Racing

Ivan Gallego Wins Jr Men 15/16 CX National Championship!

Ivan Gallego, 16, of Missoula, Montana took the nation by storm as he brought home the gold at US Cyclocross Nationals! Here is the recap from the champ himself. Congrats Ivan! Way to make us proud!

Overall, this season of cyclocross racing has been a glorious and unexpected success.  I came into the season feeling pretty inexperienced yet eager to be challenged and excited to focus on my favorite sport. I spent my entire year training and analyzing cyclocross racing. It never crossed my mind that a win at the USA National Cyclocross Championship in Louisville would be within my grasp.

This fall I maintained a packed schedule of school and travel and racing outside of my home state of Montana. My coach (aka my dad Alex) and I decided that it would be worthwhile for me to get more experience by attending big events such as Jingle Cross in Iowa, the US Open of Cross in Colorado, and the races for NECXS in Massachusetts. From these events, I witnessed first-hand the level of riders from across the country in my age category. I was impressed to see them riding at a level that I had not yet achieved. I was determined to reach my ultimate form to stay competitive with these guys.

It is hard for me to know when I am feeling ready to go, but a few weeks before Nationals, I convinced myself to be more confident given my months of training and preparation. After arriving in Louisville, I had a loss of hope because the course seemed completely daunting. Muddy, slick, unpredictable and very much a physical course. In my mind, my strengths seemed to be dwarfed by the colossal presence of my known weaknesses. Alas, we had made the long trip to Kentucky, and I knew deep down that I had put in the effort. Therefore, I had no excuses that would allow me to quietly retire into a hole with my pre-race “demons.”

Fast forward to the start line. The light turned green and we took off, or rather, they did. I weighted myself far too heavy over the front my bike, which in turn left the rear wheel attempting to grip the pavement without the added friction of my weight on top of it. I spun out. The mishap at the start did not end up playing as big a role in my positioning as I had feared that it would. Yet, it still left me to scramble back to the front of the pack. I say scramble because, after the upper section of the course, it was a matter of getting on the bike only to slide out or fall over again. Given the conditions, I was surprised to find myself quickly making up lost ground. I met up with the leaders coming into the downhill chicane after the limestone steps and ended up finding a lucky line that moved me into second place. Around the next corner, I steadied myself in the slick mud and managed to take over the lead.

From that point, I was in awe as the laps flew by. My Kona Major Jake took care of all terrain very well. That was extra confidence when I needed it. I tried to keep my stops in the pit short and efficient. I focused my energy on staying balanced and consistent, especially when running – and there was a lot of running – in the heavy muck with what was at times a 35-pound mud-caked bike. The final lap was surreal- like I was in a dream. The weight of my bike seemed to vanish. My steps followed one after another in a comfortable rhythm. Finally, I completed the last round of barriers and rolled into the straight-away to cross the finish line. The realization that I had just won hadn’t soaked in yet, and the win didn’t feel real at that point. I did an on-camera interview (my first one ever!) and congratulated some friends before going to the tent to wash off and warm up. I felt a rush of excitement. I asked my dad, “Did I really just win?” He nodded. I was suddenly overjoyed and spirited. It was awesome!

 

You can read more about Ivan’s victory on CX Magazine’s site too!

Photos courtesy of  Gabriel Shipley.

Dude Guy! Warwick NBX GP

Beckster: As I sit down to write this, I realize how often I write things about how lucky I am for the weekend and how special the venue is to me. It is pretty often, but this weekend was no exception. NBX takes place in Warwick, RI, and though Providence, RI is where I got my start, that race is no longer there so this race just a few miles south has replaced it as an anniversary venue. The cyclocross community in this area is what made me fall in love with cycling and it’s why I am who I am today. LUCKY FOR ALL OF YOU!!!

This year, and finally by this point in the season, it all came together for me. After 2 years on tubeless tires, I am finally getting used to tubulars again; I am figuring out the pressures to run, learning their limits, and trusting their strength. That was IMPERATIVE on this course, to trust that a little boom and bang here and there would not flat them. I was able to ride light, even in a turn, pick a discrete line instead of general area to ride (precision and accuracy, yay!), and I even got my wheels off the ground a few times to just jump over some gnarly knots. 

Kerry: My second flight of the year. Man I love CX season on the east coast. It’s just so easy peasy. And with Becca only a 2hr drive away the only thing we were missing was all the equipment. 

We sent Bones, Van Dessel mechanic, with our bikes from Supercross, he performed some much needed TLC, and we reunited with them on Friday for a course pre-ride.

Saturday we woke up on the other side of the inlet. We could have jumped in our host houses kayaks and paddled across the water to the beach run on course, faster than driving there.

Upon Saturday’s course inspection I decided to bump the tire pressure way up. 28-26 (R/F), but in hindsight I wish I would have been at 30/28. There were just so many damn roots! 

The course is really cool and the venue has a distinct Euro feel. The beach run, or ride, was the highlight. The park is littered with walking trails through small wooded sections, filled with loose sandy soil. A few quick punchy up and downhill sections and boom!

Beckster: If everything came together this weekend, I must have won, right!? Nope. I did not. This was a C1 weekend and drew top talent including Kaitie Keough, ranked 5th in the world, and the taker of the top step both days. She is not a bad one to lose to. 

