Tuesday, August 16, 2011


La vie est grande! Its 8am… I’ve been on the road for 2.5 hrs already. I’m sitting in the BMC Truck with the mechanic Sylvain listening to some Arcade Fire. The plain that Milan sits in, really isn’t glamorous at all. I think coming from America, we have this grand vision of what Milano is, probably from wafer, chocolate cookies and fashion magazines. I can tell you that it is in reality pretty unspectacular. There is a lot of corn, overhead power wires and dirty Italian industry. I’ve never been to Cleveland, but I imagine it is a lot like this.

It’s ok though… because over the past week, I have seen nothing but astonishing beauty. It turns out that the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia) is phenomenal. It’s a lot like the rest of Europe at first glance… green, and rolling countrysides, a lot of little roads, cows and small villages. But when one looks deeper, unique details appear. The country has found a weird middle ground between the generic western European atmosphere it strives for, and its recent communist background. It’s as if one tried to hurriedly paint a black wall white… you can still see what was there. Nove Mesto na Morave, the city where the World Cup took place, has all the right small houses, pastures and fountains, you would find in any city of 10,000 around Europe.

But it also has ten story housing Projects… with the wires, antenne, rusted mental and pigeon stains that are so strongly associated with the former Communist Block. The Projects have just been painted pink and yellow and sky blue, tricking the residents and visitors that things have changed. There are still old wheat and potato farmers, walking with canes through furrowed fields wearing old leather boots and woolen caps and felt hats… just as I am sure their fathers did before them, under Stalin and Kremlin Rule. These old-timers tractors are of the same vintage as the Model-T, and represent perfectly the dichotomy between new and old Czech when they are seen working the fields with their grandsons in new GPS navigated combines.

It turns out they know how to put on a bike race in Czech too… we raced at a famous Nordic area… I believe the biathalon Word Cup has recently visited Nove Mesto na Morave. There were 25,000 people out for the Men’s Elite race and maybe 10,000 for our U23 race. It was pretty spectacular. The course was riddled with roots, and folded back upon itself over and over again. It was technical enough to be fun, but not so much that it was a battle just to stay on your bike, as it usually is in Mont-Ste-Anne, Quebec. I had a blast racing. It was a brutally hard start, and I had a tough time staying inside the top 15, but by the time we can through after the start lap I was 11th. From there I just moved up… the next few laps I gained two or three positions each time, and then going into lap 4 of 6, I was riding strongly in the race for 5th. There were some groups along the way, but mostly I was alone or riding with just one other racer. It was a brutally hard race… not only was it fast, but the hills were steep, and we all kept it pinned to stay away from one another. With 2 laps to go, a group of 4 or 5 came within about 10 seconds of me and and ISD guy I was racing with pretty much up until then. I didn’t want to race for 9th, so I went for it before they caught us. Got that was a hard lap. I moved into 4th… and just kept the gas on. Sebastian, the Belgian Champion was coming though. He was putting about 5-10 second into my lead every lap. And although I managed to hold him off until the final km I messed up. Crossing a bridge with 500m to go, I dropped my concentration and rode off the bridge. I flatted. He caught me and went around after I finished a rock garden on a nearly empty tire. Shit. So I went from 4th to 5th… and another Belgian was charging hard. I had to negotiate some high speed gravel corners with no air in the front tire. IT made steering impossible, and I crossed over the huge flyover and down a few small drops with 300m to go still only onto 5th by only 5 seconds. But I had one more big corner and a long finish straight to go on a flat tire. I held it together though… the Belgian caught me, and I’m sure was preparing to go around me for the sprint, but maybe I had been able to get a little rest with that flat tire and accelerated away from him… not easily, but handedly… my front tire going brap brap brap brap as I sprinted in my new Stars and Stripes Jersey toward the finish line. God that was stressful and stupid. I’m never looking over my shoulder with 1m to go again. From here on out my eyes are only looking forward. Now forward to this weekend in Val di Sole, Italy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Prep work

Im learning what a long season really feels like. Since I last checked in, after my National Championships win, I have been through an emotional gammut. I put a lot into that race. More than I could know at the time. I've put a lot into this season... more than I knew I had. There isn't really a soft way the universe teaches these lessons. I learn on the side of the road when I'm dehydrated, hungry, my legs are sore and I can't complete an interval set. I learn this stuff when I'm racing, my legs wont turn over, and my stomach is turning into knots. I learn this stuff when my SRM says I've been on my bike for over 5 hrs, my feet hurt and there are dead bugs stuck in my helmet.I guess I started really training in the middle of January... I think the 72 hrsI took off the bike last week after my Missoula Pro XCT flop is the longest consecutive stint I have had off since then. No wonder I am sitting in this coffee shop wearing recovery tights. Your legs would be tired too. I just wish they made some recovery tights for my head. Its tired too I think.
But there is nothing to get me excited to race bikes again like a good family reunion and some good ol' house hunting. It makes me love the time I get to train and travel...
No, in all seriousness, I loved having the Ettinger Family Reunion here in Bozeman. It was an awesome excuse to sit on the porch in the evening, drink beer, eat good food and laugh. I spent some time looking at dinosaur bones here at the Museum of the Rockies, with my grandparents, aunt and uncle. Although I wasn't riding, I got to point everyone in the right directions, show them why I've chosen to spend some serious time in this town. Its pretty spectacular here when the mountains come out of their snowy fortress. We always have fun, and it was good to spend some more time hanging out with my parents. I'm excited to see them again soon, come Champery.
I was simultaneously trying to track down a place to call home for the next year. I think I've gotten it figured out now... but what a stressful few days. Knowing I need to be out of my current situation this weekend, so I can comfortably pack for the next month of European racing early next week. I got pretty OCD about it at times too, which doesn't help the situation. I stressed over irrelevant details, and almost created a mess for myself. I've checked a lot of little details off my bucket list. Stuff I hadn't gotten to because of days and months of being on the road.
Since most of the above happens via computer, I'll have had a couple solid weeks of hard hard training and good recovery before this final trip. I think, if all the moving goes smoothly this weekend, I should show up in Europe as fast as I've been all season. And its given me some time to rest mentally. To just sit on the back porch, read and recharge the batteries some. That hasn't happened in months. It feels good. I'm excited... and I think I am more ready for these World Cups than I was for the North American races in July. Last year I was cooked by this time, but right now I am fit and ready to do some serious World Cup racing. Ill keep you updated.
Oh and all these photos are from Nationals, courtesy of Daimo and Annette.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

