The off-season has been quite a whirlwind and the 2017 bike tournaments are finally underway! My new program SCOTT Sports-Maxxis finally hit the launch button, my SCOTT Sports Chasing Trail video was released, I raced and won a few fun Grasshopper Adventure events, snagged a podium at the first Canada Cup, swept the stages and overall at the scenic Moab Rocks Stage Race, and finally I got back into some serious XC action finishing 6th at the HC US Cup in Bonelli this past weekend. It's been a lot of work but it's also been rewarding organizing everything from sponsorship, equipment, logistics, and communications this year. The focus for me this year is to "keep riding until the fun stops" and I've been having a lot of fun so far.
I fell in love with mountain biking because of the trails and I definitely appreciate the wicked bikes and continuing support of my title sponsor SCOTT Sports. We filmed this Chasing Trail segment last fall on some of my favourite North Shore trails and it tells the story of my love for the sport and the lifestyle mountain biking has given me.
I've seen and worn a lot of different kits over my career and going into this season an important key for me was presentation, visibility, and how my new kit was going to look. It was really great to work with Louis Garneau to make it happen and I'm really psyched with the results. Louis Garneau put together a fun little video about my whole design process.
It was also really cool to add some custom painted helmets by Paint House Customs to finish everything off. When I started racing "back in the day" everyone had custom painted lids so it was something I always really wanted to have. It was great to partner with another one of my great sponsors, GU Energy, to make the custom painted SCOTT helmets a reality.
This winter, as in past, I spent time training in NorCal and one of my favourite things about the location is the early Grasshopper Adventure Series in Sonoma County. These are great social ride/races where I can have some fun and get in shape. These events are a mix of dirt, gravel, pavement, creek crossings, and raced on a variety of bikes depending on your strength. Its always a good time with friends and as extra motivation there is a very nice bottle of Arnot-Roberts wine on the line to win. I did two Grasshopper events this year; the classic Old Caz and the primarily MTB oriented Lake Sonoma event. Old Caz turned into a big 17hr ride weekend as I joined my good friends on the Kona Adventure Team for 105 mile all day commute back and forth from Pacifica to Healdsburg before and after the race.
We managed to hit some dirt and some of my favourite road riding in the world as we passed through Marin County up the coast towards the Godfather's, Roger Bartels, house which is often Grasshopper basecamp in Healdsburg. Roger is always an incredibly gracious host firing up his pizza oven and uncorking some very quaffable wine after our second visit for the Lake Sonoma Grasshopper. As a bonus I also managed to come away with two bottles of wine after winning both Grasshoppers.
The first serious race of the year was the Bear Mountain Canada Cup at the start of March up in Victoria, BC. Bear Mountain is the Canadian National MTB Team base and I was also there for meetings as Cycling Canada's Athlete Council representative on the Board of Directors . Victoria is also my old stomping grounds where I went to University and where my sister and her family now lives. I was definitely multi-tasking all weekend fitting in some visiting, speaking, and sitting through meetings every day. Even though the snow barely melted for the race it was nice break to get out for a ride and the race on the fun trails Saturday.
Raph Gagne pretty much exploded the race on the first lap with some impressive early season fitness and I used all my experience to end up on the podium in 2nd at the end of the day. After giving the National Team a talk on tactics I had to show them I knew what I was doing!
Next up for me on the schedule was the three day Moab Rocks XC stage race put on by Trans-Rockies March 26-28th. Looking at the calendar it was an easy decision to do this race because who doesn't want to go ride in Moab in March? I remembered Moab being pretty bumpy so I put some fatter 2.35 Maxxis Ikons on my 120mm travel SCOTT Spark and drove out to Moab for some fun. After a long drive and confirming I didn't want to enter the Masters 40+ category at registration I was ready to race with the fast guys!
The first stage was Porcupine Rim and this was probably the most challenging for me as I had never ridden it and was racing this trail blind. The legs were good and I got a little gap after the big climb up but racing down this wide open rocky descent blind was definitely a little exciting at full throttle. The lead group caught me just before the finish line but I managed to hold on for the Stage One victory. The other guys at the race definitely pushed me hard but I was able to squeeze out small victories on Stage Two at Klondike Bluffs and again after a fun day at Mag 7 to finish it off. It was a great event, some awesome riding, and I was psyched to sweep the stages and the overall. My body was definitely beat up after the rocky racing and took a long time to bounce back from the effort.
My focus is on more trail and endurance events this year but I still really enjoy jumping into some traditional XC events. The HC US CUP in Bonelli is one of the big ones so I wanted to make the effort and see if I could be in the mix again there this year. It was a really busy week travelling back and forth to Canada to build some bikes so I decided I would make logistics simple for the race. Maybe a bit more hectic but I've done it before flying in and out for the race on Saturday from my southern base camp in the East Bay of San Francisco. I always enjoy a little extra challenge anyway. Figured it should be easy compared to my legendary two continents, two days, two races weekend where I raced to a 3rd at a World Cup in Australia Saturday and then placed 3rd at the Norba Finals on Sunday in Utah. That's a good story to tell another time! The only extra challenge for Bonelli was that I hadn't ridden or set-up my new SCOTT Spark RC bike yet. Luckily everything went smoothly and after settling into the low teens after lap one I actually felt like I had some good fight in the legs. I managed to bridge up to the chase group battling for fourth and after taking a few digs I ended up finishing the race in 6th.
It was great to be in the mix and see all the young talent emerging at the top of the leaderboard. I just missed the podium so I thought I had no worries making my flight back.....and then I got the random selection for anti-doping, and then I couldn't produce a full sample! Luckily I had time to spare, got my bike packed, changed clothes, produced for anti-doping, and made my flight out for a successful operation.
It has definitely been action packed at times but I'm excited the 2017 season is rolling now. It has taken a lot of work to get to this point but I'm looking forward to so many great events this summer. Keep riding until the fun stops!