Category ArchiveTraining

Downhill Biking &Downhill Racing &Mountain Biking &Training 23 May 2011 09:05 pm

Damn..I think it’s working

The training that James Wilson is having me do that is.  I just got done racing the 20th annual Spring Thaw race in my hometown Ashland, OR and it went really well.  Far better than I expected actually.  I think I have to admit that all the interval training and core work I’ve been doing have lifted me off my old plateau.

On the way down to register for the race I was still about 50/50 whether or not I was even going to race the XC part of the weekend.  A big part of me was in doubt if I had my fitness back from the crash I took at the Keyesville classic and I didn’t want to burn myself out the day before the DH which I thought I had a good chance of winning.  But then I get to registration at “The Standing Stone” brewpub and there’s Mark Weir asking me if I’m gonna race the XC or not.  “Uhh…I still haven’t decided,” I say.  “You’d better race it or your DH win won’t count. I mean you’ll still get the win technically… but there’ll be an * next to your name and we’ll all know you’re a sissy,” he says.  Or something to that affect.  There was a lot of gum flapping going on and it’s hard to remember exactly what he said.  If you know him, it’s not hard to imagine though.

I tell him I’m still not sure if I’m gonna race it or not but internally I already know I can’t let that poke at my manhood and potential DH win slide. They leave. I register for the XC, DH, and Hardtail DH.  I tell myself I’m just gonna treat it as a hard training ride. After pre-race BS and a beer with fellow racers I go home and tell my wife that I got Weir-pressured and I caved and registered for the XC.  She gives me a whole bunch of grief for caving in to the peer pressure and I can’t win…Unless I win.

I rolled out with the leaders in near perfect race weather and was a bit surprised to find myself leading the pack for a little while up the first climb.  It felt wrong somehow.  Like there was a giant trick being played on me.  So I backed it off a bit and fell into a top ten position but still not too far from the front.  I began to pick more spots off on the climb and then really took back some spots on the first descent.  Caught up to my pal Mark Weir about halfway down & sat on his wheel for a while.  Then we turned a corner and headed back up for the second climb up to the top.  I got a bit out in front of Weir & held it all the way home into 4th place overall. Scott Chapin (Santacruz Bicycles) 3rd.  Aaron Bradford (Specialized) 2nd. And Chris Sheppard (Rocky Mountain) won it very convincingly.  I must say it felt pretty nice to be sitting at the finish line waiting for Weir to roll across…It’s usually the other way around.

The DH on day two of the Spring Thaw has always been my focus and this year was no different other than that there was a huge pro class this time around.  The conditions were nasty!  It had been raining all night. Cold. Snowing/raining/snowing/raining/up at the top all morning during practice runs.  In the days before most of us who had been out on the course were thinking that records would fall this year.  Probably 3 or 4 people would have broken the old records..That’s how fast the track was running.

Not this day.  I think those were the worst conditions I’ve ever raced that course in.  Everybody was thinking the same thing “Just get down the hill in one piece and it will be a good day”.  Just survive your run.  And I had to go and sign up for hardtail class too. Smart.  I got to go tenth off the line for my standard run and 200th off the line for my hardtail  run. It continued snowing/raining the entire time.  Conditions were much worse the second time down after roughly 200 racers had their way with the trail.  Sometimes the trail had it’s way with the racers.

When it was all over the top five were;

Nathan Riddle     4:12:50

Mark Weir             4:15:88

Casey Coffman    4:16:79

Ben Cruz                4:16:82

Aaron Bradford  4:17:10

Pretty close

and I took Hardtail DH too…I actually feel kinda guilty about that.

Downhill Racing &Mountain Biking &Training 09 May 2007 04:52 pm

Medford Mail Tribune Article_Searching for the Perfect Line

Searching for the perfect line: Downhill mountain bikers combine strength and speed on a rugged course to prepare for this weekend’s Spring Thaw races near Ashland

Nathan Riddle goes fast where most of us would crawl if we went at all.

Riddle races his mountain bike down steep, rock-studded, tree-lined trails. He pedals hard for extra speed where others would be grabbing the brakes — places where a wrong move could send him headlong over the handlebars toward unforgiving rocks and trees.

“Practicing a course is key,” the Ashland rider says. “Memorizing the corners, and what kind of dirt’s in each corner. I have certain courses locked in my memory.”

He’ll certainly have Mount Ashland’s Catwalk Trail etched in his brain by Sunday, when he’ll be racing against the clock and dozens of other riders during the annual Spring Thaw Mountain Bike Festival.

The 17th annual Spring Thaw begins Saturday with a 24-mile cross-country race on a course that mixes gravel roads and forest trails. The course begins and ends in Lithia Park, but there’s nearly 4,000 feet of elevation gain along the way, so riders have to learn to pace themselves for at least two hours of cycling.

With hundreds of riders spread out along the course, little one-on-one races often develop during the race, says Eric Teel, secretary of the Southern Oregon Mountain Bike Association, which organizes the races.

“It’s you against somebody else,” Teel says. “It’s easy to lose motivation if there’s not somebody out there in front of you that you’re trying to catch.”

Sunday’s downhill race is another breed entirely. Riders descend the course one at a time against the clock, rather like a downhill ski competition. Spectators gather to watch along the turns, where races are won — and lost.

“The big differences in performance come in how fast you can take the corners,” Riddle says.

Racers are dispatched down the course every 60 seconds, so there’s plenty of action for spectators to enjoy.

“Every minute for four or five hours, there’s another racer coming by,” Teel says. “They will easily hit 40 mph on a narrow trail full of rocks and bumps and everything else. It’s just insane.”

The fastest downhill racers cover the 1.7-mile course in less than five minutes.

“You’ve got one chance to do your best,” says Riddle, whose time of 4 minutes, 23 seconds and change was good for second place in the 2006 downhill. “Every time you come out of a turn you’re pedaling as fast as you can.”

Riders spend hours on a course before a race, looking for the path that will take them through each turn at maximum speed.

“You practice over and over again to hit the right line,” says Becca Margulies, an Ashland High School junior who will ride the downhill race. “You want to be smooth and avoid the biggest bumps you can and find the quickest way down.

“Smooth comes from finding the right line,” Margulies explains. “You feel it more than you see it visually. You’ll run a section and it just doesn’t feel right.”

Specially designed equipment helps downhill racers go fast. The bikes are built with heavy frames to survive the impact of 40-foot jumps and 10-foot drops. The wheels have thick steel rims, and the wide tires are covered with fat lugs to provide maximum traction. Front and rear shock absorbers can have as much as 10 inches of up-and-down travel. Disc brakes give riders the ability to stop quickly or feather the brakes independently.

All the beefed-up features produce a bike that’s much heavier than the typical cross-country racer. A fully equipped downhill racing bike weighs in well over 35 pounds — almost twice as heavy as ordinary mountain bikes.

Given the hazards, all riders wear helmets and safety equipment. Many compete in body armor — hard plastic shin and arm guards, chest protectors with joints that let them flex and twist to keep their balance at speed.

Sometimes the protective gear isn’t enough. Margulies has broken her collar bone; Riddle, the bones in his forearm.

“It is scary sometimes,” Margulies said. “You have to be focused. You just have to be able to make yourself do it.”