That’s a wrap – Shenandoah Mountain 100

Second place finisher Christian Tanguy congratulates 2015 SM100 winner Jeremiah Bishop just after the winner's course record setting performance
Second place finisher Christian Tanguy congratulates 2015 SM100 winner Jeremiah Bishop just after the winner’s course record setting performance

The trails at Shenandoah 100 suit me pretty well, so it is actually the race where my results have been the most consistent. However, with Keck Baker, Brian Schworm and Jeremiah Bishop in attendance (just to name a few), a podium finish felt a little further away from my reach than usual.

The dry conditions and the mild temperatures in the morning made for a fast start. This year again, few handlebars came into contact in the short downhill leaving the campground but we kept it under control and made it safely to the paved road. The pace was pretty high but the group stayed together such that when the course brought us to the forest access roads. It was a little sketchy between racers that try to stay near the front and those who would like to be there.

My legs felt good, so a quarter of the way up Narrowback Mountain; I took the lead and rode my own tempo with an open jeep road in front of me. It was probably the best move I made all day. When we turned into the single track trail climb, I really started to enjoy myself. Riding single track up or down is the reason why I love mountain bike so much. Except for a few tricky spots, the climb has no difficulties and before I knew it, it was downhill time. My lead must have extended during the climb as I could not hear the noise of a close by bike in addition to my own.

I am not much of a jumper over bumps but I could not help it to go over a few of the doubles even if I kept the wheels firmly on the ground if I deemed the jump would have sent me too high in the air. Only on the dirt road at the bottom of the valley, I peeked behind me. Jeremiah was 30 yards behind closely followed by a group of ten or so.

During the transition from the first downhill to the next climb, the group doubled in size but I managed just fine to position myself behind Keck in first place and Jeremiah in second place up the tight and steep single track climb. To be honest, I wished Keck would have ridden a little faster just because I wanted to have a higher cadence but could not shift down since I was already using my smallest gear (32 in the front, 42 in the back).

Nonetheless, at the top I was really feeling the effort and indeed just the three of us were still together. Jeremiah took the lead, then Keck and I followed. Thanks to few areas where the trails goes up and thanks to the trail not being ridiculously steep or rough, I managed to stay close to Keck the entire length of the downhill. It was all good fun and once again on the transition roads at the bottom of the valley, we had a little pace line going.

This is where I noticed how incredibly great shape were both Keck and Jeremiah. I could not believe the speeds on my computer. Over 30 mph each time the road was pointing down even if so slightly. Of course, nobody bridged back and the three of us started the climb up the third mountain of the day. Keck and I shared the lead until the intersection with the trail leading to the start/finish line. Jeremiah would lead us to the very top of the mountain at the same climbing tempo.

Jeremiah had some special plans for us. Having better handling skills than Keck and myself he opened gaps even on the shortest downhill section. Then Jeremiah pushed hard on the next uphill portion to make any racers wanting to stay within reach to make an extremely violent effort. I have experienced this technique first hand on many occasions. Should I have been alone with Jeremiah, I would have let him go away right there but I thought that if I could keep up with Keck, I would have a very strong partner on the transition roads at the bottom of the valley. Meanwhile Keck was certainly thinking that if he could stay with Jeremiah and drop me before the bottom of the valley; the chance of me bridging back were lower.

The only winner in that situation was Jeremiah. Keck and I were completely out of breath and the long downhill had not even started yet. Jeremiah was almost already out of sight and Keck was a good 20 yards in front of me when we hit the steeper part with some large steps/drops. I can ride this trail fine but I cannot ride it nearly as fast as Jeremiah or Keck. I just burned a big match for a failed attempt to keep up with Keck…

Later on, when the trail is far less steep, I noticed Keck on the side of the trail working on his bike. Shortly after, I was at aid #3, in no man land transitioning between mountain #3 and #4. Of course, Jeremiah was nowhere to be seen. The fourth mountain is a nice climb, this year I was not as smooth as previous editions but except for a couple times where I put a foot down, I made it to the top in pretty decent shape.

The downhill from there is my favorite of the day; it is fast and not too dangerous. I was just not looking forward to the very long flat roads leading to the soul crusher climb. At aid #4, I just had a longer stop to get the reach of my front brake lever adjusted. I rode down the 4 previous downhill with my lever almost touching my grip.

My legs were really sore and I kept looking behind hoping not to see a raging Keck Baker closing the gap at incredible speed. The miles to the finish were trickling down and that is the only good thing about these flattish roads. Finally, I reached the real climb and the heavy soreness in my legs transformed into really pain. In one of the steeper pitch I was at the verge of cramping.

At aid #5, at the top of the mountain, my old teammate Harlan Price was there. It was great to see him. He asked what I needed: my mind had the perfect answer: “Could you please ride my bike to the finish for me?” But I said I was fine, and I was off.

Being under the constant pressure of thinking that Keck would bridge back in the long downhill did not allow me to really enjoy the trails between aid 5 and 6. The body was in great pain. I realized that I was really fatigued and intentionally rode a bit slower in the downhill.

The entire day, I was thinking about the last long uphill before the finish line. Being there was a relief and somehow I even had a second wind. I climbed the second time around almost just as just than the first time with Keck and Jeremiah. Despite my really good effort in the climb, I was getting extremely nervous to see Keck storming back on the downhill forest road leading the finish. However, my efforts were good enough to cross the finish in second place. I was delighted and improved my time from 2013 by an impressive 12 minutes.