National Champion(ships)

So Wells just posted a blog about National Championships... he won his a day later than I did. Guess I am dropping the ball.
In all seriousness, I don't even know what to say. I won! I don't have much else about the race to say... I don't remember much... its a complete blur. Not only did I win, I did so convincingly. I couldn't let myself slow down, I couldn't let myself think about winning until I had done it. All I could think about until that final straightaway was pedaling, being smooth (I channelled my inner Tristian Cowie on that decent) and not winning. What would that mean? Really nothing... it wouldn't make me less of a person. But this race held so much emotional esteem for me... its hardly the most important of the season... but to win a National Championships represents so much hard work. So much frustration. So much triumph... its not something that can be felt until it happens. Until you've felt the years and the road it takes to come by one.
Maybe more than anything its the relief that comes once I crossed that finish line.
This has been the culmination of the first stages of my career. From road trips with my dad at age 15, listening to the Grateful Dead as we drove down 395 through Nevada and California, to now chasing an Olympic dream around all corners of the globe. I've worked hard... no doubt, but I absolutely wouldn't be able to do what I have done without an incredible supporting cast over the years. I will forever remember Rocky Crocker giving me my first team jersey at the Squilchucker race in Wenatchee... it was a white sleeveless Nashbar jersey with Wenatchee Area Racers silkscreened onto the front and back. I think I was 14 and I'm sure at that moment I thought it couldn't get any better. Jason Jablonski has answered hundreds of frantic phone calls over the past decade... why he always seems to be right will forever be a mystery to me. Scott Paton and everyone at Arlberg Sports has really made racing possible. Without his continued support, I have no doubt that I wouldn't be where I am today. He believed in what I was doing. Its cool to now be a role model for his son Cole... he's a super talented kid, and could find incredible success in this sport if he so chooses. It was incredible to get to watch him race this weekend in Sun Valley. I'm glad they came down. Obviously my Parents. They have always believed that what I do is valid and worth supporting, I hope I make them proud. I think I do... but not because I race well, but because I try to be honest, humble and true to myself and my pursuits. I have so many memories from traveling and racing with them.... I will always hold them close to my heart, and look forward to making more. I could go on forever about what their support means to me, but thats for another time. Marc Gullickson has given me the opportunities to race in europe, see what it means to be a professional, and how hard I have to work to be at the top of this sport. Without his guidance, there would be no National Championship for me... nor would I be finding my arguably more important successes internationally. I have so many friends who have pushed me to succeed but more importantly to love this pursuit... Mitchell, Allen, Ethan, Joey, Tad, TJ Owen, Ryan, Lydia, Jack, Kerry, Chloe, Zach... there are too many of you to name. But thank you. And now Karina too... for her emotional support when I am both home and on the road... thank you for loving the person I am.
So yeah... I put a lot of pressure on myself to win this race... I kept looking back... not just over my shoulder to see where Rob was... but into my history to see why this was the time for me to shine. To put all of that together, and honor it in the best way possible. To give it everything.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

viva la france en que-boo-qua

There is something about French Canadia. Its really a pretty cool place, sweet trails everywhere, especially in and around Mont-Ste-Anne... there's moose, and blueberries too. But for some reason I just cant really warmup to Quebec. I never have been able to. Might be the trailer parks full of Frenchies who think they are better than you, as they smoke cigarettes with unborn children in their bellies... or it could be the miserable food, mostly fried Americana, with cheep caviare or Hollindaise sauce on top. Proscriutto and brie on white bread with mayo instead of a baguette. I dunno. Might be the rain, that never seems to go away, or the lack of country roads to go spin down.
I remember a couple years ago racing my very first World Cup in MSA... I got caught by the tail moto only 3 laps into a 6 lap race. It was muddy, and I was pin-balling around the course... bouncing off trees, roots rocks and euros. I'm not sure I have ever ridden a bike more poorly than that. They ended up making me pull off the side of the course at one point so Absalon could go by... I felt like a dick. Completely out of my element, and incapable of riding at that level. Fast forward a year, and I did it again... this time at U23 world's. It was hot and dry last year, but still I somehow managed to ride like an ass... I still believe I was definitely one of the most fit in that race, but I rock and rolled around, blowing through corners. Bobbling on the technical sections and running through the woods like a wounded cow. I finished 34th, completely disappointed and looking forward to some time off of my bike.
Last weekend, I did it again. The third time is not the charm. Let me start by saying I finished 5th... in a World Cup... not so bad. And my best placing ever. This was hardly my best race though. I lead things out... literally. I was at the front of the race, stringing things out up the first climb. And I lead into the woods... killing the first technical sections... charging at the front. So so so much fun!!! Wowza... but I started going backwards over the next 3 laps. I just couldn't hold it together in the mud. I did some face planting, and lost time. I stalled out over the top of root balls and lost more time. I slipped and slid down the hillside, and and bounced my way haphazardly down the descents. My saddle came loose too! I had to stop in the pit and have Daimo tighten it up... there went another 45 seconds, and a couple places. I never had an issue loosing lots of places... this course was so damn hard that it was a complete race of attrition and things blew up in big ways. No one was riding together it seemed. But that time just made 3rd, 4th and 5th places further up into the woods. I just wasn't able to crawl back into those top 4 spots. I played some leap frog with Konwa, the Milka Bar guy, and one of the Belgians. But it was just a struggle out there... I couldn't make things happen as I wanted them to. The final lap and a half was better... I seemed to pull things together a little and my head got back into it... I think having David Fletcher chasing just a few seconds back helped with the motivation to give'r some go juice. I finished the race with a wave as I crossed the line, but couldn't help thinking about what a miserable job I did of riding my bike when it counted. Or maybe I did a miserable job of not riding my bike when it counted. I think I would have been minutes faster had I just ran the techy sections I continuously flopped and struggled through. Next time I will be a little more calculating in that dept. Its not always faster to ride.
A good ride on sunday and a good long road trip with some bbq on the fourth of July, got my American spirit going again (maybe thats why I don't like french canada... Maybe I just become soft when I'm there...). A few days here in Windham have been stellar, full of rest and some time to check out a little. Its been good but its back to racing mode tomorrow.

