the single speed wouldn’t have the gear to get around me. It was the perfect plan. We hit the turn and I stood up and went for it. I came around the bend and I could see the finish line, I dug deep and drove the bike forward… now I’d love to tell you I crossed the finish line first in front of my all my family and close friends on the national stage right here in my home state, but those fairy tail endings rarely happen in bike racing. No my friends, somehow Wicks wound that gear of his up and got me on the line by ½ a wheel. I cursed him and banged my handlebar as we rolled on. I was so bummed. Oh so close.

I’ll end with this… "Sometimes you're flush and sometimes you're bust, and when you're up, it's never as good as it seems, and when you're down, you never think you'll be up again, but life goes on." After the past few weeks, I’m realizing that I am on the “up” side, even though it doesn’t seem as good as it should be. I’ve raced through long slumps just about ready to give up on getting that speed back that I had in my mid 20’s. Hell, I remember lying in a hospital bed wondering if I would ever be able to race again. 2 years ago, I would have been over the moon just to be within 5 minutes of Tanguy or Wicks after a 100 miler. But we always want more and we need to remind ourselves when we’re “up”. I might actually be riding the wave of the greatest fitness of my life right now. So am I bummed? Hell no I’m not. I feel re-born. I’m excited knowing it’s all still there… it always was there, I just had to dig it out. So here’s to reinventing ourselves and digging out the true potential that’s still in all of us.

Congrats to Barry Wicks on an unbelievable ride on the single speed, and to everyone who finished. Big thanks to Dan and Sandy O’Dea for the awesome hospitality and thanks to 616 Fabrications for saving the day. See you all at the next one and thanks for checking in.

Monday, June 3, 2013

2013 Mohican 100

8 years ago I entered a little race up in Northern Michigan called the Lumberjack 100. It was part of this new series called the NUE, or National Ultra Endurance. I didn’t know much about it, but 100 miles on a mountain bike seemed intriguing to me. I remember racing against Chris Eatough that year, and about 40 miles in, I dehydrated, bonked, and overheated all at the same time trying to keep up with him. I had no idea what I was doing. A lot has changed since then, but I do remember vowing to come back and win one of these NUE races at some point. I have a whole cabinet full of finishers glasses to show how many times I tried.

That brings us to this past weekend down in Ohio for the Mohican 100. I have to say the Mohican 100 is one of my favorites.  It’s cash payout has grown into one of the best in the series, and the Mohican Adventures cabins is a great venue. Plus Ryan O’Dell gives out free beer all night long after the race. What more do you need?

The beginning of the race started out pretty fast with the 100k racers pressing the pace right off the gun. I did manage to sprint for the hill climb prime at the start and pick up $200 thanks to the Loudonville Chamber of Commerce and Kim’s Bikes. From there the pace didn’t let up as we wound through the campground. There’s quite a few short steep climbs before we get to the actual Mohican singletrack. It strings the field out nicely, but it’s a lot of effort to put out, especially when you know you have 98 miles to go.

We weaved our way through the singletrack and a group of 3 formed, Rob Spreng, Kevin Carter, and me. I almost crashed and was able to save it, so I was happy just to follow. But as soon as we rolled under the covered bridge, I decided to give them a test on the ensuing singletrack climb. To my surprise, I opened a little gap, and by the top, I was out of site. I thought, “well here we go… this is it! GO GO GO!” I hit the run up at the end of the singletrack and I really dug deep to outright sprint up that thing. I knew that would stretch the gap out enough to be fully out of site on the dirt rd sections. Out of site, out of mind, as they always say.

From that point on, I went into time trial mode out on the roads. I kept telling myself “GO GO GO, don’t look back!” Getting through the trails at Mohican Wilderness was a little sketchy, but I managed fine. I was a little concerned about the 38t front chainring on the XX1 kit, but I was able to force it up all the steeper climbs.

I was happy to get back out onto the roads and onto the rail trail and still be out of site. The rail trail has this aweful false grade to it, and the soil was kind of mushy. It was like riding on flat tires. The heat and humidity was starting to pick up and I could feel my body starting to strain. “uh oh” I thought, “Here we go.” I pressed on through aid 4 and picked up some ice and a couple fresh bottles of infinit. I knew there were about 3 or 4 steep climbs from aid 4 to 5 and I was not looking forward to them. Just as I was rolling into the last road climb, I looked back and saw Gerry Pflug gaining on me. Sure enough, he caught and passed me by the top. I didn’t have much left in the tank to chase, but I tried. Gerry was on a single speed and I knew I was still first in the mens open as long as I could keep the wheels from falling off. Seems like Gerry and I have had this little game going on for years where I get way ahead in the beginning and somehow he catches and passes me right at the end. Must take him a while to get warmed up. I rolled into the final singletrack pretty much spent. Another hop skip and a jump with no one yet in my rear view and I found myself crossing the finish line for my first ever NUE mens open win! Rob Spreng and Chris Peariso rounded out the mens open podium. Even though Gerry got the overall, I was still really happy to climb on the top step and spray the champagne.

