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Alex Grant

Really nice views from the US marathon nationals course in Sun Valley, Idaho

From disappointment to glory

By:
Alex Grant
Published:
July 24, 2014, 17:50 BST,
Updated:
July 24, 2014, 18:50 BST

Reflections on the highs and lows of team and individual sports

Disappointment in sports is a pretty interesting subject, and for anyone viewing the recent FIFA World Cup, a fresh one. It seems that it's part of the draw of sports, the drama of winning or losing. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, both powerful things in their own right, but also very dependent on each other. Without defeat, we would never appreciate success. I recently saw a quote attributed to Truman Capote that said "Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor". Pretty well said.

I have a pretty limited team sports background, beginning with some neighborhood pond hockey. I moved on to middle school soccer, where our coach (also assistant principal Mr. Fullerton) told us directly "You guys suck" in the locker room after one game. In high school, I played freshman and JV soccer but soon moved on to individual sports like cycling and snowboarding. While it was never a high pressure environment on those teams, I can definitely remember not wanting to let the team down.

I was thinking about this during the World Cup when a lot of people were talking about players being safe and not wanting to let the whole country down with a mistake. Sometimes that led to conservative play, when what fans want to see (me at least) are some big plays, risks and amazing goals. Easy for me to armchair quarterback that one, I can't imagine the pressure of playing in an event like that with the hopes of a whole nation riding on you.

As endurance athletes, we start out by putting pressure on ourselves, then gradually as we progress in the sport we involve more people. Soon enough you have your family supporting you, then you may get a team, sponsors, and a coach and before long you have a pretty good number of people who have invested in you. You want to reward them for their time an energy, and certainly don't want to let them down.

In road cycling there's a whole team of riders to consider who are there to support a team leader, and we got to see that scenario play out a few times this Tour de France with the abandonment of Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Andrew Talanski, and others. It's got to be so tough to have so much time and energy invested and have it all end in a blink.

I've had my own share of disappointment this season, but also some great personal best performances. After a great start to the season where I had my best yet cross country race in a world class field in Bonelli, I had a some up and down races, and then a couple of tough ones in a row. At the US Cup Finals in Colorado Springs, I just didn't have it, not sure what was up exactly but just never got going that day. Then the following week at US Marathon Nationals in Sun Valley, I had a stomach issue and could barely finish the race. It must have been something I ate, because my stomach was in shambles during the race and I even had to make an emergency bathroom stop on the side of the course, and again after the finish. The fluid loss from that, combined with a four hour marathon race left me pretty dehydrated and I ended up in an ambulance with a saline IV. Ugly stuff, and pretty disappointing, as that race was a big goal of mine.

It's how we deal with this that shapes us as athletes, and people. Do we weep like some of the soccer players and fans? Riot and destroy property? Or do we refocus our energy and try to turn it in to a positive experience. I've come to realize that you have to roll with the punches and take the bad with the good, and can't be afraid to fail. If we were we would never line up in the first place, and I think if we are truly afraid to fail we will never succeed.

After Marathon Nationals I took a week very easy to recover and then ramped it back up for US Cross Country Nationals in Pennsylvania. I love the course back here, it's one of the best XC courses we race on all season. I guess I was due for some good legs because they came through on race day and I landed in fourth after a hard fought race. Jeremiah [Bishop] and I worked together for a few laps to reel in third place, then it turned in to an inter-team battle for the last medal. As much as I would have loved to grab it, at least it went to a teammate, and I was in the fight for it, netting my best yet cross country nationals finish.

Next up: Breck Epic!

Thanks for reading.

Setting up a camping scene

Behind the scenes of video making

By:
Alex Grant
Published:
April 16, 2014, 18:58 BST,
Updated:
April 16, 2014, 18:00 BST

On the ground in Moab

As a young snowboard and skate rat in northern Vermont, I think it's pretty safe to say that I spent way too much time watching snowboard and skateboard videos. Starting in my early teen years my friends, sister, cousins and I used to wear out the old VHS tapes of the Totally Board movies, various skate videos, the Mack Dawg movies, and then all the others that began to pop up. We even tried to make some of our own, with a point and shoot VHS recorder. We knew a lot of work went in to making those movies, and clearly we didn't have the equipment or know how, but I don't think we realized how much work.

Over the years, real life responsibility has slowly crept in I have less and less time to watch all the action sports videos that are coming out, which is a shame because they have become so good! People and technology have been pushing things to another level, and this winter I experienced firsthand what it takes to make a top quality HD mountain bike video.

I was fortunate enough to be invited by Enve Composites to be part of their M Series rim launch video. I wasn't sure what to expect, but was really excited to be a part of the movie, as well as check out the new rims. Kevin Winzeler Photography was in charge of the project, with the help of Matt Irving and Matt Hardy.

