Thursday, February 1, 2018

2018 Cyclocross National Championships - Reno, Nevada

Sorry for the delay on this race report, things got a little bit hectic after missing class and starting my second semester of college the day I got back from Nationals!

The whole Marian squad (16 riders and three coaches) flew out to Reno on Monday the 8th and walked the course in the afternoon. It was nothing spectacular but had stairs, a ditch jump, a sand pit, more stairs, a big hill and some fun off-camber sections. Overall it was a power course but with enough features intermixed to make it fun.  Tuesday we pre-rode and I settled on my Challenge Baby Limus's as the perfect tire for the slick, but not sloppy course. 

Photo: Jason Blodgett
The individual collegiate varsity men's race was at 9:30 on Wednesday morning. I had a front row start but when they blew the whistle, the rider to the left of me swung across the field cutting off half of the front row. On the plus side this opened the door for my Marian teammate Cade to pull the holeshot. I came through the first corner in sixth and moved up into fourth before the short set of stairs. I lost contact with Cade, Henry Nadell and Brannan Fix when I bobbled in the sand pit. For the rest of the first lap and most of the second lap I was stuck dangling about ten seconds off the front group. 

On the third lap Stephan Davoust of Fort Lewis caught me and we worked together for a lap until I started to drop off.  Stephan bridged up to his teammate Henry, while Brannan and Cade dropped back from the front group. Cade and I worked together on the fourth lap in 3rd and 4th place and I established a small gap on the second to last lap and it held until the end to finish in 3rd. Cade ended up 5th and Ben Schmutte ended up 6th rounding out the top three for Marian.

I have been racing Cyclocross National Championships since 2008 and I have been very close to a few podium finishes. This was the first time it all came together and finally happened, making it very special for me and my family.

Photo: Patrick Gordon
On Thursday the collegiate team omnium came down to the 4x4 team relay. To win the championship we had to beat Fort Lewis. Our team was Cade first, Laurel Rathbun second, Emma third, and I was the anchor. It was a lot of pressure, and I was incredibly nervous. Probably more nervous than I have ever been before any other race in my life. What made this race so special was that we were racing for the whole team, they were relying on us to be the very best we could be and bring home the title.

Cade put in a ripper first lap coming through in the lead. Laurel managed to get a gap on her lap coming through in first again. Emma was up against a fast Brevard College male rider who got a gap on her, and she came through in second with a 25 second gap on the third place Fort Lewis rider.

As soon as Emma came around the corner onto the start/finish straight I started rolling, careful to stay behind her until the finish line (if you pass your rider before the line you get a time penalty), and then launched into a full sprint. I hammered out of the first corner and up the false flat into the headwind, nearly nauseous as I dismounted for the stairs. I ran the ditch because I didn't want to risk a big mistake, and then nailed the sandpit and climb up to the belgian steps. Coming into pit two Stephan had closed the gap big time and I knew I had to get on the gas harder.

Photo: Patrick Gordon
I put everything I had into the next few straightaways and off camber sections, finally grinding up the steep hill and around the downhill switchbacks. From there I buried across the little wooden bridge, up the pavement climb and sprinted out of the final corner all the way to the line.

Photo: Patrick Gordon
I ended up finishing seven seconds ahead of Stephen in second place, and managed to close 41 seconds of the 51 second lead Brevard had on us. I was thrilled to have done my part for the team, and it was amazing to take home the overall championship after such a solid team effort.

Photo: Patrick Gordon
Next year (this December) hopefully we can take home the relay championship, it was such a close battle and such a unique style of racing. I can't wait to do it more!

Photo: Patrick Gordon
After all the team excitement Friday was spent recovering on the couch and I got out for an easy spin. Saturday Emma and I did our final course recon and leg openers.

Saturday morning everything went to plan, breakfast, course recon, Emma raced (finished 4th!), warm, and then staging.

Photo: Dave McElwaine
I was second row but didn't have the start I was looking for, getting pushed back into the field. I came through the sandpit in 18th place and looking to move up ASAP. Coming into the second lap the legs were finally going and I worked my way into a big group fighting for the top 12.

Photo: Dave McElwaine
I felt comfortable in the group and made sure not to lose and wheels or work harder than I needed to. Eventually it was down to a group of five rider fighting for the top ten. Coming into the second to last lap I threw down some watts on the false flat after the start straight and got a gap on the group.

