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23.07.2014
Appends to race/event: 20.07.2014 // Swiss Championships Cross Country, Lostord/SUI

8 laps, 1.34h
14th place, 4.30min off winner Nino Schurter

After marathon world champs I was more and less training "fit for fun", especially on my enduro exploring new trails and regions. I still did my gym, running and high rpm workouts though, but nothing really exhausting.

My hard tail is still in the bike bag from world champs three weeks ago and I wont unpack it until I arrive in USA for Leadville100. I was very excited to fine tune my Epic for my short visit to the cross country scene.

During the whole week leading up to the race it was super hot and humid in Switzerland, but unfortunately for Sunday's race the weather forecast was more then vague, and if the weather is vague you better have a spare set of wheels with Fast Track tires on it. Normally if it is dry I always race Renegade but 1.5h before the start I changed my wheels to the Fast Track setup. A setup you can never be wrong. Just such good overall tires!

It rained quite hard before the start but the sun dried out the course pretty quickly, but I tell you the bikes got pretty heavy with all the peanut butter mud sticking all over the bike. Glad I fine tuned it....

I had to start in fourth row that meant I was in a start crash, fought my way up to fourth place together with Lukas Flückiger, but with two laps to go I had a slow puncture. I tried to bomb it with a c02 (thanks to scott for helping out) but that did not work, so in the next tech zone I changed wheel.

It was a big petty! I was motivated and excited to do a xco race again and finishing it off with a good result, but top three was out of reach anyway!

Next stop Leadville100!
 
 
12.07.2014

Race around Mont Blanc, not quite, just a fun enduro ride for four days. Unfortunately we probably chosen the worst week of this summer. On the last day it even snowed.

It was sad to cut the route for one day short. We still rode around the mountain which we did not see once!

Thanks to Erik Kleinhans and Konny Looser for the great company!

As you can see on the pictures I was riding the Specialized Enduro. A few years ago I never thought I am going to ride a 15/16cm travel bike on a trip like this. The bike was climbing so well (around 2500m every day) and for the descends it felt like a lightweight downhill bike. Also all the rain and mud over all the four days did not make my suspension any sticky. For example I did not oil my Rock Shox Pike once!
 

 
 
02.07.2014
Appends to race/event: 29.06.2014 // World Championships Marathon, Pietermaritzburg/RSA

95km, 3000m of climbing, 4.19min racing time
Third place, 4.14min off Jaroslav Kulhavy

I always want to be better then the year before or in this case defending my world champ title!

The weeks and months before I had the perfect days every day for this one day! Also the course was just made for me, especially the last 25km with lots of single trails and hard climbs. I did not care that much on the build up before those 25km but from there on I knew every corner, every rock every percentage of the climbs!

At the end unfortunately it was not so important to know those last kms any more... Just after feed zone 4 at around km 30 there was a longer portage section on and off, very rocky with stairs. I hit my chain blade on a rock carrying my bike next to me. When I jumped on my bike I knew there is something very wrong. A noise I did not know before but it sounded like big trouble and then my chain was off the blade. A chainring tooth was completely bend. What to do now? I was looking for a small rock, but karma I did not find one after damaging my bike with one.... I kept on going a little in search for for a stone, but after trying to get one off the ground (was too big and solid in it) I tried it with my co2 bomb and foot which finally straightened it but there was still a brow which kept dropping the chain. that problem I solved it by rasping down and up the chain over the the brow.

The leading group by that time was gone by far and I restarted the race on 23rd place like 3.30 to 4min down. I definitely did not feel good at all from that moment onwards. In those moments you instantly loose the "tunnel" vision and you end up absorbing what is all around you: the legs, gears, temperature and what ever else comes into your senses. It is similar like on a hard training ride. I have experienced many of those situations in my carrier. I am a person who never gives up and holding onto the last bit of hope always!

My bad luck out there was a small problem compare to Burry who would have loved to be in this race too!!!

I did start catching a lot of riders but never any of the leading group which was very frustrating and gave me an indication how far I was off the leaders. Only during the last hour and a half when some riders payed the toll of the race length plus the fast beginning speed I managed to ride into third. Sure a very good performance but not result I wanted.