Monday, June 27, 2011

June has treated me well

Vacation. Time away… that was what I needed. This may seem a little counterintuitive, because, after all I had just spent the better part of 5 months, mid January through the end of May, on the road. I think I accumulated something near 70,000 frequent flyer miles, across 2 hemispheres, 4 continents, and 6 countries. I raced 11 of 13 weekends, 9 of them straight through, compiling something like 24 days of racing over the course of my spring campaign.
But once I got home, it felt like I couldn’t get out of Bozeman fast enough! I arrived with a house to empty and clean, as my lease was up 24hrs after my arrival home. I proceeded to clean and move, with little sleep, and ran as many quick errands as possible in the short time I was around.

Then I packed back up, my Subaru this time, and headed for Northern Idaho (or North Idaho if your from them backwoods parts). Sandpoint. Back in the day we used to race the Schweitzer Mt. NORBA, but for me this visit was all about getting away from racing. I essentially took a week off the bike… I hung out with Karina and her family on the beach, read books, napped and slept in. I tuned out. I didn’t check my email, facebook or text messages. I didn’t answer (too many) phone calls. It was splendid. I drank beer, ate cheese, and delicious rhubarb and huckleberry pies for breakfast, lunch and dessert.

That town is sweet. It’s pretty little, everything around it is crazy conservative and weird, but just about any night of the week you can find good music, local beer flowing and young, open-minded people doing cool stuff. There’s a really active group building sweet, flow-y trails right in town too. Karina showed me around some of the local bests… Saringa trails, and Gold Hill, just some really stellar riding. It was the anti-training, and it felt sooo damn good!

But Monday rolled around quickly and although I was still pretty checked out, it was time to start training again after a well earned week off. I kept the vacation feel to it all

though… there wasn’t anything too intense, and a couple long road rides were really good for the soul, it gave me some time to think about this next block of big races and do a little motivation searching.

Karina and I blasted back to Washington too… it was good to be home, but it was a nut house. My sister decided she did indeed want to finish high school in what proved to be the 11th hour, but it all come together. I am really proud of her, and I hope it proves to be a milestone in her life. This is the first time I can remember than she actively chose to better her life. It seems like she’s always fighting against that current. Anyways, graduation means grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends and the such. This is all on top of the time I needed to spend training and the places and things I wanted to go and do with Karina. We managed to fit in a good week though. Got to ride the Gultch with Karina, talk politics with my grandpa, did some incredibly good training and testing with Jason and I even remembered to get the Quincy asparagus for my Mom on our way into town and order a new BMC FourStroke 01 for my dad (he loves it by the way… said it felt like a big Cadillac on the bumpy sections, just keeping the ride smooth, but rips uphill and accelerates like a jet!). It was like drinking from a fire hose, in the best kind of way. I think Karina had more time on her hands than I did while we were in Cashmere, and got through a few good books.

But as soon as we were finally able to breath, it was time to deliver Karina back to Sandpoint, and for my return to Bozeman in preparation for 5 weeks of big races. But not before a breathtaking road ride along the Lake Cour’de Lane shoreline. North Idaho really left an impression on me, I’m pretty excited to get back.

All this left only 3 days of my 3 week vacation left, but by the time I got back to Bozeman I was recharged and back on the Blackberry. I had errands to run, laundry, and packing and training to accomplish. It was grand. I caught up with Zach before he left for Colorado, we climbed a big grain silo and spent part of an evening just hanging out, watching the sunset and chatting about everything. Man Date. But seriously I was glad to see him before he took off to finish his Masters thesis in the solitude of his parents home. We also got out for a ride with Tisza, and Nick one evening, up Leverich. Probably the one time this year I will ride that trail.

4:30 came pretty early on Thursday, and 11pm came pretty late that night, but I made it to Wisconsin for the Subaru Cup Pro XCT safely. And what a sweet weekend it was. I finished 5th in the XC… it was essentially the same course as last year, but a totally different race. I battled missed the front group of Wells, Plaxton and Kabush, because JHK’s big 29” wheels didn’t seem to corner and accelerate as well as my 26” BMC teamelite. So although I missed that, I caught and passed Taberlay, and essentially rode in 4th just ahead of those two for most of the race (I still can’t believe this is happening), until Adam came ripping past going into the final lap. Remarkably, it wasn’t the descents that caused a problem for me… I absolutely couldn’t hold his wheel on the climbs!

The guy has some fitness. And that’s good, he had a tough first half of the season. Looks like he’s doing something right! But man did he pay for it! It took him 45 min to get from the finish line to the team trailer, as his back seized up, and after 2 hrs he was still struggling to walk under his own power. I wont give him too much shit about missing my first ever Pro XC podium. Haha!

Sunday was tough, I has some pretty saucy legs warming up and although I had a good start, I was just hanging on the back of our lead group in the STXC until 10 min in. The legs came around and I tried to break away with Traboo-hoo, but the chase group brought us back. So I then just hung toward the back and let everyone else do the work. I am getting to understand how this stuff works now… and I can sit in pretty comfortably now. I had a good view when Trebon faceplanted in a sandy corner and then in the next Kabush went down too. That left 6 of us at the front with 3 laps to go… and me questioning my tactics afterward. I decided to sit on Todd’s wheel, believing he would be the one to make a move in the final laps, but instead it was Sid who went, with JHK and Plaxton… I tried to respond, got blocked out by Todd as Sam got shelled off the back. I kept giving it a try as Todd and I ripped around the final lap, but didn’t have another good opportunity until the sprint where Todd drifted and thus forced me toward the barriers. He got me by only a few inches though! I tried. But still, 2 podiums in 2 races this weekend. I know a couple of Olympians who can’t even say that! It means the form I had earlier has hung around. I’m as good or better now, and so excited for the Mont-Ste-Anne World Cup this weekend and then Windham, Nats and Missoula Pro XCT. But first its back to Bozeman for 72hrs to get some mountain air, and a little rest. Pretty stoked going into these next couple of world cups… Ill let you know how it goes. Hoping for an opportunity to win here in North America!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