It’s been a long battle. Every time I thought I had one in the bag, something would happen. A flat tire, a broken chain, a bonk, I can even say I was out there breaking my neck trying to get a win.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about racing, it’s that it requires a great deal of patience. People, sponsors, and even my own psyche, are quick to write it off if the results aren’t coming. I was beginning to think I didn’t have what it took. I started to think I was getting too old. I started to think I was slow. Well screw all that. Believe in yourself. Determination, persistence, and a will to work hard will eventually pay off… even if it takes 8yrs of trying. That’s why I love this sport so dam much. If it was easy, the up times just wouldn’t feel as good.

Congrats to everyone who finished, and congrats to Gerry doing it on the singlespeed for the overall. That’s not an easy task! And thanks to all my sponsors who were there to share the experience. My 616 bike ran flawless, and the infinit nutrition had me dialed. We still have quite a bit of season to go, and I hope to keep the fitness going. Thanks for reading.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Paris to Ancaster 2013

My eye was on the weather forecast for Brantford Ontario all week as I watched the rain showers pass over us here in Michigan. Yep, the 20th running of the Paris to Ancaster was going to be a muddy one and I was glad I had the 616 Fabrications CX bike built up and ready to rock. Paris to Ancaster is a gravel grinder-ish road race-ish kind of course nestled in the farmland just West of Hamilton Ontario. It’s 60km’s of paved/dirt/muddy trails guaranteed to coat you and your bike head to toe in mud in just under 2hrs time. This year was no different.

The field was stacked. Notables were returning P2A champ and Canadian National CX champ Mike Garrigan, current US CX National Champ Jonathon Page, and rising CX superstar Justin Lindine. My strategy was get near the front off the start, then stay on these 3 guys for the remainder of the race.

I managed a really good start and was first into the narrow rail trail. I stayed right on the front until Mike Garrigan came around and squared himself up for an attack on the right hand turn up the loose tractor trail. It’s the most critical section of the race. Garrigan punched it, Page got by me and a few others. I immediately punched right back and closed the gap to Garrigan. Wow, the legs were good today! I looked back and he and I had a gap as we swung the right hander back onto the pavement! Should I pull through and keep it going? I took the safe route and sat on Garrigan. The pack bridged and swelled.

Normally we head right back into more trails, but this year was different. We kept rolling down the dirt road. I had no idea how long it was until the next trail sector. About a mile down the road I realize I’d been shuffled to the back. I looked up and saw Garrigan, Lindine, and Page all right on the front making a right hander into the next trail sector. Dam! I got caught sleeping. I tried like hell to shuffle through the pack, but it was too narrow and the trail was deep peanut butter mud. The 3 were gone along with a few others. As we made our way back out onto the road, I found myself chasing hard to catch back up to group 2 which was about 7-8 guys. I put in a huge effort to bridge just before we hit the next trail sector. It was too much. I was gasping, but not blown. I let a little gap form and thought maybe there was a chance to get back on if they sat up on the roads ensuing the trail sector.

We swung back out onto the roads and I chased like mad. We made another right hander into a nasty cross wind. It felt like a brick wall. I got to within 20ft of the group, but the cross wind was too much and I dangled off the back and watched the group creep away. I put my head down and recovered the best I could. From then on it was a 25 mile solo time trial to the finish. The worst thing was I could see the group up the road the whole time! I just couldn’t get there.
It’s amazing how a little mistake in a road race can get you thrown out the hatch. This race is especially tactical with the trail sectors and cross winds thrown into the mix. In my earlier days, I was typically strong enough to recover from errors, and I won quite a few of these races, but when you’re racing national champions and others who are just as strong as you are, the margin of error is very slim. You’ve got to be right on top of the moves and tactics, or else you’ll find yourself making small little errors that cost you BIG efforts… and we only have so many BIG efforts in the tank.

Good thing was I never got caught. I ripped down the mud slides and suffered up the 20% grade to the finish line and was able to roll in solo for 10th overall… an improvement on last yrs 15th, so I was pretty happy with that. I still need to improve on my tactics. The 616 Fab CX bike was awesome! The disc brakes were a god send on the mud shoots and I didn’t have to think about the bike the entire race which is a good thing. I also ran the velocity A23 disc wheelset. I had them wrapped with Challenge Open Grifo tires at just under 40psi. The ride quality of the wider rim is fantastic. Never bottom’d the rim out once. I also did two 24oz bottles of infinit nutrition. That was plenty to get by on for the entire race. I even had enough in the tank to ride 20 miles back to the start to get the van.