Jaro won this race with his endurance and raw power. Very happy for him and the team. He really had a difficult season so far. Also Anika took the title impressively on her new Specialized Era fully and Tereza in third. Four medals, four different bikes! Which bike brand can offer that??? A huge thanks also to our amazing team who offered us riders the very best environment to perform at this level!
 

 
 
19.06.2014
Appends to race/event: 15.06.2014 // European Championships Marathon, Ballyhoura/IRL

few pictures from the organizer and a video in link 1
 

 
Link 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_96-OyKV4E&feature=share&app=desk...
 
 
16.06.2014
Appends to race/event: 15.06.2014 // European Championships Marathon, Ballyhoura/IRL

93km, 2100meter of climbing, 3.41h racing time
First place, 43sec ahead of Jaroslav Kulhavy

My first trip to the green island. I was really looking forward to it, since two of my best friends are real Irish, so I had to go and make sure to see how it looks from where they come from. I still preferred it to make a short trip out of it tough, since I was the whole week on the road for Four Peaks plus Elsa Bike before. So I arrived Friday, rode the last 30km of the course on Saturday and then racing time on Sunday at 11am sharp!

It was a very unique marathon course with incredible long sections of single trails flowy and hand made from bikers to bikers. They were not technical, one line riding but the speed was difficult to control plus pretty bumpy. My back was really sore after the race. I was missing my full suspension Epic bike, but because I was racing my hardtail lately only, did not know the course before hand plus worlds in two weeks time will be a hard tail one, I have chosen to bring the front suspended hardtail Stumpjumper.

I knew my team mate Jaro will be my biggest competitor here on this power course with no big climbs. We two basically took off after 15min and extended our lead up to 6min! It was racing on the highest level. Always pushing hard in team effort. We know each other super well from winning the Cape-Epic. I am happy that there is a good amount of slipstream behind the big Czech boy!
I must admit I was pretty glad when we reached the last 30km of the course which I knew from pre riding. In between every single trail section we climbed up gravel roads again. Not long or steep but hard enough after 60km of racing in our legs. I checked out the climbs very well on Strava from my ride the day before and I knew the third last one will be the steepest and the second last the longest. Jaro was already struggling a little bit on the short climbs before so I gave it a go on the third last one wich must have been still 40min before the finish. I did not make up a lot of time but enough to extend my lead over the following few climbs and probably also in the single trails.

After the big disappointment of last years Euro Champs where I lost the win by dropping the chain 50m before the finish it was a super sweet win, also because I had to work hard for it!

What a Sunday for Specialized! Tereza won the women race plus Jaro second! Thanks to our very best team staff for making it happen!

After the price giving we headed half way to Dublin to the very great Behan family celebrating our double victory. It was a real Irish feast with lots of food & drinks and very best company on a lovely summer evening.
 

 
 
10.06.2014
Appends to race/event: 08.06.2014 // Elsa Bike Trophy, Estavayer le Lac/SUI

60km, 1790m of climbing, 2.23h racing time, 26km/h average speed
First Place, 1.06min ahead of Reto Indergand

Traveling is never easy... especially after a stage race transferring to the next one! I decided to fly from Münich to Zürich and then driving from there to Estavayer. While I was still in my car at midnight the other guys were sleeping already. Finally at 01.00 I was in bed too.
The Elsa Bike is one of my favorite Marathons in Switzerland. Not too long, many short climbs, left & right, just perfect for my racing style and also after a stage race with loooong climbs. Europeans and Worlds will have a similar profile like Elsa too.

Already during the warm up I felt very well, not those acidic legs which you can sometimes have after a stage race.
I was happy the beginning speed was not too crazy for the first half hour, so that gave me some time to get into it. We were a group of around 8 riders. I quickly could see that favorite Huber is struggling but on the other hand BMC's Indergand is looking strong. With about 20 or 15km to go I tried to increase the pace especially up the climbs. At the end it was just Indergand and myself racing for the win on this hot summer day. Indergand is not used to race for more then 1.30hrs since he is a XCO gun. Lucky for me and my diesel engine! On the last 10km I was by my own racing in front time trialling to the finish.