World Cupping

Everyone was waiting for me once the elite men’s race was over on Sunday… with all the staff and junior men and women there were probably 20 people loitering around the vans while I went to talk to Larissa at BMC about some tires. After my quick errand there, I said goodbye to David, the manager and the riders of the Euro Team. Things seemed to go well for that crew, Moritz spent the day in the chase group, and although Patrick was going backwards all day, everyone else seemed to moving up. On the way back to the vans though I popped my head into the Rothaus-Poison tent to say goodbye to Felix. He and I first were introduced 3 years ago now, when I first came to Europe. At that time I wasn’t even remotely competitive with him… last year he won the German U23 National Championships, a super talented guy. After 3 years we’ve gotten to know one another better, he’s genuinely a good person, a lot of fun to hang out with… we actually spent all day together watching the elite race with one of the German National Team coaches (who actually used to race against Marc). I regress, anyways while I dropped in I got some shoulder pats, and high fives I realized what an international family I have now in this sport. No only do I have genuine and talented friends around the globe, but people know who I am… I’m becoming a recognizable figure in this sport, and it feels incredible. Especially because I have come from such obscurity, growing up racing in central Washington, my dad and I traveling every year to Sea Otter and Nationals, racing under the banner of a Arlberg Sports, a local bike shop that would give me a deal on products. I never really conceived that I would actually make a name for myself, or be vying for a podium spot in a World Cup… I was hoping for a free frame and jersey! But its so much more than that… regardless of whether I ever have a poster made of my face, I am getting to travel the world, meet people I would never otherwise know, ride in the most incredible places and although I have always know what a treat that is, I am still learning how unique and brilliant this is.

As I have kind of eluted to, the race on Saturday was beyond words. I had a good start this time around, maybe 10th going into the first lap. I spent the rest of the race between the chase group and the lead… I would bounce between the two. The lead would surge, then slow, it was a sizable group maybe 8 guys, so I was in about the same position I finished Dalby in for the majority of those 5 laps… Just riding at my own pace. I could have forced in and gotten in the lead group, but all those surges would have wrecked my legs. It was better to be between 5-10 seconds off and just riding my own race. But dudes started popping with about two laps to go, and I again got back on the back end of the group. This time I stuck and we widdled it down to just 5 of us, with Fabian Canal about 10 sec back. On the last lap, up the twisting backside climb, zee Austrian surged and it left four of us. He only put in about 10 sec, but none of us could bring that back. I put in a big effort with about 2 km to go… I dropped everyone, but the remaining 3 worked to get me back, and then as we cruised through the final technical sections, Canal came back, and the Focus-MIT kid put in about 5 seconds on us. It wasn’t much, maybe 20 meters, but it was enough to stick on the final short, and punchy climb. I got to the front of our quartet again, fighting now for 3rd, but Canal threw some elbows, I got knocked off my line, fell back and lost Markus’ wheel with 500m to go. I just couldn’t hold the effort over the top into the stadium. The 2 meters grew to 5 and then to 10 and I sat up and rolled across the finish line! Sixth though! Damn!

I got picked for Anti-doping… it was my first time, and I absolutely didn’t drink enough during the race so although everything went fine, it took for ever. I think I put down 5 liters of Gatorade. Also, they don’t let the Chaperones go home until EVERYBODY has peed, so they were all sitting around trying to pep talk me and the Austrian while we rehydrated. It took both of us almost 2 hrs. There was some cheering on their behalf once we were done! I think they were getting tired of sitting there playing with their cell phones while all the other volunteers were out partying post race…

Unfortunately the real world doesn’t care how you finish in a world cup… my flight from Chicago to Bozeman was delayed 3 hrs… so I arrived at 130am, and didn’t get into bed until 230. Jet lag was kind enough to wake me up four hrs later, and I spent 15 hrs yesterday moving and cleaning. Got to bed at 11pm, and again jetlag woke me up with the birds at 4:30… and a bloody noise. Probably too many cleaning product fumes yesterday.

So right now its 6:20 I have already made coffee and written a blog post. Time to go scrub some kitchen floors I guess.

Heres a photo of Chloe getting gnar on the Wolf Drop. Notice the front wheel off the ground.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I’m not sure what the hardest thing I have ever done in my short career is… but moving from 43rd to 10th in the Dalby World Cup might have been it. Without question I have finished races in much poorer condition… pushing myself through bonking, exhaustion and/or being broken. But never before have I pushed through a race relying on my head as much as I did this weekend.

I got called up in 40th position, and after spending 3 minutes shaking with excitement on the starting line, I proceeded to go backwards. I don’t know why but I couldn’t make my legs go. Gaps opened I normally would have easily closed, and as euros went blazing past me I briefly thought about the South African WC when I was in other shoes. So after a few wasted minutes standing in the woods waiting for the mob to snake its way through the single track I came through the start banner in 43rd place (I was sure I would see 60 something before seeing the results). Shit… I was supposed to be 40 places ahead of where I was.

So I set out on the task of moving up, which initially didn’t happen, because again those legs just wouldn’t turn over. I spent that first lap contemplating what I though would be an impending implosion and temper tantrum at the finish line. But I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about that when my upper body started to cramp. It was completely exhausted. I had to sit up, stop pedaling, and pull my hands off the bars. It was bizzare. I think I was so stressed about being so far back that I had just given my handlebars a 15 min death grip without noticing it. God I was pissed about how my race was playing out!

Durnig this time I had to stop my brain and start relaxing. I told myself it was ok, just time to stop messing around and start bike racing. I knew who was in that front group… it was a bunch of those Germans, Swiss and Rabobank guys I had just spent the past two weeks beating. Time to nut up. So I guess that’s what I did.

By lap two things were spread out enough, and I was in the company of enough slow euros that I could just start doing work. Over the next two laps I moved up 30 guys and then in the last two of five I caught 3 more… and was in sight of the chase group! I don’t even really remember much of it… every time I passed Marc or my parents, they were saying lower numbers. I remember being frustrated, and I remember that I kept telling myself to relax. I stayed focused on my body, making my legs turn over fast, but knowing where my limit was. I had to keep this up to get into that top 10. I kept telling myself that’s where I needed to be in order to salvage this race. I thought about my breathing, and I though about where I put my front tire. That was really about it. On lap one I was the 23rd fastest guy out there… on lap three, I was the fourth fastest U23 on course… on lap four I was the fastest! Simple.

