In years past, 'off season' has taken a variety of meanings. In 2015, my off-season consisted of sporadic CX racing and the occasional run. In 2016, off-season was about being a college student for 3-4 fleeting weeks. Wednesday night beer specials and college football let me reset mentally and take much needed time off the bike.
My off-season in this year has been nothing like either. Running has become my new outlet for the time being (until I get back on the bike for base training). My focus has been on preparing for an 8k running race on the 23rd this month. It's been refreshing in two ways -
1) Running is different. After a long season of pedaling day in and day out, different is good.
2) Running isn't my favorite. Of course, I like running enough to do it for a month, but by the end (right about now), I'm ready to start riding again.
The fact of the matter is that off-season can come in a lot of different shapes and forms. One year, you may feel ready to charge right from one season into the next, and another year you may feel like you need a full 2 months away from riding. While going to these extremes really isn't advisable in most circumstances, it's important to tailor your off-season to your physical and mental wellbeing.
In my case, running has struck a good balance between maintaining fitness and taking time off the bike. While I don't think I'll become a full fledged runner anytime soon, it's been satisfying to switch it up.
Great write-up from Brice Shirbach on riding in Virginia. Happy to have such a wealth of riding and terrain only a state away. As Jeremiah (Bishop) likes to remind me, I need to visit more often!
I had a great time riding and exploring some new (to me) trails in the area, and meeting some of the VA mountain bike community's most active members.
Check out the full writeup on PinkBike's home page here:
After a whirlwind couple of weeks, I’m finally (thoroughly) enjoying a week of unstructured training. Worlds were a fantastic experience. Racing in the Red, White, and Blue is always an honor, and this last trip was no exception.
The trip started out with a testing itinerary; just over 26 hours of travel time (22 hours of actual flying) took an early toll on my sanity more than anything. Flying is notoriously hard on a rider’s body, but on the 14 hr leg from LAX to Brisbane, an aisle seat (which reclined surprisingly far) made for some of the best sleep I’ve ever gotten on a flight. To the chagrin of the aisle seat behind me, I ended up reclined for the majority of the flight.
Once on the ground in Carins, Australia, I was happy to find that my bike had arrived promptly and in one piece. The process of getting to our lodging began as Julien Petit (friend and mechanic) and I waited for a few other riders to arrive. I fought off jet lag with a “Long Black Coffee,” which turned out to be a very quality Americano. Apparently that’s the Australian form of regular coffee; you’ll be hard pressed to find drip filter coffee! After arriving at the resort (Paradise Palms), Chris, Cole, and I went out for a quick ride to shake out the travel legs, then it was off to bed early to restore some of our lost sleep.
Most of the week followed a similar format. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all catered by the resort. USA Cycling had specific time slots for meals, and we were to show up as a team at roughly the same time in our casual team gear. We would ride mid-morning, usually in 3-4 groups, and then reconvene for lunch at the resort. Afternoons were for relaxing, massages, and occasionally mini golf! Happy racers go fast… or something like that.
The course was dry and very dusty all week, but as the traffic of hundreds of XC racers burned in laps, the conditions deteriorated heavily towards the end of the week. The dust became a thick layer on track, especially in areas where riders were slowing and/or cornering aggressively. By the end of the week, even riding behind only a rider or two, the dust would become airborne and very invasive; both bikes and bodies were feeling the effects. The course in Carins was well done; the course had one main singletrack climb, a subsequent descent with two main rock gardens, a fast and flowy jump section, and a twisty, flat section linking through the start/finish. With a solid variety of terrain, the track was a lot of fun to ride.
The racing, however, wasn’t so easy on the course. The dust made the start loop a hair-raising experience; it was extremely difficult to see (seriously, it was tough to see the riders directly ahead) and breathe, and I wasn’t aggressive enough to maintain position in the scrum. After moving back and a touch of bad luck, I learned that it was a tall order to make passes on the tight, singletrack climb. I was able to move up, but it was too little, too late. Ultimately, though, it was my lack of aggression on the start loop that set me back the furthest, and my inability to make passes quickly enough on the climb that saw me ride to 39th instead of a better result. Frustrated and disappointed with the result, I’m more resolved than ever to put in the work and refine my approach. I know I have more than that result within my ability, and especially potential, and plan on bringing that to fruition in the coming years.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “...I either win or I learn.” This World Champs has been a phenomenal experience, and while my result was mediocre, the trip was top-notch! I’m already looking forward to the next time around.