Once again the Specialized bike and components were flawless. Some people asked me if the SWAT box holding my tire lever, tube and tire inflator comes open under the rough riding. Let me assure you, it did the job perfectly both at Wilderness 101 and Shenandoah 100.

White knuckles time – Wilderness 101

The Baker chase group: Tanguy, Blair, Tredwell - photo credit Tomi McMillar
The Baker chase group: Tanguy, Blair, Tredwell – photo credit Tomi McMillar
This year again, I made the pleasant trip from south east Michigan to Central Pennsylvania. The weather was just perfect to spend 6-7 hours on the bike. I have done this race 7 times so I pretty much know what is in store for the day.

Despite riding a good tempo on the first climb, the size of the group reaching the top was still larger than any previous editions. Now a lot of riders are much better prepared and can challenge more established riders. With the dry conditions, I left plenty of space between me and the rider in front of me during the fast downhill on the dirt road. Few years back I witnessed a rider crash at top speed and I just wanted to be ready to avoid the pile up should this event happen. It was not necessary in that particular downhill but it proved a smart move when a rider washed out just before aid #1.

By now, some riders started to feel the effort and the lead group trimmed down to a dozen riders. The following downhill was uneventful except for the snake the lead guy and myself, in 2nd place, almost rode over. I heard the leader yell something, when I looked down my first thought was: “Please people, pick-up your old tubes…” and as I came closer I realized it was a large black snake with gold patterns. All this happened in a flash as we were riding well over 20 mph.

Approaching the Three Bridges single track trail, I rode harder and found myself in the lead. I made a good push in the trail and by the time we came out on the dirt road, the lead group was fragmented. I continued with the fast pace going up the road and finally it was just 2 of us at the top. We rode together until aid #2 where the chasers finally closed the gap.

I hope they had to commit some effort to join back to us because I felt as though I put in a good effort myself. Shortly after aid #2, there is a long climb and I was getting tired. We were 4 riders at the front and Keck Baker increased the tempo towards the end of climb allowing him to enter the rough single track downhill first. I came down in 4th position just behind Dereck Treadwell. Dereck and I were riding pretty much the same speed where Keck was gone in a flash and 2nd place rider put a 30 second gap on us. Shortly after the descent Gordon Wadsworth bridged back.

The three of us chilled out on the flat/down roads leading to the next big climb. I was really tired by then and decided to ride my own pace. Dereck followed me as we reeled back the 2nd place rider. We lost Gordon in the process and entered the 2nd stretch of rough single track downhill. Just like the previous time, I came last of our group of three. My hands and arms were still not fully recovered from the firm grip needed during the first downhill. I was looking where I could stop and rest my upper body. It was really rough trail and another couple miles of that riding would have forced me to stop and rest.

The three of us reached aid #3 and we rode the uphill right after that. Only Dereck could follow this time. I thought I made a great tempo but Keck was nowhere to be seen. His time gained in the rough trails was just too great to overcome in the climbs especially when he climbs extremely well himself.

On the previous rough section I noticed that I could ride a tiny bit faster than Dereck. At the top of the mountain I sped up to enter the flat rocky single track first. In a few hundred yards, I already had a sizable gap and it was probably the most enjoyable stretch of the race for me. My Specialized Epic was riding great. Despite all the vibrations, the SWAT case stayed closed and the tires were holding well on the sharp stones. I came down the 3rd very steep single track downhill. With my bike skills, I feel that all I can do is slow down; should I need to come to a complete stop I would have to find a spot where crashing will hurt me the least. My arms and hands were to the verge of cramping but also my legs from balancing me around the bike.

When I indeed put the roughest section behind me (without falling), my legs cramped in places I never experienced before. The downhill smacked me and I was in total distress mode. Somehow the single track riding along the creek was a good distraction for the mind instead of focusing on my hurting legs.

I reached aid #4, still in 2nd place but any desire to chase was out the window. I stopped for a long while especially knowing that course goes back up on long jeep road. Very strangely, I was able to pick up the pieces during that climb. I even forced myself to ride harder well knowing that I would lose my advantage on the flat/downhill dirt roads after that.

As expected, the dirt roads were just a nightmare; the legs were cramping every two minutes and I had to stop pedaling to loosen up the muscles… At least the volunteers at aid #5 had some good news; the finish was only 6 miles away.

I followed closely the arrows marking the course. I came to the bank of a river. There was a trail going left and one going right but no arrows. I turned back thinking I missed a course marking but the only arrow I could see was the one pointing straight. I scanned the other side of the river for a piece of tape when I finally noticed the arrow on a rock above the water in the middle of the river. This river crossing was a blessing. Of course, walking waist deep in running water comes with some challenges but my legs loved the cooling effect. Now 5 miles from the finish, I felt I came too far to lose my second place by not trying hard enough.

The legs were as tense as they could be without completely locking up. It was a very, very painful last five miles but it was all worth it after I crossed in 2nd place. Congrats to Keck for an awesome ride. I hope to come more prepared to Shenandoah to challenge him until the end.

Full results here.

