Two weekends in Mass | 2018-2019 CX #5

I race a lot and I know that to race stronger it would be good to pick and choose and not just jump on the bandwagon in the fall and stay on until there is no more bandwagon. I’ve pretty much always raced in this manner mainly because it makes me happy; earlier in my days I would race whatever event I could find as long as it more or less involved bikes of some type.
Throughout the years I have learned which aspects of the sport I truly love and recognized that when I’m having the most fun I can push myself that much harder consequently whittling my focus down to cyclocross.

There is more to pursue in my travels than just the obvious outreach, experience, and results: I savor the excuse to travel to the various locations with the knowledge that I will always get to see my tribe of people. Because I only visit these places once each year, each location holds something special that draws me back, be it my host family, the area riding, the community, or the race itself.

Few things compare to showing up to a new location and finding the holy grail of cyclocross: motivated riding buddies, endless trails, beautiful roads, and a super fun venue complete with dumping rain.

Really Rad was a new to me venue and a first time UCI race. I guessed the terrain would be flat being that we were in such close proximity to the beach but it was satisfyingly rolling. After a perfect training week of plentiful sunshine and warmth the rain clouds once again regrouped for the weekends festivities and despite the rapidly draining soil, mud emerged to take over the course and large sloppy puddles were in abundance.

The race was a blast minus a few random course features that were unintentionally but decidedly terrifying. The course wound around the Cape Cod fairgrounds venue, there were plenty of corners to handle and ups and downs to power through. The rain slowed to a stop as we lined up to race but the wind picked up in epic fashion.

Within the race separation happened fairly naturally between fighting the wind and negotiating the mess of mud. As fresh as it was, the abundance of water on the course made for thin mud so despite being thoroughly covered in it the bike stayed light and handled it well. Brake pads on the other hand were a hot commodity between the sandy soil and the deep, lengthy twisting sand pit.

I had a blast navigating the muck but this was one of those weeks where my training load took a sharp increase and I was feeling the effects. It’s the trade off though, if I want to race every weekend I have to pick the races I will be okay with feeling less than optimal at.

The clouds moved on later that day so I expected that the Sunday would be much drier. What I didn’t expect was that the water would be nearly gone! It was as if someone had come and vacuumed up the largest mud puddles. There were still plenty of treachery to slog through but those sections were dryer and isolated to certain locations on the course that allowed passable lines to emerge as the day progressed.

The course felt a bit more punchy on the second day and after a beautiful longer training ride before the race I didn’t really focus on warming up, just went straight into the race and was surprised at how good that made me feel. I was pretty amazed how peaceful I felt after a few hours out of the venue exploring the area roads and logging miles on very scenic roads along the beach. Racing is so social and to a degree, stressful: there’s a timeline to adhere to and a sharp focus to your day. It’s interesting to carry the vibes of a solo training ride right on into the start line, almost as if you can maintain that singular focus of your own performance with less attention on the other competitors around you.
For me this surprisingly translated into a better result and while I couldn’t quite catch onto the lead group I had a front row seat watching the tactics play out as we burned circles into the dirt for the better part of an hour. I held my ground for the duration, riders would make up time on me but never quite make contact, all the while I had sight of the large group in front of me but never could reel them in.

It was confidence boosting to have tried a new approach to my day, I was definitely tired from having trained before the race but I felt better than I would have thought. I had a few moments before heading to the start line of pure bewilderment trying to decide if I should indeed run through my standard warm up or just get dressed, the later overruling my better judgement but as it turns out, with no regrets.

