Back to back nationals races test legs after honeymoon
They say that time flies, and I guess that applies to race season as well. We race a long season, and it still amazes me that it is pretty much half over. I guess the last two months have been pretty crazy, and that's contributing to the time blur.
As I write this, I am sitting in the hotel waiting for the start of the US national championship cross country. Originally scheduled for 3:30 pm, it got pushed back to 4:00. While the course doesn't favor me in terms of my strengths as a rider, due to its relative lack of climbing, it sure makes up for it with fun factor. It has great flow, and it's pretty technical, rocky, and rooty. Much more of a bike handler's course than the past few years. I'm hoping to break a string of eighth place finishes and try to move up a little, but the nice thing about this course is even on a tough day it will be a blast to race. That's not to say it won't be painful, there is just some reward for the hard work coming down these trails. Out west we ride a lot of switchbacks, and that gets a little boring sometimes.
By the time this is published, the race will be decided, so no need to go much further in to that. [Alex Grant finished fifth in the cross country race on Saturday. - Ed.]
When I think about the last two months, it has been quite a ride. I took a little break after the Whiskey Off Road, beginning with a Man Camp/Bachelor weekend trip to Fruita, Colorado to camp and ride with some friends. I got married in mid-June, so this was my last chance to get out on the bike before I am consumed by marriage and can't ride anymore! Ha, right, but it was a great trip.
I had some great races in mid-May through early June, taking the win at the Sagebrush Safari Pro UET round after a good race with Tinker [Juarez], and a silver at the GoPro Games in Vail behind a flying Howard Grotts. Howard just rode away from us on the climbs, and kept looking back to see where we were, kind of with a "hey guys, are you coming or what?" expression. Well, we weren't, and he took a handy win, and confirmed it a few weeks later by winning the Missoula Pro XCT.
The wedding was the weekend after Vail. I had a lot of family and friends in town from back east, and it was great to show them around Salt Lake City, as a lot had not visited before. After seven years, Sammi and I finally were going to tie the knot. The weeding seemed to be a success, we had fun at least, and that's what matters. A month in we are still together, I guess things are on track!
We got married on a Friday evening, and on Sunday morning we were on a plane to Zihuatanejo, Mexico for a quick honeymoon. We stayed four days and five nights, filling our days with walks, lot's of great seafood, some parasailing, snorkeling, reading, etc. It was hot and humid there, and it seemed like when we were outside we never really stopped sweating. Especially while eating some spicy food...
Once back in the States, I set my sights on US Marathon Nationals in Sun Valley. I had exactly two weeks to get ready after a full seven days off the bike. I think the mental and physical freshness gained from the time off really helped, and I was motivated to train and race hard. I was confident going in because I knew the course suited me, and that Jeremiah [Bishop] was on some great form and a real contender for the title. I led up the climb on the first lap, as well as most of the descent, to control the race and allow Jeremiah to make a late race bid for the stars and stripes. He ended up flatting on the descent, leaving me alone with Todd Wells and Steven Ettinger. Those guys attacked on a small climb midway down the mountain, but I managed to hang on. Going over the top of that, Steven reached for a gel, and I took a drink, at the exact moment that Todd attacked in to the last descent. Once Todd had a gap, he kept his head down and I could not close it. Steven managed to catch him by the bike path, but I remained about 20 seconds back. I ended up riding solo the whole second lap to bring home the bronze, and was really happy to get my first national championships medal!
The following weekend, I switched the flat bar for some drops and jumped in The Crusher in the Tushar on a Super X disc. For those not familiar with the Crusher, it's a 70-mile paved/dirt road race that has about 10,000 feet of climbing. It's about as brutal as it sounds, which is magnified by extended time up over 10,000 in elevation. Things got rolling down a long paved approach to the first climb. As a mountain biker it seemed weird riding so slow for 40 minutes after they said go, but I tried not to get antsy. Once we hit the climb there were some guys looking to ride hard, and I jumped in with them. Part of it was a strategy, I knew that with Levi Leipheimer in the race, it would be hard to hold his wheel when he started to go, and I didn't want to sit on just to get dropped later. Been there and done that at Leadville too many times.
I was able to get in to a group with Jamey Driscoll and Rob Squire and get a little time on the field. Sure enough, Levi and Tyler Wren caught us right near the top of the first main climb. Perfect. We ended up having a pretty good group through the middle of the race, but when it came down to the last climbs of the day, Levi pretty much just dusted us. The race for second was pretty close, with second through sixth place finishing within a minute and a half. I was on the latter end of that, coming in sixth place after running out of fuel and energy near the end. I was sufficiently crushed after the race, and have just been resting up, working, and now waiting to go out and suffer again this afternoon. The thing about a cross country is that you pack the same amount of pain in to a shorter time period. But like I said, on this course you can't help but have fun.
Thanks for reading.
- 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.
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