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Winter Tri Guy

February 16, 2007

This winter Colorado has experienced a white, wet, cold one -- especially in the Front Range where I reside. The nasty weather has made for an interesting winter training regimen. Like most cyclists in the state, I have spent my fair share of time on the trainer and rollers. However, at some point in January, I cracked. Enough was enough, and I found myself cross country skiing, running, and snow biking more and more. Guess what? Those outdoor activities comprise the exact categories of the USA Triathon National Championships that were slated for my hometown of Winter Park the first week in February. Naturally, this race really intrigued me.

Back in the day, I was an All American NCAA Division I skier. A combination of skiing, running, and academic scholarships paid for college. After school, I was completely burned out on ski racing, so I coached the Western State College team and Summit High School teams before leaving the scene completely to focus on bike racing.

I love to classic ski and find time every winter to kick and glide for hours on end. It is a peaceful workout that completely taxes one's body. It's probably the best exercise you can get period. Over the past ten years, I have ski raced less than ten days. Talk about burned out on nordic racing, there are so may great races in my backyard, but I just didn't have the desire to put on a race bib and line up at the start.

My motivation changed big time this winter with the horrific weather that gave me a bad case of "Cabin Fever." I was running again and had a bad-ass setup for a snow bike. My Gary Fisher hardtail 29 was easy to modify. After exchanging my 29 inch rims for some 26 Snow Cat (44mm) rims I was almost there. I added 2.5 tires and a Bontrager Switchblade carbon fork. My winter bike is a gas to ride! It floats over the snow with ease and emulates pedaling in deep, soft sand.

Back to the race -- I was as prepared as I could be for race day. The field was stacked with big guns like: Mike Kloser (Nike), Brian Smith (Trek), Josiah Middaugh (Saucony), Jay Henry, and Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joes), Mike West (Maverick), Dawes Wilson (Moots), Brandon Dwight (Boulder Cycle Sport/Scott), and all the tri guys that I don't know. There were even a few Canadians.

The format was as follows: run 8K, bike 15K, and ski 10K, the weather was perfect at 30 degrees with partly cloudy skies. The run separated the field instantly. Brian won the run, with Kloser in a close third, Jay was 12th after the run, and I was in 17th. The first transition went super smoothly, and soon we were on the bike. I knew that Brian and Kloser were going to be hard to catch on the bike if not impossible. I rode up to Jay immediately, as he had not chosen his tires wisely. Spencer Powlson (2006 U23 National Champion) was hot on my tails and eventually passed me at the end of the first lap. He was on fire and was riding like a madman. Folks, watch out for this kid!!! Man can he ride a bike.

I smoked the bike and finished it with the fifth fastest time just over 45 minutes The ski was next and I was really looking forward to it. Going into the ski, I was the seventh Amercian. Things looked great, and I was ready to reel in some guys. I worked my way up to third overall by passing Spencer on the ski. However, on the finishing straight, I made a silly error while passing Andy Biglow (fifth). Spencer outsprinted me for the money. I ended up qualifying for the World Championships to be held March 2-4 in Flassin, Italy. Congratulations to Brian Smith and Gretchen Reeves who both finished second.

Winter tris are a gas. Get in on it before all the snow melts!!!

Check back in March for an update on racing against the Euros.

Thanks for reading,

Nat Ross

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As a six-year professional mountain biker who's competed in twenty-eight solo 24-hour races, you'd think that ultra-endurance racing has consumed every waking hour of 35 year-old Nat Ross' adult life. But this lean, long-haired and laid-back Coloradoan has a more complete resume than even the most upwardly-mobile corporate go-getter - although that won't stop him going the distance when it matters.