Craig switches focus to enduros

After a decade of World Cup mountain bike racing, Adam Craig is looking forward to changing up his game plan for the 2013 season. Craig, who recently moved back onto the Giant Factory Team from the Rabobank-Giant Team, has reset his goals to focus on enduro racing and cyclo-cross rather than the Olympic-style cross country racing that has been the emphasis of his career thus far.

"I'm trying to have a more holistic approach to racing in the future. Being on the Factory Team gives me more leeway to do the races I want to do," said Craig. "For the next few years on the Factory Team, we'll be focused on enduro racing and cyclo-cross. Those are different things, but I think they will be complimentary."

"I can train for those and have less fatigue in the summer hopefully. I want to do some different stuff and freshen it up."

Craig spoke to Cyclingnews after a week at US cyclo-cross nationals in Madison, Wisconsin, where he won the singlespeed national title and finished 16th in the elite men's race.

"The singlespeed race went well, and I felt good. I was cautiously optimistic going into the elite race." However, elite race day dawned with frigid temperatures that produced challenging conditions.

"It was humbling," said Craig of the elite race. "I couldn't mentally deal with the frozen rut situation. I had some close calls the first few laps. I was tight and not riding effectively on that stuff. I rode around wishing I could ride around better."

"You needed to be fit, which I was, but you needed to be riding your bike well, which I wasn't. I'd never ridden in conditions like that. They got the best of me even though everyone thought I would do well on them. I have to figure out how to practice riding frozen ice ruts. It was good weekend overall though."

After 13 straight months of racing at a high level in mountain biking and 'cross, Craig is ready for a break. "My 'cross season is over. I was a long shot to make the Worlds team and didn't. It's time to not be in shape at all for a little while."

2012 was a difficult season for Craig, especially the cross country mountain biking part. "For me, it was a frustrating year to put in all the work last winter and then get sick right after the first [mountain bike] World Cup. That derailled my Olympic team selection hopes and my World Cup campaign in general."

"It was nice to have cyclo-cross to have some good racing happening and finally catch up and reap the benefits of that work last winter."

Craig says that in 2013, he will race mountain bike enduros, followed by a full 'cross season. To get ready for that he is aiming to have "as mellow of a spring as possible. Then I want to not burn too many matches in the summer."

So what about these enduros?

Enduros are the newest kid on the mountain bike block, so to speak. The fast growing, fledgling discipline is finding its identity and still means some different things to different people.

Craig gave his definition. "Enduro is multi-stage downhill racing. The Trans Provence takes place over a week for example, or it can be a one-day event like the Ashland Enduro. We mostly pedal up and then race on the downhills or on the downhill trending parts of the trails. Most enduro races have three to five stages per day."

"Enduro is going for a fun ride and racing the sweet parts. By definition, it's individual time trial events. Enduro is anything downhill on a six-inch travel bike."

Craig, who is known on the cross country circuit an excellent bike handler and has collected several super D mountain bike national titles (among titles in other disciplines), also said, "The super D name is getting swept under the rug which is too bad because they're fun, too. Even the mass start downhill races in Europe are just called Mega downhills. I don't know - people can call them what they want."

He described those mass start European mass super D-style races, especially those on snow, "terrifying" and added, "Once I wrap my head around mass start snow start races like in Europe, I think it will it be fun to go head-to-head like that. I think both styles are complimentary."

2013 goals

In 2013, Craig will target the brand new Enduro World Series with his Giant teammate Josh Carlson. He will fill in the calendar around those with North American Enduro Tour events and cross-over events like Downieville and Ashland. He may also hit a round or two of the Big Mountain Enduro Series in Colorado and other races on the east coast.

"Suddenly, the schedule is pretty packed," he said. "Two years ago, you couldn't do an enduro race in the US, and now you have almost too many and can't concentrate on anything else if you chose to do enduro."

What that means is that Craig is unlikely to do any World Cups this year. "Once you start to mix things together, you end up busy and tired all the time. If there's a World Cup and and an enduro, you end up racing every weekend. If I'm fit and have time to do Mont-Saint-Anne, I'd love to do that or to do the World Cup race in Norway because I'd like to go there and see somewhere new."

Two disciplines not immediately on Craig's list are 100-milers and mountain bike stage races, which are the sort of events many cross country racers tackle after their World Cup careers. However, Craig did say he is considering trying the BC Bike Race, which won't fit on his calendar this year, or the Trans-Sylvania Epic, which may or may not fit into 2013.

Best of all for the 10-year Giant team rider is the novelty coming his way. "It's been a good run with Giant. We're on the same page and have the same goals. I'm excited to do something different and mix it up a bit. Who knows, maybe I'll be back racing the World Cup in two years when I'll have a different perspective?"

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.