For now, I’ll take this trip and use it to start preparing for 2018. With the prospect of my biggest season to yet, I’m motivated and working hard to make racing and riding my livelihood in 2018. But first, a bit of R&R, some time with friends and family, and a lot of footwork for next season.
I'd like to thank Kenny Wehn for the fantastic camera work - he worked double-time as a team mechanic and as a volunteer photographer. Thank you Kenny!
Staying low on the rhythm section towards the bottom of the descent. I would ride this section with a flat on lap 5.
Racing in a cloud of dust: This was on the beginning of lap 1. The worst of the dust, on the start lap, had already passed.
The aftermath of a difficult race; dusty, tired, and with the race sinking in. The end of the race and my biggest season to date.
After MSA, the Bear Dev Squad geared up for the drive to Windham, NY. We took off early on Monday morning, and made it to our host's (Steven van der Zwan) house in the evening. Luckily for us, Steve was kind enough to host us for the entire week leading up to the race. Thanks Steve!
With the week to kill, we focused on keeping our training ticking on time for one more week; Windham was the last ProXCT of the series, and the last race of the season for many of us!
With no short track, our full focus was set on Saturday's XC. The course featured a long (roughly 10min) climb, followed by a descent that took us all the way back to the start. This style of course, with the climb punctuated only by a very short descent, is akin to older XC courses. For us, this course was a change in pace from the short, steep climbing of more modern XC courses. We enjoyed the course nonetheless!
On race day, we enjoyed much cooler temperatures from the year before. Even though temps were still in the mid 80s, it felt wonderful in comparison to last years triple digit affair. The start went well for me; a good call-up, and great legs for the first lap found me in a great position. However, as the second lap rolled around, I started losing steam. Unfortunately, I had hit a 'wall', so to speak, and that lapse cost me time and positioning. Doing what I could, my legs slowly started coming around again, and I was able to finish on a good note, and grab a top 10 finish. With a UCI ranking of HC, my 9th place finish secured me quite a few UCI points. Overall, I was happy with the way I had persisted through fatigue in the early laps, and was glad to get a few more points towards my ranking.
To that point, I'll be lucky enough to use those points at World Championships in September! With my results this year, I'm excited to say that I have made the selection for the US Team, and will be racing one more time this season. I leave on September 1st for Carins, Australia, where I'll spend the week with USAC and the rest of the team preparing for my race on the 8th. Wish me luck!
Photo: Dinner after the race, courtesy of Steven van der Zwan!
The Bear Dev. team left straight from Boston to end up in Canada on Monday evening. A bit of a haul with an 8 person group, we took a majority of the day to make the drive and were ready to hit the sack upon our evening arrival.
With only air mattresses to sleep on, it was a little tough to get quality sleep (especially since Jerry Dufour and I were on the same 'queen' air mattress). Our 3 night stay in Quebec City was punctuated with day trips over to the course at Mont-Sainte-Anne (MSA), where we sussed out the course and got a feel for the venue. Thursday evening marked the start of our housing with the USA Cycling Federation - all of us were lucky enough to receive support from USAC for the race.
With proper beds and a sweet (and tough) course, the week was going well. However, with the promise of rain on race day, we were a little apprehensive to race the already demanding track in even more difficult conditions... Sure enough, the rain started Friday evening and continued until Sunday morning, making course conditions slick. The notorious 'Le Beatrice' was a great spot for spectators to watch the worlds best slide around on greasy, rocky, switchbacks (and occasionally eat dirt).
