Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Lance Factor

Amidst the craziness that ensued after Leadville, lots of work and then going to Peru, I haven't had a lot of time to reflect on the Leadville race.

I was thinking the other day how crazy it felt to be in a race with Lance, probably the most famous cyclist in the world. You could definitely tell something was up- thousands of people lining the course cheering, helicopters hovering overhead. Yeah so I think its pretty safe to say it didn't feel at all like a mountain bike race. Maybe the closest thing I'll come to racing on the road, in more ways than just that- the course was all roads as well. Things like drafting and team tactics even came in to play early on. Not your average mtb event.

Going in to the race I wasn't sure what to expect- I can count the times I have ridden 100 miles on one hand and they are all 100 mile mtb events. I've never even done a century on the road and 3 of the 4 100 milers I'd done were 4 and 5 years ago. I felt pretty strong at the Mohican in May though despite the frustration of getting lost...

So without a ton of long race experience I just try not to doubt my race nutrition strategy and pre race prep. I was also coming off a head cold that lingered for too long but was feeling pretty much clear of it 4 days before. I hadn't been riding a ton in the two weeks leading up to the race but I think that's the idea, to taper a little, even if it was mostly because I had been sick and busy with work. Tapering seems weird and I need to learn just to trust that the fitness isn't going away.

Anyway, I showed up on Thursday night and commenced oxygen deprivation. Actually it wasn't too bad, the only time I felt it was on Columbine mine trying to climb steep rocky stuff at 12,500 feet.

Ohran was nice enough to let me ride the new Flash he had set up for himself. Riding a sub 18 pound bike was a nice motivation booster, thanks Matt.

So the race is quite an experience. From the registration and rider meeting on Friday to the 1500 mountain bikers in town to the official awards ceremony on Sunday, everything is a total production. They even print your name and time on custom hoodies on Sunday morning.

I ended up 4th overall and hung with Lance for 40 miles while he was soft pedaling. Then he blew it up on the Columbine climb and everyone was solo from there. I was freezing and barely functioning from the cold and rain at that point. I should have stopped to eat something and get it together but I just pressed on and probably rode slower overall than if I would have stopped. I managed to hold on to 3rd until the last ten miles when I crashed and bent my derailleur, started bonking and got waxed by Shriver. He came by and was like "Come on bro lets go" then proceeded to launch a full on attack and dropped me like a bad habit. I didn't have the snap to go with him but was able to hold off Len Zanni who was coming at me as well.

So back to the Lance Factor. The attention I have received from this result has totally blown me away. Don't get me wrong, I am stoked on the placing, but I honestly rode about how I was expecting and I was even a little bummed not to have been able to stay with Dave Wiens on Columbine. It wasn't the pace that was an issue, more the fact that I was shutting down in the cold. I am also pissed that I crashed and came a little unglued at the end losing 3rd.

I keep thinking about how much attention I have gotten over this race, all of it I am stoked on and appreciate. Seriously, I have heard from people I haven't talked to in years calling and e-mailing me from back home to say good job, which is awesome. I think this says a lot about the state of mountain bike racing in the US though. I have been killing myself as a "pro" (in the loosest sense of the word) mountain biker for the past few years and most non racers are like oh, that's cool. Which is fine, I'm not complaining at all. Not just me either, there are lots of legitimate professional athletes that get zero credit because nobody cares about cross country mtb racing. I admit its not the most exciting sport to watch, some would even say boring, but its pretty bad ass and f@#&%g hard as hell!

Say I had had the ride of my life at nationals in July and ended up 6th or something. I don't think I would have received half the props, and it would have been a bigger accomplishment in my eyes. Not to take away from Leadville but its the Lance factor that is blowing that race up so much.

All of a sudden people know about a mountain bike race? Wow, this is all new to me. Lance shows up and bam, mtb racing is big and cool. Hats off to him and thanks because our sport needs it! I head rumors that Lance might be competing in some other classic mtb events in the next few years- maybe La Ruta and Cape Epic. The press for these events will be huge and I think its a great thing for mountain biking. Legitimacy and publicity are two things lacking right now and maybe this will draw some more interest and sponsors in to the sport.

So thanks Lance, and thanks for showing us how its done out there.

Hope you stick with the dirt.


  1. Awesome job out there. That was an incredible effort and you proved once again that you're as good as we all think you are.

  2. you deserve the attention and congrats... that was a huge effort. Most will never know how big, especially since you weren't 100% but some of us do. You killed it and we all know you could have killed it even more. Good things happen to good people and you're one of them. Keep it up man.