Monday, June 4, 2012
TSE Stage 7- Final Thoughts
Watch more video of 2012 Trans-Sylvania MTB Epic on cyclingdirt.org
TSE is a wrap. And a success. My fitness was about as high as I could have hoped for. It was inspiring to make the lead group almost everyday in a field full of top-level dudes and it was totally surreal on the days I was able to finish with or ahead of them. It feels good to finally see years of work starting to really pay off and being able to not just hang, but even duke it out with the big dogs. I was able to jump on the box once with a podium finish on Stage 5 at RB Winter. Otherwise I settled for 4th place most other days. While it got frustrating being just one step away from the podium every day, I was content knowing the talent that I was being compared with. I finished the week in 4th on GC, just a handful of minutes back, but also a handful of minutes ahead of some of the best stage racers in the US. I think I've really started to make a name for myself as a stage racer. Its a racing format that naturally suits me. I like that the scope of the race extends beyond just the actual pedaling. To be good, you need to be able to recover properly, make proper equipment choices and take care of that equipment during a long hard week, stay focused and disciplined, be consistent, race smart, and develop a positive daily routine that works and leaves you race ready every morning. All that in addition to being fit and fresh. It takes a complete rider to feel good for the entire week and its not easy, but its something that I know I can be one of the best at.
I am not typically one to make blatant references to sponsors, I believe that results usually speak for themselves. But in the case of stage racing, and especially in the case of rough, raw, untamed central Pennsylvania singletrack, equipment choice can be a deal-breaker. So for that reason, I think a few of my sponsors deserve a shout-out. Not just because they help me and I owe them some exposure, but because I chose their products over everything else on the market, because they work and I believe and trust in them enough to punish them day in and day out this last week at TSE and every other day of the year.
First up is the Scott Scale 29 RC. Stupid light and stiff, and it handles like it's on rails. It is my first big wheel bike and I love it. Making the switch was natural. With wheels and tires becoming lighter and lighter, the argument of weight vs. 26ers is becoming less and less valid. The handling is there, the rollability is there, and the stability is there.
Speaking of wheels and tires- I've been rolling on Schwalbe rubber for over 3 years now. At first I was exclusively using the full UST versions of their 26in tire range. The thicker casing and sidewalls made feel more confident that I'd finish every day with air in my tires. Making the jump to big wheels, they don't offer full UST casings. Instead, I opted for the Snakeskin versions, which I was a little leery of. They were both thinner and lighter, not a chance I usually like to take with rim wrappers, but they've proven to be even more durable. My fav all-rounder is the Racing Ralph 2.25. For general trail riding here in State College, I opt for the Nobby Nic 2.35.
Mount those wrappers on a pair of NoTubes ZTR Race Gold wheels and you've got one of the lightest setups around. The wheelset is sub 1400g, with carbon skewer levers and Ti hubs. Being as light as I am I feel safe running the Gold's on any terrain, and I raced them every day through the brutal rock gardens of TSE. For slightly heavier riders, I would recommend the Crest versions. Just a 150g or so heavier, they are intended for more everyday riding/training, but are still lighter than almost any other wheelset.
Finally, one of my favorite components, my X-Fusion squish. Another long-time sponsor, I have been nothing short of blown away by the performance of both they're forks and shocks. The 26er Velvet and the 29er Slide are baller. Smooth and buttery, just as light as all the others, and way less expensive than you would imagine for the performance. Plus, all internals are 100% metal for durability. Can any of those other guys say that?
With that being said, I need to also thank everyone for their support not only just this past week, but over the years. The emails, texts, and phone calls are priceless and they help more than you all probably know. You know, leading up to TSE I must have been asked over a hundred times by friends if I was ready. If I was going to kill it. Make the podium. Win a stage. Its funny though, I saw all of that as pressure to do well, because everyone would be watching. It was stressful and I was anxious. I felt like people were expecting a lot of me. I was expecting a lot of myself too. After the first day though, I saw it differently. Instead of seeing it all as pressure to not blow it, it became support and inspiration to do well. I realized that I am a product of one of the best cycling communities in the country, and having the privilege of representing that community at one the highest levels is something that I take pretty seriously. So again, thank you to everyone, I don't take it for granted.