Monday, March 11, 2013

MJC V2.0: Chaos in Tejas - Not the fest, just my bike.

My second season as a pro is off to a great start. Everything feels easier this year; packing, traveling, staying on top of my rest/nutrition on the road, the works. Not to mention, thanks to head-coach Joe W. at Breakaway and a great winter of training, I'm in the best shape of my life.

My first race of the season this year, Mellow Johnny's Classic, was also the opening round of the 2013 USAC Pro Cross-Country Tour. Held in the always beautiful hill country surrounding Austin, TX. I went into the race this year much stronger and more confident than last year. The course is super fun, high speed with a fair amount of climbing and enough rocks to make any east coast mountain biker smile.


Being my first race of the year I was nervous to see how my start would go. I've just started to do VO2 work for the season and I was surprised to see that I was moving up rapidly from my fourth row start. No sooner than everyone was up to full speed, the race took on the scene of a beachhead invasion with a massive crash involving about a quarter of the field. I don't know if i've ever avoided a crash by a narrower margin. Someone's bike came flipping through the air; their back wheel flying close enough to my face that I felt the air coming off of it. Holy $#^%!

If you look close at the center of the field you can see things starting to go south.

Having narrowly avoided disaster, I made it into the single track somewhere in the upper teens or low twenties. I continued to work my way up over the course of the next two laps, ultimately moving up to around 15th position. I could smell the UCI points!


Not quite mentally prepared to suffer like a dog for the entirety of the race, I was just tapping out a hard but steady tempo. Holding back just a bit on the climbs and absolutely blasting the descents. Also, have I mentioned that I love being back on a full-susser? My new Scott Spark RC 29er is perfect for my riding "style", i.e. picking the worst freaking lines at breakneck speed. Cause riding smooth is for chumps.  


At some point in the first lap and a  half, presumably while doing my best Steve Pete impression, I managed to cut my rear tire on the top of the tread. I had intentionally elected to run tires with extra protection due to the abundance of sharp rocks on course here. Alas it was to no avail as by my second time through the Strava climb I had to stop and dig out my inflater. 

By the time I finally got my inflater out of my jersey pocket and blasted my tire, I had lost about a minute and 10 or so positions. I stayed calm and immediately started chasing, gradually reeling lost positions back in. On my third time through the Strava KOM, I had to again air my tire up as it hadn't fully sealed the first time around. I lost more valuable time and positions. 


As it would turn out, today just wasn't going to be my day. After airing up my tire for the second time, I managed to twice drop my chain and then for the first time in my life, have a contact fall out of my eye. Frustrated and half blind I angrily finshed out the remaining laps while miraculously avoiding smashing into any trees. That my friends, was a feat in and of itself. 


In the end I finished up the race in 30th position, about 15 places better than last year! I was disappointed at my luck but very stoked on my performance. I know things are going in the right direction because even in the face of so many technical problems, I still had one of my best national level finishes. My fitness is at an all time high and I can't wait to tear it up in Bonelli Park this coming weekend at the second stop of the Pro XCT. 

On the whole, the trip was an overwhelming success; I got to make a bunch of funny faces while riding my bike, reacquainted myself to the idea suffering through a race effort and got to eat breakfast tacos and Texas BBQ with my wonderful hosts (Thanks Shannon, Tim and Angie, ya'll are the best)!

Now off to L.A., heres to giving it 110% this weekend!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Socialism!


I have been riding and racing bikes in one form or another for most of my life. Since my childhood I've focused on riding BMX, commuting, road riding, mountain biking and more recently racing at an elite level. My father was a cyclist and the countless hours we've spent riding together no doubt helped shape my character. The reasons why people ride are numerous but I think that what is most important is the common experience of seeing the world from a bike seat and the community that provides us with. This common experience helps shape our world and the way we interact with the people in it.

I am fortunate as an elite cyclist to get to travel very frequently with my bike. The opportunities that being a cyclist provide for me are unbelievable. Places to stay, good food, some pretty ridiculous memories and more friends than I know what to do with! Many of these friends come from very different walks of life than I do and it's entirely likely that I would have never met them without cycling.

Working the floor at Breakaway frequently reminds me of how cycling can provide connections to all kinds of people and places. I had one interaction recently which I think really exemplified how cycling brings us together.

A customer from out of town came into the shop wondering about a Stages Power Meter  he had ordered (which are pretty freaking awesome by the way). It wasn't in yet, and so we ended up chatting about all the things cyclists talk about when they meet each other: what races we've done, our favorite places to ride, and showing off our bikes - pretty standard conversation for a bike shop.