After the weekend was compete another long but loosely structured training day opened up a perfect opportunity to explore the surrounding area. Armed with a fat bike borrowed from a local shop, my host took me out to tour the peninsula known as Sandy Neck within the Cape Cod harbor. Accessible only by four wheel drive or fat bike, we headed out on the north side along the bay before stopping by the lighthouse and adjacent home historically owned by his family. After a complete tour of the lighthouse built in the early 1800’s, we rode back through thick preserved costal woods in what felt like area appropriately heavy mist.
The adventure was satisfying even if my host was less than amused at my desire to constantly stop, marvel at the surroundings, pick up rocks (a personal vice), and take pictures. I headed up to more central Mass excited for longer rides in more desolate areas after concluding that longer road rides on the actual cape would result in lots of stopping for traffic.
I planned to stop mid drive for training but my arrival was a bit late to complete the route I had mapped out. After a lengthy and confused mid interval session brainstorm of my ability to make it back before dusk and the likelihood that the park I had left the van in would shut the gates in the evenings to match the very well posted signs declaring park hours, I made the wise (and rare) decision to back track. I’m always disappointed to have to resort to such adaptations but as I retracted my steps to the park and dusk settled in I was glad I wasn’t out on the narrow roads in the dark. Daylight savings is always such a transition to get used to!

I settled into my host house in the Northampton area and had one better timed day out on the bike before the cold and rain set in and I was reduced to the horrors of trainer riding. When workouts are short and concise I can stomach a stationary hour or two like anyone else but when faced with three or more hours I tend to look for any excuse I can to delay hopping on. This round it was cleaning and I will say that I was fortunate my host was grateful for the household TLC I put in.

I made it through a very chilly week in a drafty old farmhouse before heading out to the race venue to get some Friday laps in. It’s pretty significant to log uninterrupted time on the course before race day and I was happy that despite the cold and drizzle I had a high level of comfort for what to expect that weekend. Even better was reuniting with friends I hadn’t seen since DC.

The skies opened up overnight and once again I had high hopes that the course would be sloppy. NoHo has some woodsy portions that are a blast to ride through and the course switches up for the second day to feature more of this but the first day is typically heavy with wide open, pancake flat grass. The uphills are all off the bike running and the woods section is short Saturday which equates to much time wondering when the fun parts of coming up again. The rain didn’t accumulate on the open spaces like I’d hoped to make them more interesting but it did make the woods slick and treacherous!

I find I race better the more fun I’m having and Sundays added woods made for a more impressive effort on my part. I’d be perfectly content if the whole course was twisty and technical but it’s also good to mix it up! The upped fun factor transpired to give me more go on the second day and consequently I raced better.

I stuck around the following week despite the cold and forced indoors time. The temps dipped down into the teens and I was beginning to get pumped to finish up my time in the northeast. Just in time to head to New York for the last race on my New England campaign, the weather went south also and dumped 8 inches of snow.
It took a lot of digging to remove the van from the driveway that hadn’t seemed that large in the previous days of K turning my way onto the adjacent busy road. But if shoveling for an hour isn’t some solid cross training at least it’s completing my winter experience before I head south!

New York | 2018-2019 CX #6

 

 

There’s a degree of comfort in the familiarity of each weekend, the construct is always the same regardless of the setting; start lines, course tape, bib numbers, tents, and two wheeled machines, the same community in a different location.  Within this mobile collective, much of the uniqueness of the weekends are based around the type of indigenous soils and terrain.  The land we race on and the personality of the course designer add in much of the flavor but the true variable of any race is the weather.  Easily the defining feature, moisture of any type adds unpredictability and the characteristics to the weekend that typically define how memorable and to what extent a particular race is recalled.   

Because our races are largely on grass and the elite races are generally later in the line up for the day, the actual grass is typically torn up or reduced to dirt or mud by the time the elites take to the start line. Grass is notoriously miserable in its heavier feel when whole, and when moisture is added, its ability to clog up the moving parts of the bike. For this reason I’m generally satisfied that the majority of the times our race gets underway, the course features a smoother run through with the grass already having been skimmed off. 

 

The moisture holy grail comes in the form of up to a foot or more of wet snow in a low draining area and this is basically what transpired in Suffern.  The snow dumped across the northeast on Thursday night but by Friday the roads and skies were clear and the temps were above freezing. The race promoter made a feeble attempt to run a snow blower the entire length of the shortened but hilly course (I’d bet someone slept well that night) somewhat in vain as that one strip of cleared snow instantly turned into muddy mush.   The lengthy normally grass based loop in lower upstate NY was without a doubt going to be a mudders race….of epic proportions.  

