02 November, 2008

Late US mountain bike race season 2008

Vermont is cold in the winter. And snowy. And cold. And sometimes slushy. Did I mention cold? With all of these unfortunate weather events, trying to train outdoors at Middlebury College during the winter is difficult. I occasionally ride my cyclocross bike on the dirt roads or in the snow but I usually set up the trainer indoors and watch a movie while I train. Although I have now seen quite a few movies that I probably would not have seen otherwise, it also leaves me in pretty miserable shape when the mountain bike season starts.
Unfortunately, this year was no exception. While everyone else was training through the winter, I was stuck inside. And the snow wasn’t even any good. It was just COLD! When the spring collegiate road racing season came, I raced a few races before crashing badly at the UVM road race and cracking my bike frame. Then I had a few weeks of healing, finals, and driving across the country to get home. I admit that not much time was spent on my bike.
The Angel Fire Chile Challenge on May 25th found me in lousy shape. I finished 26th in the Pro field of 27 or 28 racers. Not quite up to par. So I started training and trained hard and it finally paid off at the end of the season when I had 4 good race weekends in a row: Eldora MSC, Brian Head NMBS, Breckenridge MSC, and Cedropalooza (NM State Championships).
Eldora Escape (Mountain States Cup Series - MSC):
For the last couple of years, Eldora has been my “coming-to-form” race. It is the first race of the season where I feel fast and I always go on to have a good rest of the season. Fortunately, this year was no exception.
I admit that I had hoped to win the Pro Short Track Cross Country (STXC) like I did last year, but it was not meant to be. “Jungle” Jay Henry (Tokyo Joe’s) was there to help me realize that I still needed a little more training and to bump me into 2nd place (see podium picture). The next day though, I finished only 20 seconds behind 1st place (Jay again) in the Cross Country (XC) race (see racing picture). This was quite an achievement for me, as it was the closest to winning a Pro XC race that I had ever come.
Brian Head (National Mountain Bike Series Finals – NMBS):
Brian Head was the race that I had been training for all year. It was the race I planned to be at peak fitness for...AND I WAS! The STXC was Saturday, August 30th, and I finished 5th in the Pro field, 17 places better than my best-ever Pro STXC finish at a national race. And I got my first Pro podium at a national race (see podium and racing pictures). I felt good during the race and really enjoyed being able to race with the fast Pros and prove that I could compete at their level.
The next day was the XC and I had another great race (even though I didn’t get a warm-up). I finished 6th in the Pro field, just one spot off of the podium. The course was a single, long loop (23 miles) and I really enjoyed it. I found that I was finally comfortable descending on my hardtail and it was nice to feel strong during a national XC race.
Breckenridge Fall Classic (MSC Finals):
The weekend after Brian Head was the Breckenridge Fall Classic. It was a one-day event (XC only) and was another long loop (27 miles). The course was AMAZING. It had quite a bit of climbing, which I enjoy, but also had really fun, fast descents. Although I didn’t feel amazing, probably from a lack of sleep, I still had a really good race and got my first Pro XC win EVER (see podium picture)!
Cedropalooza (NM State Championships):
Cedropalooza was an interesting race for me. Once again, it was a single long loop (23 miles again) but I had never raced the course, so I had no idea what to expect. I chose to bring my hardtail because I had been having good races on it recently (the last 3, for example) but that was not a wise decision on my part. The course was rocky, loose, and flat, and would have been great on a full-suspension bike. There were no extended climbs, which hurt me, and, as I mentioned, I was on the wrong bike. I was hoping to finally beat Damian Calvert (Cannondale), something I have been trying to do for 3 years, but he ended up beating me by almost 2 minutes (although he broke his previous personal record by more than 5 minutes). I finished 2nd though and that ended my 2008 late-season peak.
This year, instead of the usual Vermont winter, I’m getting another summer. I have already put in significantly more time training than I normally would have at this point in the year (almost 17 hours this week, for example) and once the next two UCI races are done, I will be putting in even more time on my bike to build my base. I plan to be in great shape at the start of the coming US mountain bike race season because I want to qualify for the 2009 Mountain Bike World Championships Team. Worlds, HERE I COME!

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