I crossed that finish line with a smile. I know I belong in that top 5… but the work I did during that race was nearly impossible. I still cannot believe I made that happen… 33 of the fastest guys in the world could not hold my wheel when I rode past them. I wonder how many of that top ten could have hung on to my wheel had I been in their presence from the start. I don’t think many of them could have.

That may sound arrogant… I don’t know, but I am realizing that I am now in the conversation when people talk about the best in the world. I don’t know what that means really… maybe nothing, I think time will tell. I can’t make it more than it is, that’s too much pressure. I just need to go race my bike, that’s what I’ve always done. Things aren’t different. Whether its for 5th place at a junior 14 and under race or for a podium at a World Cup. I guess the latter is where I belong. So I am gonna go try to race there. Maybe I should put away this bowl of chocolate musli though…

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Last time I checked in I had just returned (or was returning?) from the South African Central time zone (+2hrs) to MST… I’m back in it now… or the European equivalent at least. It was a quick turn around after SA… I had 36 hrs in Bozeman to sleep, unpack, do laundry, ride, and pack and catch another flight, this time to Austin, TX. That’s the same amount of time it took me to get from Pietermartzburg to home.

In Austin I had the opportunity to sizzle in the heat, eat some delish taco’s and get a flat tire. It was a quick weekend, which felt good, out Thursday, back Sunday… The Mellow Johnny’s classic went well, I was raced the Mexican national champion (Ill call him Turbo) for 5th place after spending the first half chasing from 30th. I had a poor start compounded by a burped tire. At the end of the day, that tire had just lost too much air, I rolled it and went down 4km from the finish, Turbo got away from me, Spencer caught me and proceeded to pin it. Who knows what could have happened.. that could have been my first ever Pro XC podium.

Turbo went uphill pretty quick, so maybe not. The race finished on a climb. But anyways, I finished 7th and proceeded to put it behind me. I feel like Austin and Lance’s ranch was just a side not in a whole lot of bigger more important shtuff. However, downtown

Austin is amazing… Daimo, Mitch and I went out moderately big on Saturday night and started some dance party’s downtown. It was crazy… a twenty-block strip of downtown (Sixth Street I think) gets shut down and people go nuts, including us. I hadn’t been out until 2am in a long ass time… it felt good. I was with two good friends and we danced in the streets and I’m sure all the bro’s with popped collars were thinking ‘how lame are they!’ while their girlfriends were probably like ‘I wish my man was that self confident…’ Even if they weren’t, we had nothing to loose.

After another short stint home, I think 60 hrs this time, I was on another trans-continental flight.

I arrived in Germany for the first time comfortable, confident and relaxed. This is my 3rd rodeo here, and I am feeling like Kirchzarten is becoming a home away from home. I know these roads well now and I know what kind of ship Marc runs.

We kicked things off with the Solothurn Swiss Racer Cup. This was the 3rd time I had ridden there, my resume including two near DFL’s and a flat tire. I got lapped both times. The third time proved to be the charm however, because after a good start I settled into the lead group and spent my day witling away at the group I found myself in, until only myself and Giger of Rabobank remained fighting for 10th place I think. He decided to put the hammer down on the final climb, I was expecting it, but couldn’t really react, but his skinny ass did help get me up to Litscher (who was 2nd at U23 Worlds last year) and then he and I did some battle. At this point my legs decided this would be a good time to cramp, so he caught me, and passed by when my chain took another disastrous bounce (the same move it pulled in SA)… but either way, I had 2km to go, and I just rode it in. I finished 12th.

This has got to be one of the best rides I have ever put together… and one of the best an American U23 has done in recent memory. When I look at the results list, I am completely blown away. I think at least 3 of the guys in front of me have World Championships bars on their arms.. these are some of the modern day legends of the sport… its incredible.

I finished the weekend up with another short, but tough race in Witneau, just south of the house here… I won, which is sweet, it was a fun little race, lots of family fun out there. It was cool to rep the US win again, this was the third year in a row, I follow Tad and Rob, and Marc was stoked too. So much pressure for that one.. haha, not serious there, but it was hard, especially after Solothurn, and it was tough to get my head into the game for it. But whatever, it was cool. First win in Europe!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The next one

I leave South Africa with a bag of mixed emotions. My trip down here was, to say the least, a little spontaneous. Marc booked my

ticket a mere ten days before travel, and only a couple prior to leaving for Sea Otter. This

race immediately, in my mind, became one of the most important of the season… the master plan was kind of thrown out the door as I started dreaming of World Cup podium finishes and success in the World Cup overall. Don’t get me wrong, in hindsight I still believe that these were good and fine goals, but I forgot to account for erroneous variables that I have zero control over… like bobbling Australians and broken derailleurs.

Jack and I arrived in Santa Cruz, I guess two weeks ago now, for a BMC product launch. We shredded some prime Redwood Forest singletrack on the new carbonBut I guess Sea Otter (or “Sea Donkey”, if you are one of the Wells brothers), would be a good place to start…

Trailfox 01 with some media guys, dealers, the sales rep team and some of the head honchos from Switzerland. Again it was soooo cool to ride that bike, its just handled so well, and riding along with the CEO Mike, and chief of International Marketing Frank Schneider, made it that much cooler. It feels good to be part of the BMC family, the fact that everyone at this company is as passionate about riding as we are about building the most

technologically advanced bikes, really sets us apart I think.

The short track was over before I knew it on Friday, I finished 7th, in what was a brutal, unspectacular, race of attrition, But it was Saturday in the XC that started the emotional rollercoaster I have been on the past week.

After poor starts, Troy Wells and I worked together to move through the 20’s and teens… back up to the lead group. Without his provocation I wouldn’t have ended up racing for 5th place against Sam and Jeremy… which is exactly where I ended up after Plaxton upped the pace our chase group and I was too far back to grab his wheel. It was incredible to be riding in such stellar condition, again against my teenage idols. It was the first time I had been in such a position at an XC race. The three of us were out by ourselves racing for the final spot on the podium. It was fast, brilliant and exciting racing! The kind that makes me love this sport! We worked well together for the middle part of the race, it wasn’t until lap 7 that I put the pressure on when Sam seemed to be cracking. Nothing really came of it, a small gap, but nonetheless it demonstrated to me that I could beat these guys if I kept playing it cool. What a rush! And that’s exactly what happened… I responded perfectly to attacks over the next lap and a half, coming into the final meters having been able to ride a tempo that neither of those guys could break! This wasn’t some cat and mouse shit, I was able to completely respond to and further prevent the attacks of former and future Olympians!

