Sorry for the lack of communication the last couple weeks, I’ve been enjoying taking it easy mid-week at home in Maine and not having much in the way of innerweb access on the race weekends either. Sleeping, eating, training, racing and driving around occupies a lot of time in the dog days of summer… The back roads of New England, while extremely scenic, don’t exactly make the 600 or so miles driven every week from race to Corinth and back the quickest of trips. Not that there’s anywhere I’d rather be this time of year, great rides with the boys in Maine during the week, some warm water kayaking and playing cribbage with Dad generally make my day every day. Racing proper mountain biking on the weekends is the icing on my east coast summer cake. With this in mind, let’s look back at some highlights from the last few weeks back east.
Actually, the week between World Cups #5 and 6 in Quebec was kind of a different approach… As per usual, I drove back to Maine on Sunday night in order to have plenty of time for a ride and to check the water level at Gulf Hagas (it was good…). A nice four hour road ride on Tuesday around the old coastal hills stomping ground was just what the body and mind needed. Then, Wednesday I went to the airport. Wait, aren’t both races a pleasant afternoon drive from Grandma’s house? This airport run was to attend the Giant Bicycles 2010 Product Launch in Keystone CO. Normally I’d be unimpressed with leaving my beloved east coast schedule, but hey, its 2009 and they said I’d get to ride an ‘o10 Glory on downhill trails all day. Sounds like good race prep to me… It was super fun to spend a couple evenings shooting the shit with editors from around the world and daylight hours shredding the bike park amidst a freak mid-summer snowstorm… The skies even parted for a quick sunset trip around the 20-mile “Epic” Test loop on the new Trance X Advanced SL with the fittest DH magazine editor out there; Mark Jordan. I’ll do a bunch more rides this year but that one is going to be top three regardless. Dank dirt Colorado Trail charging into the unknown with magical light. Mmmmm…. A late night pool game and early morrning shuttle to Denver had me back in Montreal by rush hour on Friday, just in time to get muddy at Bromont for the weekend.
Speaking of Bromont, World Cup #6 was an exact carbon copy of the stop there last year. It started raining an hour before race time and had dropped an inch by the time the gun went off. At least another fell during the race, making things a bit sloppy to say the least… Other than being a bit tired from the CO trek I was LOVING it. Our decade-old Michelin Wildgrippers held strong and I moved solidly up to 10th by the finish. I figured if I wasn’t going to help with tear-down I’d better make some prize money for Joe and Felice to buy dinner with. Carl might’ve gotten in the money if he’d had the super tires too, his 33rd place, while rad, doesn’t show how fast the boy was riding out there as the race wore on. I found more when I got back to Grandma’s that night after driving through the same awesome rainstorm most of the way.
One can say that Kayak trips come down to timing. Quite simply, there has to be water. Lizzy English hit the nail on the head when she arrived in Maine the day after two inches of rain fell. We headed straight for the western mountains and Sandy Stream, the granite of which I hadn’t been on in years. Seeing people actually swimming at the “Rope Swing” drop was strangely pleasant. The next day it was the uber-classic slate gorge of Gulf Hagas. I could get into this 85-degree creek boating thing for sure…
Before we knew it another workweek had passed and we were headed south to Mount Snow, Vermont for the Mt Snow MTB Fest and US Cup Series race on the weekend. I kind of like the inverted professional schedule. The weather finally broke for the Vermont weekend, although the black flies were out in full force on account of the recent moisture. I started the XC race with heavy legs and struggled to hang on for the climb. Just as I was getting dropped the extra weight of my legs proved too much for my back tire, and I got a classic “just riding along” flat tire. The spare tube I’ve carried in every race this summer was flat too. Sweet. Oh well, I’ve raced at Mount Snow for A LOT of years and haven’t had any bad luck, ever, which is surprising considering how unforgiving the terrain is and with what irresponsible glee I ride here most of the time… This year was a good one to have things go awry, it not being a National Championship race and all. The Cross Country events were held down for Team Giant by Lizzy with an Age Group victory and second overall in the Cat 1 (Expert) race (much) earlier in the morning. Guess kayakers make good bike riders?
Super D was Sunday morning and rumor had it there would be rain overnight. We did the Oli Beckingsale trick with a water glass on the porch to gauge the amount of slop we’d have to deal with on the track.. Turns out it was none, just a nice misty morning in the Appalachians. There was time for some practice so Carl, Jeff Lenosky and I took full advantage and shredded a few runs. Fun times. Thanks to our new Shimano DX shoes the lemans start went well with “college runner” Carl dropping in first with me third behind Adam Snyder. I made the pass on Snyder (guess 650B wheels aren’t faster…) and set my sights on Carl who was doing a fine job of protecting the inside lines. We settled for an all-out drag race up the short fireroad climb and some seriously sloppy point riding on my part after that. I figured I had him as we bombed down the final ski runs at well over 30mph but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that Carl was wearing a slippery UCI-banned skinsuit and I was all steezed out in my baggy Fox gear, flapping in the wind. I think the flapping quieted for a moment as Carl drafted past me before the last bridge and fall-away finish. Good thing they banned those things, he looked super dorky whilst winning… Lizzy kept the Giant for Women’s flag a-flying in Kelli’s absence with a second place in the Pro/Open Super D, also wearing baggies to defeat by a lycra-clad competitor. Coincidence?