Saturday was chilly all day until the clouds parted and the sun shined down on us for our race. My start was (you guessed it), not fast. But I wasn’t in any of the typical NBX first lap carnage and rode in the front group for the first lap. I finally found myself in the 2nd position, with Kaitie far out in front.

No matter how hard I went, though, the gap between her and I didn’t seem to close, and the gap behind me to Ruby West barely grew! Remembering how easily she closed down our gap the last time we faced off (at Supercross) I stayed engaged, didn’t give up, and was able to hold her off and maintain a 2nd place finish – my highest C1 finish ever. 

 

Kerry: Off the line, I slotted 3rd wheel, which was fine. Stephen and Curtis were wide open the first two laps and I was struggling to latch back on out of the corners leading into the long straights. It was like a motor pacing session but I couldn’t point thumbs down and expect them to slow down. 

I fell off after two laps and rode the middle of the race by myself trying to hold off Spencer Petrov. He whittled the gap down and we rode the last 4 laps together. I was running Thom Parson’s GoPro, for dirtwire.tv content procurement and go some awesome footage. 

I put in a few digs here and there but couldn’t shake the young whippersnapper. We ended up going to the line together. I highly suggest checking out Vittoria’s “Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series” Youtube page for the high light videos and some epic in race footage.

In the highlights you will see Spencer sprint up my inside on the final sprint, nudge me out for positioning, then me (in a fit of rage) come back around him and take the sprint and 3rd podium spot. Thank God too because otherwise there would have been a Cannondale podium sweep.

I was not really pumped with my ride. Watching Stephen and Curtis ride away from me like that sure was humbling. My legs were just not responding. I chalked it up to some lingering fatigue from the last training block I put in. So I tried to put it out of my head and cross my fingers for Sunday.

Beckster: I was fast off the start. We were all contending with some tire slip as we powered off the line. I put my weight back and was able to pull ahead of a few people. No hole-shot, but pretty good for me. I made it through the first sweeping turn of the start loop in the clear. The start loop was literally the only grass on the course, and as we went in for the left-hand turn before the woods, I tapped my breaks. With a tire pressure set for roots, not wet-grass traction, I slid out.

My bike slides away from me and I am hunkered down, holding my hands overhead and actually yell out, pleading, “NO ONE HIT ME!” And, no one did. Surprisingly, no one else went down, hit me, or ran my bike over. I was able to pick up my bike and hop back on as the last few riders were clearing. Kerry said when he saw me there were 5 of the over 30 finishers behind me. My boyfriend, Nick, told me to stop messing around. Because clearly, I planned for this.

The silver lining for me was, the pressure was off for a good result, and at least I scored a 2nd place yesterday. With that lack of frantic energy, I was able to charge forward. I passed people in huge groups. I passed in turns. On hills. On pavement. In mud. I hucked roots and splashed through puddles. I was through the thick of it by the end of the first lap. Nick yelled, “get that last podium spot, one more rider!”. Really? I’m there already?

I had passed a few riders I wasn’t expecting to, given the conditions and my setback, but maybe they were having bad days. Wow. So, I forge forward and nab that 3rd position. I could have likely taken 2nd without my setback, but I doubt I could have beat Kaitie on the day, so I am super pleased with my ride. Other racers commented on how fast I passed them. A couple said they envied my aggression. The funny thing is that I didn’t feel aggressive. I hope to be able to recreate that mindset, confidence, and skill come time to race in Europe. That is no place for being timid!

In addition to the 2nd and 3rd place podiums, I did get to climb on the top step of the Vittoria New England Cyclocross Series podium, taking 1st! The series was Gloucester, Northampton, Supercross, and NBX. Despite not racing Gloucester, my podium finishes at all other events were enough to get me the overall!

Here’s to hoping some of this momentum carries through to Nationals and beyond.

Kerry: We did the preride thing again and the course was basically run in reverse, which was cool. The biggest change was the rain made a big difference in adding some need for traction control.

I wasn’t sure about this because of the sandy soil but it was slick and a proper mudder. The downside to this was that the deeper mud sections and the deep puddles on the course were hiding roots, which were easily found by a weighted front wheel and more than once a lap I was rimming out or concerned that I had broken a wheel/ flatted.

Off the line, I slotted in 3rd wheel again, then proceeded to stick with Stephen on the second lap. I took some turns, saw some daylight, but he brought me back, then took some turns of his own.

I basically sat on his wheel for the middle part of the race. Checking his lines and trying new things. I am sure I took new lines every lap and some of the sections I didn’t find “the line” until the last lap.

With 2 to go I started to come unhinged. Stephen was riding the muckier straightaways just s smidge harder and the small gaps I was able to close down earlier in the race were becoming more of a chore.  

So I settled for 2nd. There wasn’t much I could do. It was one of the situations where once you were off the line of the guy in front of you and already on the limit the gap would just grow and not come down. 

With this result, I was much happier. My legs felt much better and I was able to push. The conditions definitely suited me more than Saturday but I am convinced that I felt more opened up and ready to rumble. 

Now we were tasked with breaking down the tent, loading up all our muddy stuff, and getting out of there. Luckily, I brought a headlamp. The darkness set in early up there and by the time I got out of doping control it was already a task walking back to the tent trying to avoid roots and a face plant. 