Well that’s all for now. Big congrats to Justin Lindine on the win in his first try. This guy is on a real tear this spring. Thanks for reading, and remember to brush up your race tactics and course knowledge. It can really make the difference between a podium finish or a just finished.

Monday, March 25, 2013

2013 Barry Roubaix

Well… the first BIG Michigan race of the year is officially in the books with Barry Roubaix. 616 Fabrications as well as Velocity wheels were sponsors of the race, so I really wanted to pull out a good result. My preparation for the spring started back in December, so needless to say I was pretty excited for this race. The temps were FRIGID, and course conditions were “sketchy” at best, but that didn’t stop almost 3000 people from attempting to slip and slide their way through the 62 miles of icey potted out dirt roads in Hastings Michigan.

After a very cold warm up, and a little course recon, I headed to the start with my travel buddy Don Cumming. Before we knew it, we were off. A quick right hander onto the dirt roads, and we hit the first KOM about 3 miles into the race. My plan was to start at the front and sag climb to see who was strongest, but no one came around me. Jordan Wakely and I pretty much went over the top in tandem with the entire 62 mile group in tow. The roads were down right treacherous! Ice and pot holes were jumping out at us everywhere, and carnage ensued as I could hear the crunching and sliding of bikes and bodies behind me. I knew I had to get back near the front ASAP, so I worked my way up and pretty much stayed near the front for the rest of the race.

Attacks were coming right and left. Justin Lindine flew off the front on the paved road section out near Yankee Springs and I almost thought that was the last we would see of him, until about 5 miles later when all of sudden he came raging back through the group! He must have taken a wrong turn. Dam, he was strong. Mike Anderson got on his wheel, and I got on Mike’s wheel as Lindine drilled it through the rollers. Lindine let up just for a second, and BAM! Anderson launched. I hesitated just for a moment looking for the group to counter his move, but it was a second too late. Anderson and Lindine, the two power houses of the race, had the 3 second gap they were looking for.

I didn’t panic though. I figured I would grab my feed at the aid station, then drill it to bridge. They were right there. But soon after the aid station, the entire group took a left, instead of a right, and we went off course. It was only maybe a ¼ mile but…  just like that, Lindine and Anderson were gone, and all the people that tailed off the back of our group got a free ride back on. Son of a bitch! From that point on, our group pretty much stayed together. I would say there were at least 30-40 people at one point. I must have attacked over a dozen times in an attempt to get off the front, but all it did was string it out and everyone would stay together. All the big hills were gone and there really wasn’t any other course features tough enough to break it apart again.

The group whittled down a little by the end, whether it be from people crashing into 36 milers, or just tired legs. We lined up for the sprint, and I knew I would probably end up somewhere near the back, which I did, at 13th place. A little disappointing, but I still had fun, and I didn’t crash or hurt myself, which is always a bonus, especially with the course conditions. The 616 bike ran flawlessly as well. I thought I had really good legs, and I felt super strong… Strong enough to ride with Anderson and Lindine??? Well, I’d like to think so, but we may never know. I definitely need to brush up on my road tactics.  
A couple improvements could be made on the course. Maybe larger arrows on the course markings. When you’re flying downhill at 25mph on a sheet of ice, it was a little hard to decipher a small arrow at times. Also, I think the course might flow better if we rode it in the backwards direction. That way the defining features of the course are at the end, rather than at the beginning. It might make it more suspenseful.
Good thing is the legs are strong, and I have many more opportunities this spring to go for it. Congrats to Justin Lindine on the win. He deserved it. Next up is Paris Ancaster. A cool 40 mile point to point race in Ontario where I’ll get the chance to go up against Mike Garrigan and Jonathon Page. Wish me luck. These guys are just as strong! Thanks for checking in and hopefully we’ll see you out there on the roads this spring!

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Southern Cross

The first race of the year had me making the 12hr drive South to the mountains of Nothern Georgia to partake in the epic Southern Cross. 50 miles of paved/dirt fire roads with about 6000ft of elevation gain would certainly be enough to sort out the strongest riders. I was super excited to try out my new 616 stainless steel race rig, and it didn't disappoint. At 18.0 lbs, it's light and fast enough to hang right in there with the guys on CX bikes.

I got off to a good start. The off season stair running paid off as I was the first one to the top of the big nasty run up. From there, I hopped onto Thomas Turner's wheel as we head up into the mountains. Just coming off his masters world CX title, he was on a mission to ride all of us off his wheel, which he eventually did. We head up the famous "winding stair" climb and it was all I had just to stay with Thomas and Brian Toone. About 1/2 way up, I popped off the back, then near the top, I was joined by rockstar Garth Prosser and Spencer Whittier. We worked together pretty well up until the 2nd big climb on the course. I decided I was going to make the move and go for it. I hammered up the steady climb and distanced myself. From there, after a few more suprise uphill kickers, it was pretty much a time trial to finish 3rd.