Only I messed up… in the closing 500m I decided it would be a good idea to take a new line… I now have no idea what I was thinking, but I bobbled and came out of my pedal, as I sat second wheel to JHK on the final decent…

What was I thinking! I couldn’t believe what I had just done as Sam rolled past. All that excitement came crashing down. They only got about 5m, but after a couple quick pulls into the headwind, they gained 5m more and I was relegated to 7th again! This was without a doubt my best ever XC race, and qualified me for an automatic nomination to the World Championships Team. But a race I should have been ecstatic about became a total disappointment in that instant. I would be bitter regardless of whether I was riding for 5th place or 20th place. I messed up, and ruined an opportunity. I will be back though.

I think this disappointment in some ways lead to my complete tantrum in South Africa, where my perfect start, and top ten position all shattered in 10 seconds when an Australian bobbled on one of the few technical sections, forcing me to backpedal, my chain to bounce off the chain rings, kink and jam in my rear derailleur. I had a perfect set up for the race. My legs were responding well, I felt fast in previews, Troy and I were having fun, the BMC World Cup team was there in my support! Everyone was watching after my Sea Otter ride and I had lofty expectations of myself. God was I ever nervous on that starting line. It had all fallen into place. But that damn Australian.

That’s all I could say while I stood next to the course watching the U23 field pass me by… its all I could think as I ran 2km to the tech zone… its all I could think when I saw the shock on Gee, the BMC mechanic’s face… ‘that damn Australian’… it was all I could think while I sat along course, watching lap after lap, the U23 race I should have been contesting, roll by.

I don’t hold it against him. This is racing. My chain could have balled up anywhere. It could have happened last week at Sea Donkey, it could have happened in the Fontana short track as I attacked on that last lap. It took me a while to convince myself of this however. JHK had reassuring words at the end of the day,

“dude we’ve all been there, it sucks when it happens after you’ve flown half way around the world, but you will be back”.

And he is right. My dream of a good World Cup overall finish this year is probably dead. But just to think that it may have not been far fetched is pretty wild. I can race inside the top ten at a World Cup. A year ago that was inconceivable, and as far as I can tell, for the past few years that has been unrealistic for any young American! Shit that is so cool!

I can’t control everything. But these past two weeks have taught me a lot. I can confidently say that I wont again be the one bobbling when in position to score big… I better understand how easily the best racing moments can catastrophically collapse. They need to be cherished, and exploited, but most of all respected.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

the third fastest

I’m seeing snow out the window as we approach Bozeman. A far cry from the eighty humid degrees I was racing in yesterday afternoon during the Pan American MTB Championships.

Colombia proved to be a complete success on all accounts. I finished 3rd yesterday… definitely one of the hardest races in recent memory, but

maybe all the sweeter because of it.

Bogotá and the surrounding areas are stunning. The city sits on plateau at 8500 ft, with steep, heavily forested mountains, shrouding it from the lands extending below. The people were all smiles, supportive, with endless high-fives and desires for photo opportu

nities. We were treated royally and during the race, the cheers of “USA… go gringo!” were only drowned out by those of “Va Va Va…. Colombia! Colombia!”

In many ways the race felt like a World Cup, a seemingly endless sea of people, I would guess over 8,000 spectators lined the course, slamming on metal barriers and waving flags.

Far more impressive than any crowd I have seen at the North American World Cups or Word Cha

mpionships. The venue was packed with fruit and wears vendors, and an open-air bar and huge wood-fired grills satisfied the physical hunger of those watching our races. But it was the victorious Colombian racers who managed to fill a more profound emotional hunger.

The course was primitive… very representative of a deeper relationship between much of Latin America and Europ

e. It lacked the refinement of the European courses, but had the same soul. It was steep, technical and rocky. It wound up through the forest, a wrenching climb, and we were rewarded with a fast and exciting decent.

The race started about as poorly as possible for me, I ended up on the ground within the first 45 seconds, as the scramble for the first singletrack began, I cross wheels with a Chilean and wasn’t able to save myself. But within a minute I was leading the race up the first climb and through a deafening roar along the 4x course. I rode steadily for those first few minutes awaiting the flurry of attacks I expected to come. But they never did… the pack became strung out and broken and I plotted along. My competition seemed unable to hold my wheel as gaps formed and after winding our way up the mountainside, at last only four of us remained. Two Colombians came past me near the top of the climb, it was hardly an attack, at 9200 ft no one was able to put forth that intense of an effort. But it was a move. I decided not to follow. We had four more laps to go, four more times up that mind-busting climb. I expected the Colombians to go, and I expected them to implode. I was half correct.

For the next 4 laps we all rode in stagnation. No more moves were made, the gap

s just got larger. The Brazilian, who was the last of our initial group floated backwards, and the two Colombians gently put time into me. I tried to increase my effort over the third, fourth and fifth laps, but this proved impossible. I had one gea

r on that climb, the altitude prevented all attempts to increase my pace. And so I was resolved to fighting an 80-minute solo effort. Fighting off the Brazilian who wasn’t coming back, and chasing two Colombians who refused to slow down.

Coming towards that finish line was such an emotional relief… the barriers were lined 5 people deep for 200 yards, and the noise again brought a smile to my face. I was immediately ushered into a corral, probably to prevent the mob from surging over the 3 finishers. People spoke in rapid Spanish and broken English. People were clamoring for photos and interviews… it was a complete scene and I was honored to be part of the cause.

For the next two hours, I basked in what was a phenomenal race. Once I escaped that paddock I was able to enjoy my teammates company, Jack put together a great race for 7th place. Kerry rode to 12th, and Russell finished without re-injuring himself. Little victories for all of us. We watched the elite race and then the awards ceremony took place.