 

There have been a few races where I’ve chosen to walk the course, observe racers racing or others preriding versus getting out there and trashing my currently spotless bikes.  I walked the course in snow boots on Friday and caught a few glances at the muck during ongoing races on Saturday.  I know I race better when I am familiar with the ruts and roots that are unseen under the slop, the ones that can only be felt out with tires, but it usually takes me four laps to have the lines dialed and there is not generally time for that on a race day, accomplishing one lap in the allotted time would be a lucky score with the slower going the conditions warranted. 

 

I went to the start line on race day for all intent and purposes blind to course expectations.  I knew what I had seen from my walk-around and I knew how the course had ridden in previous years.  I knew it was sloppy and I knew there would be plenty of running. Mostly I knew it was going to be one of the more challenging events of the season with the straight shot off the start line into the unrelenting course wide mud that was at a minimum ankle deep.  

 

The pavement start sprint led into one short soft spot before returning briefly to pavement. That five feet was enough to take a few riders out and this time it was immediately in front of me.  I came to a fortunate halt rather than join the fray of riders dislodged from bikes but it placed me way deep in the back of the field.  As we regrouped and dove full-fledged into the sea of mud the bikes went about 10 to 20 feet before the pedals threatened to grind to a halt and a transition to run was required.  

 

So the raced progressed. I moved up steadily, once it was established where traction was possible I was able to hone my technique along with my lines.  Gradual slopes were shedding water and developing lines, the flat sections were progressively deepening, and the steep uphills were contingent on the quality of your toe spikes and sheer will.  The largest gains were made on the bike, the ability to let it fly on the downhills and transition quickly to running without crashing was key but by and large the biggest asset you could maintain was optimism.  

 

It’s something else to stand on a start line, clean and dry and fresh and know that the entirety of the circuit you face for the following hour would be a completely different animal than 95% of most race experiences.  I could sense it in the girls around me in the rear of the pack; that air of hopelessness which I knew I didn’t have.  It was ridiculous for sure, this thing we are doing, taking an expensive machine with perfectly good sets of bearings and brake pads and willingly thrashing them purely for the privilege to push our physical limits. 

 

Running technique can only get you so far as no one actually goes out with hard soled shoes on and runs a 5k in knee deep mud.  It’s more than just running, it’s the downward sucking on your feet as you attempt to pull them up for each step, the unknown surface and obstructions below the muck that shorten your foot placement, the fight for each foot to gain purchase in ever changing footing, and the constant risk of your step resulting in a trip or a slip and sending you unceremoniously down to your knees in spandex clad splat amongst a tangle of sharp bike parts.  

 

The mud was watery so while it was brutal on equipment it didn’t pack onto the bike and get heavy. Riding through it required more attention than usual but it wasn’t prohibitively impossible.  Besides the exertion the most dominant discomfort was repeatably plunging your feet into the ice cold water but like most things cyclocross the discomfort was easily lost in the overall objective of chasing down laps.  

 

My confidence grew as we made our way around and I couldn’t help but glimpse an external perspective of  ….the absurdity of it all….  What the heck were we doing?? When the races are fast it’s easier to not think, to instead be captivated by the rhythm of turns and accelerations, to immerse yourself into the flow of the intensity, blind to the blur of the activity outside the course tape.  The purpose of lining up and testing your ability to compete against the top women in the country is predetermined, the only thought that really needs to pass through your head is how hard you are willing to pour your heart out on the course to close the gap to this rider and then the next or where more speed could be made up. 

 

This version was closer to a test of pure determination, coupled with a sharp dose of quickly deciding when you should or shouldn’t be on your bike. My pit crew (who had raced earlier in the day) left me to roll to the start with the final words of “just run it.” 

 

Their advice rang true, much time is lost in the unwillingness to dismount, so to be fully committed to the run regardless of how ridable that section could be made much quicker work of the lap. My consistency paid off and I worked myself up and into the top ten smiling for most of it.  I’m not one to go out of my way to splash through a puddle on an otherwise dry ride, on the contrary I will slow to a crawl to avoid the spray, but once I’m in it I’m in it.

