Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We are Specialized!

The Whole Athlete Development Team/Specialized partnership was inaugurated with a tour of Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill, CA. We were led by global marketing guru and tour leader Nic "Part-time comedian" Sims, treated to an impressive, if not entertaining experience at the epicenter of "S".

Immediately upon entering the building we find a museum of bike, featuring original works including "Deadly" Ned Overend's World Championship machine from 1990 - the first-ever mountain bike cross country world champ - to Christoph Sauser's 19.4 lb. dual-suspension (yes, I said sub-20 lb. dual-suspension) 2009 Epic.

Then it was into the classroom at Specialized University, where Sam "Ask me any question" Benedict took over. You might think sitting in a classroom would be the last thing a high school student would want to do during winter break, but if Sam were a high school teacher, kids would look forward to class. After learning nearly 20 names in only a few minutes, Sam took us through the ins and outs of the bikes we'll be riding this season, showed some of the cool and impressive innovations they've employed, and of course, answered any and all questions with comedic style.

Next stop was the helmet testing and design area, where helmets were put through various states of torture to ensure our brains are well-protected - then made into cool and effectively cooling and surprisingly light shapes.

Of course, what's the point of working with bikes if you don't ride them? On to the self-proclaimed "world championship" noon ride we went, a brief yet brisk road ride with Specialized employees/cyclists under the winter sun. We were then treated to a burrito feast (thanks, Geoff!) and with our legs stretched and bellies full we continued the tour...

We checked out bike design (sorry, no rogue photos of future products...), the creative center of innovations and the testing facility, where products (frames, cranks, wheels, etc.) were hooked up to state-of-the-art computer-aided hydraulic machines and put through extremely rigorous and thorough stress-testing prior to even consideration of production. These guys instill real confidence in using Specialized products.

All in all, we were treated like we belonged - a welcome part of the company - a company that pushes the limits of performance in their products, driven by the highest standards, striving to exceed weight and stiffness limitations, optimizing the interface between rider and bike with a coolness factor defined by creativity, speed and fun. We are Specialized!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Team training and artistic expression

--Team Ride at the top of "Marshall Wall"--

One look at the Whole Athlete Team juniors and you see dedicated athletes with integrity who know how to have fun. They simply love riding their bikes.

Yet they apply these qualities to other areas if their lives as well. Take Will Patterson and Max Houtzager, who are not only excellent riders continually improving, but artists as well. As a convenient prologue to our Saturday team ride, on Friday evening Max and Will held an art show at the Sam the Butcher Gallery in Ross, CA., displaying an array of photos from "Here and There."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Post-T-Day Team Ride

Only the brave (or those still in town this weekend) showed up for the Whole Athlete Team ride. We set out from Fairfax on the road bikes on our mini-adventure...The route:

Fairfax, Samuel P. Taylor dirt, Olema Hill, Bear Valley, Inverness, Mt. Vision, Limantour Rd, Bear Valley, Olema, Hwy 1, Bolinas, Stinson (ripping tailwind), Coast View, Pantoll, Panoramic, Mill Valley, Scott Valley trail, Fairfax, home (pumpkin pie!). Epic...

Thursday, November 26, 2009


The annual Turkey Day ride, or appetite seminar as it's affectionately known, was held under perfect conditions today - warm weather, hero dirt and hundreds of people enjoying it.

Thanks to the whole team for making riding so fun.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

High Flyin' Houtzager wraps up the season in style

Max Houtzager finishes his season in style with a solid ride at the Northstar Downhill final. This talented 16-year-old is equally comfortable in a full-face helmet soaring jumps on a downhill course as he is on a cross-country course with tough climbs.

Max's Race Report:

Class: Junior Expert 17 and under
Conditions: 32 degrees, overcast, snow showers
Course: 5 minutes of high speed berms and jumps with some really loose rutted parts, rocks, and snow!
Result: 2nd

I got my bike set up dialed during the week and dropped 4 pounds from ~43ish to 39 (the wonders of lighter tires and tubeless), and also did some DH riding and sprints for training. I drove up on Saturday morning, and did 15 runs on livewire only! I was feeling faster and faster on the course, but if I did any more runs I'd probably collapse. When I woke up there was an inch of snow outside and it was easily sub 30. Riding the gondola up in order to maintain any feeling in my hands (as opposed to the normal chairs), I felt like I was competing at a world cup because there was snow all around and they always have gondolas. I managed to get five practice runs in, which included some ice drifts. One of my goals was to not crash in practice by riding with Evan from downieville (like my last 2-3 dh races at N*), but on my fifth run my front wheel decided to leave me in a berm, throwing me on the ground. I instantly thought wow there goes my race just like the last times, but it wasn't that bad and after some advil I was feeling race ready.