I don’t think even now the magnitude of my performance has hit me. The surging crowd of thousands standing below made quite an impression as I stood on the podium behind me the American Flag. But even so, there was just too much to take in all at once. I don’t think Pan-Ams holds the prestige amongst most American racers as they do for our South and Central American counterparts. But seeing the passion of those athletes and fans has shown me a glimps of what they really mean.

Some of the local fare

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thursday Night, somewhere between Houston and Bogota

I love the view out of an airplane window. I don’t so much enjoy looking at the ground; the cars, roads and farms creating a magnificent mosaic… it’s the clouds that consume my imagination. The thunderheads.

Right now I think I am over the Gulf of Mexico, en-route to Bogota, or more specifically, Chia, Colombia (I think most of these posts get written on an airplane). Its magnificent out, a golden glow, shinning through the haze at 40,000ft comes through my window. The thunderheads seem to be scraping the mesosphere… looked that one up on the dictionary (I’m currently in the stratosphere). The sky itself is a deep purple as night falls on the lower atmosphere, and I can see a perpetual pink strip of sunset higher up… into the bright blue of springtime evenings and afternoons.

I missed the California coastline this March. Last year, Mitch and I spent 3 weeks traveling around between Santa Barbara and San Clemente, visiting Lyd and inhaling that salty, warm atmosphere and dirty burritos. We raced and played for most of the month, it was surreal.

Time changes situations and circumstances, and instead I spent this March living at the Oympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I was away from my own bed, away from Karina and my friends, on foreign roads and surrounded by strangers, Super-churches and Air Force and Army bumper stickers.

Don’t get me wrong, I was honored to be living with some of the finest athletes in the world, and undoubtedly I leave wiser and more prepared for the season. I believe it is easier to learn from the challenging situations than from the comfortable however. What I need to strive was reinforced while I have been away from home. I need external enrichment in my life. I crave that stimulation. And it is challenging to obtain in a near isolation, hanging out at the OTC. Some people would think that the monk-like existence at a facility like that would be exactly the way to prepare… after all it is called the Olympic Training Center. But in reality, all of this is mental. All the talent in the world wouldn’t get someone to the OTC alone. It is a drive that gets one there and the talent is concretely second.

What maintains my drive is cooking my own food, sleeping in, goofing off with my roommates and seeing the mountains I love. I miss that messy kitchen and being woken up by partygoers at 3am. I miss waking up to the front door slamming below my bedroom and the cold, mornings when karina and I just lay in bed so not to face the inclimate bedroom. I miss long mornings with a full French press (to be emptied) and the Wall Street Journal. I miss waiting for it to warm up, and the wondering whether or not I will be snowed on. But it’s all taken for granted when I nervously check the weather and make contingency plans days in advance of a pending storm. I keep looking for the next thing when I am home, forgetting about all of it until I am on the road.

South America is appearing outside my window now, and that sunset is falling into dusk. This month on the road is coming to a close, but there is still a little golden glow out my window before the day too is done. I hope I can have a little Golden glow to finish this trip too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

8th grade english projects, idols and the realization of dreams

I must have been 14 when, for an 8th grade English class project, I wrote Roland Green, the reigning MTB World Champion. The letter was to be written to a celebrity of sorts and while everyone else was typing letters addressed to Hollywood and teen idol Brittney Spears, I wrote to a cyclist, no one else at Cashmere Middle School had ever heard of. He ended up writing a letter back, scratched out on a piece of computer paper, which ended up on my bedroom wall, alongside signed posters of Roland’s Trek-VW teammate Bishop, a younger Adam Craig, GT posters of Todd Wells, and I think I probably had a JHK edition too, from his days on Polo-RLX.

I ended up meeting Roland green later that year, at the Schweitzer Mountain NORBA race in Idaho, I think he won the XC in front of Ryder Hesjedal… I caught up with him briefly before the podium ceremony and told him how I admired him, and refreshed his memory about the letter… that was the weekend of my first Junior Expert Race too, I got lapped and caught by the girls, finishing 21st I think, probably DFL.

Right now I am flying back to Denver after an incredibly successful weekend in Fontana…. I guess 8 years have gone by since that letter. Todd Wells is sitting across the isle, its humbling to consider him a friend now, along with JHK, Sam Schultz, Craig and Bishop too. He is rocking a custom shirt he got fo

r winning US XC, Short Track and Cyclo-cross nationals in the same season. A pretty impressive feat… someday I hope I can achieve something of that magnitude.

Yesterday in the Fontana Short Track I was able to attack Wells, Schultz and Bishop on the final lap. They couldn’t, follow. I bridged to Kabush and Taberlay… I attacked on the final climb. They couldn’t follow! I put my head down, trying to catch JHK’s wheel, and was able to hold on to finish 3rd.

I remember shaking with excitement as we all rode around the finish paddock, catching our collective breath. The trials and frustrations of the weekends travel evaporating; broken-down vehicles, missed flights, and midnight arrivals. Two early mornings and a bittersweet XC race, going from 8th to 12th because of three flat tires.

I hardly remember the podium ceremony… I was focused on insuring I didn’t mess it up… I was unsure what to do with my arms… I whacked Todd in the head a couple times, and nearly fell off the blocks at the end while we all squeezed up on top.

Of course everyone congratulated me, and I returned the gesture… I’d never talked to Plaxton or Taberlay before, but for those brief moments I felt like an equal with the riders I had idolized growing up…. Perhaps that’s what I am becoming.

check out my post race interview with Colt from cyclingdirt.org

Monday, March 14, 2011

Best weekend ever...

So I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say the BMC mountainbike development team USA debut at Bonelli Park this weekend went pretty well. I for one had the best races of my life this weekend! I managed to wrangle two top ten finishes out of the weekend, 10th in the XC on Saturday and 6th in the short track on Sunday, just missing my first ever Pro podium by half of Wicks’s bike length. So excited.

Going into this race I really had no idea what to expect… not sure anyone on the starting line really knew how things were gonna fire, but after a few hard 3-4 hr rides this week, I was most certainly training through this race. Save a crit in Tucson a couple weeks ago, I really hadn’t raced since late September, and there were still some cobwebs hanging on to the lungs and guns. Regardless, there was a lot of expectation… I have been training hard, and now with the BMC outfit and so much great support, it seemed like now is the time to make it or break it.

