Well, it has certainly been quite some time since I have been on the start line at a cross country mountain bike race. I quit racing XC a long time ago. I lost the fire. You see, you just can’t fake it if you don’t have that burning desire to crush it on the race course.
But don’t get me wrong, I live to ride my bike.
These days, I race Enduro from time to time (it’s just way more fun than XC) and I enter a Gran Fondo here and there. Most of my time is spent coaching and teaching mountain bike skills to kids and adults here on Vancouver Island through the Cycling BC iRide School Program and my business, The Cycling Co.
But recently, no XC.
This weekend, however, the temptation to race has become too strong.
What’s the opposite of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)?
You see, there’s this race…
This race is on home turf. When I say it’s on home turf, I literally mean home turf. I can see the start/finish from my driveway. The course runs right past my backyard.
But it’s not just any old bike race.
The thing is, this race is the Canada Cup XC season opener. And I am a former Canada Cup Champion. Not just that, but the Canadian National Team is here training. And I was on that team in years gone by.
So I am going to race.
Does that mean I am trying to hang on to some part of my past? To regain my youth? Or deny the fact that I’m in my mid-forties?
I don’t know. I don’t really care. I just wanna race my bike.
Now sometimes you hear about riders having their “hometown” course, or a race close to the area where they grew up or a course where they learned to ride. Some might say they have a hometown advantage. I hope that counts for me.
I ride these trails at the beginning… and at the end… of almost every ride. I walk my dogs on these trails. I have helped to build many of these trails. Over the last few weeks, I have watched our national team training on these trails. I think those young riders have inspired me a bit. Ok, maybe a lot.
But the decision to race was only made as of last night.
As I write this, it is Wednesday. The race is on Saturday. Not a lot of time to prepare.
Ya, ya. I know what you are thinking right now. You are thinking to yourself, “Adam, how long have you known this race was coming? Why did you wait so long to decide?”
The truth is that I was feeling pretty lukewarm about racing cross country.
The (Previous) Comeback
I had a comeback of sorts a few years ago. I kept having these bike racing dreams at night. Over and over, every night I was shredding trails in Whistler, or at a world cup in Napa, or on the start line at a qualifier in St. Wendel. I decided it was time to give it a shot after many years of just riding for fun.
It was hard. Cross country racing is tough. It is unforgiving. It requires a lot of fitness, which means a lot of training. That takes a lot of time.
Now as a guy who was once a pretty fast dude, I must admit that it’s possible that I expect a certain level of performance. “Why bother racing if you don’t have a shot at winning?”, was my attitude when I was younger.
Now that I’m older and oh-so-much-more-mature, I realized I hadn’t really evolved much.
I wanted to win, dammit. I could talk the talk like I’d mellowed over the years. As though results didn’t matter. “Maybe I have mellowed a bit. Maybe I can just race ‘for fun’” I told myself. But racing isn’t fun. It’s brutal.
Winning. Winning is fun. Man, when that race starts, I’m out there to lay it on the line. Eye of the tiger, you know? But after I had ridden a few races, won a couple local Wednesday nighters, finished with all the young bucks in a local Island Cup XC, I started wondering what the hell I was doing. There were times when I was thinking to myself, “Why am I racing again? I’ve already done this in my life. And I had enough of it. This hurts!”
So I spent the next couple of years just having fun on the bike, racing the odd enduro event and ripping local trails.
Last year the Canada Cup XC race was here too. It was the first time it happened here at Bear Mounatin. I was considering racing, but I became completely laid out with a serious cough and cold in the weeks before the race. Watching the riders rip around on my trails made me feel very proud. But I also felt like I’d really missed out. I kicked myself for not doing it.
‘Next year!’, I told myself.
The race in my yard started to get closer. But I was busy with work, coaching and life. I wanted to ride more, maybe even really start training. But that seemed like a lot of work.
And the race got closer. And closer. Despite the coldest, snowiest winter we have had in years, I was riding more and more (mostly coaching), hitting the gym, teaching some spin classes, and even getting out on the road when the weather was good (ok, I’ll be honest, only three road rides).
The race was right around the corner. I still had not decided if I was going to do it or not. Everyone I talked to was asking if I would race.
And then something happened.
I received word that I would have a new bike for race day! The 2017 Norco Optic, decked out with carbon wheels and Sram Eagle bits.
Now, the Optic is a rad bike. I’ve ridden one a couple of times. As you might imagine, I’ve ridden a lot of bikes over the years and I consider myself a pretty good rider. After riding the Optic, I have to say that this thing is a trail weapon.
With just a little more travel than an XC machine, but not as much as an all mountain or enduro rig,(120mm up front and 110mm in the rear end on the 29er), this is the perfect trail bike for Vancouver Island. I took one out for a few rides in the fall and not only did it climb effortlessly, I went downhill faster (and Strava doesn’t lie. Ever.) than on my Norco Sight with 150mm of travel.
Was it the 29” wheels? The geometry? Just the right bike for me? Who knows. But I decided that day that I was getting one and that was that.
I digress. I’m sorry. Just stoked.
Damn. Nothing makes you want to ride like a new bike.
So when you have a new bike, a race in your backyard, and you seem to have forgotten exactly how much XC racing hurts, it’s pretty easy to say yes when everyone starts asking you if you’re doing the race. It’s like saying yes to that next beer even when you know you shouldn’t. Like taking that extra plate of food at Thanksgiving dinner. Like that classic ‘one last run’ in the dh park. Nobody EVER regrets those things. Right?
So I’ve registered. It’s gonna hurt.
I really hope that home turf advantage comes in handy. I’m gonna need it.