By Steve Medcroft
Don't mountain bikers get an off season? At the finish of the U.S. National Championship cross-country race just a month ago, Adam Craig (Giant) looked frustrated. He had just returned to the U.S. from a whirlwind trip of World Championships in Italy and World Cup finals in Scotland and didn't have the pop in his legs he would have liked for the day's main event. It appeared he may have been burned out from a long season in the saddle. So it was a surprise to see him travel to Massachusetts to line up at Saturday's U.S. Gran prix of Cyclocross in Gloucester.
Snow fell all Saturday morning in Gloucester. Craig, without significant standing in the series, started deep in the field; three rows behind the front. A rider broke a chain in front in the first three-hundred meters of the race and brought Craig to momentum-killing stop and pushed him even further back into traffic. "Then I turned onto the first dirt in the race and my bars slipped down a ton," he said at the end of the weekend. "And I couldn't swap the bike for a few laps (couldn't locate his spare bike in the pit) and lost more time."
So why not, as an off-season mountain biker, just roll to a stop and pack it in for the day? "Oh, there was no reason to toss it in," he shrugs. "I generally don't drop out of races unless my legs fall off or something terrible happens to my bike."
Craig's decision to stick with the race actually paid off. Eventually. "I was just riding in traffic at first. It was a mess. It was impossible to gain any ground." The ground he needed to gain was on a chase group that included Barry Wicks (Kona), Jesse Anthony (TIAA-CREF) and (a full minute up the course) solo breakaway rider Tim Johnson (Louis Garneau / cyclocrossworld.com). "I was making mistakes and crashed a bunch but once I got clear of traffic and the course opened up ahead of me, I started ticking the pedals over and caught the chase group. That was at about a lap and a half to go."
Against the odds, Craig ended up second on the day. Then on Sunday, after Barry Wicks played tactics on the field and let team-mate Ryan Trebon go solo up the course to win, Craig says he stayed comfortable, kept a consistent pace and put himself in position to out sprint Wicks for his second second place of the weekend. So what happened with that fatigue we saw at Mammoth? "Me being tired at nationals was just a function of being all jet lagged and screwed up instead of being genuinely tired," he says. "I've taken a week off since then and the weather's been nice in Oregon so I've been hanging out, riding my bike and just having fun."
Craig says his motivation for racing the ‘cross season is that "it's a good way to stay in shape until the weather gets really nasty." So he will race the final two USGP races (Watsonville, California November 19th and San Francisco, California November 20th ) and says he plans to be fit for nationals in Providence, Rhode Island in December. "If we have the same nasty weather as Saturday, I actually like my chances at nationals" he says. "After racing for three weeks now, I'm still on a good, steady plateau; on a roll. So I'll just try to sharpen up a little bit for nationals."
And if he does well through the rest of the season will he follow fellow mountain bikers Trebon and Wicks and punch the clock in Belgium and Holland for the ‘cross crazy Christmas season? "Nah. I might actually be going hiking for a month in China with some friends instead."
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1