Both the Four Peaks and Elsa Bike had a huge increase of starters. 25% more at Four Peaks and Elsa Bike had 6 start numbers left only!

Big thanks to every single person who has been involved in this week's racing week with all this wins. I am definitely on the right path for the very big upcoming races!
 

 
 
09.06.2014
Appends to race/event: 04.06.2014 - 07.06.2014 // Four Peaks, GER/AUT

4 Stages of total 275km, 9'212m of climbing, 11.19h racing time
First place overall, (3 stage wins) 3min ahead of Kristian Hynek

It was a race on a very high level, with lots of climbing and some very cool trails. With Hynek, Lakata, Kaufmann, Käss, Mennen most of the top marathon riders were at the start and everyone arrived with his A game! Comparing the same climbs which we raced last year too on Strava, we mostly raced 30-45" faster uphill. Competition raises the game and it is important to face it, especially with upcoming Europeans and World Champs.

Day one I won the sprint against Hynek and Kaufmann, and in the following two I always attacked around 1km before the summit to have a gap going into the final last downhill. I was by far the best descender and made about 80% of the final 3min winning lead in the descents. This is basically "free" time!

On the final stage at the last climb I could not keep up with the storming pace of Kaufamann any more, so as Hynek and Käss pace was too much as well. Ok, my mind was also already in tomorrows IXS Classic race in Switzerland and I did not wanted to race in the red zone for too long, since I knew I can close the gap again in the downhill to the finish.
At the end Käss won the stage by a few seconds ahead of Hynek and myself.

It was awesome to win this race for the 5th time in a row, but even more, knowing that I am in perfect shape for the very big ones in one and three weeks.

 

 
 
11.05.2014
Appends to race/event: 10.05.2014 // BMC Cup, Solothurn/SUI

7 laps, 40km, 950m of climbing, 1.33h
8th place, 59sec down to winner Nino Schurter

Solothurn is a super fast race in the BMC Cup Series. Asphalt out the city-climb-fast downhill-asphalt back to the finish.
The atmosphere is awesome because the race is together with the one and only bike festival in Switzerland. So a lot of spectators are always guaranteed!

Since my return from America I felt pretty tired and I was not on a serious training regime. More and less playing around with my bikes doing more muscle workouts then hard rides. I was really excited racing here in Solothurn though, since it is a good course for me and one of the only cross country races in my schedule.

I had surprisingly a very good start, but only for one minute long. Going down some stairs I dropped my chain, so I had to stop and swear first, before getting the thing on my blade again. The "fast train" was gone at that time already. I ended up racing hard during the flat fast section almost every lap by myself. The only way to make up places and time. The positive about today's race has been that my last four lap times were more and less identic to winners Nino Schurter, just racing at a different position.
 

 
 
29.04.2014
Appends to race/event: 25.04.2014 - 27.04.2014 // Whiskey Off-Road, Prescott/USA

Friday, Short Track
12laps, 16km, 470m of climbing, 30min, 33.5km/h average speed
5rd place a few seconds behind winner Derek Zandstra

Saturday, Marathon
78km, 2000m of climbing, 2.57h, 26.4km/h average speed
1st place a few sec ahead of Todd Wells and Derek Zandstra

After Sea Otter Classic I stayed a few days at the Specialized office in Morgan Hill. It was great to catch up with lots of the bike & apparel engineers plus the marketing teams. The daily lunch ride I joined with my mtb, which meant racing time for 45min or lets say just trying to hang in there and spin the gear out! The Specialized office is "the temple" of innovation in the cycling industry. This is also due every body loves to ride its bikes and is so passionate about it.

After Morgan Hill I flew from San José to Phoenix then drove up to Prescott/Arizona. A complete vibe and landscape change to California. Desert or semi desert views, altitude and the town cowboy style! Lot of the stores have stickers "no guns" on the doors, and they mean it seriously!

Altitude in America means also dry air. The lip balm and skin moisturizer becomes your best friend. My throat was hurting while hard riding and it also produces a lot of mucus. Staying off dairy products definitely helps to have less of of the unwanted slime.

