This season has far surpassed anything I could have hoped and this last week has just been the icing on the cake. After XC nationals I had a little longer break then I had planned due to a hamstring injury I’ve been battling all year. I got it all sorted out thanks to the great people up in Boulder and was able to put in a big block of training I needed to get ready for Leadville and Breck Epic.
I decided to just sleep in my altitude tent this year instead of staying up at high altitude so I could spend more time with the family. I think living up at 10,000 ft is more beneficial then sleeping at 11,000 ft in the tent for 8 hours since it is a longer exposure but being mentally engaged is the most important part of all. I still did plenty of long high country rides and was lucky to have my brother Troy racing both Leadville and Breck this year too so I had someone to suffer with. We are lucky here in Durango because the climbs we have around Silverton and Telluride are longer, higher and steeper then what we encounter at Leadville so there is no shortage of great training if you’re willing to go out and get it.
I don’t know what it is but I can try hard all year to get down to my optimal race weight with no luck. August rolls around and somehow the pounds finally start to melt off. This year I struggled all year to get lean but then Leadville rolled around everything fell into place.
OK, enough training stuff, let’s get to the racing. Leadville and Sea Otter are the races I always want to do well in these days. They draw the most international riders and get the most media coverage of all the races I do. They are two completely different races and require almost totally different training regimes. This year everyone was talking about all the World Tour road guys doing Leadville. Since it isn’t very technical and mostly dirt road it seemed logical that the road guys would give the mountain bikers a run for their money. That said, I new from the past that fastest guys I’ve ever raced there are Alban and Hyneck. They smashed the record last year every race I’ve ever done with them regardless of length they ride hard the entire time.
The weather was perfect this year and we rolled off in the dawn light after the traditional shot gun start. Normally everyone wants to pin it on the front and we normally sit at 35 mph on the dh roll out but this year the only person that wanted to ride hard was Bishop. The group let him roll off less then a mile into the race and I jumped across to him shortly after that. We built a gap and at the top of the first climb we were joined by Joe Dombrowski, that would be our group for the rest of the day. We worked well together out to Columbine and back down to Powerline. JB had been driving the group in the beginning but once it became apparent 3 guys riding alone all day weren’t going to break the record he backed it off a notch.
At the bottom of Powerline Joe put in a surge that distanced JB and dropped me too. I was able to claw back by the top of the first steep pitch and we rode together for the rest of the climb. I knew with Joe weighing nearly 40 lbs less then me if I could hold him close on the climb I could probably get him on the flats and descent into the finish. I attacked over the top of Powerline, held the gap on the last road climb while fighting cramps and rolled into the finish in first. It was awesome!
Bike setup: 2017 Scott Scale, 38 tooth eagle 10-50 cassette, Icefriction coating on cassette, chainring and chain, Zipp aero bars, SID fork 95 psi, Look road pedals, Maxxis Pace front and rear 170 tpi prototype casing 27,29. Tons of clif shot drink mix and about a million clif shot citrus gels:)
OK, so accomplishing my main goal of the season was incredible but I didn’t have much time to celebrate as I had committed to one of my favorite races of all time, the Breck-Epic. Had I known I was going to win Leadville I might have skipped the Epic because the Leadville awards are Sunday morning, the same time we start the Breck-Epic. So instead of drinking too much beer and eating too much pizza I was packing my gear and getting my stuff organized for the Epic.
I made it to Breck in time on Sunday to grab a coffee at Cuppa Joe, get my gear on, check over my Spark since I had been on the Scale for Leadville and basically roll to the start. I didn’t have the energy or time for a warm up so I was hoping for the mercy of all those with fresh legs. I managed to recover pretty well over night because midway through the race I found myself off with my teammate Finsty. While Finsty didn’t do Leadville he did race the PROXCT finals in Windham, NY the pervious day, fly to Denver and drive into Breck around midnight so he was a little tired too. We worked well together, had a good gap and managed to miss a turn that cut 3 miles off the days stage so we came in way ahead of everyone except 3rd place that also missed the turn.
