I won a race on the weekend. This has happened a handful of times in my career, and only once before on a day with any mud (Crank the Shield 2008!).
— Hannah Lankin (@handkl) May 15, 2016
Should you train like me? It depends what your goals are. I obviously believe that we should all be able to move really well in a variety of ways–Molly and I did start a podcast on that topic–but if you are trying to be world class, you will need to focus on that disciplines key skills and not on finding swamps to run through while holding your bike. If you want to do an MTB stage race, like La Ruta or Transylvania Epic, then I would suggest working on your running, hike-a-bike, remounts and gravel road riding in addition to ‘standard’ mountain bike skills. (If you like ‘hacks’ then check out 10 ways to go faster at Leadville without training more). Being able to run, move well in a variety of ways (gym work helps) and perform in a variety of conditions is generally a good idea (and as shameless plug, the point of the Consummate Athlete Podcast…)
One of the athletes I coach and my TrekCanada team-mate, Sarah Fabbro, won the Junior Expert Women’s category. As I passed her, it was evident (to my delirious and biased mind…) that she was moving efficiently. Smooth dismount and running with her hand on the top-tube, using the bike to help keep her up on off-camber and not stressing that her tires were rubbing and/or that her chain was falling off. We had a laugh as we ran through a section together mid-race, the fun/smile is key. Run the flats/uphills and Coast/Pump the downhills. Clean the drive-train while you’re moving when long sections of pedaling arrive.
Following the example of the young riders who brave colder temps and often worse weather early in the morning
I have a rule that I don’t quit, and that I start if I register. The rule has been broken perhaps twice, three times at most. This rule of ‘the only way out is the finish line’ eliminates hesitation about the sanity or rationality of what we are doing and on days I feel like crap, it eliminates the option to quit. While I did cringe as we looked at the course before the start; thinking about what the race would cost in bike repair. We had committed to the day and so motivation to do the best I can, to see how my training experiments are going, is high. Eliminate hesitation, the only way out is the finish line.
I have the fortune of many years of great support from the Trek Store of Toronto/Barrie/Aurora and Trek Canada. We are a small team largely supported by “mom and dad” so while the store makes sure we have great equipment to minimize the chances of things like broken chains, flats, chain suck, etc. it is important to not use that as an excuse. I prepped my own bike, changed to bigger tires the day before a race and did a test-ride to make sure the discs didn’t rub and tires seated. I’m not sure that any of my equipment was that much different or specialized for the conditions. As I go through the results, perhaps there is something in the frame:tire clearance in the Trek vs. other brands, but I am not sure as many riders had good days for them on other brands: Liam on a dually Scott in second for Pro-Men as an example, where he (in his own words) had many new experiences on Sunday and was motivated to have another podium in his first year elite. Liam also has a cross-country running background. Even tires are debatable as many people did well with smaller/dry weather tires (e.g. Bontrager XR1).
The tires I used were Bontrager XR2 2.2 width, but I suspect a 2.0 or even classic mud tire with 1.8 and big knobs may have been tire of the day if you could find one. In a perfect, free bike world, I think a hard-tail would have been faster strictly because of less surface area for mud to grab onto and less overall bike weight.