The Open Men's podium with Keck Baker on top.
The Open Men’s podium with Keck Baker on top and Christian Tanguy in 2nd, Dereck Treadwell 3rd, Ryan Serbel 4th and Gordon Wadsworth 5th

Lumberjack 100 Report

It was the ninth time I’ve put my bike on the start line for this race. If I were playing the odds at Vegas, I might have put some money on me, as I’ve never finished below 5th place in my 8 previous attempts. Nonetheless, the lineup of serious competitors was giving me the chills…

I don’t know how I messed up my preparation, but I forgot my favorite GU gels at home, then I did not put my “racing” prescription glasses, and kept my regular glasses that have the tendency to slip down my nose, plus the cold temperatures had me wonder if I should wear a sleeveless wind jacket or not during the first lap. I opted for the latter and I glad I did, otherwise I would have overheated in no time.

The start on the pavement was maybe not faster than previous years but way more nervous. A lot of fast competitors were fighting for a good spot to enter the single track. Anyway, I managed just fine and then we were off for a quick first lap in the Manistee forest. And quick it was indeed! Even with the roll out on the road we completed the lap in 2 hours and 12 minutes. That is not completely surprising but what was is how many racers were in the lead group. We were over a dozen riders!

All of us were riding strong leaving no gaps between riders. However, I started to feel the effort and I guess I was not the only one. At the front, Mike Phillips was pushing a great pace thru the Road Monkey trail section: a flattish single track quite twisty at times forcing anyone to be on the gas at all times. Then I took over the lead for the last 8 miles of the second lap and continued the fast pace. More riders fall of the lead wagon and we were a much smaller group to reach the aid zone at the start of the lap.

In the succession of small hills up and down, Brian Schwarm was on a mission drilling the up hill so much so that I was wishing I was wishing for a slower pace. I got my wish granted but we were only 3 that could hold on to Brian’s rear wheel: Tinker Juarez, Jorden Wakeley and myself.

RDC's Christian Tanguy leads Jorden Wakeley, Brian Schworm, and Tinker Juarez
RDC’s Christian Tanguy leads Jorden Wakeley, Brian Schworm, and Tinker Juarez – Photo credit Rob Meendering

I led our small group again thru the road Monkey section. We were riding at good speed and lost Jorden and Tinker. Shortly after the mid lap aid station, during a short uphill, both my legs cramped. We were about one hour from the finish but I had to back off the pace or I wouldn’t see the finish line.

Now, really tired and looking for my path around the trees thru a veil of fog, every pedal stroke was a struggle. The dust I was riding through all day finally impeded my vision by scratching the front surface of my eyes.

Despite the cramps, the foggy vision and the less than optimal nutrition from the get go, I managed to reach the finish line in under 6 hours 30 minutes. That was 2 minutes off the pace of Brian but I am satisfied by my 2nd place result.

Like at every race, I gave it all and I could not have gone any faster given the circumstances.

LumberjackOpenPodium

A Battle to the End

Dylan Johnson leads Keck Baker, Christian Tanguy, and Brian Schworm over the "Bridge of Dreams"
Dylan Johnson leads Keck Baker, Christian Tanguy, and Brian Schworm over the “Bridge of Dreams”

I came to the Mohican 100 with confidence as I could finally log some quality rides outside. Every year, I wonder if I should go for the $200 prime for the first rider to reach the city limit. The road leading out of the city is steep, than get steeper to finally be a gentler grade. If I really wanted, I had an opportunity to be in the mix for a shot at the prime but it was a big match to crack. From experience, I know that energy saved early might be decisive at the end.

Christian leads Gordon Wadsworth and Brian Schworm down the "water bars" section
Christian leads Gordon Wadsworth and Brian Schworm down the “water bars” section

I actually spent more energy on the road leading to the single track to make sure I was not going to be stuck behind a slower rider. I managed just fine as I actually was first for a while. Then a large group latched on. When we reached aid station 1, we were still all together. As the race progress, I maintained myself in the front position and I don’t know the specific but the group started to whistle down. By aid station 2, there were only 5 persons left in the group: Tinker Juarez, Keck Baker, Brian Schworm, Dylan Johnson and myself.

Now on more open roads, I rode to the front in an effort to keep the chasers at bay. After a while, we had a little pace line going and this when Tinker was dropped. The four of us had fun but being on the open roads with no shade, I started to really feel the effort. Especially reaching to aid 4 was a struggle, I was out of water for a good 20 minutes. By now it was obvious than Keck and Brian were the strongest on the open flattish roads, Dylan was the fastest on the technical single track and I was the most at ease when the course was pointing upwards.

Brian Schworm in the early single track
Brian Schworm in the early single track

5 hours into the race, I was the one ridding the most at the front and I was not sure how it will play at the end. I knew that the one entering the last stretch of single track will have a great chance to win the race. We reached the steep downhill leading to the suspension bridge over the river. All four of us managed to make the right turn at the bottom of the trail. I don’t know for the others but in all the previous editions I went straight right into the bushes.

Tinker Juarez was with the leaders though the single track
Tinker Juarez was with the leaders though the single track

Then we reach to the steepest most difficult dirt road climb of the day. Over the years, I learned to be humble to this climb; one time I had to dismount and push my bike. For this edition of the Mohican 100, I had much more energy and decided to ride tempo. My goal was to get my lead group companion tired rather than distancing myself. However, by the top I had quite a large gap on Dylan and could not see Brian or Keck. With 10 miles to the finish I saw my chance to reach the single track first. I rode hard on the flat road and was only a mile or two away from the single track entrance when I spotted a rider in aerodynamic position charging at me.