 

After finishing it was back to that never ending task of cleanup.  Bikes were demudded, rags were rung out, clothing was sprayed down and then all of it was hauled back to the hotel to be scrubbed out in the shower. On a rare thermal worthy day, I kitted up in a lightweight suit to merely make the cleanup easier.  

 

We went out to dinner contemplating what the next days plan would be.  Surely they would relocate the course and give us a fresh go at somethingrideable. But it was not meant to be. Manpower was likely a factor, it takes a few folks to get a course reset and with limited daylight and low temps it just wasn’t feasible.  The track was reversed however, the one longer on the bike climb now a descent and the steeper plunges now meant runups.  

 

The mud thickened as the day progressed and no longer did it just slide off the bikes after wrecking havoc to the moving parts, it also added weight.  The flat surfaces deepened and more snow melt added to the collective moisture. The temperature had lowed a bit and the sun was no longer out. Shedding puffy coats and warm boots for lycra and near certain discomfort was in no way an appeal.  Once again I forwent a pre ride lap and instead marveled at the sheer hopelessness of picturing a bike race on non bikeable terrain.  

 

The course was so slow that for a second weekend this season the mandatory dismount point, in this case a set of barriers, were removed, the intended stairs having never actually been added. I started without any major incidents, my discomfort was heightened by need to remount at the top of the descents, I’d prefer to flow into them already on the bike but this was not possible with the heaviness of flats that led in to the downhills.  

 

It’s fascinating how the general points of spectating are moved around based on the severity of the course conditions; off cambers, so entertaining to observe in moderate to slick conditions become mute points when every racer is running. Otherwise underwhelming descents become hotly contested tests of skill and willingness to avoid the brakes. Mundane flat stretches become a test of line holding and how far launching in can get you before testing your ability to dismount minimizing momentum loss. Ruts forming make cornering more of an act of physics and soft hands then a graceful tape to tape speed maintainer. 

I found my comfort after one lap, determining where I could possibly make up time and hone speed. Going out for the second lap I let fly on the longest downhill and was rewarded with an unforeseen somersault. The impact was mostly to my shoulder with a duck and roll but the bike took a good hit twisting the bars sideways.  Being near to the pit I opted to run it in but time was lost in the recovery. I’m usually pretty good at regrouping but somehow this one caught me off guard and after loosing ground to a handful of riders I maintained that position for the duration of the race.  

 

 

Individual races tend to develop around you as you loose sight of the front and back ends of the larger picture. Myself and three other girls went back and forth, each of our strengths showing up on different sections of the course, I determined my strengths could be utilized later in the lap and as we pulled onto the final section of pavement for the last time I glanced back to see all the other girls immediately behind me in hot pursuit.  

 

Or so I thought.  I sprinted it out for a longer than desired stretch to the finish line not even risking the glance back in the chance they were wanting that spot more than me.  We were racing for a finish out of the top ten but with the battle against ourselves and that course it was a position no one wanted to give up. As I rolled under the line I finally took a moment to peer behind me and realize I was exceptionally overestimating the motivations of my pursuers.  It was morbidly entertaining to roll into the end of the chute so gassed when no one was chasing me. 

New York was the final weekend of east coast racing for me and it was ended on quite the legit note. I was more than happy to pack up the van and begin heading somewhere warmer while savoring the one weekend of the season away from racing. Next up was Texas and a long van ride was exactly what I needed to regroup and process.  There are a number of places that make me happy but it’s tough to beat a sunny day of van driving, open roads, facing the unknown and singing along to whatever tune the radio is blaring. 

 

 

East to DC and on to NJ | 2018-2019 CX #4

It was finally that time to simplify, load up the van, say goodbye to the cat, shun email and text responsibilities for a few days, dial in NPR and make my way east. I opted for a little over 6 hours a day driving, targeted a ride for the middle of each drive, and spent my nights in rest stops along the impressive expanse of I-70 that took me clear from Colorado to Pennsylvania. It’s nothing short of a joy to watch the scenery change as the miles pass by and minus my near constant need for a shower there’s few places I’d rather be.

