OLYMPIC RACE

NIK00931-633x421The GB Olympics are in the books! What an amazing event. I don’t know what it is but each time I go to the Olympics they seem to get bigger and better. It might help that I had my best ever Olympic race this past weekend with a 10th place!

I had the perfect run in to this Games. I decided to skip World Cup finals in Val d’isere so I could stay home and do some proper training in my build up to the Olympics. For me I respond well to big volume and to try and race a World Cup when I’m training 25-30 hours a week just doesn’t work. I was able to get that good block of volume in at home at altitude by skipping that race. In the final week before I flew over to our German base camp I spent a lot of time chasing Troy on the scooter motor-pacing, doing intervals up the steepest dirt road in town and just suffering like a dog.

Things went smooth and then I was off to Kirchzarten. This year I have been making all my international travel routes based on how likely I am to get the international upgrade and it worked out perfect for the Olympic trip. I got in my little pod and slept like a baby the whole way over.

Kirchzarten has awesome training and I spent some more time behind the scooter, this time piloted by Olympic MTB team coach, Marc Gulickson. It also has some great climbs, good bike paths and well marked MTB trails. We had great weather and I was able to keep the volume up.

Monday we flew to London, got our credentials and were off to the Olympic Village. We spent Monday night in the Olympic village rummaging through all our new clothing, visiting the dining hall and sweating it out on the 9th floor. Tuesday morning we took the shuttle bus the 1 hour out to the course and then I was with the Specialized team for the rest of the week in a hotel in Southend on the Sea. Shultz was the only one of the four of us that stayed in the village all week.

Staying with the Specialized team for the Olympics was the biggest difference between this Games and the previous for me. Staying in the village is like visiting Las Vegas. It is sensory overload and a completely different environment then I am use to. For the track and field athletes or swimmers that train together at the Olympic centers it might be normal but for me I think my heart rate is always 10-20 beats higher at all times.

I had a nice 20 minute ride to and from the hotel to the course, a great bike path along the coast and plenty of coffee shops and stores all within walking distance of the hotel. I got to see the family too when they arrived since they were staying only about a mile away. I even got to have dinner with Meg, which never happens at the Olympics.

The training on the course went great all week, I got in plenty of laps and studied all the lines. The weather was awesome, sunny and warm all week. It seemed like the race was there before I knew it.

I had a great prerace morning spin and even got some Starbucks espresso for the race. I was able to ride to the course for part of my warm up and spent the rest of the time on the trainer.

I had my best ever Olympic call up 15, lined up all the way left and managed to sneak onto the front row right next to Absalon just before the start. I didn’t have a great pull off the line but managed to keep it upright through out the start loop which was no small task. We took about 10 pedal strokes and then started a sweeping left downhill 180 turn on a loose gravel road. It was pretty sketchy and I slipped back to the low 20s by the time we hit the first rock drop.

I knew from Georgia’s ride that it was possible to get to the front even with a poor start and I set about moving up through the field. By the third lap I had made it to 8th place, could see 6 and 7 about 10 seconds up the road and the leaders were only about 20-30 seconds up by the 4th lap. I gave everything to try and get across and by the 5th of 7 laps I was starting to loose steam. First Fumic, then Carlos and finally Kabush all started to gap me. I dug deep and started to come around again towards the end of the 6th lap. I managed to pass Tempier on the last lap but couldn’t close down on any of the others.

I rolled in for 10th place, my personal best Olympic result and the best one for an US male to date. I was really happy that my Specialized teammate Jaroslav Kulhavy was able to take gold. He had an amazing season last year where he won almost every race and this year has been kind of rough for him. He trains more then anyone I know so I was glad it paid off for him. My US teammate Sam Shultz also had a good race coming in 15th which is great for his first Olympics. He looked like he was wondering around in a state of awe all week so I happy he put it together on the big day. We were all really proud of Georgia Gould who won a bronze medal for the US team the day before and gave us all a lot of confidence and motivation leading into our race. Lea also had a good ride in her Olympic debut coming in 11. We had the best Olympic results as a US MTB team ever! I am honored to have been a part of it.

Some sports call it a season after the Olympics but not cycling. I’m off to WI for PROXCT finals this weekend where my teammate from Olympics will be one of my biggest competitors. I get a few weeks off then it’s time for XC Worlds, Marathon Nationals, Marathon Worlds, Tour of Langkawi, La Ruta and then finally a break.

I wonder what the Dart is doing right now……

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