We didn’t know what Mike Mac and the race organizers would do since we obviously had a good gap and didn’t try to miss the turn but nearly everyone else made it with out incident. Lucky for us they decided to slot us in 1 second after 4th place on the day negating all the hard work we put in to get the gap but not penalizing us too much and still giving us a good shot at the overall. I felt like it was more then fair and we were ultra motivated for the following day.
Day 2 Finsty and I again went out strong and created the gap fairly early on. Finsty managed to break his derailluer cable when a rock flew up and hit it only giving him the use of 3 fairly hard gears. He stopped in the tech zone to try and fix it but some plastic piece was also broken so they decided he would ride his bike with limited gears up to the high point of the CO trail for the day nearly 12,000 ft, Myron would go back to the venue to get his hardtail and they would switch in the next feedzone. You are allowed to switch bikes in the Epic if you want to. Finsty ground over the top and down to the next aid station where he swapped bikes and managed to make his way back up to 2nd place on the day. It was an amazing ride and had that not happened to him we would have battled it out for the leader’s jersey all week. At the end of the stage I was in the lead and Finsty was sitting second 4 and half minutes back.
We would ride together the rest of the week trying to get as much time as we could on the rest of the field because in a MTB race there is no shortage of things that can go wrong. There is no team car to help if you break your bike and have to walk 10 miles to an aid station, even an hour lead can evaporate in the blink of an eye. I would often set the pace up the climbs and then would try to hang onto Finsty as long as I could on the descents. If I could keep him in sight I would be pushing way above my comfort zone and as soon as he would disappear I would knock it back down to a more reasonable pace. We swapped 2 stage wins apiece after having our day 1 result nullified and enjoyed the last day.
I love stage races and especially mountain bike ones. You form a camaraderie with everyone you are riding with and to hear the stories at the end of the day are awesome. We spent way too much time above tree line last week, rode endless miles of single track and rode in areas everyone should get to experience at least once in their life. Myron kept our bikes running great and SRAM provided support for the whole race. The weather was nearly perfect for the front of the race though the back portion got to experience first hand Colorado summer storms at 12,000 + feet which feel a lot like winter everyplace else.
Bike Setup: Scott Spark(last day Scale just to mess with Mike M), RS-1 90 psi, Rock Shox rear shock 155 psi, Eagle 38-34 front ring depending on the day(34 for Wheeler Pass), 10-50 Eagle cassette, Maxxis 2.2 Ikon TR/EXO at 24.5/25 front and rear.
For more photos/videos/info on the race check it out at: https://www.facebook.com/breckepic
It’s a funny feeling after accomplishing a goal and racing for a week straight above 10,000 ft. You work so hard to get the fitness, loose the weight, get acclimated, don’t get sick, dial everything in and do everything right to go as fast as possible and recover as well as possible. Then, what do you do when it’s over? My next big target will be either La Ruta or Iceman. I’m not going to keep this fitness that long but I worked so hard to get it, it’s hard to throw it away. Do I try to keep it rolling for a while at races like the one I’m doing in Nogales this weekend or do I do a hard stop, rest and start building again for the next big race. I might be able to roll my fitness all the way to Iceman because it’s far more tactical and just requires being really sharp but there is no way to stay disciplined all the way to La Ruta with the training and diet required to do well there. I’m think I’ll just enjoy the week, have fun at the race in Mexico, spend a day floating around the Lazy River in Tucson and then figure it out next week. The only thing I really have to do is the Clif Bar Cykle Scramble in Marin next month where not crashing on the jumps is the biggest challenge.
This is basically a wrap on MTB season, can’t thank my sponsors and support crew enough for making this amazing year possible. Last year this time I was trying to find a job and wondering if maybe it was time to retire and move on to something else. Now I’m coming off one my best seasons ever and wondering how I’m going to top it for 2017.
I wonder if Coop and I are going to hit the pump track or golf course later……