Photo: Jeff Curtes
I held the gap but on the start straight coming into the final lap Denzel Stephenson passed me pushing me from ninth to tenth. I was too gassed from the previous lap to hold his wheel but I tried to pace off of him as best I could so the group behind me didn't catch up.

Photo: Jeff Curtes
In the I held off the group and finished in tenth place, 2 seconds behind Lance Haidet (2017 U23 champion) and 8 seconds behind Denzel. It was an extremely tough race, the field was stacked and the course was demanding but I was happy with how I raced. I didn't give up, I played my cards properly and I felt content with the effort I gave and the result I earned. Check out this article put out by Trek for some more insight on my season.

I can't thank my family, friends, coaches, teammates and sponsors enough for making my first U23 nationals one to remember. Special thanks to my team, Trek Cyclocross Collective and my sponsors Trek Bicycles, Bontrager, Sram, Challenge Tires, Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix, and Englewood Grass Farm. 

Lastly thank you for reading and for following along on my adventures this past year, your support means a great deal to me. Mountain bike season is approaching quickly and it is going to be a good one! I will be putting out and announcement about my 2018 mtb season so be sure to keep and eye out for it and follow along on Instagram/Twitter @cswartzz and on Facebook @Caleb Swartz. Peace!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hendersonville North Carolina Grand Prix

Last UCI race weekend of the year! My dad flew down to Indianapolis and my sister and I picked him up on the way out of town. It took us about 8 hours but we made it through the snow storms and the mountains to Hendersonville, North Carolina. When we got there every single restaurant was closed but we grabbed groceries at Target and luckily the Brookshire's who were hosting us hooked it up with some pasta.

Saturday morning we woke up to more fresh snow (total of about 10 inches) and did a combination of breakfast, bike work, free Trek cyclocross live stream watching and spinning on the rollers inside. Emma raced at 1:20 and unfortunately had some bad luck landing her in 8th place. 

I had a second row call up and a great start putting me into 7th place after the first few turns. I was right with the top five but kept having trouble clipping in due to the snow and ice and dropped back to 7th part way through the second lap. I kept making little mistakes and that combined with not being able to clip along with some issues with my saddle angle dropping, kept me from catching back up. I dangled in 7th until the last quarter of the race when fellow Wisconsonite Isaac Neff caught up to me and then proceeded to drop me on the second to last lap pushing me back to finish in 8th place.

Photo: Daren Wilz

It was my best UCI finish yet but I was not pleased with all the little mistakes I kept making. I had the legs to make the top five but the execution just wasn't quite there.

On Sunday my goal was to minimize my mistakes and to crack the top five. Things kicked off with a front row call-up and a great start putting me in the top eight. I had a good first two laps dangling just outside the top five but I started making little mistakes that cost me.

Photo: Daren Wilz
On my third lap I really started to make mistakes and just wasn't hitting my lines on the rutted out course. I dropped back all the way back to 11th place by the start of the fourth lap. I took a bike in pit one and kicked it back into gear. I rode back through the group that caught me and into 8th place.

Photo: Daren Wilz
On the second to last lap I almost closed the gap on 6th and 7th place and on the final lap I caught the 7th place rider and finished just behind the 6th place rider. Finishing in 7th was my new personal best UCI finish but once again I was not happy with all the mistakes I made. 

All in all it was a fantastic weekend of racing in some super fun, gnarly conditions that we don't see very often. I scored some valuable UCI points and next up is nationals!

Big thanks to the Brookshire's for their hospitality and for putting us up at their wonderful home! In addition thank you to my sponsors Trek, Bontrager, Sram, Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix, Challenge Tires, and Englewood Grass farm for their great support!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Ruts N' Guts CX

The trip to Oklahoma started off with a nine hour drive from Indianapolis to Broken Arrow on Friday. Then it was qdoba for dinner, and off to our host house. Saturday morning kicked off with breakfast and an easy spin exploring some rad rural roads.

Then Emma and I drove the five minutes over to the course for pre-ride. Emma placed 7th in the C1, her best C1 finish ever and I had to force myself to stop cheering for her and warm up for my race.
When the gun went off I was just pack-fodder going down the start straight hovering in the lower twenties.