Check out the Vlog for some behind the scenes and in race POV coverage!

Next on the docket is my home state North Carolina Cyclocross NCGP in Hendersonville, NC, about 2.5 hours west. It is looking like a mudder, with rain and snow in the forecast. I love this race because Emily and I always take our RV to this race and it’s fun hanging at the venue and seeing some of the amateur racers that I haven’t seen since the summer.

Michael Hofmann wird Fünfter beim Bike Marathon in Oberstdorf

Markus Ziegler belegte

  • Rang2 beim Odenwald Bike Marathon
  • Rang4 beim Bergrennen in Bad Peterstal
  • Rang2 beim Traillauf in Simonswald

Michael Hofmann wird Fünfter beim Bike Marathon in Oberstdorf

 

Uli Brucker siegt beim Trail Hero in Titisee/Neustadt

 

Zum Saisonende waren die Mountainbiker des Kona Factory/Bike Ranch Teams nochmal sehr erfolgreich und belegten gleich dreimal das Podium.

Markus Ziegler startete  beim Odenwald Bike Marathon in Hirschberg. Auf der Langdistanz galt es, 60 Kilometer und 1700 Höhenmeter zu überwinden. Gestartet wurde mit einer 10 Kilometer langen Einführungsrunde, um dann eine 25 Kilometer lange Strecke zweimal zu umrunden. Bei bestem Wetter machten sich die Fahrer auf die Strecke. Ziegler startete in der dritten Reihe und hatte Schwierigkeiten effektiv voranzukommen. Als es dann nach nur ca. einem Kilometer auf einem schmalen Trail die Reben hochging, hier es Geduld. Zu viele Fahrer, zu wenig Platz. Mit hohem Kraftaufwand verschaffte sich Ziegler in dem folgenden Anstieg Plätze und somit auch “Luft”.  Dennoch lief es recht gut, aber auf welcher Position Ziegler zu diesem Zeitpunkt lag, wusste er nicht, da er zu Beginn des Rennens die Spitze aus den Augen verloren hatte. Es ging auf die letzte Runde und glücklicherweise bog die Kurzstrecke ins Ziel ein. So hieß es freie Fahrt! Ziegler wurde nochmals von Konkurrenten eingeholt, konnte aber selbst auch nochmals Positionen gutmachen und wollte in der finalen Abfahrt nochmals aufschließen, verkalkulierte sich aber und fuhr zu schnell in eine Kurve. Einen Sturz konnte er verhindern, musste aber vom Bike und verlor endgültig den Anschluss. So hieß es diese Position ins Ziel verteidigen, was letztendlich auch gelang. Nur knapp geschlagen finishte Markus Ziegler in 2:38 Stunden auf Rang 2.

 

Ziegler startete auch bei der 26. Auflage des Bergrennens in Bad Peterstal. 500 Höhenmeter und 10 Kilometer sollten bezwungen werden. Bei leichtem Nieselregen und niedrigen Temperaturen gingen die Fahrer an den Start. Ziegler fühlte sich gut und arbeitete sich gleich aus der zweiten Reihe nach vorne und übernahm kurzzeitig die Führung. Am ersten richtig steilen Anstieg musste er aber einige Fahrer ziehen lassen. So fuhr er konstant weiter, um die Position zu halten. Nach gut 2/3 der Strecke kam eine Abfahrt auf der Ziegler zu einem Kontrahenten aufschließen konnte. Mit Ihm zusammen ging es zum finalen Anstieg. Hier lieferten sich die beiden ein hartes Kopf an Kopf Rennen, das Markus schließlich für sich entscheiden konnte. Mit der Zeit von 29:19 Minuten schrammte Ziegler mit Rang 4 knapp am Podium vorbei.

 

Alle guten Dinge sind drei und so stellte sich Ziegler auch der Herausforderung des  Panorama Trail Laufs in Simonswald. Dabei handelt es sich nicht um einen üblichen Lauf wie man ihn kennt. 35 Kilometer und ganze 1800 Höhenmeter sollten quer durch die Schwarzwälder Berge bezwungen werden. Pünktlich um 9 Uhr ging es los und Ziegler gab gleich Gas. Als es den ersten Berg hinauf ging lag er bereits an zweiter Stelle. Doch das war zunächst nicht so wichtig. Das Rennen sollte lange genug werden. So ließ er einen weiteren Konkurrenten bergab ziehen und reihte sich an der dritten Position ein. Das Feld war inzwischen in die Länge gezogen, als die erste Hammerrampe sich aufbäumte. Ein Schleifweg der normal nur zur Holzabfuhr genutzt wird stellte eine kräftige Herausforderung dar. Es ging nur langsam voran. Nach 10 Kilometern kam die erste Verpflegungsstation. Ziegler hielt sich an seine eigene Vorgabe und verzichtete auf feste Nahrung, um den Magen nicht zu belasten. Es ging querfeldein den Wald hinauf. Fast wären alle Viere nötig gewesen um den Anstieg zu bezwingen. Aber wie sonst sollen sonst 1800 Höhenmeter zustande kommen. Doch mehr Probleme bereiteten die Downhillpassagen. Langsam wurden die Beine schwer und erste Krämpfe bzw. Blasen kündigten sich an. Nach erfolgten 20 Kilometern dann die nächste Verpflegung – Wieder nur Trinken und dann gleich steil bergab. Dazu kam nochmals ein langer Anstieg sein. Das Ziel war nun praktisch schon zu riechen, da packte Ziegler ein Wadenkrampf der ihn kaum weiterließ. Erst nach einer kurzen Dehneinheit konnte er vorsichtig weiterlaufen. Die letzte Bergab Passage tat nochmal richtig weh und wollte kaum enden. Doch nach 3:25 Stunden hatte Markus es geschafft und konnte das Rennen als 3. Gesamtsieger beenden. In seiner Altersklasse konnte er sich sogar Rang 2 sichern.

