Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Preparation notes from Tom Puzak and Dave Swanson

What is on your mind this summer Tom (Puzak)?

Making the US MTBO team is a brilliant opportunity to immerse in a sport in which we don't often get to compete. As there are only a handful of events in each region of the US, all of the athletes on the US MTBO are challenged to find enough map time to progress.

This year, the team is taking a bit of a different approach to training for the world champs.  The biggest change is putting a greater focus on the map. Last year we learned that the more riding that can be done with a map board on, the better. We ride local MTB trails with a map on, following along as we ride. We print maps of the city, and choose virtual checkpoints to visit. We also do very specific race training set up to simulate the decision making that will happen at race pace. 
But nothing can prepare us better for the champs then the week of training camp in Poland. We are really excited to get there and focus on improvement. Regardless of the results, I know that I will continue to enjoy our unique sport, and make new friends along the way.

With regard to equipment, I am not making any large changes.  A fast XC race bike is important, and my preferred setup is a sub-22 lbs hard tail. Last year a Diamondback Evolve Carbon Pro served me well. This year a Niner AIR9RDO has been my weapon of choice. I specifically wanted to upgrade the wheels to help with all of the stops and starts. Otherwise I will be wearing polarized lenses to help cut down on the glare off of the otherwise awesome Autopilot map holders that we use.  The plastic covering keeps the maps in the place and protects from moisture and abrasion, but also reflects the sun making map reading difficult.  I would like to use a taller map board to get the map closer to my face while riding, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to get my hands on one prior to the world champs.

How has training been going for you Dave (Swanson)?

Making the US Mountain Bike Orienteering Team (MTBO) team this year has been very exciting. MTBO is different than endurance adventure racing, as decisions need to be made more quickly and efficiently than your typical adventure race or foot orienteering event.

MNOC Long Course part A

MNOC Long Course part B

Training for MTBO involves short hard efforts, technical riding skills, and the ability to ride while looking down at the mapboard. Getting onto the start lines to mountain bike races has helped with the fast paced, stop & go fitness needed for the sport. Minnesota has a series called Minnesota Mountain Bike Series that has 10 races across the state.  Locally, the ski hill hosts Thursday night races as well.  But of most benefit to MTBO training are the MNOC (Minnesota Orienteering Club) events.  It is my hope that we can find more terrain, and athletes, to participate in MTBO.  The 30 athletes that raced at the most recent MTBO event were all smiles at the finish line. At home, it is easy to train with multiple single track MTB parks nearby.
The next step will be training camp in Poland…a great opportunity to dig into MTBO.  Training camp promises to be an exciting opportunity to meet new people, get settled into the pattern and flow of the sport, and strengthen my navigation abilities.

Autopilot map board
The Giant XTC 29er hard tail is my bike of choice this year, with a carbon wheel set. Equipment changes were somewhat minimal but important, changing out to TruVativ carbon cranks and Shimano XT brakes. The brakes were a nice upgrade for me because the brake lever is very short, and easily operated by one finger. This means the rest of your hand can be on the handlebar grips, better controlling the bike through rough terrain. Changing out to tubeless tires (Maxxis Ardent) was a bit strange but has been beneficial with no issues so far, and it has been nice to be able to run low tire pressure if needed. The Autopilot map board has been great, easy to attach and very lightweight. I am hoping this setup is ultra lightweight but have not officially placed it on the scale. I have my bag of spare parts and tools to bring to Poland but hoping it won't be needed.

Now I have to pack the bike into a bike box, and find a compass somewhere around here...

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