Except, this guy wasn't just from out of town, he was from literally half a world away - Norway, to be exact. Even though we come from completely different cultures, we were able to chat like old friends over our passion for cycling.

The perspective riding bikes gives us is something we share with cyclists the world over and what brings us together as a community. Even if someone comes from a completely different walk of life from you, even if they may not speak the same language as you, the common experience of being a cyclist provides an instant connection. This is more than cool, and one of the things that keeps me perpetually stoked on cycling.

Sometimes cycling is one of the few things that gives me faith in humanity. Which hey, let's face it, isn't always the easiest thing to keep! I have met some of my best friends, made life changing connections, and if nothing else, ridden bikes in some cool places with some even cooler humans. The memories we make with our fellow cyclists are ones which will last even longer than my hopelessly contrasting tanlines. The bottom line is this; Cycling brings us together, and thats pretty much the most important thing in life as far as I can tell.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Welcome to the Gunshow V2.0 - Todays Edition: A mostly pictorial essay of the last six months.

Ok, let's try this again - same dumb name, but this time with new and improved content and - wait for it - regular updates! Now, where were we? Right. Mountain Bike National Championships. I did some of this:




Which ended up with this...


Which, I must say, I'm pretty damn happy with. I trained harder for Natz than I have for anything EVER. To come from sea level and do so well, what more could I ask for? Top ten at nationals was pretty sweet.

I wrapped mountain season up with a few more solid results at bigger races and even a few of these at regional ones.


Following mountain season I took to the slightly narrower knobbly tires and did a bunch of this:




After crashing my way around the mid-atlantic cross circuit for a few months, I was ready for a break. Mountain season started in March for me, so when the chill of December began to creep into the air, I knew it was time to relax. I tried my hardest to get fat for about two weeks but alas, it was to no avail. Half a month of terrible food, beer and netflix and I didn't gain a single pound - what's the deal man?

By the second week of December my brief but well-deserved break was over it was time to get back in the saddle. Luckily enough for us in the Mid-Atlantic, December was kind in terms of winter weather. Though January and now February have been a bit less forgiving. Which has lead recently to me doing a lot of this:


Fortunately, there have still been enough beautiful days (or at least days that weren't totally hellish) for lots and lots of these.


This time of year is one of my favorites for riding. The long, steady rides are a perfect time for thinking life through. I work out a lot of my problems on the bike, and I'm so thankful that I have a productive outlet for that. While riding is often a solitary act for me, something else that I think a lot about is how thankful I am for the cycling community here in Philly. It totally blows me away how many people I'll run into when out on a ride, no matter what time, no matter the weather. I try to keep count sometimes and it's a difficult task. Coming from a place with relatively few riders, it sure makes me feel lucky.

I've put in more time this winter than any year previously and it's beginning to pay off. I am so stoked on my form currently. I can't wait to fly to Texas in three weeks to test out my legs in the Pro XCT season opener. If things continue along the same path into the race season, this year is going to be huge!

More to come!

-Cole

P.S. I'd also like to extend a quick welcome and thank you to all of my new and continuing sponsors for the 2013 season.

Breakaway Bikes and Fitness - Best bike shop in the Philadelphia area, as well as a top notch training and coaching center.

Scott Bikes - They make rad bikes, duh. I'll be rocking a brand spankin' new Spark RC 29er for this year. Shred, bro!

Zevlin - All natural cycling skincare products and totally sick custom bar tape.

SwiftWick Socks - The best damn socks ever. Seriously, if you haven't tried them, what are you even doing with your life?

Dumonde Tech Lubes - My longtime personal favorite as well as the lube of choice at Breakaway.

Louis Garneau - Choice cycling threads. Comfy bibs for real.

Velocity USA - Day in, day out. Real wheels and rims for people that really ride.

All these fine companies have shown me some love for this year, do me a favor and check them out? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

WindHam



After my less than stellar performance in Mont-Sainte-Anne the previous week I was out for redemption in Windham. Having a World Cup round just a few hours from your home is pretty rad. It seriously reduces the stress of traveling, means everyone speaks a language i understand and that my family could be there to see me race/explode/what am i supposed to be doing again?