I could not be Dylan (as the rider was not riding a white helmet) and he was way too fast for a 100k racer. In no time, the rider reached back to me, it was Keck. Shortly after he entered the single track in front of me. It let me wonder what I could do, but then the single track widens up with two good possible lines. That was the opportunity I was looking for. I passed Keck and gave every thing I had. I know that I am not the fastest single track rider but I also know that after six and half hours of high intensity effort I can hold my own.

Keck Baker carves a corner in the early single track
Keck Baker carves a corner in the early single track

All the 100k racers did a great job leaving me good opportunity to go around them. I was getting a little anxious to get a flat when I heard several times the tires making loud noises on the stones. However, the equipment held on just fine and I kept my lead to the finish line. I could not be happier with my race as it took every bit of energy I had to separate myself from the group and then attack in the single track.

Christian Tanguy celebrates his Mohican 100 win with a podium shower
Christian Tanguy celebrates his Mohican 100 win with a podium shower

See more RDC coverage of the Mohican 100 here.

Photos by Butch Phillips.

Full results here.

Thom Parsons DirtWire.tv video coverage here.

Listen to Mark Stover’s account on MountainBikeRadio’s The Last Aid Station Mohican edition.

My Season Opener – Cohutta 100

Gordon Wadsworth, Christian Tanguy, and Brian Schworm are the first three racers across the line at the 2015 Cohutta 100
Gordon Wadsworth, Christian Tanguy, and Brian Schworm are the first three racers across the line at the 2015 Cohutta 100
To cut to the chase, this was a brutal race opener. For the last year and a half, the training has been very erratic and significantly less in volume and in intensity as I was able to do during my 2010 to 2013 seasons. The last time I raced was the 2014 Wilderness 101 and it was also the last time I rode my bike for more than 2 hours in one shot.

Of course, this year, I tried to squeeze as much training as possible but it is never more than one hour at a time. I make it count by replacing volume by intensity. This is a poor substitute but well, it will have to do…

The morning of the race, the rain was coming down pretty good and I actually had to re-park my car as a giant puddle was forming underneath my car. I was thinking that could be a really long day on the saddle with a real chance to get hurt in the process. I was in deep thought weighting the pro and cons of racing in those conditions. I came pretty close to drive home before the race even started but I got ready and it was not that bad. In any case, the course allows for an easy bailout about 1 hour after the start when the trail comes back to the start/finish area.

Despite the rain, the trail was not too muddy and more amazingly I could see fine as I did not get much projections from the tires landing on my glasses thanks to a little fender on my fork (lessons learned from the 2013 Cohutta race)

I started to enjoy myself on the trails and the rain stopped. Wow, could it be that I could get the opportunity for a good ride? I was in the lead group and feeling ok. I was bracing for the later hours in the race where each pedal stroke is accompanied by pain.

This edition of the Cohutta 100 has a very large amount of dirt road so much so that one of us in lead group joked that a cyclocross bike would be more appropriate. I must admit it went thru my head as well. I thought that the 2013 edition was much better as there was more variety.

By mile 50, Single Speeder Gordon Wadsworth asked me if I was fine; my answer was quite short: “No, I am tired”. He was obviously feeling better than any of us as at some occasions he would sing… How can this guy do that and ride a single speed???

Not much happened until mile 70, when Keck Baker accelerated. I was really hurt and the legs did not wanted to spin any faster. I was so sure I would not see any of those guys; I wished them well with a nice “Goodbye”. I was already satisfied with my effort and I my entire focus was to reach the finish line rather than coming up with a plan to move up a spot in the classification.

I kept pedaling and I must say I was very surprised to reach back to some very tired riders. As usual for me during those 100 miles race, my heart was feeling fine but my legs were just quitting. In some sense, I did not feel very tired (no cramps, no blurred vision,…) just the extremely painful legs!

When I reached the last aid station, the cheerful volunteers shouted “Just 15 miles to the finish!”. They meant well but it crushed my spirit. All I wished was to stop and cool my legs in large bucket of ice water! Like everybody else, I had to endure. I kept telling myself that the final downhill to the finish was near but when I finally reached it I was not satisfied: The trail was slick with mud and I almost crashed twice.

Somehow, I finished 3rd place behind the 1st place open men (Brian Schworm) and the 1st single speed racer (Gordon Wadsworth). It is an incredible result especially when in one race I double up on my mileage for the year. I hope the legs will hold a little longer during the Mohican 100 next month.

2014 Lumberjack 100

This year was the 10th anniversary of the race however, for me, it was just the 8th time in a row that I put my bike at the start line. I hoped I would reach the finish line just like I have each time before. The start did not seem any more stressful than in previous editions. Even the prospect of winning the $200 dollars prime for the first person to reach the top of the hill did not cause any erratic behaviors. Jorden Wakeley started to sprint for the prime, I followed him closely just to make sure his sprint will not transform into a solo breakaway only 2 miles into the trails.