I was really happy with 3rd. I had a solid race, and felt strong the whole way. We finished in just over 3hrs, and I was actually able to pull back a little bit of the time I lost on winding stair, which is a good sign. A 3hr race is just about perfect, and I'm finding that I enjoy just hammering the mountain roads over the trails. Pack racing is also much more fun than slogging out solo hrs on the trails. It's definately a lot less of a beat down on the body too. The 100 milers kind of drag on for me, and it was nice to finish a race and not feel like I almost died getting to the finish line. I think I'm really digging these gravel cross style events. Congrats on the win for Strava King Brian Toone! He's a really cool dude and it's a pleasure to stand on the podium with him. Watch out for this guy.

Thanks to the hospitality of the Livingston's, I had a sweet place to set up base camp for a week of training. The sun, warmer temps, and the smooth Georgia roads made getting in a big week almost easy! A couple highlights were the "silk sheets" group ride, an epic mountain fire road ride with Eddie O'Dea, and the classic 6 gap road ride. 6 gap is a famous ride that starts right near Dahlonega. It goes over 6 huge climbs and does some of the same roads that were used in the Tour of Georgia. The area is beautiful and the roads are dialed. It's a ride you have to do if you're ever in the area. Unfortunately the weather wasn't so good that day... temps in the 30's and rain. I started at the Hiker Hostil, right where the 5hr energy road team was holding their training camp. One of the riders came out just as I was suiting up. He looked at me like I was crazy. I guess it's not everyday you see a guy on a mountain bike with bagel wrappers over his shoes and a shower cap on his helmet ready to do a 100 mile road ride through the mountains in the rain by himself. But hey, I'm from Michigan, this stuff doesn't phase us. So get out there and get those miles in. The season is almost upon us! Thanks for checking in.

Monday, February 11, 2013

2013 Update, 616 Fab, Training Etc.

So 2013 is well underway and things are shaping up to be another fun season of mountain bike madness. The big news is for me is the new bike sponsor, 616 Fabrications. They’re a custom frame fabricator right here in the good ol’ state of Michigan.
As a matter of fact they whipped me up a sweet stainless steel 29er rig outfitted with the latest and greatest XX1 components, topped off with bits from Thomson and Magura. I’m really digging the way stainless steel rides. With the super high tensile strength of stainless steel, the tube wall thickness can be reduced to an absolute minimum which makes for slightly lighter tube sets over conventional steel. And who could discount the ride quality. The smaller diameter tubes yield excellent compliance, and the springy-ness of steel ensures any flex you put into the frame is given back. Stainless also doesn’t require paint or a coating. So it keeps the frame looking sharp for years and also eeks off a few more grams. Combine that with custom tailored geometry and you get one sweet Michigan made machine that will last for years. Granted there’s lighter frames made from other materials, but I prefer to ride something that represents more of who I am, where I’m from, and what I believe in. It’s a bike that has its own little character… one of kind… a bike built for a Simonster.
I also gave myself an early birthday present… a set of DT Swiss Carbon tubular wheels. At 1250 grams for the wheelset, these things are stiff and light. Combining the tubulars with the stainless steel frame gives a ride that is unbelievable. Most races I won’t even need suspension. The bike feels much smoother and controllable. It’s something you have to experience. The CX’ers out there know what I’m talking about.

On the racing front, I’m switching it up a bit. I plan on doing Mohican and Lumberjack (100 mile MTB races), but I don’t think my body could possibly hold up to another full season of NUE races. So with that being said, I’ll be focusing more on races like Barry Roubaix, Ore to Shore, and Iceman.

Along with that new focus, goes a new training strategy. In years past I would grind out 6-7 hr training marathons to stay competitive in the NUE series, but this years base/build hasn’t had me on a ride longer than 4hrs. I’ve been doing a ton of “sweetspot” training, and it seems to be yielding good results. I definitely feel a lot fresher. I also had some extra vacation time I carried over from last year, so I set up three 10 day training blocks where I’ll crank out the daily hrs uninterrupted with work. One was in December, one in January, and I’ll have one down South in Georgia for February (huge thanks to Mike Livingston!). Each of these blocks has a rest week before and after, and during the 10 days, I’ll look to rack up about 35hrs. Not having to go to work and focusing solely on training is like a dream. I can sleep 10hrs a night, train 4hrs and then catch a nap in the afternoon. No wonder the pro’s are so dam fast! I really hope it helps, and I would be over the moon if I got a little bit of that speed back I used to have.     
So here’s to what hopefully turns out to be another great season. First race of the kicks off this weekend at Southern Cross in Dahlonega Georgia where I’ll get a chance to ride with Paco Mancebo. I should have my work cut out for me trying to stay with this guy. I’ll keep you all posted on what happens. Thanks for reading!