 

Uli Brucker sein Teamkollege startete beim Trail Hero in Titisee Neustadt. Die Strecke mit 60% Trailanteil, 1200Hm auf 32km und vielen Wurzeln war sehr anspruchsvoll. Sein Race Fullsuspension Bike verschaffte ihm ihr viele Vorteile und so war er sogar schneller als Dirk Hemmerling dem amtierenden deutschen CC Meister. Brucker erkämpfte sich in diesem harten Rennen den dritten Gesamtrang und siegte sogar in seiner Klasse.

Michael Hofmann startete beim Bike Marathon in Oberstdorf. Der erfahrene Mountainbiker fuhr ein souveränes Rennen und belegte auf der anspruchsvollen Strecke über 49Km und 1400Hm Rang 5 in einer Zeit von 2.17.57

 

Im Anhang noch ein Actionfoto von Ziegler und ein Siegerehrungsbild. Wäre super, wenn ihr zum Schluss der Saison nochmal einen Bericht mit Bild bringen könntet.

 

Wallace World Travels: Racing in Norway

Kona Adventure Team rider and racer Cory Wallace is a traveling fiend these days. His latest adventure took him far north to the gorgeous Norway mountains.

Words from Wallace:

I spent the last two weeks traveling around and racing in Norway. First up was the legendary Birkebeiner race based out of the Olympic village of Lillehammer. This race was at one time the largest mountain bike race in the World with over 17 000 participants. It is a bit smaller now but is still the “big show” in Norwegian mountain biking. The race was like a road race, 84 km long mostly on gravel roads, with average speeds of over 32 km/hr. On the finishing descent, one rider hit 100.1 km/hr as the track went straight down a ski run. I had a rougher day, fighting hard for 22nd.

Next up I flew up North with my buddy Anderl to the northernmost town before the North Pole, Hammerfest. Here we spent a few days adventuring around the Arctic terrain with the Skaidi Xtreme race organizers and other racers before racing their event on Saturday. The Skaidi Xtreme was the opposite of the Birken, and a real mountain bikers race across the arctic tundra. It was boggy, muddy, rocky and pretty technical, with average speeds around 18 km/hr. I flatted early on but managed to fight back pretty good to get within throwing distance of 3rd place, eventually rolling in 4th. It was cool to see both the southern and northern parts of Norway in one trip. The Nordic country is a leader in this world in many ways and they certainly know how to put on some good bike races!

Next up is the Canadian Marathon Championships in Saint-Felecian, Quebec this weekend. It’s been a couple years since I won the title but I’m fired up and ready to take a run at claiming a 3rd Maple Leaf Jersey this weekend.

Over and out!

 

Photos by Frank Rune Isaksn @ The Skaidi Xtreme

Wallace in Romania

Words by Adventure/Endurance team member, Cory Wallace

Romania is a Southeastern European country with close to 23 000 000 inhabitants including the infamous Dracula character. Geographically its trademark is the Carpathian mountains which are in the forested region of the Transylvania region and are considered to be one of the last truly wild parts of Europe. Having a chance to go there to race the 4 day, Carpathian MTB Epic (UCI, S2) was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up so off to Eastern Europe it was!

The race itself was based out of the Fundata resort, 4 hrs North of the capital city of Bucharest, and just minutes away from Dracula’s castle in Bran. With a 10 hour time difference from Canada, I showed up a bit jet lagged so opted to spend Wednesday riding down to Bran to check out one of Romania’s many medieval towns, highlighted by its fortified churches and castles. The beauty of riding a bike is that it gets you straight into the culture and its people while simultaneously getting the blood flowing and the body back online after a big travel day.

My buddy Frederic Gombert flew in from France and arrived late Wednesday night. He too wanted to get over his jet lag so Thursday morning we went for an easy pre-ride with our new friend Miroda from South Africa. Our pre-ride turned into a bit longer and tougher than expected as the shortcut we opted to take back to the resort ended up being a solid hike a bike and pretty soon we were 2.5 hours into a “recovery ride”. We came to a private property sign just 3 km from our home base back at Fundata. Thankfully the locals were warm and welcoming, opening the gate and letting us cross through there pastures. This was a small prelude of both the warmth of the Romanian locals and also what was on deck for us at the Carpathian Epic.

Later this afternoon we tackled a short 10 km prologue to officially kick off the CarpathianMTB Epic. It was underestimated as we road down some gnarly old school straight shot descents and soon had to ride up some insanely steep gradients back to the finish line. My body was in shock as I tried to push over a 36 T-45 gearing. I was ready to walk but my buddy Fred was just behind me and my manly hood wouldn’t let me get off the bike. Thus I ground the gears over at the slowest rpm possible. By the finish line, I was cracked and stunned as it’s only once every 5 or 6 years that a 36-45 gearing will let me down but apparently racing in Romania was going to be an exception.