I tired to kick myself into gear but the long drive just wasn't quite out of my legs yet and I dropped from inside the top twenty to around 25th. Luckily on the third lap Travis Livermon was coming back from an issue he had on the first lap and came charging by me. I hopped on his wheel and held on for dear life. I barely managed to stay in contact with him but he brought me all the way up to the group fighting for 14th place. I settled into that group and tried to stay near the front as much as possible as things heated up in the last few laps. In the end I won a sprint for 16th place finishing just one spot outside the UCI points. It was my best C1 finish by a long shot but I just made way too many mistakes (mainly face-plants in the tricky sandpit) to get the finish I was looking for.

Brian, Karl, Emma and me post race!

Sunday the drill was the same. Breakfast, morning spin, drive to the course, pre-ride, pin Emma up, cheer Emma on (She placed 5th!), and finally warm up. Once again I had a mediocre start from the third row and worked my way into the top twenty. I continued to move up but things started to feel off with my back on the fourth lap and I started going backwards fast due to being in so much pain that I couldn't push myself. I hate to quit a race but I pulled the plug knowing that I was hardly even racing at that point. Overall it was a good weekend of racing where I learned a lot and found that my fitness is on track for nationals!

As always thank you to my sponsors Trek, Bontrager, Sram, Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix, Challenge Tires, and Englewood Grass farm for their great support! In addition big thanks to Jonathan, Ashely and little Johnnie for hosting Emma and I. Lastly huge thanks to Karl Hendrikse for helping wrench and pit for us as well as Nick from Phat Tire Bikes in Tulsa for pitting for us on Sunday!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Major Taylor Cross Cup

Now that I go to school at Marian University the Major Taylor Cross Cup is my home race! The race is held right on our home trails where I ride all the time and it was a bonus to be able to help design the course.

On Saturday things were a little unusual. Due to extremely heavy rain and lightning our race was delayed but thankfully still happened! I started second row but didn't have a great start, coming into the first corner around 20th. I went through pit one and took a bike to avoid a large mud puddle and made a pass or two. I moved up into a group fighting for the top got onto Drew Dillman's wheel. After another lap or two we got away and were fighting for 8th place. Over the next few laps I lost time to him on the big run but gained time back in the lower power section balancing things out to a 5-10 second gap that I could never quite close. I ended up taking 9th place in the extremely muddy, technical race, making it my first C2 top ten!

On Sunday the weather was very different! The temperature dropped from near 60 to the upper thirties but thankfully there was no rain. 

In the early afternoon I did the collegiate race to try and earn the Midwest Conference call-up spot for collegiate nationals.

I started third row and was fifth off the pavement but unfortunately a rider came up from behind me and cut across my front wheel when they hit a rut wrong, breaking a few spokes in my front wheel and causing me to dismount. 

I worked my way back to the front from the mid-twenties and caught up to first place (Marian team mate Cade Bickmore) by the start of the second lap. I started to put on the pressure and slowly got a gap that I extended over the next few laps to take the win.

It was great to race with all my Marian team mates and the squad is looking super strong for nationals in January!

Cade, Me, Nick
After the collegiate I cooled down, spun my legs out and the thirty minutes later I kitted up again to do the UCI race!

I started second row again but this time I had a great start, coming off the pavement in third place! Once we got around the first corner it was a running race to pit one and I dropped back a few spots.

I was in a big group fighting for the top five but doing two races just wasn't agreeing with my body. I tried to fight but I just couldn't stay with them.

My body just felt like dead weight as I slogged through the mud and as the temperature dropped I started getting colder and slower until it was almost a relief when the official pulled me.

I hate to get pulled but I still finished in a decent 14th place, which in retrospect wasn't too bad for it being my second race of the day.

As always huge thanks to my family, my coach Joseph Maloney and to my sponsors Trek, Bontrager, Sram, Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix, Challenge Tires, and Englewood Grass farm for their great support! Next up I'm headed to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma for the Ruts and Guts UCI race! Thanks for reading and be sure to keep up to date on my social media!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Derby City Cup

Derby City Cup race report coming at you! This race moved from Eva Bandman, where the 2013 CX World Championships were held, to Joe Creason Park. The course was full of fun technical descents, muddy ruts, tricky off-cambers, and leg sapping power climbs. The consensus seemed to be that everyone who had good legs loved it, those who bad legs not so much!

