Monday, September 18, 2017

World Championships - Cairns, Australia 2017

Way back in February after Cyclocross Worlds I sat down and planned out my goal for the 2017 mountain bike season. At the top of the list were two huge goals, win a national championships and to be selected for the 2017 Mountain Bike World Championship team. In July I accomplished that first goal and won the junior 15-18 short track nationals championship in West Virginia. A few weeks later, on the car ride down to Indianapolis to start college I received an email saying that I was selected to represent Team USA in Australia!


Racing the World Championships in Cairns, Australia was an incredible and eye-opening experience for me. I’ve raced cyclocross in Europe and experienced some pretty brutal and difficult courses but the course at the Smithfield Mountain Bike Park was something else. Difficult, technical, steep climbing, big drops, gnarly rock rolls and tire destroying rock gardens made up much of the course. On top of that I dealt with temperatures near 90 degrees, sticky humidity and blinding clouds of dust that coated everything making every corner loose and slick.

When the gun went off on Thursday afternoon it was full gas into whirlwind of gravel and dust. I snuck around a crash in the first corner and accelerated again into the darkness hoping that no one would go down in front of me. We tore up the start loop and I came through the start finish somewhere in the 50s.

On the rodeo drop off I took the B-Line around some downed riders and made up some time. On the crusher drop there was a line of riders who were stopped, waiting to drop into the steep rock roll. I took the B-Line again gaining a few spots. From there it was full gas all the way to the top of the course with my heart rate deep into the red.

Launching the Rodeo Drop

When I reached the top, I dropped straight into the infamous “Croc Steps” rock garden followed by the “Croc Slide” rock chute. I made it through cleanly and took the B-Line on “Jacob’s Ladder,” a vertical, flat inducing rock roll followed by a rock garden. I lost a few spots and kicked myself for still being skittish after I crashed hard there on Monday. Next up was the caterpillar jump section, the most fun part of the course and the only place I could really recover.

Boosting it on the caterpillar descent. Photo: Kenny Wehn

Coming into lap two I was somewhere in the upper 40s and maintained my position until the Croc Steps where I took the B-Line to go around a downed rider. I almost missed the corner that cut back onto croc slide and dabbed, launching down the sheer rock slide with one foot unclipped! I flew down to the bottom managing not die, and as a bonus the crowd went wild recognizing my narrow escape of a race ending crash. 

For the next three laps, I tried to move up the best I could, but the heat and humidity took its toll on my heart and body. My heart rate was so high (max of 202, average of 192 for 1:15) that I could hardly even push my legs without maxing out my HR. When I crossed the line in 44th I was utterly spent, but elated about racing my first mountain bike World Championships. 

Kevin Vermaerke and I left it all out there

My result was far from what I had hoped and trained for, and I am still quite disappointed in that. However, I rode a clean race and conquered every obstacle on the course overcoming my fears. In addition, I learned a great deal about international mountain bike racing, as it was my first ever over-seas UCI race and my fourth ever UCI cross-country race. On top of that I made lots of amazing new friends from the U.S. and other countries, swam in the ocean, watched the pro races, saw kangaroos and crocodiles, and overall had the trip of a lifetime!

I’d like to thank my family and all my friends for their amazing support and contributions, my coach, Joseph Maloney for helping me have my best season yet and accomplishing the highest goals I set, the Marian University cycling community for helping me prepare, and finally thanks to my amazing team Linear Sport Racing and to my awesome 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!

In addition I'd like to thank Jason Jablonski, Marc Gullickson and USA Cycling along with Ken Whelpdale, our mechanics Kenny Wehn and Julian Petite and our soignuers Bernard Condevaux and Jen O'Connor.

I can't thank the amazing USAC staff enough!

Thank you all for reading and for being part of this incredible journey. I can't wait for what is to come!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Ore to Shore

This is a very late race report but goes the a quick summary!

Nothing beats a fresh pasty! 

I left Friday afternoon with my dad and we drove the 5.5 hours to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan fueled by Yooper pasties.

Saturday we were up early for breakfast and then headed over to Negaunee for packet pick up.
Then I got on the bike and warmed up with my teammate Brian Matter, before crowding into the front row of the 1000 person mass start.

I was quick off the line and settled into the front group quickly. After the road section and first couple of grueling climbs we were down to a total nine riders at the front of the race including riders such as Jeff Hall, Tristan Schouten, Pete Karinen, Brian, and last years winner Jordan Wakeley.