Post race we headed up to the restaurant for a big Romanian buffet full of all sorts of meat, delicious cheeses, potatoes, cabbage, and a few other white starches. Apparently, they don’t like eating green things too much over there but we certainly had our fill of heavy proteins and Carbs. It reminded me a bit of the Mongolian cuisine. The setting for all our meals during the race had an epic view over the Carpathian mountains and turned into our hang out spot between racing.

A Romanian 4 star resort is a little different than a Canadian 4-star resort, and while it was comfortable, we also had one giant street light and one spotlight shining straight into our room. A Belgium rider had the same problem, so he put his extra bed and mattress against the window to block the light. Fred and I occupied both our beds, so instead, we unscrewed the light from the spotlight, and then slept with black shirts over our heads to try and get some darkness. The shower also shot straight into the room making it a swimming hole, unless we crouched in the tub and washed ourselves like we were kids in a tin basin. The WIFI they promised was also non-existent. I brought these issues up to the front desk but they just turned their heads and told us they’d fix it later. I’m used to sleeping in a tent in a ditch somewhere so I could really care less about this stuff, but if you’re going to charge $100 + a night for something then I’ll raise my voice in hopes of getting any silly problems fixed for the next occupant.

Stage 1 I showed up nice and early, 20 minutes before race start, but apparently had already missed the UCI call-up. I tried to negotiate with the UCI official, but these guys can take themselves pretty seriously, thus I had a nice start position at the back of the 150 rider field. It was sketchy trying to ride through the field on marbly gravel roads but I made it up to the chase group just before the first 10 km climb. The lead group of 12 riders was already long gone, part of the joys of racing a UCI race in Europe with top riders from 20+ countries on hand. I attempted to bridge up to the lead group but the 20-25% hills were kicking my ass one after another and pretty soon I had a full meltdown as my back was unhappy and the legs were even more unhappy trying to push over the 36-45 gearing. All my smaller chainrings were at home as I never use them, and I had unsuccessfully looked for a smaller one after the Prologue the night before. Apparently, when you race in Eastern Europe you better show up with everything you need as spare parts are sparse.

Reaching the first feed zone at a mountain pass was stunning as we had 360 views of the Carpathian mountains. I stopped for 10 seconds to fix my seat and was immediately scolded by the UCI officials for fixing my bike in the feed zone and not tech zone which was 3 feet to the left. Whatever, no one else is around, but as I know these UCI guys like to show off their powers so moved a couple feet to the left to continue fixing the problem. Grabbing some food I took off, hike a biking straight up a pitch to the mountain summit and then embarking on some amazing high alpine riding. The body was still in meltdown mode as I sunk into the 30+’s but I kept on telling myself to push through it. Eventually, the legs came back online and I started moving forwards, passing riders again and slowly gaining some momentum. It’s amazing how fast the mind can switch during a race, being on the edge of a complete breakdown, to making small gains and getting the momentum back in your favour.

Mid-race I could see my buddy Fred about 3 minutes ahead, straight up this huge hike a bike section. After spending last winter hiking around the Himalayas I used these hike-a-bikes to my advantage and caught a few riders, including my buddy Fred just before a 15 km descent through the alpine on a great, technical rocky trail. This turned into one of the best 30 minutes of riding I had all year as we pushed each other, passing riders, and getting ourselves back into the race. It was sketchy in sections, dodging sharp rocks, skidding down wet grassy slopes, and bouncing off tree roots in the forest below. By the bottom of this Romanian Enduro we had moved back into the top 15, a position I’d hold to the finish, while Fred would crack and drift back a few spots.

Again after the race, I searched for a smaller chainring as I heard Stage 2 would be even tougher. One of the local Romanian teams had some but were unfortunately unwilling to sell off any of them, or loan one out for the last two days of the race. Fair enough, I was in direct competition with them, and it was my fault for not packing one. That being said, if anyone from overseas is competing against me in Canada and needs help one day I will go out of my way to make sure they get it. After being on the traveler’s side of the game for most my life I know the challenges that come with being away from home and have some karma to repay as I’ve had great help all over the world.

Stage 2 was pretty short mileage wise but a real hardman’s day. Somehow they packed 3300 climbing meters into 59 km, and it had more hike a bike then you could shake a stick at. Luke Way at Balance Point Racing has been giving me coaching guidance for years and after the last visit, he told me to work on my slow cadence efforts to really put some stress on the leg muscles to lower the blood oxidation levels. I took the steep climbs at the Carpathian Epic as the perfect spot to practice this, but it also took its toll as I would push the low gears way past my limits and after 2 hours of this I had detonated my legs.

Finally hitting the top of the last Carpathian Mountain on the stage, I was all geared up to make some spots back up on the descent. Shockingly the decent went in a straight line, through the rhubarb and grass down the mountain. It seemed whoever flagged the course just set there GPS on a straight line down the mountain and then started hanging flags up. Once out of the bushes, it eventually turned into a skid trail and near the bottom a skid trail with boulders littered all over. All in all, it took 12 minutes to go down what had taken over 1hr and 15 minutes to climb with much of it being at – 30-47%. My arms burned at the bottom and my brakes were likely melted into the rotors. From here to the finish the body was in shutdown mode, likely from going over my limit trying to grind up the last 2 mountains with no ability to spin with the big gears. Eventually, I’d roll in 20th, just glad to be over and able to start the recovery process for the final stage.

