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Going the distance: The Nat Ross diary 2006
As a six-year professional mountain biker who's competed in twenty-eight solo 24-hour races, you'd think that ultra-endurance racing has consumed every waking hour of 35 year-old Nat Ross' adult life. But this lean, long-haired and laid-back Coloradoan has a more complete resume than even the most upwardly-mobile corporate go-getter - although that won't stop him going the distance when it matters.
October 4, 2006
One step closer
By October, almost all the elite cyclists in the world have wrapped up their seasons and shifted into donut-eating vacation mode. Unless you're a cyclo-cross racer or 24 hour mountain biker that is!
Typically, I dial in my race calendar in January and February and then check off the races as they come and go. Over the years, I have stuck to the calendar as planned and have not added any extra races. This year was different as I added the 24 Hours of Landahl to my calendar mid-August which brought me to four 24's in one summer. It is very difficult to balance racing and recovery from three of these, yet alone four. However, my legs benefited greatly from all the miles in Race Across America (RAAM) in June.
There are two big 24 hour races in the fall with hefty purses; one in Georgia and the other in Moab, Utah. Only one of those is left on my schedule; my sixth consecutive solo race at the 12th Annual 24 Hours of Moab.
But back to Landal - The race went something like this ..
The run was short and fast and I kinda flailed putting on my CamelBak in the transition while mounting my Gary Fisher Super Caliber 29. I picked my way though the group to the front and was quickly joined by my teammate Cameron Chambers who was racing on a four-man team. Cameron charged the lines since this course was in his backyard, and I sat on his wheel and we finished the first lap first and second overall. I had a killer support group consisting of my girlfriend Janis, a mechanic Colin, and my friend Brian. Everything went like clockwork for the first fourteen hours. In fact, I was duking it out with a four-person team for the first placed team overall.
My laps were really consistent and I quite enjoyed the technically demanding course. There were large granite rocks that could easily cause a pinch flat, so "threading the line" was key. I chose to run tubes and did not have any issues until the killer storm moved in at 2am. The race director (Laird Knight) was forced closed the course from 2am until 6am. I quite enjoyed the down time, I ate some solid foods and put my feet up for several hours but after a four-hour break it was go time.
This is when I began to struggle from my choice of equipment. Cameron had told me not to run my 1.8 tyres, so I raced with the 2.2's. With the course completely saturated with water, the mud was an issue for the rest of the race. My last lap in the dark took me a little over two hours. (Remember, I was running all of the earlier laps in just over an hour). About a mile into the 9.5 mile course, I decided to let some air out of the front and rear tyres. The course was so greasy that I was having a difficult time keeping upright. It was if there was a greasy layer of peanut butter spread over the entire course. I really do quite enjoy racing in the mud, but when it is so thick that the wheels have a hard time turning--that's different story.
Luckily, Cameron loaned me his 1.8 Bontrager Jones XR tyres and wheelset. For the rest of the race my wheels did not clog up or impede my riding. The trails stayed wet and slick, but that's what mountain biking is all about! The sun came out and I had a solid one-lap lead over Ernesto Marchenin and two laps over Steve in third. Things were good and remained that way. The finish was in sight and my spirits were high. Then, noon rolled around and I was finished!
Landahl was my second win in the series with only one race remaining-Moab. Now, it's time to rest and recover and squeeze in some cyclocross racing. It's off to Interbike, Star Crossed, and the first two Grand Prix's. Yee Haw!!! I will be completely rested and ready to throw down at the 24 Hours of Moab in the middle of October.
See you in the red sand next,
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Xavier Fane/www.xavierfanephoto.com