The race on Sunday morning started with a furious pace, and I quickly made a mess of my call-up. Starting on the second row had held the promise of a good start, but my legs didn't show up for the first 5min of the race, and as such I went backwards from the gun... I found some rhythm as the race progressed, however, and made my way back up into the top 15 (apparently within spitting distance of the top 10 according to spectators) before fading slightly back into 16th on the day.
Overall, happy with the result! I managed to snag some good UCI points on the weekend, further improving my start position in later races. On top of that, we rode top notch trails all week, and even made an appearance at the infamous MSA after-party.
Next, we'll be back in the States for the Windham ProXCT (UCI HC), a great opportunity to put in a last dig and secure some more UCI points before the end of the season.
Photo Credit: Juergen Gruenwidl
After Nationals, the Bear Development U23 squad went straight up to Boston for the last round of the US Cup circuit, the Boston Rebellion. The race was ranked a UCI HC, so there were a lot of points on the line. Additionally, with both the XC and STXC events attracting talented pro fields, the racing was sure to be good!
The weekend kicked off with the XC on Saturday, however, while pre-riding on Friday, I went down and hit my head pretty hard. Of course, I was wearing a helmet, but the hit left me feeling out of it and with a headache. I cut the pre-ride short, kept a close eye out for symptoms of a concussion, and decided to make the final call on whether I'd race Saturday morning. My head felt normal the morning of the race, so I decided I'd go ahead and race.
The race was flat and twisty with plenty of exposed roots; passing was difficult for most of the lap. This meant the start was especially crucial... Ultimately, the start was chaotic as usual and I was stuck behind quite a bit of traffic in the woods. Most of the day was spent fighting back to the front, with only the last couple laps being more tactical racing. I ended up 5th on the day, snagging some good UCI points.
Short track was a lot more open, but still flat, meaning that the race was far more tactical. From my experience last year, I knew that the one separating feature was a mid-lap, flat rock garden, so I worked to stay at the front of the race to ensure I'd be clear of trouble in the rocks. This worked well, but I ended up lacking the last lap punch to make it higher than 5th on the day - where I would finish again.
Overall, it was a good weekend and served much needed redemption after last years race there. Happy to have a few more UCI points, too!
The most stressful race of the year is done... Mountain bike Nationals this year were in Snowshoe, West Virginia this year. A remote ski resort, about 6 hours away from Chapel Hill, NC, Snowshoe is also right next to an observatory. Although you can’t see the observatory from the mountain, you can feel the effects; the observatory necessitates radio silence - so there is no cell service in the area.
After driving back from Boulder in 2 days, I had 4 days in Chapel Hill, NC before heading up to Nats and the next 4 weeks of racing. Luckily, my family came up to Snowshoe with me, so leaving so quickly wasn’t as tough. My younger brother, Paul, raced his first ever National Champs race after a killer NICA season - so cool to see him out at the races!
The racing kicked off with STXC on Friday afternoon/evening. After some last minute uncertainty due to inclement weather, the race was ultimately set for Friday evening at 7pm. Dealing with the schedule changes was a little difficult, but I ended up having a decent race. While my start was lackluster, I ended up being able to claw back through the 35min race, making selections until it was Keegan Swenson and I chasing down a charging Howard Grotts. We ended up going 2 -3, with me rounding out the last step on the podium.
The next day, with the first race out of the way, quite a bit of the pre race pressure was lifted. The way the scheduling worked, anyone that raced STXC and XC had a day in between the events. Although a little different from the standard back-to-back format of racing, I enjoyed the extra day.
The final and main event (XC) followed the next day. I woke up early that morning to the sound of heavy rain and the promise of interesting course conditions, and, sure enough, the course was soaked and slick. Unfortunately I made a mess of my front row call up in an untimely tangle with eventual winner, Chris Blevins. I worked hard to regain contact with the front of the race on the first lap, but was able to settle into a rhythm riding with Chris once I had come back. We rode together and away from the field until Chris managed to ride away towards the beginning of the last lap. All in all, it was a good race and I can’t complain with the result. It’s a little bittersweet to miss the title my last year as a U23, but Chris was hard to stop!
Next stops: Mont-Sainte-Anne, QC and Windham, NY.
