What's your race at Nationals?
I won't be racing this year at Nationals. This will be the first year in a long time that I haven't lined up. Instead, I will be acting as the soigneur, mechanic and race day support for racers Jennifer Malik and former Columbus, Ohio native, now from Denver, Colorado, Josh Direen. I have been working in the pits for many riders throughout the years. In 2017, I was Jen's full-time pro MTB mechanic for Bikefettish - Paradise Garage and worked in the pits on and off for her while she rode for Granville Brewing - Stanridge Pro CX team in her first professional season along with Katsu Tanda. I have also served as a moonlight mechanic for pro riders like Yannick Eckmann, Katie Arnold, Jena Greaser, Rebecca Gross and most recently Merwin Davis.
Josh will be competing in the elite men's race for Groove Subaru Excel Sports Team.
What's your goal for this race?
Both racers are coming off of probably their best seasons they have ever had, so I know their goals are lofty, but I will let them speak for themselves as to where they would like to finish.
As any race day mechanic, your goals are to have a race where you are needed as little as possible, but we are always prepared for the worst. At the professional level mechanics are all about helping their rider get in and out of the pits as fast and efficiently as possible. We can be the difference between winning, just off the podium or even dead last. The pits at these type of races can be even more stressful than just being out on course racing, so it will definitely be a time of focus.
A lot of people ask why I take so much stuff to the pit when the rider already has a second bike and my answer is always, I would rather make one extra trip to the pit with all of the extra gear than not be prepared and be the reason my rider isn't able to do their absolute best.
My toolkit will be comprised of pretty much every major tool you would find in a bike shop that is easily transported. We generally like to take spare parts too and just do quick swaps if necessary. For instance, I will have spare shoes with cleats, pedals, saddle/seat post pre-assembled, quick links/chains, wheels with cassettes and tire pressure already set, etc..
Jen is usually supported in CX by her pro mechanic Miki Paulauskas, who Robert Marion may give a hard time, but is truly one of the best and most reliable in the business so the bar is going to be set pretty high for me.
What's your favorite memory from racing Cap City?
State Championships at Big Run Park in Columbus. As someone who has spent countless hours (most of them by myself or with my right-hand-man, super volunteer, Allen Cooper) cleaning, prepping, planting trees, clearing mulch, setting courses, etc.. It was really gratifying to see one of our best Cap City Cyclocross courses ever host the state championship.
What did you learn from racing Cap City?
Our community is strong, vibrant, and extremely welcoming to new riders, volunteers and businesses. We have had more new faces in 2017 than ever. The practice series is going strong, our race numbers are growing and the local community is hanging onto its mantra "PMA No Jerks." Heritage Cycles joined us as practice title sponsor in 2017 and is a bike shop located minutes away from Big Run Park in Grove City. Columbus Brewing Company loves giving back to the community through our race series and is our current title sponsor and Kenda, which is headquartered right here is relaunching their role in the CX community in the upcoming year. Westerville Bike shop is even back in the fold, providing neutral mechanical support in the pits. I am already looking forward to 2018!
What's your highlight of this season?
Spencer Hackett adding a new venue to the overall series. The Red Kite Coaching "Beach Party CX" was an awesome addition. We were lacking a course that featured sand since Alum Creek SP was dropped a few years ago and it looks like it is for the better. Buck Creek SP, the home of the race, has the potential to be one of our premier venues. The series has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. I have been to almost every major venue across the entire country and would put our top venues up against very best in the country. I don't think we can say, we don't have the necessary venues to run a premier CX series compared to the best in the country anymore. Now it is our job to get the word out and grow our local community.
Do you have any advice for new racers?
As a racer who is going to nationals or is thinking about going to nationals in the future (2018 will actually have two National Championships, because it has been moved to December and will be in Louisville, KY this cpming December) - don't put all your eggs in one basket. What I mean to say, is don't determine the success of your season based on a one-day race. Yeah, everyone wants to go out there and "win" a national championship, get on the podium or do really well. I don't mean don't target Nationals or other large races but, they are only a small part of your entire season. Rather than pin all your hopes on just one race (where anything can happen - mechanical, illness, etc..) look at the entire body of your race resume for the year and use that as a measuring stick for how the year went. If you win, podium or do well at nationals then that is just an added bonus.
As far as other advice attend the Lady Gnar Shredders CX Clinic in August and come to CX practice. You will be amazed at all of the knowledge out there and how much actually goes into having a successful season. It is more than just pedaling your bike.