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Since we’re here in New York, I’ll cut straight to business – the world cup round in U.S.A. needs a new face. The race seems to be well organized and promoted, yet since the first year Windham hosted the world cup in 2010, I personally don’t feel that it really channels the “big show” of which cycling events in U.S. can deliver. For people which Windham is their only perspective of world cup racing, I bet it seems like an inadequate sport event, lacking spirit. It sure does seem that way to me, and perhaps other racers who participated in other world cups around the globe. Now, don’t get me wrong – I had a great time racing my bike there, the course is old school cross-country fun, the management and organization of the event were great, but besides the fact there were about 75 European with me on the start line, I didn’t feel a world cup spirit.
I’ll be specific when talking “world cup spirit” – first of all, the people at the venue. Not only the amount of people standing along the course tape, but also their enthusiasm and cheering throughout the day (which was low on race day). Secondly, the course must be changed. Don’t get me wrong again, the course is fun, old school and great for my abilities, but the course is almost identical to its past two editions and it is far from spectator friendly. Need an example for a spectator friendly course? Check Mount Morris, Wisconsin US Pro XCT race in August. Sick. One more thing, gotta bring up the venue spirit somehow – strider race, car show, mud bikini contest, whatever. There should always be something extra going on race day.
Race day for me was exciting, it’s been a year since my last world cup (not counting the last world championships), so I had a “back of the bus” start with plate #72 (out of 90ish?). After a pretty lousy first lap, I stepped up the game, moved up a few spots every lap and finished at 47th position. A continuous trend of progression at the Windham world cup over the years – 56th in 2010 and 51st in 2011. At this rate, I might hit the podium at around 35. It seems to be the golden age for Americans at world cups anyway.
I learned two things on race day – the first, hot moms marshalling the course while breast feeding their baby are a distracting, yet still welcomed, sight. Secondly, never over dose with those “organic” laundry detergents, that will result in a foaming chamois symptom. No more comments here.
One of the best privileges of being a pro biker and racing around the world is the people and connections you make along the way. I have been lucky to be hosted by many friends and families for race weekends and even weeks at a time. I spent the last week at a family friends house, the Dekrey. That is the second year they are hosting me for the Windham world cup. I cannot explain in words their lovely hospitality and the great times I’ve come to spend with them every time. Starting from their quiet and lovely house, to their great healthy eating and spending time together every night. It already became a tradition that every time I come to NY, we kayak the Hudson River together. I would like to thank them personally for being such great friends and I look forward to meet them every year – so thank you Al and Sue !
And there is more to add here on meting people… I started my travels back to Durango and I thought it will never end – two hours drive to the airport 6am, delayed flight, two changes of itinerary, two missed flights over delays, cancelled flight, night over in Denver, another 5am wake up, you get the point… I ended up flying to Cortez, an hour away drive from Durango, on a tiny propelled airplane with two rows, one sit for each row. I have to say that by the end of the first day of those travels, I almost lost my nerves, but thanks for an awesome person I met, who was in the same trouble as me, we both held each other sane and happy for the trip/adventure. Thank you Summer! You’re the best!
Here’s a photo of the tiny airplane, plus a really big dude… he was taking the middle seat too.
Good luck to all my American friends racing nationals in Sun Valley this weekend, I’ll be training in Durango and leave for my nationals that will take place on July 20th in Mishmar Ha’Emek, Israel !! I’m looking forward to claim my 10th title as Israel national champion, from Cadets to Elite category!
Every year I go to Windham world cup, it is a tradition now that I kayak on the Hudson River
Sportade?! that’s a rare and refreshing drink!
Hanging out with a couple of Jamis fans!