When Jake Pantone at Enve told me to block out four days in Moab for the shoot, I was expecting a couple days shooting maybe an afternoon or morning to ride, but an overall chill schedule. I was wrong. A few people tipped me off when we arrived in Moab, have you worked with Kevin before? He will push you to your limit!

Turns out they were right, and we worked our butts off, but the footage we got made it more than worth it. I arrived in town around noon on a Wednesday in early February, the sun was out but it was a cool 40 degrees or so, and there was a lot of snow around. We found plenty of dry trails to film on though, and between Wednesday and Saturday we filmed a ton. We were out for four sunsets, a couple sunrises, and pretty much all the daylight in between. It was impressive to see how hard Kevin and his crew worked, and I was blown away by how hard it pushed me and how tired I was. I woke up in Moab on Sunday morning and even though I had the whole day free, I was too tired to ride and just hopped in the car and drove home. I felt like I had just raced a stage race.

I can't wait to see the behind the scenes footage. The equipment and expertise of the crew was pretty awesome. They had more cameras than I could count, a Movi camera stabilizer, a crane, an arsenal of lenses and tripods, plexi, blowers, chargers, Go Pros, and even rented an Octocopter for some aerials. While I may have frozen my butt off and wore myself out over the course of the week, it was an awesome experience and I am honored to have been a part of it. It was rad working with Kevin, Irving, and Hardy as well as Jake, Mike D and the whole Enve crew.

After seeing the video, I am super impressed, probably more so because I know how much work goes in to filming something like this, never mind the editing process. The video definitely lives up to the M Series rims; I have a bunch of miles and races on them, and have nothing but great things to say.

For those who haven’t seen the vid here's a link, and thanks for reading!

ENVE M-SERIES from ENVE Composites on Vimeo.

Gooseberry Mesa: great riding with an impressive backdrop

Recharging the mind and body

By:
Alex Grant
Published:
January 29, 2014, 17:48 GMT,
Updated:
April 09, 2014, 15:52 BST

Off-season resting and training to prepare for spring racing

To me, the off-season is as much a state of mind as it is a physical break. I think most racers would agree that the mental break is just as important as the physical. I know there is science behind the physical need for rest periods to help the body rejuvenate and recover from the stresses of training and racing.

I haven't seen any studies on the mental side, it would be interesting to see what types of changes occur in the brain during rest and recovery periods versus times of high stress. I'm no neurologist but I know there has to be something, possibly there is already plenty of data I just haven't seen yet. Everyone needs down time, in both sports and real life. Vacations from work usually see people come back refreshed and ready for new challenges.

Since there is such a large mental component to racing, it's just as important to me to be mentally fresh and motivated to ride hard. When I'm in that mindset I am more willing and able to suffer, and can tolerate pain so much better. On the flip side of that, when I'm fried mentally it is harder to push through and suffer. It seems that the more seasons I race, the shorter the winter break needs to be, and the longer I can stretch out my season. I am sure there are physiological adaptations that allow the body to race longer, and it seems like there's a mental adaptation as well, just learning how to focus and channel the energy necessary to race over a longer season.

That said I still make sure to take a good recharge break each winter, and Adam over at CTS has been on the same page with his coaching philosophy, and encourages short and frequent breaks throughout the season as well.

My 2013 season ended when I rode on to the beach in Limon on day 3 of La Ruta. I had been racing since mid-February, with some healthy in season breaks, but nonetheless needed some time to unwind. I finished on a high note though, with what seemed to me my best form yet. Mentally, I turned it off, but I still milked a few 'cross races out of my La Ruta form in November in the UTCX Series. That's kind of a nice way to taper out of the season, I still had pretty good race form for a few weeks, and so could enjoy the races, but didn't do any training otherwise and mentally was already on break.

I wrapped those up before Thanksgiving, and Sammi and I headed back east for the holiday. We spent Turkey Day in Vermont with my parents and grandmother, then drove to Maine for my other Grandfather's 90th birthday celebration with my dad's side of the family. It was awesome to see everyone and take some nice long walks on the coast of Maine; even if is was 10 degrees!

After a full two weeks off the bike, I was ready to get going again, but eased in to things pretty lightly in December, mixing in a lot of Nordic skiing, strength training, mountain biking and eventually some trainer rides when the weather wouldn’t cooperate. I have made sure to fit in some those lazy days too, because once the season gets going those are few and far between.

I have made a few trips to warmer climates to ride so far this winter as well. In December, I took a quick trip down to Orange County to take a downhill focused skills clinic from Brian Lopes, which was great, I think there are very few riders who couldn't learn a few things from him! I visited Sho-Air Intl. and Sho-Air Cannondale HQ on that trip as well, and it was great to visit the team home base.

