3-30-09 // Adam Craig: A Giant Update from Chile

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It’s quite often that the race season starts off in South America for the US National Team.  This makes sense, I suppose, it being the end of summer down there and a perfectly logical time for most of the Pan American Nations to contest the Continental Championships.  Us North Americans are usually a bit soft but it’s good racing to kick off the season nonetheless.  I was curious to see just how un-bike-fit I was after a long off- season and winter full of skiing.  I figured having not completed a twenty-hour training week yet would mean I was at least fresh…

Turns out you have to possess at least a basic level of cycling fitness to take advantage of freshness.  I figured I could get in shape in the two days before the race though, the sun was shining and the ski areas we were staying at the base of hadn’t seen snow in months so there were no distractions.  Day one involved the obvious climb to the ski fields where the Downhill Championships were taking place on a Friday afternoon.  Sam Schultz and I did a bit of spectating, although we were ill equipped compared to many of the (plentiful) local fans.  The trackside barbecue is a step up for sure…  Chris Van Dine ended up winning the Men’s DH while east coast old-schooler Lars Tribus snagged silver in the Masters and Rachel (we’re not on full name terms yet) slid into the Bronze in the ladies race.  More importantly, the DH’ers pointed me down the “La Parva” trail, which starts at 9000 feet and classic ridgeline singletracks it’s was to the valley floor.  I was good though and only rode halfway down, thus only having to climb halfway back up, gotta stay fresh, you know…

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Saturday we did some knobby tired tarmac drifting down to about 4000 feet where the Cross Country events were happening to check out the track.  I’ve gotta say, I’m impressed with the progression of South American MTB racing.  I once again brought the Hardtail, thinking it’d be a steep fireroad climbing contest like the days of yore, but for the second time in a row, was wishing I had the Anthem X to roost some challenging, interesting, proper Mountain Biking.  Our track consisted of tons of slippery hardpack off camber stuff and the obligatory barely rideable descent separating nicely graded thought-provoking climbing in and out of a river valley, which was actually crossed a couple times via very, we’ll say “period” bridges…  Very nice.  If a bit hot and dusty…  We rode around a few times, chatted with some very excited Chileans about the upcoming race and set off climbing home.  Fortunately, the van picked us up at about Curva #15 (out of 40) so we didn’t get TOO in shape for the race and had plenty of energy to watch another amazing sunset over the city of Santiago before eating another delicious home cooked meal at the Posada de Farellones.

Race Day rolled around with me feeling a bit lacksidiasical.  I just wasn’t super fired up to go out and give ‘er.  I guess the long relaxing winter dulled my edge a bit.  My solution:  Crash fairly hard and completely for no reason about four minutes before the start to get FIRED UP!  I had installed some sweet 2.15” Michelins and aired down to 24 and 25psi in an attempt to smooth out the bumpy track and transform my Hardtail into the Trance X I’d been riding all winter.  This backfired on exactly the first slippery off-camber turn I drifted whilst warming up.  Straight to the deck, just like Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski on the same exact turn a day earlier…  Nothing like being called up to the start line first (on account of having the best UCI ranking in the field) completely covered in dust and bleeding solidly from your knee.  Class.  My attempt to get fired up didn’t really work either, I was kind of laughing to myself as someone in the crowd blew a decoy whistle and everyone charged off the line while I was still looking at the “Offical” whistle blower, who just shrugged and blew his too.  No matter though, I settled into the teens somewhere and set about the entertaining task of riding with guys who go uphill like mountain goats on crack and downhill like your average tenspeed-riding bum on crack.

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Eventually things sorted out and I was able to start riding alone, giving me time to swap to non-dust-covered Giro Rivets and actually stop to lube my chain mid-race so as to not listen to an incessant dust induced creaking for another second.  I did, of course, absolutely slay it in the field section every lap.  There were hundreds of race-goers hanging out and going crazy for each and every rider on the multible climbs and descents in this particular pasture.  If they’d only been lining the entire course I could have been bothered to give ‘er on some other sections as well.  Last lap I started seeing dust so I grabbed a coke and reeled in a Costa Rican who responded with “no mas” to my “Venga con mi, amigo” encouragement.  I could see Canadian Max Plaxton up there and figured we could hit some sweet jumps, but he must have seen me and started actually pedaling as well…  Oh well, I ended up twelfth I think.  Sam Schultz put his winter of “Training” in Arizona to good use with a second-place finish, it’s good to see the young talent starting to come into his own.  Must have been those 29” wheels…

We didn’t really get results though, there was no time was we finished racing seven laps at about 4:30 and had a 9:10 flight home to catch from Santiago.  Willow and I packed our bikes quick and hitched a ride down to the river to have a bit of a bath and dry off in the late day sun.  Everyone was packed and we were rolling by six, making it to the airport just after seven.  Nice work team.  It seemed a bit ambitious but now, writing this on my flight from Dallas to Portland and thinking about how nice it’ll be to take a nap and go for an afternoon singlespeed ride 24 hours after I finished racing in South America and it seems totally worth it.  After all, I can’t be wasting days, I gots to get in shape!

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Thanks for reading, hopefully next weekend’s US Pro XC Tour opener in Fontana goes a bit smoother…  The forecast is for snow this week though…