After that selection by mile ten, it was 30+ miles of sitting in the group and suffering with Brian through mud, sand, gravel, fire roads and endless rolling climbs. With five miles to go things started to heat up and I got popped off the front group along with Jordan Wakely. We duked it out until the last 200 yards when I out-sprinted him to take 8th place overall out of nearly 1,000 starters.

Shortly after that I was elated to find out Brian took the win!!! The icing on the cake was some cliff jumping into a frigid Lake Superior in our full kits mid cool-down. Matter and I have had a lot adventures in a lot of different states this year!

Linear Sport Racing Team!

The Trek Top Fuel was the perfect machine for the grueling 48 mile race.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

WORS #8 Hixon Forest Epic

A few weeks late but here is my race report from Hixon Forest Epic!

After two chill weeks following MTB Nats it was time to race again! I drove to La Crosse solo and as I got closer and closer I saw ominous rain clouds closing in from the West. So, I set my tire pressure for mud and crossed my fingers hoping for a downpour. Sure enough. 20 minutes before the start it started coming down.

The first lap things were a little slick but the water hadn't soaked in yet. Cole, Isaac Pete, Mark Lalonde and I drilled it on the slightly sloppy course for that first lap. Coming into the second lap the conditions were totally different. The hundred other racers had ripped up the course turning it into a absolute slick, sloppy mud fest. I started that second lap in fourth place a bit behind the lead three and ahead of Pete. Pete caught me at the end of the second lap and we rode together braving the mud that was getting stickier and slower by the second until I made a few mistakes at the end of the third lap and lost his wheel.

Fletcher caught me at the beginning of the fourth and final lap and we rode together until he unfortunately broke his chain with half a lap to go. I rolled in solo happy to finish fifth behind such tough competition.

Two muddy team mates!

Bike doubled in weight throughout the race!

As always, big thanks to all my sponsors, Linear Sport, 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! Next up will be an Ore to Shore report followed by a Indiana MTB race(DINO).

Lastly, if you haven't already heard, I have been selected to represent Team USA at the Mountain Bike World Championships in Cairns, Australia on September 7th. It is a very costly trip and I am trying to raise funds to help me get there. Please click the link and help if you can! Thank you!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Cross Country National Championships

After Thursday's big short track race I spent all of Friday just chilling out in the condo, only leaving for an hour to ride in the pouring rain. I felt like I had my lines dialed and felt ready to give it my all on the muddy technical course.

Saturday morning it was business as usual and I was prepped to race at 1:30. Around 10:30 I found out my start was delayed until 2:30. I adjusted accordingly and started my warm at 1:45, and rolled up to the start at 2:15. There I found out the start was delayed and after two thirty minute delays we got called to staging. I got my call up and lined up second row. Adrenaline surged through me as they counted down and blew the whistle. The guy in front of me missed his pedal and I cut to the inside around him. We hammered into the first corner and after that I entered the single track downhill about 7th wheel.

Kevin and Trevor got a slight gap on my group on the first climb and we pursued them at a ruthless pace. On the first lap I was a bit worried about how my race was going to go. My legs weren't quite warmed up yet and I struggled to hold my position on the climbs. Coming into the second lap I started to feel better and more comfortable.

The six of us kept pushing the pace and our group started to shake up a bit. Connor Patton dropped off part way through the second lap after a crash and Calder Wood fell off on the third lap due to cramping.

It was down to me, Gaelen, Nick and Paul. We heard that Trevor had gotten a flat and that we were now fighting for second place! I started to strategically put in efforts where I knew I had advantages, slowly whittling away at my competitors. Gaelen still had plenty of juice going into the fourth lap and layed down the power. Only I stayed on his wheel and we broke away from Nick and Paul. I held on tight as long as I could but got popped part way through that fourth lap.

Photo: Kenny Wehn

Photo: Kenny Wehn

I came into the fifth and final lap in third place knowing someone was hunting me down. Thar someone was Connor Patton. After his gnarly crash early in the race he charged the next three laps fighting back up to us. Unfortunately I didn't have the gas to fend him off, coming into the final steep climb I was completely cracked and Connor rode right by me into third place.

Photo: Kenny Wehn

When I crossed the line I had absolutely nothing left to give, and was completely and totally empty. The course, the conditions, the competitions, were some of the toughest I ever faced.

Photo: Kenny Wehn

It hurt to miss out so narrowly on a bronze medal, but I am still immensely proud of my effort. I know I gave it everything I had and I still ended up fourth, which is my best xc nats finish by a long shot.