With the acceleration, Jorden and I had a gap; a gap that got larger as we made our way down the hill. Shortly after Jorden pull to the side and let me lead. I did not give it too much thought; after all I had just rode at the lead for over 99 miles three weeks earlier during the Mohican 100. I noticed that the ground was very soft due to the rain the day before but also because of the motorcycles (checking the course) losening up the ground even more with their very knobby tires, it was really like riding on snow.

With fresh legs, it was no problem and Jorden let me do all the pacing. The start of the second lap was much more fun: the 300 bikes that went thru the trail during the 1st lap steam rolled the trail and now my Specialized Epic was the best bike to have on those trail conditions. But like most things in life, you need to enjoy them immediately because they don’t last forever. With about ¾ lap of the 2nd completed, I ran out of energy. Jorden was riding away from me without even having to attack.

Fortunately, I have a done quite a few of those 100 miles races and I have been in this position before. However, that does not mean I liked what was lying ahead of me: Pain! Maybe subconsciously I knew this condition would happen because I had left one extra bottle of CarboRocket to drink at the aid station but not for carrying with me on the bike. This additional bottle along with some gels provided by my friend was enough to slowly rev-up back the engine.

As fate would have it, I started to spot Jorden at about the same location where he rode away from me. So here we were, about 8 miles from the finish. Just like before, Jorden tucked himself neatly behind me. From experience, I know it is much easier (faster) to follow wheels than it is to ride on our own (read my race report from 2012 Fool’s Gold 100 here). On one hand, I just had to be patient and wait for a suitable location to attack. On the other hand, I had to hurry up or I would run out miles… somewhat ironic when you race for 100 miles!

With 5 miles to go, I saw a stretch of trail I liked and gave it a nice push. I glanced once behind to confirm that there was a gap. It was now a time trial to the finish. Strange how 20 miles before the finish I was afraid of the legs to cramp and now 5 miles to go at full speed I knew the legs would not seize up. Mind over the body!

I crossed the finish in first place!… and immediately searched for a bench to rest!

LumberjackChristian

Tip of the Week – Tire Choice

A Tire might be the single most important component on the bicycle. When tackling a 100 mile race, the tire will need to handle a large variety of terrains from pavement, to rocky sharp stones, to fast rolling single track, to loose sand, to wet dirt, etc. In addition to perform in various terrains, the tire needs to hold the air reliably.

Personally, I use only 2 different tread patterns:

The new Fast Trak rolls so well, it is my first choice for any race. Then, it is just a matter of choosing the casing between the super light “S-Works” and the slightly heavier “Control” casings which does offer much more protection. However, as I experienced firsthand at the last Syllamo’s 125k race; some courses require even tougher casing; next year I will be riding on the “GRID”.

Obviously, it is a good idea to keep a record of the tire selec­tion for a particular course. However, it is important to also write down the weather and trail conditions as well as any tire failure.
Nothing will smooth your ride more effectively as a low tire pressure. I put comfort ahead of rolling resistance. One of the most used tire sealant company propose formulas to calcu­late the tire pressure based on the weight of the rider. It works well for me.

If you have been riding for awhile, you probably heard all those stories on how the tire sealant was not plugging the hole and putting a tube is just messier because of the fluid inside the tire. So why bother setting up the tires as tubeless? The obvious answer is because it works! In most cases, the sealant will allow me to reach the finish line or at least the next aid station where volunteers can help with extra hands and shop size pump (instead of the mini pump or CO2 cartridge). I don’t experiment at all with the width of the tires but that is something you might want to investigate. For reference, I use 2.0” wide tire.

Tip of the Week – Essential Repair Skills

No matter how carefully you go over your bike prior to a ride, it is just a matter of time before a mechanical fail­ure will occur.

Fixing a flat on the side of the trail is one of the foremost im­portant repair skills. Wish for flats during your training rides so that you will be ready should your tire leak air on race day. Have you run out of brand new tubes for the re­pair? No problem: make a knot at the spot of the leak. I am not going to lie to you; it might get a little tricky to fit the tube back between the rim and the tire. However, when done right, it is virtually impossible to tell the dif­ference between that repair and a wheel with a new tube.

Personally, the second most likely failure I’ve experienced con­cerns the chain. Contrary to a flat tire, most chain problems can be avoided with some proper maintenance done at home or at the bike shop. Moni­toring the wear of the chain and changing it preventive­ly will considerably reduce the chance of the chain breaking or the chance of the chain getting caught in the spokes of the rear wheel. Personally I usually do not carry a quick link on my rides. Not because I don’t like them, it is simply because I forget them at home…. So, yes it while a quick link will definitely speed up the chain repair, it is not essential; the multi tool with the chain breaker is!

A basic understanding on gear adjustment will go a long way. Countless times, I’ve adjusted cable tension on the fly to keep the shifting of the gears as smooth as possible. Knowing what the “limit” screws on the derail­leurs do, will also enable you help yourself on the side of the trail.

Christian Tanguy

Bike Fit? Most Definitely

Paying for a bike fit is possibly the best investment you can do. Some of us spend several thousands of dollars on lighter equipment but then shy away from a bike fit. Big mistake.