It was snowing on and off waiting around at the top, so I had to do everything I could to keep warm in my skin suit. I pedaled hard in my race run (and enjoyed it cause it warmed me up) and my upper body got a little cold and was feeling pretty fatigued. I hit all the corners smooth, rode all my lines, and pumped as hard as I could on all the jumps (but nothing crazy fast). Pedaling was my strong suit, and that went well also, except in some spots it was unnecessary as I came up short on the jumps unlike in practice when I wasn't pedaling my eyeballs out (faster to ride smooth). Overall I had a pretty good clean run and got my first podium in Junior Expert Downhill! After the race there was a chainless division which I entered and it was awesome! I put down a respectable time but could see that my pedaling helped me out in the actual race (chainless was one giant category so my time didn't stack up against any of the pros). What a great way to end the season!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Will Curtis wins US Cup Final race - Will Patterson 3rd

In the final US Cup XC event (combining the US Cup West and East series) of the season, the two Wills (Curtis & Patterson) showed why Whole Athlete juniors have earned national respect on the mountain bike circuit this year, taking 1st and 3rd on a hot, dry day in San Dimas, CA.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Newcomb wins first race as newly crowned District Road Champ!

Only two weeks after claiming the Junior NorCal District Road Race title at Ft. Ord, Nick Newcomb took his first road race win with an impressive solo effort at Dunnigan.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Howell Mountain Challenge XC

Cat 1 17/18
Will Curtis 1st
Davis Bentley 2nd
Joe Yoham 4th

Cat 1 35+
Dario Fredrick 1st

Women 35 & under
Victoria Yoham 3rd


Will Curtis's Race Report:

Last year Howell Mountain was my worst race of the season, and probably my worst race of all time (with Downieville coming in a close second). I had cramped in every muscle possible, and ended up second to last, way behind the leaders.

This year my only goal was to set the record straight and have a solid race at Howell, regardless of my place (although I was craving another win).

The race started off to a fast pace, with Dario leading up the hill and myself on his wheel. Right before the singletrack, Matt Dion popped around Dario and charged down the trail. Dario bridged up to him and I followed. Up the run-up, Dario and I were alone at the head of the pack. However, soon enough, a group of 5 riders caught us and we rode as a group through the flat fireroad. The group began to kick up a lot of dust, so I eased up and fell off the pack so that I could see. I wanted to pace myself well, so I did not push it too hard when we hit the singletrack and the real beginning of the loop. As a result, Ben Sukys, Davis, and Matt caught back onto my wheel. I countered everyone's attacks, but would ease up as soon as I hit the front and bring back down the pace.

About two thirds through the first lap, Bentley decided to attack with
a huge acceleration. I knew that this pace was way too hard to hold
through a 30 mile race in the heat, so I let him go. I did, however,
put in a little gas and drop Matt and Ben. I kept Davis in sight, and
reeled him in half way through the second lap. We rode together until
the end of that lap, where I accelerated up the final climb and got a
gap. I held this gap through the flats in the beginning of lap 3 and
then increased it through the singletrack and steep, punchy climbs. At
one point my chain fell off and I could not get it back on for about
20 seconds and I thought Davis was going to catch me for sure. This
gave me a lot more motivation to go fast, because I thought he would
be right behind me. However, I finished the race in first and was
stoked to have a well-paced and strong race at Howell. Winning was
nice too.

Congrats to Bentley, who was very strong and came in a solid second

Victoria Yoham's Report:

Originally, I hadn't planned to do the Howell Mtn. Challenge, but decided on it last-minute and don't regret it! This laid-back approach to the race really set the mood for the day.

While well-organized, the event had a relaxed air about it; I roamed around a bit to check out the venue in the morning and spun around the track to get my legs loose before my race. I had never seen the course before, and had no idea what to expect, so I had a brief shadow of doubt as my wave rolled up to the start line.

As i surveyed the field, I was disheartened when I found that none of the riders in my category were under 18. Most appeared to be collegiate riders. Due to the limited number of women, the Cat 2 field was divided into 34&under and 35&up. It was then that I planned to just ride my race, and not worry too much about the results. This decision probably helped me out in the long run: I was not worried about who was in front of me and what position I wanted to get.

As the race started, the women went off quickly up the paved climb that led onto the singletrack, and I found myself mid-pack. Once the trail began climbing, I kept up the high level of intensity we had gone off with, and picked off many of the riders in front of me, one by one.

I was running fifth when I began climbing the twisty singletrack. I settled into my rhythm quickly, and quickly dropped the two riders who had entered the singletrack right behind me. I was then by myself, and tried to stay focused and motivated so i would not lose time to other riders by falling off my pace. A few miles in, I caught two other riders on a climb, and, feeling strong, decided to try to open up a gap where I could. I pushed the pace up the climbs, keeping up the effort over the crests. I secured a 20 second gap by the start of the downhill.

Having been fit a few days prior on my mountain bike, I felt confident about my ability to maintain or even lengthen my gap over the riders behind me on the descent. I handled the roots and ruts well, and felt very smooth on the technical sections. After the downhill, as I transitioned into the final climb of the first lap, I had lost sight of the other riders behind me.