Photo: Kenny Wehn

This was a huge break through for me in my racing. It really proved to myself that all the work I have put in has been worth it, which has been incredibly motivating. For some nationals is the end of the mtb season, but I have another WORS race, Ore to Shore and then a full season of collegiate mountain biking with Marian University!

Now time for a few thank yous! First off, thank you to my friends and family for their amazing support and encouragement! Next up, huge thank you to my coach, Joseph Maloney for always helping me push myself and for helping me reach the next level. Next up big thank to all my sponsors, thank you to Linear Sport, 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!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Short Track National Championships

Time for the scoop on how my STXC Nationals race played out! Many of you may already know what happened but here it is! 

From the gun things were off to a good start. I was second into the first corner and sitting comfortably near the front. A lead group of 6-7 riders was established and the rest of the field was strung out. The pace was high and other riders started to slowly crack under the high intensity. 

At the start of the fifth lap Paul Fabian and Drew Sotebeer bridged up to our lead group of five. Paul went to the front but was hurting pretty bad from his effort to close the gap. 

Photo: Kenny Wehn

The seven of us were strung out wheel to wheel and I could tell everyone else was hurting and that it was time to go. Coming into the second to last lap I attacked up the start straight climb. Quinn Simmons stuck right on my wheel and the group started to fracture. I lead through the rock garden and attacked again up the steep as others faltered on the rocks. Only Quinn held on tight and we went into the final lap with a ten second gap on 3rd place. 

Photo: Kenny Wehn
I lead down the descent and back up through the rock garden. As we hit the climb Quinn came around me and attacked hard. It took everything I had to hold his wheel and the two of us crested the climb absolutely gassed. I recovered for a moment on the flat road before making an aggressive pass up the single track climb. Quinn passed me right back before the two slalom turns and I followed him closely. As we hammered towards the flyover I rolled right past him and up and over the wooden structure in the lead again. In the back my mind I heard my coach telling me to accelerate hard out of the corners like in cyclocross and that's what I did. One, two, three accelerations out of the last three corners and Quinn was off my wheel.

I rode through the start finish arms raised, exhausted and elated, winning by eight seconds. My parents and Brian Matter swarmed me as I pulled over to the side of the course. It was an incredible feeling, so much hard work and sacrifice all paying off.

Then I was interviewed by the USAC media crew( interview can be found here) which was followed by a long cool down and some Mike's Mix recovery drink.

Pre-podium shenanigans!

After cool down it was time for dinner and podium! It felt like a dream when they called my name and I took the top step on the podium.

Seth, Quinn, Me, Paul, Kevin
This was such a big step for me and there are so many people to thank. To start I'd like to thank my team, teammates and sponsors for making this possible, so huge thanks to Linear Sport, 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 for all their amazing support.

Linear Sport RT squad!
I'd like to give a huge thank you to my coach Joseph Maloney for helping me achieve my goals and this level of fitness, I couldn't have done it without him. This was my fourth season working with Joe and achieving a national championship was a huge step! Next I'd like to thank Brian Matter for being such an incredible help this year. Starting off with a spring break training camp in AZ, to race support in Utah and Arizona, and another training camp in Copper Harbor. Brian has been a huge help full of advice and tips that have proved truly invaluable!

Lastly I'd like to thank my family for their never ending support and belief in my dreams and goals!

Next up will be my post on the cross country race, look for it this Saturday and be sure to keep up to date on social media. Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

WORS Cup and Copper Harbor Training Camp

 This is a real quick one because I need to finish packing and get on the road to nationals!

At the WORS Cup/Midwest Championships I did the junior race because I don't have my pro license yet. I was a bit bummed but took it in stride and raced my hardest. Right from the gun I took the lead and by the end of the first lap only Daxton Mock was still with me. He hung on super tough making me really work for my gap, which came halfway through the final lap.

Although I didn't get to race against my team mate Brian Matter it was still excellent prep for nationals due to the similar lengths of the races.

On Sunday I skipped the short track race and headed to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with my family for a few days. Then I headed farther up north to Copper Harbor where I did a mini training camp with Matter and two AZ Devo juniors Hayden, and Grayson as well as Karl Hendrikse.(Karl took all the fancy photos of us riding, thanks Karl!)

It was an incredibly fun few days riding, adventuring and just having fun. The wet gnarly trails of Copper Harbor were exactly what we wanted to prepare for nationals! Check out our adventures in the pictures below.