I regrouped with friends in Ohio and caravanned the rest of the route to the nation’s capital alongside of them, ironically the directions each of us were following sent us in opposite ways before crossing paths again a few hours later. We made our way east in that fashion and arrived in time to stretch our legs out on the bike course.

Rain that night made what has for the past few years been a super dusty venue a little sloppy for the early races but in mint condition when our start time arrived. Held on the Armed Forces Retirement Center grounds, the D.C. event features much twisting and turning and even more roots. I love this course for the solid mix of conditions and needed technical skill as well as the “oasis” feel of being in a fenced in open green space within the confines of a run down, partially dilapidated, urban setting.

The normally dusty DC venue often takes riding to a new level. The topsoil is sandy and comes off in chunks as the racers track through it. It grips and then it gives, with little time in between to decide how you will take a line. the course is fairly smashy given that tree roots, broken pavement, brick, loose rock, the cover of some sort of underground facility, and pretty much any type of footing you could find line the course. This year though it was wet, rain came through over night and left, not pure mud by the afternoon races but spongy with watt sapping, grass cleared, packed in saturated dirt.

I started well on day one, fully in the mix on the front only to ram into a line butts on a woodsy uphill pileup. In the split second it took me to come to terms with the impending crash felt way longer than the time it took me to recover. With the gear I was in from the speed of the start to a now standstill on an uphill spot with no speed, regaining my pedals was a mere doleful realization that I wasn’t going to get very far on the bike. With the swarm of the remaining riders slingshotting around the corner into the pileup, I accepted my losses and let the field pass rather than swing my leg up and risk a tangle in another bike.

I emerged from the stand of trees in last place. So much for that decent start! But again, I enjoy adversity, the job was now clear cut: move up. So I did and managed to surprise myself while doing so. I moved through the stragglers and caught and passed a group of five to ten riders on the flat straightway in the start finish area. Fascinating because even when I’m feeling great, flat and straight is not the usual place I excel. My confidence was building when I heard the rear wheel whack a root and felt my traction disappear. So this was how it was going to be today, I was nowhere near the pit. I soft pedaled on everything sharp, ran the pavement and limped my way back to my other bike. With a successful hand off I once again went for it catching a few riders in my sights and making passes but the real race was long gone. Still I was stoked about how I’d felt, confidence comes from many sources but my favorite is real time application. I was well out of the points but still in the money and there was a whole lot of intrinsic winning taking place.

Sunday is much of the same only backwards, and the warm, rainy, damp was replaced with wind, chill, and well, more wind. It was a much cleaner race for me which afforded me seven places higher than the day before but was still it was a matter of garnering confidence and feeling out my fitness. The race went directly from the start sprint to a quick up and down section known as the “W” where most riders not in the front five are forced off their bikes in a domino effect. I had a silent giggle as I plunged down on my own line avoiding others cued up for the ideal line and kept a level head while girls flailed around me to get back up the consequent steep pitch. I managed to balance and exercise patience while allowing a little luck to guide me through and found myself cleanly putting the bulk of the group behind me as I stayed on and accelerated away.

I held tightly to a near top ten spot as we began to go around but fell pray to a quick mechanical that took me off my bike long enough for two riders to move through me. I regrouped and spent a lap chasing one rider at a time before settling in to what untimely became another confidence builder. Going with the theme this year; I seem to have a lot of the right pieces, I’m just unable to put them together at the right time.

I wrapped up the weekend and headed a few hours north, enjoying the solace and thinking time driving in the van affords me. Aside from the occasional encounter with a few less than agreeable Eazy-Pass monitors that may as well be screaming “go back to Colorado,” I happily left the traffic and congestion of D.C. behind for a week in semi-rural New Jersey.
The state of New Jersey gets a bad rap and for some reason although it seems to be more of reputation than anyone having any applied experience. For the most part New Jersey made up of historical farms, reclaimed farmland, and preserved wild spaces. The roads are narrow and the drivers intense but it’s ripe for beautiful riding. I host near the Raritan River canal and along side the river the dirt trail goes on for something like 70 miles of beautiful tree enshrouded tow path.