Speaking of my family being there, having support at a race can make all of the difference. Racing at a professional level this year has made me understand just what an advantage being on a fully supported team can make. I am more than thankful to my generous and fantastic sponsors at Breakaway but as a first year pro, i still end up traveling alone most of the time. This makes performing at my best when i am 3,000 miles from home challenging to say the least. Having my family at Windham was amazing, i didn't have to worry about dinner, or mixing my bottles or that my bike would be in top notch shape. Plus, i got to get heckled not just by french speaking soigneurs but by the people i love!

Having one world cup under my belt helped my confidence going into Windham. Not to mention my legs were beginning to come around as i tapered toward nationals. My goal was to finish lead lap and make sure that i kept things smooth the whole way through the race.

Numba 69, natch!

As we rocketed away from the start at near warp speed, i felt surprisingly good. The opening climb turned from pavement to dirt and i started to move up the side. Im a strong climber and the course at Windham suited me well. A classic ski hill course, climb up, rip it back down. The climb was great being essentially one long climb with a few steps in it for a bit of change on occasion.



Things began to spread out as we came off the start section and through the first pit. I was still feeling good until, as we exited the pit, a Colombian national team rider chopped my front wheel causing me to take digger face first. I was up again without any hesitation but the damage had been done.



I chased furiously to regain contact with the back of the field. After a few moments of climbing absolutely over my limit i succeeded in catching the back of the field and subsequently sat in for a few moments to try and collect myself. Having gone from completely dizzy to just slightly hypoxic i began to move up again. Passing a few riders on the climb and even more on wide open, high speed descent.



For the next two laps i continued to battle for positions, riding somewhere in the upper thirties. I was still riding smooth at this point and trying not to go over my limit any more than necessary. Going into the forth lap i knew i was in trouble as i was beginning to lose positions. I knew that in order to finish on the lead lap i was going to have to give it all on the forth lap and limp through the fifth and final one.

Is it over yet?!


When the dust figuratively and literally settled i finished in 46th place on the lead lap. Not even dead last, suckers! While better than my finish the previous week it still wasn't the finish i was looking for or the one i know i'm capable of. My legs just weren't quite there but more than anything i think i lack the experience of competing at such a high level.

Without question the most important thing i've been able to take away from having the amazing opportunity to race in the world cup is that of experience. I now know the level i need to be at to be competitive at international races. This is something i couldn't have even imagined without having experienced it first hand.

A million thanks to my parents, sister, girlfriend, sponsors at Breakaway and Scott, my coach Joe Wentzell, Marc Gullickson and USA Cycling and absolutely everyone who has supported me for affording me the opportunity to take my dreams of riding bikes real fast as far as I have. I've come away not just physically stronger as a result but mentally stronger. I don't feel that i'm able to just train harder and smarter in my career as a bike racer but that i can also put more confidence in myself and grow as person.

-Cole

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

As it turns out, the world cup is hard.

I may have actually caught on fire during my first world cup ever in Mont-Saint-Anne. Im pretty sure that when i got pulled with one lap to go i smelled smoke..

I wasn't sure what to expect going into my first world cup, from the field, the course and mostly from myself. I know i've put in the hard work and have the fitness but how would i perform in a field made up of the best U23 racers in the world? One of the biggest lessons i've learned in my first year of racing at a professional level is that the margin for error is so much lower, especially in international level races. If you go out a little too hard or don't nail your nutrition just right it can easily mean losing 10 or 15 or more spots by the end of the race.

After a ten hour drive from Philadelphia straight through to Quebec City on Thursday i pulled into the wonderful Motel Spring and immediately hit the sack. I woke up the next morning excited to test ride the course. I've heard Mont-Saint-Anne is the most technical track on the World Cup circuit but how technical could it really be? 

As it turns out, real freaking technical. Like probably the most technical cross country course i've ever ridden. Steep punchy climbs interrupted by super technical rock sections and way to many fly-over bridges. The famous downhill rock garden named La Beatrice lives up to its reputation. Three super steep switch backs into maybe the steepest rock garden i've ever ridden followed by two more bermed switch backs and 5 consecutive rock drops. Fun and incredibly challenging, the course is as demanding on your upper body as it is your legs.

La Beatrice.


Having ridding a few laps with fellow U23 national team member and Niner factory rider Skyler Trujilo and later Cannondale Factory Rider Jeremiah Bishop i packed it in for the day. After a great salmon dinner with Giant Mid-Atlantic rider Seamus Powell and his parents i got to bed nice and early. Big day tomorrow, big day tomorrow.....

After a surprisingly restful night of sleep i awoke as nervous as could be. I choked down a quick breakfast of peanut-butter and apple on bagel and almonds/berries. Stepping out the door i realized it had rained the night before. Great, cause you know, mud is really what this course needed.