Carl and I were faced with an awkward amount of time between our 166% effort (against each other) in the Super D and the Short Track start. About two hours. Just enough time to cool down and stiffen up but a bit long to just keep riding. Hmmm. We ate some stuff and drank some stuff and changed clothes then started warming up again for the short contest. Turns out I should’ve just kept it rolling… Then maybe I would have been able to turn my pedals at all for the first ten minutes. Carl did just fine, must have been the thrill of victory powering him. He was riding steadily in third as I got my life on track and started catching up from the 20’s somewhere. Sometime in there a corner was casually blown by Decker and casually corrected with a right leg dab. Usual stuff. Except somehow he whacked the handlebar in the process and split his knee open. Had I known this upon catching up in grand style, I wouldn’t have asked him to “pull me up to JHK and I’ll get him on the climb”, I might have said “is that your kneecap?” But pull me up he did, and pass Jeremy on the last lap in hot pursuit of Kabush and T Wells I did. That’s teamwork, right? Am I responsible for his $460 stitches bill as the teammate who came out on top?
Nice midweek weather in Maine was a welcome sight to the local boys and they were fired up for some riding at Mount Waldo. Sparky took Lizzy and I out to show us the new trail, Goat Blower. Justin and I agreed it definitely doesn’t blow goats… Then the next day Porter and the Orono boys gave a tour of some fresh nuggets in the University Forest and Orono land trust. Good stuff, which the difficulty of simply riding on I’d forgotten.
Another midweek, another drive south, this time to Windham, NY. We’d raced the National Round here last year and had a damn good time hanging out with the stoked locals and riding rad trails. The recent announcement of the 2010 World Cup Schedule with Windham hosting the finals had created quite a buzz and we were looking forward to getting out and previewing the track. While a bit shorter, it was still the same overall amount of awesome as last year, interesting stair-stepping climbs with fast flowy descents sprinkled in the woods between. Also sprinkled in the woods was a record amount of rainfall so far this summer. This challenge and the resulting perfect course conditions are a testament to the dedication of the Windham Crew. Hundreds of yards of bridge and rockwork made the boggy sections not only rideable but pretty interesting to boot. High five. If I’d only had the energy to ride it fast on Saturday. I felt decent but just didn’t have the kick to ride with the leaders. 6th on the day. That should improve in twelve months for sure, regardless of the difference in field depth… Carl had a good battle with Mike Broderick to come home tenth. Cash Money! In her continuing mysterious ability to ride bikes fast, Lizzy took home the overall Cat 1 XC win by four minutes. Her last lap strategy was something about “I just stood up and charged all the climbs, which wasn’t as hard as I thought it should be.” Felice’s bike is fast…
Super D followed the XC almost immediately, good thing the temp began to cool a tiny bit from close to 90 and quite humid, enabling us to at least pretend to get rehydrated and ready to do a 100 meter dash with a somersault thrown in for good measure… Our short track fortunes of last week were juxtaposed, as I used good legs to ride in to the lead by the beginning of the descent proper and Carl fought the burn to stay in the mix. I had checked out and was looking forward to shredding the rest of the course proper and solo when I heard the familiar sound of air hissing… Oops. Guess I shredded a bit too hard on knife-edged ledge. I instructed Carl to “SMOKE THOSE FOOLS” before toodling off down the ski run shortcut to watch the finish. He did, just barely. Lizzy had the Women’s similarly in the bag when she experienced a similar sensation in the back of here bike. First flat tire of her budding career. Lucky!
Short Track was Sunday at Noon-Thirty, which would leave plenty of time for venison and eggs and a proper “warm-up”. After my abysmal showing last weekend and Sam Schultz pointing out the obvious that “if you warmed up hard you might start harder” I strapped on the dreaded heartrate monitor and set about doing some efforts in the sun. It worked. I started fine and settled into the lead group, waiting for Carl to get on before we tried anything. He needed to be close to Jeremy H-K to hold onto second in the series. Well, Carl never caught on and eventually I had to start racing when Kabush attacked and got a gap with that cheeky Schultz boy. They were stronger than my solo chase so I ended up battling with Sid Taberlay for third. He got me after not doing much work the rest of the race… Carl was 8th, one spot too far behind JHK…
The other bonus of mid-day racing is there’s plenty of time to ride down to the swimming hole for a dip before the inevitable trailer teardown and World Champs bike packing jobs commenced. Lizzy got the beta from some locals at the gas station that Mosquito Point was the spot. A 30-40 foot bridge jump with a rope swing and clear cool water underneath was just what the doctor ordered on another uncomfortably warm afternoon in the Catskills. A nice way to wind down from a fairly tiring six weeks of back-to-back racing and traveling.
Now it’s time for Carl and I to head home, rest up for a few days and then try to find some form for the upcoming World Champs in Australia. We’re thinking of riding road bikes to the Oregon Coast and back, and over some hills in the process… That should do the trick.
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