What good is a $10,000 bike if you feel terrible on it? Many years ago when I was in college, I spent all my savings to purchase the best bike I possibly could afford. After a 4 hour race, I could barely get off my bike. My back was completely locked up and it took me 10 minutes to get back to my car only 100 yards away from the finish line. After much trial-and-error adjusting my position and different saddle heights, I finally got rid of this persistent back pain. A properly executed bike fit, will enable you to ride from day one pain free. The bike fit performed by Specialized trained personnel, will start with a health/flexibility assessment. This assessment will used to tailor the position of the rider on the bike. If you are like me, not so flexible, a more upright position will certainly help. It might not look like much but 10mm on a stem or some shims in your shoes could improve greatly your comfort, enhance your riding experience, make you train harder and improve your results at the race. Obviously, the most significant gain is fun!

Bicycle Choice

People have many ideas about what the perfect bike should be. It might be an old school steel frame with a rigid fork or a single pivot full suspension. Others will go all out on weight saving and ride exotic components. For some, brand A is the pinnacle of the technology, while others argue that brand B deserves that title…

I have ridden many bikes over many years and I came to the conclusion that everybody is right! The most important thing is to believe that the bike you ride is best one suited for you. So if you think that red framed bikes are faster than green ones, then buy a red one. You will ride your bike more often if it appeals to you.

For 100 mile racing, I will strongly suggest that you consider a full suspension bike. Most of those events will take anywhere between 7 and 12 hours to complete. Comfort on the bike will greatly affect your performance for the last 2 to 3 hours. Full suspension bikes absorb more roughness in the terrain so your body doesn’t have to.

Over 100 miles there is a quite a variety in terrain. It’s sometimes smooth and other times really rocky and technical. Your equipment needs to hold up in all conditions. I found that carbon wheels are perfect, even though they are expensive. They are not only light, but are also very stiff. One year I rode extremely light alloy wheels and after each 100 mile race they needed to be trued. The following season, I rode carbon wheels and after the entire series the wheels were still in perfect condition.

Don’t be obsessed by the weight of your bike. I used to select each component by comparing its mass. I did not have any mechanical failures but after talking to a World Champion, he convinced me that weight was not the most important factor in delivering a good performance. That especially applies for tires.

My bike of choice: the S-Works Epic 29 from Specialized. I mean it was good enough for the Olympic Gold medalist… so no need to wonder if it is an efficient bike. The brains in the fork and rear shock are locking up the suspensions for you when riding on smooth terrain. On rough ground, the brains open the shocks are the bike feels incredibly smooth.

Having Fun / Staying Motivated

Training makes the master; there are no exceptions. Training at proper intensity levels is painful and boring and it gets old very quickly.

Comparison with the baseline established from the recorded data will greatly help with the motivation. In one hand, should one log some subpar performances, she/he will be eager to train to reach back to match the performance baseline. In the other hand, exceeding ones own performance levels contributes greatly to the motivation as well:

I’ve already improved. How much can I still improve?

Quite obviously, after a several years of serious training, improvements are small. Just keeping the performance baseline is quite an achievement. Personally, I try to remember how I trained for previous races and what the results for that particular race were.

Although I’ve never coached anybody, nor have I been coached by someone on a regular basis, a coach might help significantly with motivation. Usually coaching services represent a significant amount of money. Because a person spending money wants returns on his/her investment, he/she has more incentive to complete the training than a person that did not subscribe to the coaching service.

Imagination is the best help you can get. Try to imagine that you are competing against your archrival and unless you complete the workout, she/he will win the race…

In the end, what helps me with the motivation is:

Training makes the difference; train hard and smart and the results will be there.

Stay motivated… the racing will be here soon.

Keeping Track

Keeping track of a few parameters is essential to achieve meaningful training. Recorded data will help establish a baseline and then trends can be distinguished from there. This will help to find out what works for you and what does not.

I personally monitor only 3 factors which are intimately related to the performance on the bicycle:

  • Workout duration
  • Workout intensity and type
  • Weight

Of course, more data oriented persons might monitor many more parameters, like calorie intake, sleep duration, sleep quality and what not… Just a word of caution to this category of persons, monitoring too many factors might diminish the focus on the primary factors.

Intensity. The workout intensity can be measured using both “perceived” effort or with data using a power meter. None of my bikes are equipped with a power meter so a three level scale of perceived effort (light, medium and hard) does the trick for me.

Type. I categorize my workouts into 3 categories: race, interval and steady ride. Again, there is nothing wrong with refining the categories but then it might become harder to classify: i.e. was it a steady ride with intervals or an interval ride mixed with a steady ride?

Weight. Obviously, the more mass, the more energy (effort) will be necessary to go over a hill or accelerate out of a corner; so the weight of the rider is an important factor to monitor. In case you are not currently monitoring your weight, don’t be surprised to notice variations of several pounds from one day to the next. Consequently, weight value should only be used as an average (for example: the average value for the month). To reduce the variability of the measure, try to weight yourself at the same time every day (as you wake up for example).