The weather leading up to the race weekend was picture perfect, the suns rays filtering through the yellow and reds of the fall trees. The forecast on the other hand was calling for a nor’easter, and it was due to hit on Friday night or Saturday morning. Perfect timing for a robust weekend of racing cross. As promised, upon waking Saturday morning the rain was coming down steadily and for the first time I had not been awoken by the sun slanting through the trees.

The rain wasn’t severe but it was steady as was the wind even though it wasn’t nearly the 50-60 mph gusts I had been made to expect. The race had a few delays and re-routs for trees that had fallen on the course overnight and then as the day progressed small sections were removed to try and shorten the laps to a more reasonable time frame. The mud got deeper and sloppier as each preceding race took to the course and as our race neared the steady rain made it less sticky and more slick….basically my favorite conditions.

I went out for one recon lap, it’s painful to roll a clean non-racing bike out in the muck but a necessary evil. The course was as expected with a plethora of mean little roots hiding under a layer of slime, corners that rutted out to the “commit” level, off cambers that wouldn’t forgive the slightest feathering of the brakes, and normally ridable climbing that now more closely resembled the effort of hauling a 20 lb. pack up a mountain summit.

When it was time we filed in for the start line and received an entertaining “if the nor’easter comes while you are racing” briefing and received the countdown readying us to remove layers of rain gear. We only were allotted a few hundred feet of pavement before diving into the track. I started well and slotted in, my expectations were much like the juniors I had seen tackling the course earlier that day with encrusted bikes that already weighed as much as they did; just get around the course.

The mud allowed for less natural separation within the field. I was up front following the leaders and they were never far out of sight. I battled in the vicinity for 5thfor a while, girls would come up and then they would fade and it was pleasantly surprising I did not. That week’s running workouts were paying off as I felt strong on my feet and competent on the pedals. The slipping and sliding was super fun, I had the roots to avoid dialed and played hot potato with the brakes.

My one woman pit crew was dialed, the bikes were delivered clean and fast. I sat in third for a while until another racer came through, I tried my best to sit with her but rounding one downhill sweeping off camber corer she took a new to me line up high. I tried to emulate her path and got swept off my bike by a low hanging tree branch. I’m not sure what her pine tree avoidance game was but that was enough to create some separation. Still I was happy to be securely in the top five since those can be awfully challenging to come by.

Cleanup commenced and took until late in the evening. It’s pretty entertaining that with so much to scrub out the plan is to just get back out there and dirty everything up all over again. Even though the bikes are mostly clean from the time in the pit there is much more detailed scouring to be had. Clothes must be de-mudded before they can be washed and then there is the matter of drying shoes and rain jackets as well as any other equipment that was outside in the rain that day. When you live in a van it’s pretty rough to have it full of stink and water!

By Sunday the storm had passed, the sun was intermittently showing it’s face and the course had turned from quagmire to peanut butter. Once again, the morning races got the short end of the stick as they started with the original planned course before the promoters realized they wouldn’t get one lap much less five for the entirety of their race. By the time the last races of the day rolled around the ground was think and sticky but the circuit was whittled down to remove much of the elevation and any artificial reason to get off your bike besides the natural surface.

Much like riding in sand, there’s a whole lot of point and hope when riding in the mud. The bike will stay upright if you let it, you can encourage and guide it in the right direction but most of this involves giving it speed and altering your response to anything the bike does with more watts and more speed. Tires will grip when moving, they just don’t as much like to slow down.
A large part is also recognizing when to call it and run while stomaching the added weight you consequently hoist up onto your shoulder. I always prefer to ride then run and flat running versus the more mandatory uphill seems awfully silly to me but while the stretch along the pit was a toss-up day one, the knee-deep slop on Sunday didn’t leave room for choice.

I rode well, hugging the tape and cornering under it to grab more traction while catapulting across the course to the next side when that was feasible. It took me most of the race to get the lines dialed and conclude that the fastest trajectory around the course was sometimes not the most obvious path.

