Off-season adventures

Recharging the batteries in California

Happy Holidays! Holidays already? It's the perfect time of year to reflect on all we have to be grateful for - friends, family, health, happiness, for the timing of mountain biking having developed into a viable sport, to be lured in, hooked, impassioned, and have the possibility to build a career based on riding the bike! We are thankful for being crazy enough to be willing to toss the cards into bike racing and re-work our life's program around fully living this dream.

Mary and I pushed our mountain bike race season a little later than usual this fall. After what is typically our finale of the season - the mountain bike cross country world championships, we took a trip back to Europe for a pair of highly contested UCI races. We ended up driving something on the order of 1,000 miles in a week and a half from the northern tip of the Netherlands to the south of France and taking on two of the hardest competitions of the season: The Hondsrug Classic and The Roc d'Azur. Seeing such a broad swath of Europe in high fall was amazing, and overall it was a great trip. Though after returning to the States to my home in Massachusetts, we found ourselves in need of a break.

This was another fully dedicated season of running our race program, managing logistics, while traveling on tight timelines to make mountain bike competitions across a large swath of the globe. Mary and I each toed to the line 35 times in 2010, in 15 countries and six US states (California, Vermont, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York and Nevada).

Looking back, we had some adventures that pushed us to our limits, results that we are proud of, and experiences that have come to define us as people. Our two weeks at home in early October on Martha's Vineyard was our first stint without a competition since June and judging by the explosion of activity we took part in, we were a bit pent up from the structure of bike racing. It was a welcome relief to relax a little while charging on some of our other favorite athletic pursuits - stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, running, surfing, riding our sweet little local trails, picking cranberries and most importantly - just enjoying not having a regimented format or plan.

Traveling as much as we do makes visits home to catch up with family and to just be in one place for a while very special! Still there are some things worth traveling for, such as being present to help host the NorCAL high school MTB league fundraiser "Cyclefest". Though public speaking is not a favorite pastime, having a chance to speak on our cycling experiences at this venue was not to be missed. The gig went well - thanks to some chaperoning from our friends and especially interviewer and host, Yuri Hauswald.

All the stage fright melted away after Yuri managed to squeeze a verse of Italian opera out of Mary that shocked the crowd almost as much as her admittance to beginning her bike racing career at age 27. Glad to report that even though we were the first mountain bikers to host at this event, and Mary, the first woman, it was the most successful edition to date in its 10 years running. It was cool to be a part of this gathering of people, our people, who had come out to support the cause of getting high schoolers out racing mountain bikes.

For the past weeks, we have been staying in Sonoma County, California - a place we end up spending a few weeks or more each winter, kind of by accident. Yeah, Mary has lots of family in the area, but she has lots of family in almost everywhere we mange to travel in the western USA. We also have a bunch of our stuff ferreted away in storage lockers out here that we needed to attend to, but I would have to say that our being here has more to do with the unique and alluring energy of the area. The cycling here is rad on a number of levels of both dirt and pavement, and the local bike crew has enough history, passion and motivation to elevate the bike scene to an attention grabbing level!

The San Francisco Bay area in general is blessed with a thick and special bike culture, with a group ride, some happening or event for every specialty bike interest. For us that means being well stocked with a core group who are willing and able to get out on the bikes when it's time to go no matter the conditions. People who love to take part in adventure on the bike and cherish the idea of a ride pushing the limits of your abilities over and over, day after day in a diversity of different terrains and rad places. Sonoma county has proven to be the type of place that allows us to train for our seasonal goals of international competition just by going along for the ride, almost.

Mary and I are really enjoying this brief moment of staying in one place, less time in the car and more to explore this beautiful area as much as possible on foot, bike and board. We are coming to terms with the upcoming season and starting to get excited about the travel and competitions.

We got into some local "Monkey Cross" racing just last week as a means to test some prototype equipment as well as the legs. It was a strange relief to get back into the racing as it is so familiar and gave us a reason to rest and taper down for a day or so to make sure we would be ready to go. It was also good reminder that local racing is not to be overlooked as a source of community building and fun, not to forget the fitness side!

We are looking forward to a few more weeks here before heading south to South America to continue our base training in the summer climate. We plan to be in Chile training for two weeks prior to our first competition of the season - The Trans Andes Challenge. Stay tuned for updates on a true team endurance test in a wild and fantastic part of Chile! Something that may well be the wildest part of our race and travel season.

In 2010, the Trans Andes opened us up to a new and exciting challenge of mixed team stage racing. Mary and I are looking forward to taking what we have learned and applying it to this edition as well as using the experience as a preparation for the World Cup and international cross country season that lies ahead.

Hope to see you out there somewhere along the way!

Good rides and good health,
Mike and Mary

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