After 45 minutes of spinning around aimlessly i made my way to the start corral and waited nervously for my call-up. Next to last row on the start, it could be worse i suppose.

The gun went off and it was, well, absolutely chaos.  I went ballistic off the start trying my hardest to move up as far as I could before the course got rocky and narrow. Navigating the start effectively can make all the difference in an xc race and lets just say that in my damn near hypoxic state i wasn't doing so well. I probably should have accepted that I wasn't going to be able to ride up to the front or even middle of the race and changed my strategy accordingly, instead i proceeded kill myself while gaining little.

After scrambling down La Beatrice (which is EVEN harder than riding it) i tried to find a comfortable pace to settle in at. I managed to hold onto the back of the race for the first two of five laps and then got thoroughly spit out. I limped through my third and fourth lap when the follow moto came up behind me. I knew that meant i would be pulled heading into my final lap. Bummer! After finishing my last half lap i was pulled just in time to watch the leaders come into the finish.

Dejected and generally unhappy i watched the Elite men's race and then went back to my hotel room for the evening. After a huge breakfast the next morning i hit the road back to the states still feeling bummed. It's heart breaking training so hard for so many months only to get shelled like it was my first race ever. After some more reflection i realized not everything went terrible; I mean i got selected for the National Team in the first place, which is an honor and a huge accomplishment. Not to mention i got to wear this sweet freaking kit!

USA. USA. USA.
I also rode the whole course with out eating it(all though there was no lack of trying on my part, i almost ended my season one lap on La Beatrice). Most importantly i now know the level i need to be at to be competitive as a professional.

After some more reflection i turned up the stereo and vowed to get back up and try harder(and smarter) next week in Windham.



-Cole

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fair Hill Report / I'm on the national team?!

The Fair Hill spring XC is a staple of the mid-atlantic mountain bike scene. It's a race i look forward to every year and after one rain date race day finally rolled around on June 3. The course features very little climbing and almost no technical features which mean there is almost no recovery. And by almost none, i mean none at all. Its an all out, puke your guts out sprint from start to finish.

I have been training straight through pretty much all of the local races this year(for reasons i'll reveal below) and so i went to Fair Hill Natural Resource Center knowing i would be alittle off my game. Good thing this race features the biggest and most talented field of local mountain bike season...

I made it to the start line just a few seconds later than planned and lined up second row in the field of forty or so elite men. The gun went off and instantly i knew this would be a close race. After about a mile and a half of fighting for position on the open double track i went into the first single track section way back in about twentieth place. Much further back than where i would like to be but as people fell off the pace in front of me i passed and patiently made my way up through the field.



After half of the first lap, i was sitting comfortably in the lead group of about 15(!). The local races seem to break up much earlier than national level stuff but amazingly this group of fifteen or so would stay together almost until the end. The pace was so high that if you made an error and fell out of the group there was almost no chance of catching back on. Other than being hard as $@*& for the next one and a half laps nothing exciting happened.

However, going into the third and final lap everything exploded. I was sitting mid-pack when a Scott rider in front of me bobbled and dropped his chain on the only real rock feature in the whole freaking race. Five or six of us were caught behind him and the ten or so seconds we lost on the front of the race proved to be crucial. I chased like hell but in the end never remade contact with the lead group. I rolled across the line in ninth about two minutes down on Cameron Dodge who took his third M.A.S.S. victory of the year.

Considering Fair Hill came on the tail end of a hard week of training and that the margin for error was so low, 9th place is pretty ok. I think i've been alittle to hard on myself about my local results this year when i've kept my training intensity so high throughout the week. Sometimes it's hard to keep the bigger picture in mind when you've been working towards it for months. Lucky for me, the big picture got alittle clearer last week.

I received an email from Marc Gullickson last week notifying me that i've received a U23 National Team start spot for both the Mont-Sainte-Anne and the Windham, NY UCI Mountain Bike World Cup rounds! To say i was ecstatic would be the understatement of the century. It's still hard for me to believe that in a week ill be racing the freaking WORLD CUP! Im glad i've been training so hard because i know ill be ready when it matters most.



In other news, I might have won the Cat 4 Historic Riverton Criterium by lapping the field with one other rider and then soloing off the  front again. I might have. I also might be a terrible dirty sandbagger.



Actually, there is no might be, I am.

See you at the world cup!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Post Finals Super Update; Part 2

Alittle late again but lets get to it.