Stage 3 was more of a normal marathon, 60 km, 2500 km, and no hike a bike. Starting the stage out slow, I’d wind it up going over a grassy descent, passing 10 riders via letting go of my brakes and taking a sketchy outside line. I’d lose a bit on the next punchy climbs but the course was predominantly downhill to start going over some rough cattle trails which played in my favour. Eventually, I’d settle into a group from 11th-15th place as we started a long 12 km climb, first up through a giant canyon, then onto a fire road and eventually ending on some rooty singletrack. A lot of these gravel roads were full of tourists hiking around looking down at there phones which made it interesting trying to weave around all the oblivious hikers.

I kept getting dropped from this group of Euro climbers, but I’d use the rolling singletrack across the top to gain contact again. Most the trails in Romania were like rough Canadian hiking tracks. In my mind, these are some of the most fun trails to ride as they are raw and rugged and my Kona Hei Hei was eating them up. The backside descent was fast, and ended on a straight pitch down a loose dusty slope, a similar theme to the week. It wasn’t super technical but it was pretty rad how the Romanian riding was so diverse every day with every type of riding imaginable. The final climb to the finish was 12 km up a tight river valley surrounded by Transylvanian forest. It resembled the west coast of BC and the slight 3-4% gradients were much nicer than the 20%+ gradients that had dominated the race the first few stages! Crossing the finish line in 10th on the day marked the first solid ride I had since crashing hard on stage 4 at BC Bike Race back in July, and moved me up to into the money and 15th overall in GC. It was reason enough to enjoy the festivities later in the day as the organizers put on a huge Romania BBQ, complete with tables full of wine and beer. Apparently, Romania is the 10th largest supplier of wine in the world, and home to some of the best cheese and free-range meat I’ve tasted so we had a nice party.

Overall the experience in Romania was top notch. The organizing crew put on a great race and the atmosphere was nice as every stage started and finished in the same race village. The riding reminded me of the old TransRockies classic in Canada, a nice change from all the new school berm filled, smoothed out IMBA trails. The following morning all the racers cleared out and I settled in for a relaxing day to try and recupe some energy as I had an adventure planned the following day, planning to ride back to Bucharest via the backroads.

It’s interesting how the locals often try to talk you out of these sort of adventures in their countries as they try to make it sound more dangerous then it actually is. Over the years I’ve learned to trust my own instincts, take a few precautions and then get on with whatever little adventure I have planned. With a smile on your face and an open mind, this world is usually a pretty welcoming place.

The ride back to Bucharest was top notch as I planned out a 185 km route via the backroads. The first 80 km snaked its way out of the Carpathian mountains on some dirt roads, going through some pretty cool mountain towns full of impressive churches. It was good to see how well kept the Romanians keep their countryside. The 2nd half of the ride was across Romania’s agriculture flatlands and was a good mixture of small paved roads and farmer dirt roads. Every couple of hours I’d pull over at little roadside stores to refill on water and snacks. There was always Romanian country folk just chilling outside these rest stops and they were pretty curious as to what a Canadian mountain biker was doing in there neck of the woods. I learned a bit of Romanian this way and had a lot of handshakes and good travel wishes.

Reaching Bucharest the traffic picked up so I hopped on the sidewalks for the last few km of the ride before checking into the Rin hotel near the airport. The next day my friend Elena from the Carpathian MTB Epic offered to give me a tour of her city so I hopped on the bike, this time with sandals and casual 7mesh clothing, and took the scenic way into town via the many bike paths through the parklands. The city itself was pretty rad, full of the largest parliament building outside of the Pentagon, lots of historic buildings and many neat cultural things to see and do. Bucharest used to be called a mini-Paris and has some cool places to check out. A week in Romania was a good taste of the country but the more you see of a place the more plentiful the opportunities open up to explore it further. I’ll hope to have a chance to come back one day to continue exploring this Balkan country.

For now, it’s off to Norway for a two-week adventure including racing both the legendary Birken in Lillehammer and then the Skaidi Xtreme way up North above the 71st parallel. Here we come Scandinavia!

 

**Photos by MPG Romania

For all of Cory’s race reports, be sure to check out his blog featuring in-depth recaps from all of his race and events.

Fearon and Lemire Win in Canada

Last weekend Kona downhill racer Connor Fearon traded in his Operator for a Process 165 and won the Bromont leg of the Canadian National Enduro series ahead of notable riders Sam Thibault and Keegan Wright.

Connor’s timing chip didn’t work on the second stage so he had to climb up and repeat the stage, adding a huge extra climb to his day.

Meanwhile, junior rider Tristan Lemire won the downhill Canadian National Championships in the cadet category, giving Kona racing a hugely successful Canadian weekend! Congrats to Connor and Tristan!