Saturday after a random draw for start position I lined up second to last row. When the gun went off I snaked around people slamming on the breaks to avoid crashing on the start straight. Things were going smoothly and I passed my way into the top thirty by pit one and stayed on the gas. On the technical off-camber before the stone steps I took the high line and passed my way into the top 20. I dropped into the technical descent after the stone steps right on another rides wheel, who proceeded to eat it hard. There was nothing I could do and I ran into him going over the bars. Our bikes got tangled up and by the time we got them apart I was in dead last with my chain off over a minute behind the next rider. 

Photo: Palomino American Cyclocross
I hopped on and rode my way to the pit where I exchanged bikes and got back underway. On the next lap, through brief yelling as I went by the pit my dad and I decided it was best for me to do a few laps, figure out my lines, and then pull out. I hate to not finish a race, but the Pan-American Championships on Sunday were the focus of the weekend. I needed to score some UCI points and that wouldn't have been possible if I blew my legs out on Saturday. So, I made the best of it and worked my way back into the top thirty after three laps. In that time I discovered my legs felt great and that I felt smooth and comfortable everywhere on the course.

My Marian team mate & room mate Nick Beirne post race. PC: Cameron Fisk
 After Saturday's debacle I was determined to have a great race and score valuable ranking points. Things started with a drawing the very last call up position but I put it behind me and focused on moving up. I had a good start but made a mistake in the corner before pit one costing me seven or eight spots that I'd just gained.

Photo: Jeff Curtes
It was a game of catch up again and I worked my way into the top 15 and found myself in a group with Cameron Beard and a Canadian rider fighting for the top ten. With two laps to go Spencer Petrov who broke a chain on the start line caught up to Cameron and I.

We picked up the pace and Cameron started to lose some time to Spencer and I. It was just the two of us as we headed into the lap battling for ninth place. I hung on tight and Spencer launched his attack into the barriers close to the finish by hopping them, and putting in an all out effort. I managed to hold pace a few seconds off his wheel but coming into the last technical section Spencer crashed allowing me to run around him to take home 9th place in the Pan-American Championships.

It was a solid result for my first u23 specific race and for being at the youngest end of the age group. Physically things were starting to fall into place and mentally I was 100% there until the end and hungry for it.

As always big thanks to my family, my coach Joseph Maloney and to my sponsors Trek, Bontrager, Sram, Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix, Challenge Tires, and Englewood Grass farm for the support!

Watch for my next race report after Major Taylor Cross Cup this weekend here on my home course at Marian. Until then I'll be enjoying these last days of fall ripping my Boone through the leaves! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Cincy Cyclocross Festival

Since collegiate mountain biking is over (check back for a Collegiate MTB Nats post soon!) cyclocross season if officially here! It had been over a month since I last raced cross but I was ready to dive back into it.

The course at Devou in Cincinnati was as technical and fun as always, but muddier than it's ever been. I got my lines dialed warmed up and staged towards the back of the start grid. When the official blew the whistle we ripped down the long start straight into the first big chicane. I got bogged down behind people on the inside line but managed to make up some spots through the next few corners by making aggressive passes.

I drifted back a few spots on the first lap and lost a few more on the second lap. I simply wasn't used to ripping around in the mud on a cross bike and wasn't used to that full gas cross effort. On the third lap I found my flow and remembered how to make it hurt like I needed to. My lap time got faster on that third lap and again on the fourth lap but I was stuck in no-mans land and had no-one within sight.

I crossed the line in 23rd place, my best UCI finish yet and it was my first C1 event! I was hoping for a better result but all things considered I'm happy.

Lucky to have so many tread options from Challenge Tires!

On Sunday we were back at Harbin park where I had last raced in 2014. The course was was soggy and slick but tacky in some spots making it a Baby Limus day. Due to random draw I was the very last call up but I made the best of it and lined up the fence so I could move up quickly. Right from the gun I weaved through people and shot up on the outside line with a clear path.

I made passes where I could and felt smooth through the corners. When we got to the short climb to the top of the course I lost quite a few spots and knew I might be in trouble. I managed to gain back a few spots and maintain my position but I could feel something was off with my back.

So coming into the fifth lap I pulled the plug rather than mess with my back anymore. It wasn't the way I was planning on my third UCI race of the year going but it was still a valuable learning experience and I'm excited for Louisville this weekend!