The week after the Tour of the Battenkill was supposed to be the Mid Atlantic Super Series season opener at fair hill. An east coast mountain biking staple, the spring fair hill race see's some of the largest fields all year. The course is flowing, fun and real freaking fast. This is one of the local races that i look forward to all year. The only problem is, its a shine only race, in spring, on the east coast. Therefor there is about a fifty percent chance of it actually happening on the scheduled date. This year was not to be and it was off to CT again for round 2 of the Root 66 MTB series.

WINDING TRAILS FAT TIRE CLASSIC

Round 2 of the Root 66 MTB series took place in Farmington, CT at the Winding Trails day camp. The course was a wide open power course with some twisty/turny sections and a few log overs. Add in epic conditions(read: heavy rain and wind) which turned the course into a peanut buttery mud pit and a field filled with professional road racers, east coast cyclocross stars and a former/current U.S. national team member and you've got the perfect receipt for pain.


I knew it was going to hurt but when the gun went off, good-god-damn, i honestly thought i was going to see my breakfast again. After the starting climb the race came back together a bit on one of the following dirt road sections. Our group consisted of Shawn Milne(professional road racer for Kenda/5hour energy), Philip Wong(former road pro), Justin Lindine(pro mtb and cx racer for redline) and Jermey Durrin(pro cx racer for Jam Fund). Not your typical regional race field! The only one missing was Seamus Powell who was as usual, off the front making everyone chase like hell.

Needless to say, things split up real quick and 3/4 of a lap in i was spit out the back. An intense spring schedule combined with poor recovery after Battenkill was leaving me in a bad place. I slipped back to 11th or 12th place and dug ever deeper into the pain locker. After riding with a group of two B2C2/Boloco riders for three laps i was beginning to feel better. I hit the gas and began the late race surge which fares me well so often. 

I began to pass riders and by the last half lap had made it up to a group of two taking up positions 6, 7 and 8. After a stupid hard effort to hang on coming into the uphill finish, I attacked dropping one of the riders and losing to the other in the sprint. Not the finish i was looking for but hey, 7th place isn't too bad. Exhausted and covered in mud i made the long drive back to Philly.

GREENBRIER CHALLENGE

The Greenbrier challenge is one of my favorite races of the year. A well run event in one of the most beautiful parks in the mid-atlantic. The course is absolutely perfect for me, somewhat technical with lots of climbing. The race is also on the American Mountain Bike Challenge calendar which means its an important race for my world cup national team petition. 

Aaron Snyder sprinted off the start, taking the holeshot and then, on the opening gravel climb, put the pedal to the floor. At one point he looked back, as if to say, "anybody coming?!". No one was. I had a decent start and rode a smooth and consistent race moving up through the field, lap after grueling lap.

Have to give thanks to the support crew: Thanks Dad!
By the last lap i was battling a DC-MTB rider for forth place. He attacked on the last climb and put about 25 seconds into me. However i used my downhill prowess to close the gap and by the last flat mile heading into the finish i was sitting on his wheel waiting for him to lead me out in the sprint. Coming into the finishing straight there is a sharp 90 degree left hand corner that slams you into a super short and steep hill. Going into this at about 25mph the DC-MTB caught his pedal and slammed face first into the hill. I got caught up in his bike but was able to dismount cx style, hurdle him and his bike and remount without losing to much momentum. I hit this gas but in the end was able to roll easy across the line for a solid 4th place finish. Whoop whoop!

IRON HILL CHALLENGE 

The next week was the M.A.S.S. Iron Hill Challenge, another A.M.B.C. race and now the M.A.S.S. series opener. I had an exceptional start but knew immediately that something wasn't right. My legs felt heavy and i was missing that snap out of the corners. My long spring was really taking a toll on me and a few miles in i started to have trouble. I slid from leading to a group of Dave Weaver and Andy Wulfkuhle (4-6). I struggled to stay with this group and half way through the final lap i came unglued. 

Immediately after this i flatted and due to a faulty air canister(i'm looking at you Genuine Innovations!) was unable to fix it. I rode the remaining four miles on five pounds of pressure(it's amazing the traction you get!), cringing every-time i heard my rim bottoming out on the occasional rock. I limped across the line and still managed to place 10th. I guess they all can't go well!

After nine races in two months it was time for a few weeks off from racing and some well needed recovery. Currently i'm gearing up my training for nationals and waiting to hear if i've been selected for the U.S.A. national team for the two north american world cup stops. My nerves are about shot so here's to hoping!