 

2018 CDC CAPITOL FOREST ENDURO

Kona Supreme Hannah Bergemann reports from the CDC Capitol Forest Enduro race:

Capitol Forest has one of the most stoked and supportive bike communities of any riding zone I’ve traveled to. After a few hours of riding and hanging with the locals, you feel welcomed as part of the crew. Not to mention they work countless hours to build and maintain some of Olympia and Washington state’s best trails and trail systems. They host several events each year, including the Capitol Forest Classic XC race, and their events never fail to be some of the best. The Cascadia Dirt Cup started with their very first enduro race in the area back in 2013, and it’s cool to come back to the original venue and see the massive progression in racing over the last few years.

This year we got to race a completely new trail system on a different side of the mountain. In the past, Cap Forest has been known for its flowing XC trails and long descents. This year was quite different, with several short, steep, and technical descents on freshly built loamy trails.

The race was one of the shorter races of the season but definitely didn’t lack any excitement. We arrived Friday afternoon to pre-ride the course and were surprised with a late spring downpour. Despite getting completely soaked, the rain was happily welcomed as it revived the previously dry and dusty trails.

Just a little wet and muddy after Friday practice

On the day of the race, the sun came out and made the trails just slightly on the wet side of hero dirt.

Stage 1 was a short, technical descent down a trail called stormy. It was surrounded by bright green moss covered trees and ferns that made it feel like a trail deep in a tropical jungle. It was pretty greasy after Friday’s rain, so the main objective was to stay upright on the wet roots.

Photo: Chris McFarland

Stage 2 brought us to the top of the mountain for a longer descent. The first section raced through a clear-cut with fast bermed corners and a few gap jumps.

Stage 3 ducked back into the dense forest for a ripping descent down a trail called “Down and Rowdy”. It was quite fitting as the trail was scattered with jumps, ripping fast sections through the ferns, and technical steep bits.

Stage 4 was my favorite of the day. It was a newly-built downhill track with fast berms, large jumps, and plenty of steep off-camber sections of trail.

Stage 5 was another short, technical trail similar to the first stage with a few crucial line options to save time.

I landed on the podium in 2nd, with Delia right behind me in 3rd! Once again, the Capitol Forest crew never ceases to impress me with their incredible community and trails. Looking forward to next year!

Koopmans Wins 3 Nations Cup!

XCO Erezee

Erezee is a little village in the Belgian Ardennes. The course was about 4.5km with 195hm and lots of rocks and roots. Although nowadays most of the cross-country courses are handmade by track builders, in Erezee the track was 100% made by mother nature herself.

Since Lotte is combining her medical studies with cycling, there was no time to explore the course earlier than on the race day itself. She was only able to do one lap on the course before the sound of the start shot echoed through the fields.

After a little start climb, Lotte was the third into the forest. First, there came a descent and she tried to stay close to the top to riders in the field. On the first very slippery climb she managed to overtake both riders in front of her and start her solo race. Every lap the gap grew wider and wider. In the meantime, the sun was starting to shine and the course dried up a bit. Both the climbs and descent went faster and after 1.5hr race she crossed the finish line more than five minutes ahead of the second place finisher! Nicknamed, “climbing goat Koopmans” by the Dutch press, Lotte and the team are very happy and satisfied with the result.

Lotte races on the Kona Honzo CR Race, which she loves. Her bike is very light and because the geometry is also a bit like a trail bike, she can attack the downhills too.

Marathon Rhens

Every year the Kona LTD Teams travel to Germany to participate in the Marathon of Rhens. It is about 80km and 2400 meters of elevation.

Laura and Dave just came from the wedding of Laura’s younger brother. They stayed in a hotel near Rhens, since Laura won the marathon last year and they got one night in a very luxury hotel, with a sauna and golf course. Lucky for them, the hotel owner is Mister Haribo… so lots of Haribo candy everywhere!

Laura had a solid start but after 25km she felt that her legs needed their own pace and she decided to just enjoy the race and the beautiful German views. After almost 4 hours of racing and a caffeine gel her legs finally found strength and she was able to race an amazing final. She finished third in her category.

For Dave, in contrast, the sugar of the candies in the hotel seemed to power his legs and he had a great race!

Roy loves this kind of marathon with a lot of gravel roads and long climbs. He gave it his all on both climbs and descents. He ended 12th overall in a very strong and big field of elite men!

Even Karin enjoyed the trails. In the beginning, she was struggling a bit with the legs but in the end, she overtook a lot of riders, both men and women!

 

Lucy Schick Reports From Harper Mountain

Kona grassroots rider Lucy Schick and her Process 153 CR DL had a solid weekend at the Canadian National Enduro Series race at Harper Mountain, including a stage victory by over 30 seconds. Way to go Lucy!

“This past weekend was the second Canadian National Enduro Series race at Harper Mountain in Kamloops and it was definitely the most fun I have ever had at a bike race. I crashed on stage one and sprained my finger but finished the race strong and even managed to win the gnarliest stage by 30 seconds. I placed 3rd in U21 and was super happy with my race other than the crash. The trails were amazing because you got a bit of everything. Some stages were technical and some were super fast. Stage 4 was grass slalom down the ski hill and it was a riot. My bike was dialled and felt super smooth on the steep dusty rocks. Really looking forward to the next CNES race in Panorama but first I’m racing the Gryphon this weekend!”

All photos by Jackson Parker of Clear Glass Media (@clear.glass.media)

Fearon Qualifies 7th, Malloy Makes the Big Show in Fort William!