After a few weeks on the go, it's nice to be staying put for a couple of weeks. The trip to Canada with the Bear Development squad went well! We started out as a trio in Ontario - Jerry Dufour, Eli Kranefuss, and I set out to bring the heat in the hot and humid climate of the Northeastern summer. Getting to the race turned out to be more of a challenge than anticipated; extenuating circumstances prevented us from renting a car, so managing out logistics between the airport, our housing, and the venue proved stressful.
The race was flat, technical, and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, my race day legs weren't quite up to par for the speed of the start, and I spent the majority of the race fighting to get in touch with the leaders, but fell short in 6th on the day. A tough race, but a good time on the bike!
The following week leading up into the Canada Cup in Whistler, BC went much more smoothly. With the accommodations in Whistler right next to the venue, it was easy to get around and pre ride the course. A completely different type of track, Whistlers course boasted plenty of steep climbing, and rough descents. The addition of Steffen Anderson and Xander Sugarman rounded out our squad at 5 riders - all of which raced the UCI C2 cross country event.
Race day was another warm one, but I brought my legs this time around, and felt good on race day. However, a few errors on the second lap saw me go from 1st to 3rd and struggling to bring back contact. Then, a late race surge from Geoff Kabush pushed me into 4th, where I would finish. Happy with the race and thankful to grab another UCI podium!
Now, I'm back in Boulder, CO with Ellie. I plan to spent the next couple of weeks here before driving back to the East Coast for USAC Nationals in Snowshoe, WV.
Photos, from the top: Dropping into one of the descents at Whistler; Enjoying good company in an amazing location (From left to right: Eli, myself, Jerry)
The Missoula ProXCT turned out to be a success! I was a little apprehensive about my preparation coming into the race - I had been on the move from NC to CO, and a housing snafu in Boulder made life a little more stressful.
The course in Montana was a little less technical than I had been hoping; the course mainly consisted of one large, gravel climb, followed by a flowing, high-speed descent. A hot lap the day before also indicated that even though the altitude wasn't extreme, it was enough to play a role in my pacing strategy.
The race was at 7:00pm on Saturday, so after a full day of waiting around, we finally got the race underway. I played my cards safe, and held back on my pace; a move that paid off. As it turns out, that was just about exactly the pace I could hold for the 1.5 hour race.
With a 5th place performance on Saturday, I was happy with the result and less stressed about the STXC on Sunday.
As Sunday morning rolled around, I was ready to see what I had left in the tank. Jerry Dufour and I took turns at/near the front for about 1/3rd of the race. We helped spread the field out, solidifying a group of 4 riders by the end. As the final laps ticked by, I was among the 4, and was able to hold on to a 3rd place finish.
Happy to grab a few podium finishes!
Now, back to CO for 2 days, and then a quick turnaround to rounds 4 and 5 of the Canada Cups with Bear Development Team.
From the top: The XC podium (5th), the STXC podium (3rd)
Racing in Europe with USAC this spring was a fantastic experience. As a team, we hit 3 races: We started at a UCI HC race in Austria, then moved to the Nove Mesto and Albstadt World Cups. With the World Cups being the main focus, Austria was meant to help us gain UCI points and get us settled for the World Cups the following weeks. Nestled in the Alps and boasting a superb course, the race surpassed my expectations!
Thinking that course would be a hard act to follow, we headed to Nove Mesto. The course at Nove Mesto also exceeded my expectations; easily one of my favorite venues, the track offered ample room for passing, raucous crowds, and enough technicality to call it a MTB course.
Albstadt, while a little underwhelming when compared to the previous two, was still a good course. With demanding climbs and fast descending, it was a punishing course to race..
My results this year were a significant improvement over last year's European races - I finished:
7th in Austria, gaining UCI points
38th in Nove Mesto after starting 81st
46th in Albstadt after starting 83rd and suffering through a tough race.
Thank you to Bear Development Team and USAC for making that trip a reality! I'm coming away optimistic about my results, but excited to train and make more improvements.
From the top: UCI HC race in Austria, Attacking on the Nove Mesto course, Suffering in Albstadt