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

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!