Approximately one year ago, I started working with Ken Lundgren. He has played a huge role in my physical conditioning, diet, and most importantly mental approach. He would always tell me that a good race your first race of the year was a bad omen. Last year that proved to be true with a poor result in the first Kenda Cup followed by the best season of my career. Based off of how the first race of this year, 2017 will be even better.

After 5 and a half months of riding a trainer in the basement of a dormitory, I felt like I was starting the season where I left off in October scoring a podium in every event I entered in the Collegiate National Mountain Bike Championships. Form was improving week after week. Each week, weight was being added to the bar bell in the gym. I was watching my FTP soar sky high as I was coming off of my first build block.

Along with the training was a lot of schoolwork. A change in what I am studying has me playing catch up and maxing out my schedule with 18 credits. This means a lot of time spent in class and a lot of time spent doing homework.

On Friday afternoon, I finished up class for the week and ran across campus to meet up with my UVM teammates and friends. It was a 5 hour drive from BTV to NJ and we were down to send it straight from class to my house for the second round of the H2H regional MTB series at Ringwood State Park. It was meant to be a way for me and my teammate Sammy to get to ride some dirt and run through team procedures before heading to the much more competitive UCI races we have planned for the year.

We woke up Saturday morning to lead a pre ride clinic and learn the course we were up against. We quickly learned that this lap was going to be tough. The winner would be very deserving. It was 4 miles of rocks everywhere. Something I was very used to from growing up and learning to ride in those woods. In addition to learning the course and finding good lines, we were able to offer some knowledge about lines and race prep to our pre ride participants. This was a situation I have not necessarily been in before and it was nice to be able to one on one answer someone’s questions about racing.

Racing does not always have to be about business. After the pre ride, I felt a need to take Sammy and the rest of the team on a trip to Curly’s Ice Cream for the true NJ experience of eating quality ice cream on the side of a highway.

The next day it was back to business. While I was not particular focused on this race, I wanted to have a strong performance as a confidence booster heading into my bigger races this season. I needed to shake the cobwebs off and make sure that my bike was entirely dialed for the year. A solid warm up showed me that my legs were in really good shape heading into the race.

The gun went off and it was on. I quickly put myself in the front of the race. I was very happy that I managed to bring Sammy with me. It was nice to be racing on trails that I learned to ride on. I was able to effortlessly pull away from the front. I came through on lap 1 with a sub 21 minute lap, something that most people at the race told me would not happen. Feeling strong and fueled by hometown energy, I was just having fun on my bike. I felt that I could hold that pace all day.

Well, I got a little over zealous and really pushed my tires way past their limits. I am not sure if I punctured or burped, but after I smashed my front wheel into a rock on a fast descent and lost a considerable amount of air. I had to really take it easy for the rest of the lap and lost my gap coming through on lap 2 in 4th. I pulled myself from the race because my tire was not by any means ridable and I did not carry air with me to get it back up to pressure. I rode back to my team tent and pumped my tire up. After confirming that there was no leak remaining, I decided that I wanted to at least finish the workout planned and ride the rest of my laps at race pace for no result. I went back out and put the hammer down. Feeling stronger than I have in a long time. Closing in on the leaders of the pack. By the end I managed to get through all of the Cat1 riders and caught up to several of the racers in the pro race. End result……DNF. However, I got to ride on dirt in shorts and short sleeves. Coming from VT I’ve wanted to do that for 6 months.

While it was a real bummer that I did not get the result I was looking for, I was stoked to see Sammy get a second place. He has been working his butt of training for this year and to already be able to put on a race like that on terrain unlike anything he has never seen before shows his true potential as an elite mountain biker. I may not have come out of my hometown race with a result but I have some good indication of where I stand with my conditioning. I know that I am on a completely different level from last year and I know what I don’t need to work on as well as what I do need to work on. This flat was a good omen and 2017 is going to be the best year yet.