It was a good day for the Kona riders in Fort William. Connor Fearon took the track by storm and finished with a scorching 7th fastest qualifying time aboard his fresh new Operator. On the women’s side Tegan Malloy laid down a 5:44 to qualify in 15th.

“I’ve been having heaps of fun at fort William as usual. I like the high speeds and turns the whole way down the track. I feel really comfortable on the 29er here… it’s the first world cup I’ve used it and I’m liking it! 7th is my best qualifying result at fort William so it’s got me confident for tomorrow. I think unless it rains a lot the times are going to be really tight for the top 20… so I’ll be trying really hard to be at the front of that bubble tomorrow!

-Connor Fearon

“The track here in Fort William is super hard packed and is running faster than ever. The new “woods section” has been replaced with a man-made rock garden that is running really quick from top to bottom. I’m going to run the exact same set up for racing as I did for qualifying, I felt comfortable on my bike with a few little things to tweak/ tidy up before finals tomorrow.” -Tegan Malloy

Congrats to both riders and good luck! Tune into Redbull TV at 4:30am Pacific Time to watch all the action live!

Kona GDuro Team Reports From E1 Series In Winterberg, Germany

Kona GDuro team rider Stefan Westerveld reports from Winterberg.

This year the first stop of the German-based Enduro One series was combined with the Dirt Masters Festival in Winterberg with the huge turnout of nearly 700 racers! This event might have been the biggest enduro race ever held on German ground.
The event area next to the Trailpark on the other side of the festival area was chosen to help maintain crowds with the ten thousands of visitors and also brought more spectators to the stages nearby. A huge crowd of cheering fans on Stage 8 gave an extra push of motivation to the riders. On Stage 1 , the “Black Line” of the Bikepark Area which might have been the most difficult stage technically, gave riders some challenge. Unfortunately, I gave a tree on one of the off-camber bits a little hug and lost a few seconds.


Stage 2 was a new trail in one of the small forests beside the trailpark. The fresh, loamy surface is by far our favorite style of trail riding. And even with the first pedaling section at the top, I had so much fun letting my new Process 29” go. To my surprise, this resulted in the best stage time in my class on that day.
All other stages were more or less part of the Winterberg Trailpark with less technical requirements of the rider. The missing track signage on some parts may be the only point of criticism of the weekend.
All in all, this was a super fun event. The combination with the DIRT Masters paid off. Thunderstorms came in on midday and the event organization had to cancel the race for the last riders while all top riders had already finished. With massive hail showers, it was the right decision. Back on flats with the new Process 29” I’m super happy! First race, first top ten, first podium!

Our dream build of the Process 29er AL is on the way!
Le’st see what this bike is capable of on the next stop in Roßbach.

Spencer Paxson Wins Inaugural XC-Enduro Combined at the Vedder MTB Festival

 

‘Enduro! It has what XC racers crave!’ my buddies and I joked as we rolled in to Day 2 of our “Vedder Doubleheader” weekend up in the Fraser Valley. The Idiocracy reference was a double entendre of sorts; the easy, no-pressure climbing and ripping downhill in enduro, along with questioning our own sensibility for racing two hard days in a row.

Why two days in a row? The true prize of the weekend, for me at least, was the newly minted King/Queen of the Mountain Trophy devised by the organizers of the Vedder Mountain Classic. It would go to the man and woman with the fastest combined time in the XC and enduro. Day 1 was the Vedder Mountain Classic, a 30km marathon-format cross country race. Day 2 was the opening round of the Canadian National Enduro Series. Combined, the days would tally around 11,000 feet of vert up and down. Imagine some of the best dirt conditions you’ve ever had (and that is not hyperbole!), and any sensible MTB-er would have taken up the challenge.

 

Well…I’m not sure if sensible is the correct word, but how about eager? You could say that Saturday’s XC was an aggressive practice day. The course was challenging, but the immaculate conditions took the edge off of the effort. Teammate Cory Wallace and I battled out on the start loop and up the first huge climb to the top of The Den with Canadian cyclocross National Champ Micheal Van Den Ham in the mix. My Hei Hei (size Large) equipped with MRP Ribbon fork and WTB Trail Boss tires was feeling spry, and I sneaked around Mr. Wallace on the long descent back down to the lake, beginning lap two with a comfortable gap, and pressing on up the second half of the race to take the win. Cory rolled in 2nd, we traded some high fives, went to the beer garden, jumped in the lake, and even collected some Canadian cash. Day 1 done!

Phillip Jones

Sunday’s enduro is captured well-enough in the images. It was a ripping good time! I raced three out of five stages blind (good prep for TransCascadia coming up later this summer) and executed a quick-but-conservative day to get through cleanly. My result on Sunday was lackluster compared to Saturday’s XC, but it was good enough to claim the first-ever Vedder KOM Trophy! Truth be told, there weren’t many who went for the double header, so it had a bit of a tree-fell-in-the-woods level of accomplishment, but given the caliber of this event, I’m hopeful to see this “omnium” format more hotly contested in the future. It has to start somewhere! So with that, the weekend was wrapped up, and it was time to get back home to finish celebrating Mother’s Day.

James Lissimore

As I said of last year’s experience racing the Vedder Mountain Classic, there is no pretense to riding or racing mountain bikes in this part of the world, no matter your skill level, because in BC, mountain biking and racing just is. It’s a f*@#% good time!