Stoked to rip these beasts again this weekend!
Big thanks to Trek, Bontrager, Sram, Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix, Challenge Tires, and Englewood Grass farm for the support!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals

Time for a delayed write up on Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals in Missoula, MT!
Things kicked off with a 6:30 am flight on Wednesday the 18th. Our bikes and gear had left in a box truck on Sunday so it was *just* the 20 riders and two coaches who commandeered most of each plane we boarded. We landed around noon in the Missoula airport and drove the hour to where the whole Marian team would be staying for the weekend. We were way up in the mountains and the views were unbelievably stunning

The view from our cabin's back porch.
We eviscerated the box and got kitted up for a nice easy spin in the mountains where we enjoyed even more stellar views.

A chilly team ride on Wednesday afternoon.
Thursday morning we all headed into Missoula to pre-ride the course. It was similar to what I raced in the summer of 2015 but with significantly more climbing, 1400 feet per lap to be exact!

Photo: Dejan Smaic
Friday morning race day kicked off by waking up at 4:30 and heading to the venue at 5:30. It was dark and chilly while warmed up and our race started as soon as it was light enough at 8:30. From the third row I had a great start and worked my way into six wheel but started to feel the effects of the blistering hot pace soon into the 20+ minute climb.

I faded back quite a few spots up the rest of the climb but started to find a decent rhythm near the top. I dropped into the descent close to a group of riders but lost some time to them on the way down, and as started lap two with out a wheel to follow.

Photo: Dejan Smaic

Unfortunately my back started to tighten up more and more making the rest of lap two and all of lap three a big struggle. Luckily for that final third lap I found a good wheel to pace myself off of and hung tough to finish in 16th place. I was pretty disappointed in my result but considering all the factors that played into it, I'm at peace with how it played out.

After some weather related schedule changes our short track race that was suppose to happen on Saturday, was moved to Sunday so that the downhill event could be finished before the bad weather rolled in.

I started third row which was less than idea for a 25 minute race but when the gun went off I made the best of it taking alternate "lines" which consisted of hacking through tall grass to make passes while following the eventual winner.

From there it was an all out brawl to the finish. I came through the start finish at the end of the first lap probably near 30th place. I kept the pedal down for everyone second of the next 20 minutes consistently moving up until I finished in 10th place.

Photo: Dejan Smaic
It was a solid but frustrating result for me because I held pace with leaders for almost the entire race but was simply cut off from the pack because of my poor start position and bad luck on the first lap.
I was still extremely proud to have given it my all along with my teammates to show what Marian can really do.

After my race I got changed and went to watch Emma's race as fast as I could. For the whole 20 minutes, I along with almost everyone on the team who was done racing ran alongside Emma and the other Marian riders on the climb each lap screaming our heads off.

It all came down to the last lap, Emma was in third going up the climb and the CMU rider made a mistake, and went into the tape. It then came down to a sprint for the win from behind against Lindenwood where narrowly missed out on the gold.

In the end Marian took third overall in the team omnium. We raced our hearts out for four days straight and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this phenomenal team. Huge thanks to our team coaches and staff, Dean Peterson, Michael Kubancsek, Natarsh Burke, Jason Blodgett and Danny Gerow for the amazing support and leadership that makes this program so great.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, outdoor
A true team effort.

Third place in the team omnium behind CMU & FLC.
2017 Marian Collegiate MTB Nationals Squad
With Collegiate MTB Nats finished my 2017 MTB season is officially wrapped up! I am unbelievably happy with how this mountain bike season played out. I accomplished almost every single one of my goals including winning a national championship and racing in the world championships, in addition I traveled to some incredible places, rode many amazing trails and made countless new friends. I am so, so grateful for everyone who was a part of this year and helped me make this huge leap forward in my cycling career. To list a few of those people... thank you to my Mom, Dad and Sister, my Grandpa Bill and Grandma Diane & Grandpa Ed, my coach Joseph Maloney, my teammate/unofficial skills coach/mentor Brian Matter, along with Steve Welk and my team Linear Sport RT. Lastly thank you to my amazing sponsors: Trek Bikes, Bontrager, Wheel & Sprocket, Styled Aesthetic, Kettle Moraine Preservation and Restoration, and David Hobbs Honda, as well as Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix, Englewood Grass Farm, Wolf Tooth Components and ESI Grips! If I failed to mention you, my apologies, just know that I am extremely thankful for your support.

Thank you all for reading and for being a part of this fun season. Keep up with my cyclocross adventures for the rest of the year as I take on my first year in the Elite UCI field. Be sure to follow along here and on my social media @cswartzz on Instagram/Twitter and @Caleb Swartz on Facebook!