Right after Christmas, Bart Gillespie and I hosted a weekend long skills and base training camp in St. George, Utah for junior and U23 riders through Gear Rush Skills. We felt like it was a success and are hoping to make it an annual event. It is awesome to see the talented young riders that we have coming up through the ranks.

I stayed down in St. George for a couple days after that and got in some good riding for the last few days of the year. It was great to get some good time in on the dirt, since all the trails around Salt Lake have been covered in snow for a couple months. Despite the weather, I've got a solid block of training in this month, with another nice weekend in St. George thrown in for some more time in the dirt. Ben Sonntag made the drive over from Durango to ride with us and I don't think he was disappointed in the riding that southwest Utah has to offer.

Now I'm resting up a bit before kicking off the next training block, and am more motivated than ever to get the season going!

Thanks for reading.

Manny Prado and Paul Pagano with a freshly caught Jurel (Horse Mackerel)

Another La Ruta, another second place

By:
Alex Grant
Published:
November 05, 2013, 20:00 GMT,
Updated:
November 05, 2013, 20:02 GMT

Season draws to a close

Another La Ruta down, another second place. That makes four seconds for me in the last five years down there. Am I disappointed? Of course, a little bit, but I have no regrets. Obviously I wanted the win, but in sports you can't control the outcome, all you can do is show up ready to compete and give it your best. That's what makes them so exciting. Anything can happen.

This year I was better prepared for La Ruta than in years past. I was more prepared physically, thanks to Adam Pulford and Carmichael Training Systems, I had the best support thanks to Team Sho-Air/Cannondale, and I had great race nutrition thanks to Osmo, as well as Manny's fiancé Betty, who made some delicious bread pudding, which I enjoyed during the stages! I rode better than I had down there in the past, actually surpassing my own expectations for myself and beat the 2011 and 2012 winners. It just wasn't enough for the win this year; Marconi Duran rode an incredibly strong first stage and put 11 minutes on Todd Wells and me. The two of us chased chased together most of that stage.

I've had a few people ask if I am disappointed, starting at the press conference right after stage 3. Obviously it's hard to come away with another second place, but like I said, I rode my best race and left it all out there, so I can't be too disappointed. Each year that I have been second it has been to a worthy winner, and I feel like I gave it the best I could at the time, so I have no second thoughts. All I can do is look forward and aim for next year! At the finish I joked that next year I am not coming back for the win, rather to net my fifth second place finish - maybe I need a little reverse psychology to break the curse of the seconds.

Racing aside, it's always nice to spend some time in Costa Rica. The places we get to see during and after the stages are amazing, and the people we meet along the way are so friendly. I joke with Matt Ohran that it might be worth visiting just to eat the fresh papaya and pineapple. No joke it's that good. So is the fresh seafood. Paul and I flew home on Monday after the race, so we had a day to kill on Sunday. Manny took us out for some ocean fishing in the Pacific, and us gringos even caught a few. Well Paul a few, me one. It was a great way to unwind after the race, and then we went to a local restaurant and ate some fresh ceviche and fried Corvina.

After that, it was back to reality and the beginning of winter here in Utah, which is actually one of my favorite times of year. I have always loved late fall, maybe that stems back to my snowboarding days where the fall was full of anticipation and excitement ahead of the winter.

Now that mountain bike season is coming to a close, I have been thinking back on the past year of racing. It's been one year with Sho-Air/Cannondale, and it's pretty awesome to look at what the team has accomplished. Personally, I have had my best season yet, with my best performances in everything from short tracks to stage races. As an athlete, it means a lot to have a team of people behind you that believe in you, and with Sho-Air/Cannondale that is always the case. With everything from the best product support to coaching services through CTS, they are giving us everything we need to succeed as athletes. We push each other and want to see our teammates succeed. That's what a team is all about, and it's great to be a part of such an awesome program.

Just a few more 'cross races left before I take a little time off the bike and then start to gear up for 2014! Already looking forward to it.

Thanks for reading.

Made it up to Sun Valley for a wedding in mid-September

Sights set on a La Ruta de los Conquistadores victory

By:
Alex Grant
Published:
October 22, 2013, 20:03 BST,
Updated:
October 22, 2013, 21:06 BST

Heading to Costa Rica for a dose of Pura Vida

On the way to the airport this morning, I commented to Sammi that I couldn't believe I was headed back to Costa Rica for La Ruta de los Conquistadores already. This is my fifth year racing, and it's become an annual fall event, a pretty memorable one at that.

I can't believe another year has passed, time really flies, especially when I think of everything that's happened in the last year. I keep hoping it will slow down, but everyone I talk to who that has a few more years under their belts than I do, says it's actually the opposite.

