What a year for pretending to be a pro mountain biker! I started racing on the first of March, and finished racing on the first of September. That’s exactly six months, and a very long time to try to be in the form of your life. I went into the season with huge aspirations of climbing the Mountain Bike ladder, but ended the season content to have achieved some good results locally, and to have gained a better perspective on how I should tackle mountain biking in the future.
To the annoyance of my coach, I didn’t really pin down what I wanted out of the season. I chased two veins of racing all year: cross country, and marathon racing. For XC, I did most of the US national series, and also British National Champs. I raced well in all the races I lined up for, I had no mechanicals or body breakdowns, but I also had no standout results. Nothing spectacular. I think this was a symptom of starting racing early, before I’d reached peak fitness, and then continuing racing a little later in the season after a couple of longer races had added fatigue into the equation. It wasn’t a perfect plan.
Next year I will not be attending the early ProXCT races in California. I had signed up to support the national series, and gain a ranking that I could use to better my start positions in later races. Due to a number of mix-ups, I was never called up in the position I deserved, and thus started from the back in almost every race. I realised that my loyalty to the series wasn’t repaid by the officials; enquiries and complaints about call-ups at races are met universally with stubborn refusal to help out, as if I’m being a trouble maker. The earlier races are not targeted at racers like me; they are a great platform for the really fast guys to gain some points before international racing starts, but they aren’t effective at building the mid pack riders to a higher level. So, not being fast enough (yet) to get a UCI point in those races, I’d be wasting my money and motivation to make the trips again. My goal next year is still to race a world cup, but I’ll be a little bit smarter when I decided how to do it. I’ll be racing the later season ProXCTs, and also a couple of Canada Cups from May onwards. I think this tactic will give me a critical extra month or two of training, and then a slightly smaller field in which to try to compete.
The other thread of racing I did was the longer “Marathon” style events. The western US is a great place to live when you want to race this kind of event, and I really enjoy doing them. From the Whiskey 50 back in April (11th) all the way through to the Grand Junction Off Road on the first of September, I had my best results in these races. I won the Firebird 40 earlier in the year, and maybe didn’t celebrate that win enough. I thought (cockily) that there’d be a couple more wins to celebrate. In the end, the Firecracker 50 should have been my best race of the year, but some tactical errors combined with cramp meant that I lost out by a whisker from my biggest ever win. The Firecracker is on my list, and I’ll be back to get that title. The Steamboat Stinger came after my trip to England, and I arrived tired – jetlagged and oxygen starved. I raced well, overcoming some inner demons to finish third. I’m really proud of that result. The GJ Offroad was another ‘nearly awesome’ result; I came fourth after getting very bad cramp with less than 500m to the finish line. I was happy with fourth, but the way in which I lost third really reinforced that I need to figure out some fundamentals in my racing if I’m going to win races next year.
Generally, 2014 was the year where I realised that potential and hard-work are only as good that the direction that you place in front of it. I’ve progressed so fast in the last three seasons; from top 10’s in pro races to podiums. Most of that progression came from simply riding more, and then this year I attribute it to training smarter. To get better next year, I need to plan smarter, race smarter, and be more specific in what I really want. It’s going to be a hard journey, but I’m looking forward to it!