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May has been a major transition month for me for the past 4 years. The beginning of May closes another academic year into the summer break. Weather is also dressing up more like pre-summer than post-spring, here in Durango. Everything is green, as the rivers are gushingly flowing with water from the melting snow peaks in Colorado. It’s now actually reasonable for hippies to wonder around with their Jesus sandals and t-shirt, unlike in January…
It has been real busy lately – finishing the semester and my senior research that examined the effects of breathing supplemental oxygen on cycling performance and physiological responses. During all the time devoted to that research I managed to race road collegiate races almost every weekend, leading up to the great finale – the Road Collegiate Championships in Ogden, Utah, the hometown of the Jamis MTB team. This year, the Fort Lewis College team was composed of many talented youngsters, I would say the team was abundant with Watts yet a lil lacking with experience. The road race was pretty hectic from the first lap, and I was marked as the person to sit on his wheel by every team, we couldn’t really take control of the road race, and as we got to the last long climb of north Ogden, there was a lead breakaway with big enough gap we couldn’t catch. I ended up chasing all the leftovers from the breakaway, and finishing in 6th place. Yet, we closed that weekend on a very positive note – we won the Team Time Trial Championships !!, it was a tight competition, as the top five schools were all in 30 seconds gap! Even though we suffered like hell against the headwind and thought there’s no way we finished in the top 10 as we crossed the line, our flow and rotation worked like a swiss clock. Each one of us on the time trial team was so focused on getting this thing over as soon as possible because it hurt on the front, or drafting and taking cover from the wind when in the back. Total focus on the job to do at the moment. That was incredible.
May is also the sign to take a mid-season “breezer” – just a week to ten days to regenerate from all the road collegiate races, early season races and winter training. It’s been an annual training recipe for me for the past few years. It’s so easy to just “keep on going” from one race to the other and find yourself physically broken to pieces in the middle of the summer, the MTB high season. Not a good time for that. Since my dad decided to visit me too, the timing couldn’t get any better. I have planned ahead, almost day by day, how I’m going to spend my vacation with my dad together. My dad is the origin for my love in mountain biking, he’s the one who got me into riding mountain bikes, and he still does that today, at the age of 60, riding and guiding mountain bike trips in Israel and Europe. So I decided to spend a week in Durango and a week in Moab – needless to say we covered A LOT of trails, remembering good old days when I was about half as tall and he showed me the trails in Israel.
Now, I’m back in Durango, just in time for the “Durango world championships” – the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. It’s the biggest bicycle event here in Durango, and it’s huge. It’s funny how it’s not a US calendar race for mountain biking or road racing, but yet it’s such a huge bike event! People from all over the country come to “beat the train” from Durango to Silverton, 50 miles road race with two mountain passes, each at almost 11,000 feet. If that’s not enough, the next day is the downtown criterium, mountain bike race also a time trial on the third day. It really is a like a world championships weekend here in Durango! I invite you to come and try to beat the train!
It’s about time for winter to pack its backpack (“nap-sack” for Canadians, as I have learned…) and move to southern hemisphere. I have to say that the winter in Durango, Colorado is not too bad – usually high of 40 F, maybe a 1-2 days of snowstorms every other week. If it gets too cold for a few days and I feel bad about not riding my bike for more than 2-3 days, I usually Skype call my brother, that lives in freezing Toronto, and after he tells me about the weather there and frozen pipes in the buildings, I feel a bit warmer… maybe even “man-up” and go ride outside when it below freezing, maybe not…
That is the 4th real winter that I’ve spent in Durango now, and with every one that goes by I understand more and more how much of a hot weather person I am. I know I can do winter activities, skiing, gymming, and I even play basketball during the winter, but you know what – I would rather go on a mountain bike ride in short sleeve jersey. I even tried putting on a winter layer to help with cold weather isolation. I enjoyed the process of eating more, but I don’t think it helped a bit with acclimating. Anyway, it’s good that racing season is back here.
2012 season started with a spring break straight into U.S. Pro XCT cups – Mellow Johnny’s in Texas and Bonelli Park in California. Coming from long base pace winter rides straight into racing full speed with tanned cyclists from Tuscon, Texas, California etc is no playground. That feeling of being “red-lined” and pushing higher is addicting for sure, but it is also shocking. Coming into the first race every year, it is still shocking. It’s pretty shocking how we, athletes, can push ourselves so much harder and faster when we are put into race environment.
