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Alex Grant

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.

Nutella: great recovery food

Highs and lows at the Breck Epic

By:
Alex Grant
Published:
August 19, 2013, 19:24 BST,
Updated:
August 19, 2013, 20:54 BST

Six days of high altitude stage racing tests Sho-Air/Cannondale rider

I first raced the Breck Epic in 2010, and swore I'd be back. It's one of the best mountain bike stage races I have done, right on par with BC Bike Race, La Ruta, and Transylvania Epic. Each is so unique in what it has to offer that I can't really pick a favorite. What Breck has going for it is top notch trails and course layout, a single location clover leaf format, a great group of people both riding and in the race organization, and a great all around town/vibe.

I knew I'd be back, but schedule conflicts prevented it for the last two years since Leadville fell the day before. I wasn't man enough to attempt the double like Todd Wells did, so I missed it in 2011 and 2012. This year I decided that I would get my fill of dirt road racing at The Crusher in the Tushar, and skip Leadville. That freed me up for Breck, and I'd been looking forward to it all season. The news that Todd was going to be racing definitely raised my eyebrows, people said he would be tired from Leadville, but I know better than to count him out, and I know he doesn't show up to race unprepared. I also knew than defending champ Ben Sonntag would be back, adding to the firepower at the front.

After nationals, I took a short break to recharge and shift gears in to the second half of the season. I had netted my best finishes at marathon, cross country, and short track nationals with a third, fifth, and seventh respectively. For the second half of the year, I'm looking to stretch that speed out to the longer distances, starting with Breck, then the Park City Point 2 Point, and ultimately La Ruta. Adam Pulford of CTS has me set up with a nice plan, which included the rest after nationals and a good block of training going in to Breck.

The one wildcard was the altitude. I live at 4,600 feet or so, and Breckenridge sits at about 9,500 feet while the race tops out at 12,500 feet. Altitude has never really bothered me much in general, but things are always magnified with maximum physical exertion. I had done some rides up to 9,500 feet around Salt Lake and felt fine, so I wasn't worried. No sense in worrying about what you can't change!

A few days before the race Sammi and I drove to Steamboat to stay with my sister and Kevin and meet their new St. Bernard puppy Stu. We had a nice dinner and got in a ride the next morning over on Emerald. Then Sammi and I headed down to Breck, arriving Friday evening. Saturday I checked out part of stage 1, and got all my ducks in line for the race. My coach Adam Pulford was in town to support me all week which was huge.

Here's how the stages broke down:

Stage 1: One of the roughest and rockiest, so I broke out the Scalpel 29, which just eats up the rough stuff. I had hoped to capitalize if Todd was tired from Leadville, but my legs were a little off and didn't come around until near the end, right about the time that Todd put in a dig up Little French. Todd pushed the pace pretty good and we got away from Ben. Near the end, I was feeling better and went to the front on the last climb, but couldn't shake Todd, so we raced it out right to the line with him edging me out in to the last singletrack for the win. During the stage, I drank Osmo Active Hydration and ate two bags of Stinger Chews and a Gu.

Stage 2: Lots of steep climbing and smooth (ish), so an F29 day. Todd went hard up Heinous Hill, and I stayed with him, but unfortunately had slow leak due to a sidewall cut on the first main downhill, which I had to stop and fill with a CO2 on course, and again at the feed zone. I chased as hard as I dared at 11,000 feet and caught Ben and then Todd eventually, and figured I would try to keep my momentum going in to the final climbs. I came around him but again didn't get away, and he put in a wicked surge up the last climb, which I hung with for a few minutes before blowing up a little, and losing a minute and forty-five seconds. Again I drank Osmo and ate two bags of chews and had one gel.

Stage 3: The ride around Mt. Guyot is pretty rough and raw so, this day I broke out the Scalpel 29 again. I was fortunate to have two bikes to choose from, and between those two you can't go wrong. Todd put the pressure on up French Pass and I suffered at 12,000 feet (wheezing, tingly, the works), and a gap opened up. Todd kept his head down and I buried myself to stay close, but lost another two minutes. Today I did the same nutrition plan but mixed in a Clif bar. Proper fueling on the bike is crucial once you get a few days in. I think the descent of the Colorado Trail off Georgia Pass is one of the best anywhere

Stage 4: Since I was down almost four minutes in the GC, I knew I had to put the pressure on in . Being another smooth (for Breck) stage, I broke out the F29. For tires, I think the best choice was Maxxis Ikon tubeless ready Exo protection 2.2s with 21 psi in the front and 22 rear, mounted to Enve XC hoops. With those tires, I can get away with low pressure since the sidewalls are so stout. I rode hard on the climbs, and while Todd seemed to suffer a little that day, I still couldn't get away, and he upped the pace on me at the end. I was able to hang on, and took the stage win after we duked it out pretty good for the last few miles. Bummer of the day went to Ben Sonntag whose crank arm fell off only a mile from the finish while he was in a solid third. Luckily he didn't lose enough time to jeopardize his third overall. Same plan with nutrition, including another bar.

Stage 5: Wheeler pass, Scalpel day for sure, the descent is rough! I knew just getting over the thing was tough, never mind racing it. Todd went hard early, and created a separation which he eventually stretched out to a five-minute gap over the course of the stage. I lost the most time up over 12,500 feet again, there's no air up there! I was giving it all I had but couldn't hang, hats off to Todd for an impressive ride. The highlight of the Wheeler stage is the descent in to Copper: 12 minutes and 4,000 feet! I was a little hypoxic from going so hard over the pass ,so I took the first part of the descent easy, then got in to a groove and tried to ride fast but safe. I did the same thing nutrition wise: Osmo, chews and choked down half a bar at 12,000 feet. The bummer of that stage was Dax Massey who crashed and broke some ribs and punctured a lung, but still finished the stage! Best of luck on the recovery Dax.

Stage 6 is a short stage with more gradual climbing, another F29 day. It was short (two hours and five minutes) so I got by with three bottles of Osmo and a bag of chews. I knew only a major mechanical from Todd would change our overall finish, and since I never wish bad luck on anyone I was just racing for the stage win that day. Takei Kyosuke from Japan had the same idea, and rode hard up the first climb. Eventually it was just Todd and I with him, and things settled down for the middle of the stage. Going up the final climb, Takei put in a small dig at the bottom, and I figured it would be a good time to try to shake him, but couldn't get away on the gradual, windy dirt road. Todd drove it over the top, grabbed a PBR beer feed and let Takei and I race it out. I led the whole descent, and knew that if I came in to the final tree lined singletrack first I would take it. All went according to plan until about a minute from the finish. I made a stupid mistake descending a rocky hill with a right hand turn at the bottom. I was pushing it hard on the descent and carried too much speed and blew the turn right in to the bushes. I was off the trail completely when Kyosuke came by and although I jumped right back on and got in behind him, there was no more passing, and not enough of a finishing straight to come around. It was a great battle even if it didn't go the way I had planned, but that's racing. Anything can happen at any time. That's what makes it exciting and keeps us coming back for more!

Overall I am super happy with how I rode. Todd was just stronger, hats off to him. I was riding as good, or better, than I ever have and learned a lot. I'm hoping to continue to improve, and with Adam Pulford from CTS guiding my training and Team Sho-Air/Cannondale behind me I have no excuse not to!

Next up Park City Point 2 Point, then La Ruta to finish out the season.

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.