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!