New course at Mellow Johnny’s Classic – just couldn’t get any better. I swear the course is SO SWEET! What’s crazy about it is you can ride the course for your fun skill training loop, but racing it is a totally different story. All racers said it was deceivingly hard – you’re not really climbing anything significant, so it’s easy to be “pinned” but you just don’t get rest. It is just a feeling of accumulating small punches to your face. The best way to describe it is as a 1.5 hour short track. Ouch! My race? I hope I left all the mechanicals of the season there. Got a flat tire (a nail?!) on the start loop already, rode the whole first lap on my rim, got a new wheel, started riding back up, and half way through the race my rear brake totally lost all its oil. I had two options: call it a day and quit, or just keep riding because the fat lady didn’t sing yet. I learned that in some way, brakes do help you ride faster. boy, I lost so much time on the descents… hey, I got a good workout, finished mid-pack after all and I learned how to corner better with no braking!
Next day I was already on y way to California. I chose to spend my time around Hermosa Beach and Santa Monica, in order to get good training, relax (and work my tan?). The week flew by real fast with great California food, ocean and mountain views and some crazy driving too… can’t avoid that around LA. Bonelli Park race course is cool in the way that just outside the LA jungle you can ride a world cup worthy course. Short and punchy course, just like the UCI likes. Almost the whole race is on one hill. Some of the top U.S. guys were missing due to preparations for the first world cup in South Africa, so I grabbed the first callup to the start line. Feels good I have to say. Good start position, great start and I was off the front leading the first lap, but I have soon to realize my body is not yet adapted to sea level intensity, especially on such a punchy course! I have gained myself back and climbed into top 10 in both the XC and STXC the next day. The endurance is there, race intensity will come along as the season comes along.
What now? Back to Durango, finish my senior research, race collegiate road races and get ready to Sea Otter and some longer races this year – Whiskey 50, BCBR, Breckepic… I’m excited for this year!
Cheers and beers,
Wrapping up 2010 mountain bike season with double national titles is sweeeet !
After a “up and down” summer of racing, it seems that everything came together for me in U.S. collegiate nationals that took place this weekend in beautiful Northstar ski resort, California. weather was warm and sunny and the course is just awesome ! a long lap with almost 1,000 feet of climbing that we did 4 times… it’s a long way up, but everybody ware so stocked to get up to the top because the long downhill had everything in it – smooth flowy trails at the top, rocky and twisty at the bottom… definitely a big treat ! I wish most US pro series race courses were that much fun.
XC race was a bit stressful… I was leading the race along with Brad Pearly from Lee’s McRae college, and at the end of first lap I hit a rock pretty hard at high speed descent – immediately cracking my rear rim… I was pretty sure wheel is gonna fold,
but it kept steady although so out of true… it was a good choice running the tubulars, since every other normal clincher tire would have totally burped off the rim. since there is no tech zone in collegiate nat’s, there was not much I can do – I knew I had to make up as much ground on the climbs from second place as possible, so that I can “cruise” down safely on the descents, trying to keep my rear wheel running.
I got the gap from lap two, and kept it steady for the “W” until the finish. we had a really good day in the XC as a team – Fort Lewis College had 3 riders in the top 10, both men and women division 1 races.
short track is always very tactical, it’s real punchy and selective – I was waiting patiently with the lead group until the right moment – my team said I threw the ”Rotem-Bomb” at them in like 3-4 laps to finish…
I’m happy to make a double repeat, but I’m more thrilled to just race collegiate – it’s so much fun !, there’s no stress, it’s all about having fun with teammates, always great courses (especially in the Rocky Mountain Conference…), and there’s always a good party! it’s always great to see my teammate Blake with a mullet… wish I had my camera at that specific moment to savor that…
Now it’s time to chill down, relax and get ready for 2011 season.