James Wilson Interviews Returning Team CF Elite Rider Christian Tanguy

Team CF president and founder Dr. James M. Wilson recently had a chance to catch up with returning Team CF elite team member Christian Tanguy…

JW: First of all Christian, I personally enjoyed learning about your epic battles last year with Jeremiah Bishop of the Cannondale Factory Racing Team in the National Ultra Endurance Series open men’s category. You brought it down to the final race at Fools Gold and finished third in that race and second in the 2012 series. Congratulations on a great season! You also won the NUE title the year before in 2011 beating Trek rider Jeff Schalk at the final race of the series; the Shenandoah Mountain 100. How is it you’re in these ridiculously close battles for the series in the final race year-after-year? Is the competition that tight? or do you just enjoy the drama? 😉

CT: The 2011 season was a very close one. During my winter training, I thought it was going to be my last full year riding bike in the US before taking an assignment oversea. I was super motivated during the winter and I managed to score few wins early in the season. Eventually I ran out of steam while Jeff was ramping it up. He had a terrific second half of the season. That is why it came down to the last race. Fortunately for me, I was able to pick up the pieces late in the season and win the Shenandoah 100 and the title.

My 2012 winter training was less intense than the one in 2011. However, once I became certain that I was staying in the US, I doubled my training effort but it was not sufficient to win the NUE opener. However, I targeted the Transylvania Epic (TSE) and I had the best training block ever. Unfortunately, an accident during the second NUE race sidelined me. Somehow, I still managed to win Mohican 100 but I was in a downward spiral and therefore I did not had the chance to race for the win. It was extremely hard to invert the trend. Meanwhile my competitors for the overall title were scoring big wins… When I became competitive again, I had bad luck; some mechanical problems and some training mistakes on my side.

JW: How did you get into cycling and when did you start racing bikes?

CT: Once I learned riding bike during my childhood and kept riding it until now. Racing is a relatively new thing for me; ten years ago I would race maybe one or two local races per year and about 20 years ago I did not race at all.

JW: What are your goals for 2013? Are you going to do anything different?

CT: Beside not crash and have fun, I will focus all my efforts again on the National Ultra Endurance Series (N.U.E.) aka. 100 miles races.

JW: You’re an incredibly fast elite rider competing with the best riders in the country. Rumor has it you don’t really ride as much as other elite level riders and that you mostly train indoors. Can you give us a flavor for what your training regime is like?

CT: During the summer, a good training week for me is 10 hours or more on the bicycle.

Training indoors? Well, if I could avoid it, I would… but with age, I tolerate less and less the cold weather conditions… especially when I have a trainer in the basement. In my early 20s I would climb mountain passes (on a road bike) in the middle of the winter with black ice on the road… total madness!

My winter training consist of three 1-hour sessions during the working week and a longer ride on both days during the weekend.

JW: Specialized Bicycles has again stepped up to sponsor TeamCF in 2013. What will be your “go to” race bike this year and why?

CT: The S-Works Epic 29er is fantastic: as rigid as a hardtail on smooth ground and compliant on the rough stuff. I raced a hardtail to victory at 2 occasions but it was because the Epic was not yet available. When one spend more that 7 hours on the bike, comfort is paramount. My full suspension Epic allows me to reach the final miles in frescher conditions; this is where most time can be made (or lost). Compared to an equivalent hardtail, the Epic might feel deceptively slow; it is just because it is so good on the rough trails. I conducted my own hardtail vs full suspension comparison: Fully rules! (especially when equipped with the Brain technology)

JW: Any parting words?

CT: Stay safe out there! and have fun.

JW: Thank you Christian and best of luck at the races in 2013!

Iceman 2012; 24th place, room to improve.

Each year, after the last N.U.E. race (aka 100 mile racing series), I make a good resolution that I will train specifically for Iceman. However, I allow myself a break of about a week and here lies my demise. After this period of simply riding for fun, all my motivation to get prepared vanished. The days were going by and when finally I snapped out of it and was ready to train I got a bad cold. That completely derailed my late training effort. At some point, my wife asked me if doing no exercises was my new super secret training strategy…

After a very nice call up to the line, I thought I could manage a better start than my previous attempts. I soon realized that even for me it was a sub-par performance as I entered the double track around the 35th place. In fact, in a desperate attempt to get in some training, I worked out harder until the day before the race. I over estimated my recovery capabilities resulting in an immediate soreness in my legs.

I had no other choice than settling down into a large group of approximately 20 riders. As usual, there was the typical traffic jam when such a large group enters the single track… we were losing quite a bit of time to the lead group. However, the speed of this group as slow as it was at times was still barely manageable for me.

At some point, I thought that if I could cross the finish in the top 5 of that group, I will be satisfied. At each flat and open section, I braced myself for the hard effort. 3 or 4 times our group of 20 split and each time I found myself in the last position. Fortunately, each time the group reformed and we arrived to a more hilly terrain. Despite the lack of training, there was still some strength in my climbing legs. The next time the group split, I was in the 1st group.

With 3k to go, it was down to only three of us and with 2k I made a final move and distanced myself. The cheering fans was the only thing that kept me going. It was great to get so much cheering even 7 minutes after the winner arrived.

I am satisfied to arrive in first place of our original group of 20. Of course, I know that with proper preparation I can easily improve on my 24th place. Count me in for next year.

My ride can be found on strava.com

2012 Fool’s Gold 100

With the championship in the line, I needed nothing else than a victory at the final round of the NUE Series in order to claim the overall title. To cut to the chase, I ended up on the 3rd highest step for the day and I was very satisfied with it. Jeremiah crushed the competition and his hard effort earned him a well deserved NUE title.