Staying clean generally tends to be a priority as an adult as the cleanup largely falls onto your own hands. Not dragging mud into the house, destroying the washing machine, working the stains out, preserving your drive train, bearings, and brake pads or funding replacements all equate to "it’s just easier not to." Hence the novelty of repeatedly being willing to literally take the plunge. There are certainly moments during these races where my mind drifts to the outrageousness of it all but by that point I’m already fully engulfed and the finish line is just a matter of forward process away.

I enjoy the unpredictability of it all, that maintaining an open mind and relaxed outlook can propel you forward more reliably then determination to maximize watts on the straightways. Finesse rides a fine line with commitment and knowing when to throw down can be more key than the actual pure power.

New Jersey delivered a solid weekend of excitement that was a welcome homecoming to the east coast race scene. It’s good to be back in the heart of it all, knowing that with a shortened US season this year we are nearly already to the middle of it all. For all the dry races in the past few years it looks promising that this season might just make up for it.

Q & A with Gavin Hoover

Photo Credit: Danny Munson

Gavin, as one of the new riders to the team would you give everyone a little background as to how you arrive on the national racing scene.

I came up racing as a Junior in SoCal and spent a lot of time in the back half of my Junior career racing with the national team on the road and the track.  I had a few big results including a tenth at the Jr. Paris-Roubaix but I came out of juniors right as some of the US U23 programs were folding and I decided I wanted to go race in Europe full time.  I lived in Belgium for six months my first year as a U23 and had a rough season, feeling isolated and alone. I came home pretty over cycling, but got an opportunity to step back onto the track that winter with the rebirth of the US Team Pursuit program.  I spent 2017 racing and training almost exclusively on the track and solidified a spot on the new national team. I was introduced to Paul halfway through the year and he took a chance on me based on the rides I was producing on the track and gave me the opportunity to step up onto Elevate-KHS in 2018.

You are now a big part of the US National Track Team that is trying to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.  What steps do you and the team have to make to ensure your participation in the Olympics?

Now for us the biggest thing is consistently producing the performance’s we are capable of.  We don’t have the depth of some of the bigger nations so all four guys in the team have to be at their best on the day because there’s no alternate coming in.  We have the ability to race with some of the more established teams but we need to produce our best ride on race day repeatedly and continue to chase the top eight spots necessary to qualify for the Olympics in a year and a half.  So for now that means being prepared to go out and fight for every second in training, equipment and nutrition day in and day out so we can have more confidence in our ability to deliver sub four minute rides every time we line up.

Congratulations on breaking the US National Individual Pursuit record at the Pan Am Games and winning Gold and Silver medals this year. Tell us a little bit about that experience.

That was incredible to be a part of, to win the team pursuit was a big moment for everyone involved and a huge reward for all the work we’ve put in over the last year and a half.  To go out again the next day and race the Individual Pursuit took a lot of mental strength but I knew I was on good legs and had a shot at the national record. Just by coincidence, I’d been at the Velodrome in 2008 when Taylor Phinney set the the Individual Pursuit national record so I’d always had it in the back of my mind as something I’d like to have a crack at.  I wasn’t expecting it to be this year though, but I realized it was possible based on the Team Pursuit times we’d ridden the day before, so I threw a huge gear on the bike and went for it… and somehow it worked!

What was one of your highlights last year racing on the road last year.

For a lot of reasons Tulsa Tough was far and away the highlight of my time on the road last year.  I’d never raced at Tulsa before and the environment of that whole weekend was so much fun.  More importantly it also felt like I truly became a member of the team from the time with the guys, to our incredible host housing, I felt like part of the Elevate-KHS family.  Then to cap that all off by executing perfectly with the guys and helping set up a clean sweep of the podium on the first night and a 1-2 on the overall made it very special.

Photo Credit: Danny Munson

What are you most excited about for the upcoming 2019 season on the road and on the track?

On the track I’m very excited to continue building the team pursuit program into a competitive team, the World Championship this year will be a very exciting event for us to see how far we’ve progressed in the last twelve months and where we stack up against the best teams.  For myself I’m also excited to have a crack at the Individual Pursuit and see if I can get into the hunt for a top five or even a medal at the World Championships.

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