I had prepared mentally to handle an implosion and when I found myself in-between the lead and chase groups after the first lap, all I could do is shake my head and hang on waiting for what was surely inevitable. Spencer was chasing me hard, and having a lot of respect for him, I just tried to set into my own pace and be smooth, knowing he was bound to shame me soon. Adam Craig joined me in the early laps and we rode together for a while, but I was reduced to a small child trying to follow him through the technical stuff, and with absolutely no ability to sustain those hard efforts I was making as I kept chasing back onto his wheel, I decided to let him go and hope I could come back to him later. I later caught Rude, who was going backward pretty quickly, and then, as hoped, made my way back up to the group of Adam and Sam Schultz, which for me was years of hard work suddenly coming to fruition. People were yelling “top ten, yea!” and as Daimo so sophisticatedly put it “Sam is right there, riding like suck… top ten is better than a poke in the eye!”. To be up there, just trying to catch those wheels… understanding these are the guys I have been looking up to for the past 5 years… That was the position I had dreamed of for years, visualized myself being in time and time again and it felt more fulfilling than I could ever have imagined! I got within about 15 seconds of Sam, who then went past Adam and I turned myself inside out to get that wheel, but again my fetal performance going downhill prevented that, and I just fought within 20 seconds or so to the finish line. The whole time looking over my shoulder waiting for Spencer to come back!

I was all smiles Sunday morning as we posed for the BMC photo shoot, still silly with excitement from the previous day’s performance, and anxiously awaiting the excitement of the racing to come. And how surreal it was to be at the front of the chase group ten minutes in… riding in 2nd place at a Pro Short Track, chasing Plaxton, looking back and seeing JHK, Sam, Bishop, Wicks and the rest of the group yo-yoing off my wheel as I dug to break things up. I’m pretty sure time stopped… I will forever cherish that moment and image. At that moment I understood that I had made it. This is what it means and feels like to be one of the best.

To me it is fairly irrelevant that after a big pull by Schultz I was unable to get around Wicks for the final podium spot, all that matters is that I had those two laps at the front. Those may prove to be some of the most important of my career. I now have a little more understanding of what I might be capable of.

At the end of short track it was time to train, so I went out and rode steadily for another hour and a half. The sun was setting, the hills were green, the roads were quite and I was able to reflect on what had happened to me this weekend.

I have worked incredibly hard over the past 8 years, since what may have been a fateful bonk and 19th place finish at my first Sea Otter, back when I was 14. All the wile I have had an essential support group in my parents, coach Jason, friends, Marc Gullickson and now BMC and girlfriend Karina. All have enabled me to pursue this passion, and because of their encouragement and support, I have now realized that goal of becoming a professional mountain biker. I have an understanding of what that means now, which is only attainable by riding at the front of a race. I leave this weekend changed, but more, humbled.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

back on the horse

It’s nearly March and I guess its time to start bike racing again! So much has been happening to me since finishing last season in Quebec at the World Championships. It’s hard to believe that was six months ago! I’ve signed with BMC mountainbike development team USA for the 2011 season, and I am really excited about riding some of the lightest, most advanced bikes out there! We have a bunch of great sponsors including Easton, Sram, DT Swiss, Smith Optics and Clif Bar. I’m incredibly grateful for the support from Mafia Racing and David Janowic last year, but this opportunity to be part of a full Professional team is just huge. I hope to make good on the confidence that the Swiss have instilled in me!

I experienced so many phenomenal days in Bozeman last fall, hiking and riding with friends, which evolved into some great early winter skiing. I had great days again riding the always epic Gallatin Divide

and Curly Lake with Lydia, Allen and Sam Atkins. I spend time dabbling in Super D, won a

few local races, drank plenty of beer (maybe a little 4 loko), and spent a lot of time out with the newest big addition to my life, Karina Olson. Everything was (as always) beautiful; I live in a big cold house with 4 really great friends, who are always (usually positive) distractions. It was good to be back in school, I was able to

pursue my academic interests with real gusto, which was very refreshing after spending so much time focused on the bike. I got to go drop in on the Missoula crew while they were on Man-cation… skiing some backcountry with Sam, Owen, Allen Adams and Morgan Schmitt. Nearly spend a night out in the woods with Zach Guy after loosing a couple climbing skins and falling in a creek, and then shredded in Revelstoke and Rogers Pass with the padre, Zach and Allen. I was lucky enough to have Karina come out to the Cascades over X-mas, and we had fun falling in tree wells and getting lost on a

bluebird day right in the heart of the central cascades. Before I knew it, I was back in the advising office talking with Kathy, this time simultaneously filling out a graduation application and all the necessary paperwork to drop out…

Which brings me out to the desert. A month in Tucson, trying to get prepared for this last push as a U23 has been so good. Right now I am sitting in a house rented out by USAC for a little training camp with Hinkins, Kerry and Erika. There’s been a whole lot of good urban assault by K-dubs and Jack this last week… curbs and sidewalks have become pump-tracks and wall rides. Kerry’s singing is getting better too I think. Gulli and I can only laugh most of the time, and I don’t know how Erika can live with it out there in NC. She’s got more patience than I do. Jack and I have been down here for a while so far, I spent some time with my grandpa, and he was staying with Chloe and TJ… so knowing how much kerry loves food, we took him the 30 miles and 6000 ft up Mt. Lemmon to get a 8” cookie.

That thing brewing in my stomach with a cup of coffee kept me warm while we ripped back down into town… everyone (including myself) thinks the desert should be hot year round… turns out that’s not true. The coldest bike rides I’ve done this winter have been down here near Mexico, that ride up Lemmon being one of them. The sunshine keeps fooling me. Today we even got snowed on… We spend 2 hrs battling a headwind and after that Jack needed a nap, so he just layed down in the sand along the side of the road and told us to go on without him. It was straight out of the Oregon trail or Donner party. Kerry and I went on and bonked our way home, but TJ was in charge for the weekend, so he had to stay and wait for Jack to come around. There were a couple cars that slowed down while we were deciding what to do, and they all looked pretty concerned. Don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before.

So now its back to Bozeman and the arctic circle for a couple days of vacation… a little rest at home and Ill be set to go for it all again!