Heading to La Ruta is a pretty big undertaking, and since it is so mentally and physically taxing, the memories become almost surreal, but at the same time unforgettable. I guess what I'm getting at is that it's become an annual marker in time for me over the last years.

Last year's La Ruta was significant in that it was my first race with a new team, Sho-Air/Cannondale, as well as the first race for the team in general. Pua Mata and I were honored to debut the new kits and kick things off for a very successful 2013 season for the team. Pua took the women's win, and while I was in the fight, I came up a little short, and netted my third second place finish in four years.

This year, I'm coming in with a slightly different attitude. I need to break that streak, and have to aim high. There's no reason to be conservative and fight for another podium spot, I need to swing big and go for broke. Maybe I don't have the legs on race day, or maybe it just doesn't work out, but I'm not going to come home thinking I held anything back.

With four La Rutas under my belt, I know how hard the race is, as well as how strong the competition is. I also know that I can compete, I've proven that to myself, and with support of Team Sho-Air/Cannondale, I know anything is possible. This has been my best season yet, thanks to the top notch support of the team, as well as the rock solid coaching and training guidance of Adam Pulford and Charmichael Training Systems.

My training is done, everything's packed and prepped, now all that's left for me is to go race. One thing that's certain is that I will enjoy every minute of the trip, I love visiting Costa Rica and catching up with the great friends I've made over the years, and getting a yearly dose of Pura Vida. I'll even enjoy the toughest moments of the race, even though it hurts so much, you really feel alive.

Thanks for reading.

It's been hard to stay on the trail lately with all the nice views and lighting.

Going for broke at La Ruta

By:
Alex Grant
Published:
October 21, 2013, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
October 21, 2013, 8:08 BST

Chasing the top step in Costa Rica

On the way to the airport this morning I commented to Sammi that I couldn't believe I was headed back to Costa Rica for La Ruta de los Conquistadores already. This is my fifth year racing and it's become an annual fall event, a pretty memorable one at that. I can't believe another year has passed, time really flies, especially when I think of everything that's happened in the last year. I keep hoping it will slow down, but everyone I talk to who that has a few more years under their belts than I do, says it's actually the opposite.

Heading to La Ruta is a pretty big undertaking, and since it is so mentally and physically taxing, the memories become almost surreal, but at the same time unforgettable. I guess what I'm getting at is that it's become an annual marker in time for me over the last years.

Last year's La Ruta was significant in that it was my first race with a new team- Sho-Air/Cannondale, as well as the first race for the team in general. Pua and I were honored to debut the new kits and kick things off for a very successful 2013 season for the team. Pua took the women's win, and while I was in the fight, I came up a little short, and netted my third second place finish in four years.

This year I'm coming in with a slightly different attitude. I need to break that streak, and have to aim high. There's no reason to be conservative and fight for another podium spot, I need to swing big and go for broke. Maybe I don't have the legs on race day, or maybe it just doesn't work out, but I'm not going to come home thinking I held anything back.

With four La Ruta's under my belt I know how hard the race is, as well as how strong the competition is. I also know that I can compete, I've proven that to myself, and with support of Team Sho-Air/Cannondale I know anything is possible. This has been my best season yet, thanks to the top notch support of the team, as well as the rock solid coaching and training guidance of Adam Pulford and Charmichael Training
Systems.

My training is done, everything's packed and prepped, now all that's left for me is to go race. One thing that's certain is that I will enjoy every minute of the trip, I love visiting Costa Rica and catching up with the great friends I've made over the years, and getting a yearly dose of Pura Vida. I'll even enjoy the toughest moments of the race, even though it hurts so much, you really feel alive.

Thanks for reading.

Author
Alex Grant

Alex Grant, 31, is one of America's top endurance mountain bike racers. Sponsored by Cannondale Factory Racing in 2012, Grant juggles racing as a pro with managing an outdoor gear consignment business called Gear Rush, which he co-owns with fellow Utah cyclist and racer Bart Gillepsie. This season, look out for Grant on the podiums at major endurance and stage races. For variety, you may also see him on on the start line of some super Ds, cross countries and short tracks.

In 2011, Grant finished third at the Leadville 100 and eighth at the US cross country national championships while also logging top 10s at the super D and marathon nationals. He finished fifth in the Downieville Classic All Mountain Overall and seventh at La Ruta de los Conquistadores. For the third year in a row, he won the Park City Point 2 Point.

In 2010, Grant made headlines with his second place finish at La Ruta de los Conquistadores, the Breck Epic and the Trans-Sylvania Epic.

When not on his mountain bike, Grant enjoys backcountry skiing, snowboarding and hiking.

Grant is from Richmond, Vermont, and he presently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Follow his 2012 season in this blog on Cyclingnews.