COUNTDOWN TO MOUNTAIN BIKE WORLDS: BEHIND THE SCENES IN LENZERHEIDE
We went behind the scenes ahead of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland to get a sense of what life is like in the lead-up to the biggest, most important race of the year. Our very own Kenny Wehn has been in Europe the past few weeks supporting Stan’s NoTubes riders selected by their countries to compete at the Worlds. Among our athletes gearing up for this weekend’s races are Erin Huck, Keegan Swenson, Luke Vrouwenvelder and Chloe Woodruff of the United States;Sofia Gomez-Villafañe of Argentina; Martin Maes of Belgium; Wyn Masters of New Zealand; and Danielle Beecroft of Australia.
The American cross country riders who contested the recent last World Cup of the season in La Bresse, France have been spending time at a USA Cycling camp in Lenzerheide. Chloe Woodruff, 31, explained what life is like at the the team training camp.
“It's the perfect set up as we have an apartment with a good kitchen and, of course, plenty of fantastic riding right out the door,” said the Prescott, Arizona-based pro as she settled into her pre-Worlds routine of sleeping, riding and eating.
Erin Huck is hoping to improve upon her previous best Worlds finish of 11th in 2016. She described her week before Worlds as all about getting used to the time zone, the surrounding environment and the local climate. “I don't do any special training other than trying to familiarize myself with the course and staying 'sharp' for race day. At this point, it's more about being rested, happy and excited to race.”
A typical day for the 37-year-old from Estes Park, Colorado starts with waking up, making coffee, preparing breakfast (oats or pancakes), some light stretching and preparing for a ride. What’s next, she says, is to ride, snack, shower, stretch, lunch, do a few hours of work, eat dinner, do a few more hours of work and go to bed.
“One of my favorite parts of any national team event is the opportunity to spend quality time with my fellow USA teammates,” said Erin. “This year we've been able to cook team dinners every night, which has been a lot of fun. It's always interesting to me to see what and how my fellow athletes cook. I realize that we are all pretty dang similar. It's also refreshing to be with people who eat as much as I do!”
Sofia Gomez-Villafañe, 24, is excited to race her second world championship and to be competing in Europe for what is only her second time. Although now in the elite ranks, she previously earned a 29th in the under 23 women’s world championship race.
“The week before Worlds, I do one day in the gym for activation, a few openers earlier in the week and then it’s rest, rest, rest until race day,” said Sofia who is from Esquel Chubut.
“When you are peaking in terms of fitness it’s a fine line between the perfect training and doing too much. You don’t want to get sick; after all, you’ve put your body through some hell the weeks leading up to the taper for the race. It’s important to listen to your body and not do too much.”
On the men’s side, Keegan Swenson of Park City, Utah, is especially excited about his race on what he thinks is a great cross country track.
“I love the course here in Lenzerheide! It has a nice blend of natural and man-made features, and seems to have a nice flow to it,” said Keegan, who cracked the top five with a fifth place finish at Worlds as a junior in 2012. “Lenzerheide is also just a spectacular area, so I’m just happy to be here.” He thinks that using full suspension will be key on the challenging course.
In fact, Keegan’s first world championship race was also in Switzerland, in Champery, back in 2011.
Chloe also noted that having the Swiss Alps as the backdrop only makes the course that much more spectacular. “It's deceptively hard; so while the course lacks a lot of steep climbs that characterize so many other world-class courses, you're constantly pedaling so it's very much a power course.”
As the youngest of Stan’s cross country racers at Worlds at age 23, Luke Vrouwenvelder of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was impressed with the course. “A number of rooty, woods sections lend favor to the technically adept rider, while a road climb gives climbers a chance to pass and make time. Usually it’s tough to build a track that’s fun to ride and well-functioning as a race course, but this track seems as though it’ll do both.”
Luke is still trying to decide whether he’d use a dropper for the big day. “I usually race World Cups with a dropper post, but I’m unsure as to whether I’ll opt for the stiff post here in Lenzerheide; I’ll likely make that decision based on the weather.”
All the cross country riders, who will be racing on Stan’s Podium SRD wheels, said they plan to make no major equipment changes. Instead, they will stick with their tried and true setups from the rest of the season. Of course, Kenny will still be topping off everyone’s tires with fresh Stan’s Race Sealant to prevent flats.
“What I appreciate about the Stan’s Podium rim design is 1) how stiff and rigid the rims are and 2) how their profile allows for running a slightly lower tire pressure, which can be super helpful in muddy conditions!” said Erin. “So, prior to race day, I will make my tire selection and try out some different pressures to see how they feel.” Otherwise the only adjustments that Erin anticipates are possible changes in her gearing selection.
Going Downhill Stan's will be represented by two GT Factory Racing Team downhillers at Worlds: Martin Maes, 21, and Wyn Masters, 31. Both will be onboard Stan's Flow MK3 wheels.
Martin is now among the men's favorites after winning his career first elite Downhill World Cup round in La Bresse, France, just prior to Worlds. The young Belgian from Neupre is also an accomplished enduro racer who took victory in the Enduro World Series (EWS) round in Whistler last month. Martin's back-to-back wins at an Enduro World Series race and Downhill World Cup made history and proved that he's one of the fastest riders in the world right now.
Hailing from New Plymouth, New Zealand, Wyn had his best-ever Worlds finish in South Africa back in 2013, when he was 17th. After a rest day Monday, a course walk on Tuesday and some video shooting for WynTV on Wednesday, Wyn was looking forward to practicing on the course on Thursday followed by qualifying on Friday, more practice on Saturday and eventually the finals on Sunday.
“It’s quite a fast and simple downhill course this year, and it’s definitely going to provide close and exciting racing!” said Masters, who plans to run his “super reliable” regular equipment setup of Stan’s Flow wheels on his custom New Zealand edition GT Fury bike.
In the women's downhill race, be sure to keep an eye on Australian Danielle Beecroft. Coming off a truly spectacular Crankworx performance in which she won the dual slalom on her downhill bike, Beecroft and her Flow MK3 wheelset are on a roll heading into Worlds.
Stay tuned for all the action this weekend. The elite downhill will happen Friday and Sunday while the elite cross country racers will compete on Saturday.