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.

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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!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Midwest Collegiate Conference Championships

Time for a an update! After Trek CX Cup I put in a sizable training block to prep for Collegiate MTB Nats and the rest of my cross season. I came in to the Midwest champs a bit tired from the block but excited to compete.

For the short track we raced on our home course at the Indy Cycloplex. Ben Schmutte went out hard and got an early lead. Anders Nystrom and I worked together to chase hard, but I wasn't feeling it quite yet and dropped off. Half way through the short 25 minute race I started to find my groove put down the power to finish strong in 3rd place.

The Men's A's Squad
After my race on Saturday, I was hungry for more in Sunday's XC race. Right from the gun I slotted in second wheel and passed into first when the leader made a mistake. I charged the long first single track section trying to see what kind of damage I could do. When I popped out onto a long two track straight away there were three Marian teammates on my wheel and we had a big gap. We worked together the rest of the lap but on the last long climb Ben started to do some damage and I wasn't recovered enough from earlier efforts to follow.

Anders and I worked together for the next two laps trying to reel Ben back in. On the third lap I tested the waters a little bit with Anders and on the four lap I attacked on a climb halfway through the lap.

I kept charging for the rest of the fourth lap and absolutely emptied the tank on the fifth lap, putting in my fastest lap of the day. I managed to close a thirty second gap in that one lap and almost caught Ben on the line.

Stoked to be a part of this awesome team! I can't thank the coaches and riders enough for making Marian so special! Next check out my write up on how we did at Collegiate MTB Nationals!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Trek CX Cup

Trek CX Cup! One of my favorite weekends of the entire year, especially now that I no longer live in Madison. Thursday after class, Emma and I loaded up the van and drove the five hours back home. It was awesome to be back in town with my family and dogs and to get to ride through the UW Arboretum again!

Friday morning we headed out to Waterloo and checked out the course. It was fast dry and tons of fun! Then we headed back home again to stay out of the heat and to rest up for the evening's races.

After a brief warm up on course with Brian Matter and a finalization of tire pressure I rolled up to the start of my first elite UCI race. Although it was only a C2, some of the very best European riders were there including Mathieu van der Poel and most of the Telenet Fidea team. Right from the gun everything was full gas, starting almost last row I needed to move up quickly. I cut the first three corners as sharply as I could making up spots and by the time we came through pit one I was almost in the top 20.

Photo: Jeff Kennel

That first lap was unlike anything I had done since last cross season, I'd almost forgotten what it feels like to turn yourself inside out to the point of nausea in a single lap. On the second lap I put in the exact same time but drifted back a few spots losing the group with Brian Matter in it.

Photo: Jeff Kennel

I drifted back another spot or two as I recovered and then kicked it  into gear again as I settled into the next group. We rode together for the next few laps maintaining our positions and suffering in the heat.

Photo: Jeff Kennel
I was unused to the full out effort and the difference in handling between a cross bike and an mtb but as the race progressed I got more comfortable and felt smoother. A personal achievement for me was hopping the barriers (my first time hopping double barriers in competition!) and riding the log stairs every lap.

Photo: Jeff Kennel
By my seventh lap my legs were screaming and my back was fighting against me, limiting my power. Judging from time I was prepared to give it for one last lap but when the official waved me off the course it was a relief. I finished in 25th place, nothing spectacular but given the competition and the small amount of cross specific training I've done after mtb worlds I'm happy with my result.

Me explaining to teammate Tyler Renolds and company what it was to be in the same race as MVDP
Saturday morning we had a family breakfast and then headed to Camrock for the collegiate mtb race. At 11:00am, less than 18 hours since my last race I lined up again in the 90 degree heat. I was quick off the line and settled in on Ben Schmutte's wheel, ripping up my home trails. Part way through the first lap my legs seemed to suddenly fall off and my back tightened up badly. I finished out the lap and pulled the plug. It was just too much for my body in the brutal heat, so I resorted to playing with my pup, Milo and cheering the rest of the Marian riders on.

Sunday morning was the big day! Emma was racing her first Elite World Cup! Before, I helped pit for her I went out and did my first single speed race.

The make-shift single speed. Photo: Jeff Curtes

I don't own an actual single speed, but a zip tie does the trick! The difficult part was picking a gear without getting a chance to test it out on course, luckily there were plenty of friendly competitors willing to weigh in on it (they recommended I use the hardest gear possible).

Photo: Jeff Curtes
Thanks to my tall gear I wasn't the quickest off the line but by the time we went under the finishing banner I was up to speed and moved into the lead.

Photo: Jeff Curtes

For my first and second lap my gearing felt fine but necessitated some extra running. By the end of the third lap I started to feel the effects of my efforts but kept on spinning it out where I could. It was a different style of racing that made me focus on efficiency, carrying speed and nailing my lines.

Photo: David Schlabowski

 It was fun to take my first win of the cyclocross season and to get the ball rolling!

Grandpa Bill, my number one supporter!

Trek Family
The rest of my day was spent helping Emma and soaking in the awesome atmosphere of the first Waterloo World Cup. Everything about it was just top notch, the competitors, the fans, the course and the people at Trek behind the big show. The highlight of the weekend was certainly watching my sister race the World Cup just six weeks after breaking her elbow. What made that even sweeter was the the payout for the men and women was equal for the first time ever at a World Cup! Hopefully by next year I will have earned a spot in the Elite Men's race and will line up on my home course against the best in the world.

World Cup spectating! Photo: Palamino American Cyclocross
I'm stoked for another season with Trek Cyclocross Collective. Big thanks to Trek, Bontrager, Sram, Honey Stinger, Mike's Mix and new to the team this season: Challenge Tires!

Lastly thank you to the Agnew's at Englewood Grass Fed Beef for sending me home with tons of high quality protein to keep my dorm room stocked up!

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!