Project SingleSpeed Racer- US National Champs

Pedal boats suck.

So I just got back from racing in the US National Mountain Bike Championships at Mt. Snow Vt., and let’s just say that things did not go as planned. Last year I raced in my first XC Nationals and surprised myself by coming away with the Stars and Stripes in the Expert 30-34 class. This year I could either compete in the 35-39 class or race in the open Singlespeed class, looking for a new challenge I decided to race the other singlespeeders. Being an open class meant all ages and abilities were welcome, from Pros on down. I raced last year with a crushed patella tendon in my left knee and did well, so I figured I had a good chance for another jersey this year. Assuming I didn’t have a knee injury again.

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A few weeks ago I raced in a local Short Track race at Bear Creek Ski Area. After a narrow loss to Mike Yozell, riding with gears, we jumped in a couple pedal boats to race around the pond. It seemed like agood idea. About the time we rounded the second fountain my right knee started to feel odd. Not hurt exactly, just felt a little off. I marked it up to my long legs in a small boat. So then I decide to ride a lap of the XC course, which starts by heading straight up the mountain. Ok, now my knee hurts like hell. And I keep riding. Stupid.

The next day I can barely walk up stairs. I yank out our well thumbed copy of Andy Pruitt’s “Complete Medical Guide for Cyclists” for some self diagnosis. Chondromalacia, yep that sounds about right. Therapy; ice and flat spins with no climbing! 3 weeks before nationals at Mt. Snow, great, no climbing. So, I ice and rest, put some gears on my bike and look for flat roads, not easy in the Pocono Mountains. A week before Nationals I’m feeling better, until I go on a road ride with my wife and we do two 10 minute intervals, halfway through the second one I consider having her go get the car and pick me up. Shit. Two days, and lots of ice later, I go for a mountain bike ride, and no pain. I like this. A couple more mountain bike rides and it’s still good, even after some hills. So, I go ahead and register for Nats., and stay off the road bike.

My friend Josh West and I headed up to Mt. Snow on Thursday and got there in time for a practice lap. I rode a 32×19 on my 29’er and it seemed tough but doable on the tweaked course layout. I walked one steep climb but that was it. What a difference a dry course made from last year’s mud. Josh and I camped at Woodford State Park, down the road from Mt. Snow. Friday night had the usual loud campers nearby when we turned in at 9 for the 8am start. Then at about midnight the wind kicked up and the rain came pouring down. So much for a dry course. We awoke, not that we slept much, to a very damp morning and made some food and coffee, then headed out.

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Photo by Jay DeJesus

The singlespeed class went off as the first bunch of Expert XC racers. At about 35 strong we hit the first steep climbs fast, and I knew my gearing was off. I was just able to make it up riding, but it hurt. I was sitting around 3rd as we started down toward the start/finish area and this guy just blew past me. This was not going to be easy. When we hit the first of the climbs which lead to the top of the mountain I had to hop off and run. Afterwards I found of that Mike Yozell had used a 32×20 last year, and would have gone with a 21 this year. By the end of the first lap my knee was hurting and I was contemplating a DNF. But Vermont’s a hell of a drive for a DNF, so I decided that if I just walked the climbs maybe my knee would survive. I did, and it did, mostly. I ended up finishing 9th, and not even tired. That’s frustrating. That guy who blew by me? Travis Livermon (Kobold, 2006 US World Championship team member etc.), who not only won the Singlespeed class by more than 5 minutes, but posted the fastest Expert time overall. That’s two years in a row that singlespeeds have challenged the gearies for the overall, Mike finished second overall last year by 13 seconds, riding in a “geared” class.

My knee felt like hell after the 5 hour drive home, but after some ice and beer it’s starting to feel better. I’m going to be laying off the singlespeed for a while and see if I can’t get this back to 100% for some late season races. Oh, and pedal boats suck.

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