The short track had a good uphill in it. I was positive I could win my first short track race ever, but I just did not have that last kick over the top, so as Zandstra rode away with two laps anyway and was out of reach. Next time I should try to attack earlier and not being lazy waiting for a wonder to happen, especially when I am not a good sprinter.

We all pros were so happy that the marathon race was not scheduled for Saturday, otherwise it would have been a surviving camp out there, like it was for the fun categories. The temperatures dropped so much, hailing wind in combination with rain and a big snow storm!!! Some of the fun riders were dressed like moon walkers and they had to be! Unfortunately even like that 40 riders had to be evacuated off the course. At that time most of us pros were sitting the morning out in a coffee shop. Luckily it was better in the afternoon and we headed out riding then.

All that snow and rain made the dusty track perfectly, especially in combination with the sun which "baked" it to perfection! So we knew it is going to be a fast race, battling it out for the biggest price purse (total $40'000) in North America.
The course was held mostly in the high pine trees except the out and back to a valley which was an open gravel road with an about 15km climb coming back. I really wanted to make the difference there. At that point we were a group of four with Derek (Canada), Fernando (Columbia) and my team mate Todd (USA). I attacked in the middle of it and got away with Fernando. Almost over the top I had then probably 20" to Fernando and a minute to Todd and Derek. Now I just had to bring it home down all the rocky single tracks and over a small climb. I took it conservative not wanting to flat on the sharp Arizona rocks. It was a great feeling coming out of the woods hitting the last 5km asphalt stretch being escorted by American Police motor bikers and they're sirens. I thought I am leading this race all safe and I enjoyed it, but only until the second last corner 500m to the finish.... there I have seen or almost felt Derek and Todd breath behind me!!! I got a big fright! Luckily that gave me good emergency energy and I sprinted down to the finish where we were welcomed by a big crowd.

It was a great day for Specialized with a double victory plus Howard Grotts our young super climber taking fifth despite a flat tire. We all rode our Epic bikes with SWAT Box. I have chosen Renegade control tire in the rear (27psi) and Renegade S-Works in the front (26psi). plus Rotor 36 front single chainring.

A big high five to the organizer Epic Rides on putting on such a great event. I really enjoyed it!
 

 
 
16.04.2014
Appends to race/event: 11.04.2014 - 12.04.2014 // Sea Otter Classic, Monterey/USA

Friday, Short Track
7laps, 15km, 100m of climbing, 30min, 28.8km/h average speed
3rd place in sprint finish winner Todd Wells

Saturday, Cross Country
2 laps, 57km, 1500m of climbing, 2h, 28.4km/h average speed
1st place a few sec ahead of Finsterwald and Kabush

After coming home from South Africa on Thursday I had not many days at my Swiss home to spend. Soon I ended up going to the airport again. This time over the atlantic ocean to San Francisco, Specialized land! Monterey is the host of the traditional (24th issue) Sea Otter Classic, which is just around the corner of the Specialized office or "the temple of innovation". So double pressure was on for us Specialized riders!

I took it very easy training wise after the Cape-Epic. More muscle workouts like gym, high rpm intervals, light power workouts, jumping stairs and fun technical riding.

I totally felt recovered on Friday even with 24h of traveling and a 9h time zone change. My heart rate was so high during the short track I could feel my heart almost pumping out of my throat. I rode always in the top five positions and on the second last lap I even broke aways with Ettinger. I tried to light up the sprint with half a lap to go. I ether make it or Todd will have a good lead out. Second scenario took place and we were all happy. My first podium at a short track as long as my brain cells can think backwards.

The Saturday's Cross Country was super fast. Almost 29km/h average speed. No idea why I did not wear my aero helmet? Sure in that case I would have won easy :-) Luckily this year we did two laps again and a new last climb was added too. This definitely was in my favor and I could drop the small group during that section. Felt great to enjoy the victory all the way down to the finish line at the Laguna Seca race track, where every year a moto gp is taking place. Wondering how fast Valentino Rossi and company racing over the same finish line?!

Now I am staying a few das at the Specialized office in Morgan Hill before I travel to Prescott/Arizona for Whiskey50.

All pictures in curtesy of Dave McElwaine
 

 
 
  
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