I feared the rain but it was the fog that was a problem in the morning. We started with a good tempo on the first and longest climb of the day. It was the kind of pace that is just right to get the legs really warm without risking to blow them up right away. For Ben Melt Swanepoel however, it was not fast enough and he was solo at the front. At the top, our group was fairly large. Then, we went down the foggy and super steep dirt road. I did not have any death wishes so I rode fast but still feeling in full control. I reached 50 MPH but still I left a gap to the rest of the group; gap that I closed on the single and double track trails at the bottom of the mountain.

Jeremiah Bishop and Sam Koerber were making the pace and I was satisfied to follow. By aid #2, the group exploded. Sam and I were riding together a little further back was Jeremiah. Obviously, Sam was feeling strong and it was evident that we were closing up to Ben. It took several miles of the mountainous terrain before Jeremiah joined us. By aid #3, all four of us were together: Ben, Jeremiah, Sam and I.

The trails have improved so much over the last 3 years; it was great fun to ride them at record speed. At that time I was no longer racing against 3 persons. I was riding my bike with 3 friends sharing a great time.

By the start of the second lap, the fatigue had settled in but there was something else. I was running on empty. By mile 60, I was no longer riding I was crawling. I was alone in the woods and the trails which were so fun when my legs were spinning with ease were now a long barrier separating me from the finish line. A long stop, by aid #5 gave me the opportunity to load up with Hammer gel and gummy bears.

My slow moving speeds gave me plenty of time to try to guess who will be the first racer to bridge back to me. By aid #6, I did not have to guess anymore. Evan Plews arrived at the aid as I was leaving it. Evan was riding the trails at an incredible speed. I could not have ride at that speed on my own; strange on how to have a “rabbit” in front of you makes you faster.

In my mind, I was satisfied with a 5th place finish. Despite my legs feeling awful, I could climb faster than Evan. It was a long shot but I thought I could use one of the last climbs to attack. 10 miles to the finish, the volunteers told us that 3rd place racer was just 30s, Evan resumed with his fast riding on the single track.

With 3 miles to go, the 3rd place racer (Sam) was just in front of us and the timing could not have been any better for me. We were climbing a paved road such that drafting was irrelevant and there was plenty of room to pass.

My goal was to use the last climb to give yet another big push but this time for 3rd place instead of the 4th one. I was counting on my memory of last year to plan my attack; however the final 100 yards had changed. With the confusion I started to ride in the wrong direction when Sam was full speed towards the finish banner. I turned around and thru all I had left up the recently cut soggy field for the last 30 yards. It was super close but I manage to cross the line ahead of Sam.

That was an exciting end to close the NUE Series. I finished 2nd overall and I cannot thank enough Team CF and my family for the support. Autumn is just around the corner and I hope to see you on the trails…

My Fool’s Gold ride is on strava.com

Shenandoah 100

My wish for the Shenandoah 100 was to have no mechanicals and that the course stays dry. The day before the race, the weather forecast showed the rain in the afternoon and just overcast sky for the morning. Unfortunately for me, I experienced both a flat going down Wolf Ridge and then 2 rain showers.

The race started with an incredible fast pace; the fastest I ever experienced for this race. We were climbing at record speed and we were only 5 racers reaching the top together. I was glad I was among that group.

Before we reached the second major ascent of the day, few racers joined us at the front. However, the group was shattered when Jeremiah took the lead and put pressure on the rest of us. Only Sam Koerber was directly following Jeremiah’s wheel. I was in 4th place about 20s back. I was not especially worried. Once the main climb is over, there are still a few little up-hill sections where I could push a little harder and join back. Most of the gap was closed before reaching the main descent; my full suspension Epic 29er helped me close the final bike length separating me to Sam’s bike.

Everything was going well until a sharp stone punctured my rear tire. The repair took me about 6 to 7 minutes period during which many racers passed me. I had reliable tires but sometimes it is just a matter of luck (or lack of).

I teamed up with some other racers until the beginning of the third main climb to Dowell’s Draft. I had a good pace. Being on my own, I controlled my effort and avoided any surges. Unfortunately it began to rain quite heavily at times. It was all that I wished to avoid: a mechanical problem and the rain. The trails transformed into little creeks; my vision thru my prescription glasses was just a blurry mess.

Near the top I passed Michael Simonson; it kept me motivated to keep up with my good tempo. Going down wet and slippery rocks on a steep trail is an exercise I don’t enjoy and I used extreme caution. The fourth main climb was totally uneventful. I was just getting tired.

I could not wait to put behind the relatively flat roads after aid #4. I was certain to lose quite a bit of time there. Finally the grade of the climb increased, so was the pain in the legs but I was certain I was making up time: I reached up to Brandon Draugelis and then Sam Koerber. By aid #5 under another round of rain, the volunteers gave me splits: two minutes to Evan Plews and four minutes to Jeremiah.

I went into chasing mode but my reduced vision thru my muddy glasses was impeding my speed. Even with a carefully negotiated downhill to aid #6 I was glad to hear that Evan closed the gap to Jeremiah and they were just two minutes in front of me.

The last climb was just painful; each pedal stroke was a difficult task but I passed Evan. I was almost arrived so I kept the effort to my max capacity. Finally, by the finish line I was 2nd, not too far back from Jeremiah.

Like last year, the championship will hinge on one single race: Fool’s Gold. I hope my legs will feel just as good as for this edition of the Shenandoah 100.