My goal for the second, and final, lap, was to hold my position and hopefully podium. I did not know what place I was in, but figured myself to be in the top 5.

I cranked up the effort for the second lap, keeping my cadence regular and my riding smooth. On the short, steep climbs, many had begun to walk, but I kept my eyes on the line i wanted, and ground them out, passing multiple riders on each climb. I was one of the only riders I saw actually riding the climbs. Staying on the bike helped me gain a comfortable gap, and I rolled into the finish solo.

I ended up third in the Women's Cat 2 34&under, and was extremely proud of my result, but, more importantly, my effort. I worked hard, pushing my limits, which were redefined under the hot August sun. Can't wait for next year!

Dario's report:

Back in the day...the early-mid 90s, that is...we used to have a bevy of mountain bike races to choose from in Northern California. There were "classic" cross country courses like the Shasta Lemurian, which were long, epic and usually one or two big loops of 30+ miles. Then the MTB race scene faded a bit, and one had to travel long distances to find fun courses and events...

I am happy to report that today, it seems that MTB racing is making a comeback. There are races each month, and many fall under the super-fun category. The Howell Mountain Challenge in Angwin is one of them. This race is well-organized, a fun course with lots of twisty singletrack, and long enough distance to provide a challenge, especially in the August heat.

A good turnout, they started the pros & singlespeeds first, then two minutes later gave us Cat 1s the green light, a combined age field. Next to me was another stars and bars jersey, Clint Claassen, the 25-29 national champ, and a few other speedy young riders. We started up a steep paved hill, then onto a brief singletrack, a long run-up, then onto the 10mi loop that we were to do three times.

Three of us separated from the pack right away, Clint, myself and a third rider. Clint was content to set the pace at the beginning and I was content to follow, as my plan was to check out the course without going too deep on the first lap, go as fast as possible on the second lap, and try to maintain on the third. The other guy was having some difficulty on the singletrack, so I passed him and stuck to Clint's wheel. Shortly after, I heard a wipe-out behind me and Clint and I we alone off the front. A big, strong guy, Clint seemed pretty smooth on the trails, so I followed his lines. Only a few miles into the first lap, we hit the first of many short, steep climbs. This was where I wanted to see how strong Clint was, so I let him lead it and just watched him. About halfway up, he faded a bit, and I rode past him without going too hard. By the top, I had a small gap, so I figured I would ride the downhill singletrack as smoothly as I could, and see what would happen. My gap opened up, so I conserved on the flat sections, not worried if he were to catch back up, knowing I could go get away on the climbs and consolidate on the trails the following lap if necessary.

I kept my pace steady, rode the hills moderately hard, and focused on being as smooth as possible on the descents and twisty, loose singletrack. My gap was 20-30 sec by the end of the first lap, and I could see him a ways back. Keeping to my plan, I decided it was the time to try to open up the gap on lap 2.

I got into the flow, carrying maximal speed through the twisty, fun course. Soon after, I started catching and passing pro riders, one by one. By the end of the second lap, Clint was no longer in sight, so I just needed to keep a hard tempo for the final lap. The heat was starting to take its toll on everyone, but I was hydrating well, and it paid off.

I finished the last lap and dropped back down to the finish area, winning the Cat 1 overall, and placing third among the pros. A fun, challenging day on the bike.

Congrats to Will Curtis and Davis Bentley for their 1-2 finish in the Junior Cat 1, and to Victoria Yoham for a strong 3rd place in women's field overall!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Add a California State Road Race champ to the ranks!

Nick Newcomb claimed the NorCal/Nevada State Junior 17/18 Road Race title on Saturday at Ft Ord in Monterey. Riley Predum followed closely with a strong 2nd place.

In the Cat 3 race at Ft. Ord, John Bennett took the win, now only a few points from his Cat 2 upgrade.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tahoe Camp & Nationals wrap up

All I can say is, what a trip! We are all so thankful for the opportunity to have experienced our adventure, which started with 10 days of magnificent mountain biking in Tahoe, along with yoga by the lake daily, good food and good company, then racing the Downieville Classic and taking the top-two podiums spots in both junior XC categories and the Sport All-Mountain title. The altitude training was paying off...Then it was on to Colorado for the big show -- the Mountain Bike National Championships. We did everything right leading into the race, and embraced the challenge of racing with the best riders in the country. Coming away with multiple top-10 finishes and a national title were simply icing on the cake.

A huge thanks goes out to our supporters and sponsors of the camp. To the Velo Development Foundation and generous donors, we couldn't have done this without your support. To our fantastic nutritional sponsors, GU and Can Do Kid for providing the best sports nutrition available. GU gels, chomps, brew and Can Do Kid bars are outstanding cycling fuel! To Trek and to Specialized for stepping up in our time of need. To Northwave (thanks, John!) and to Sunshine Bikes. Last but not least, to Elemental Herbs for providing two essentials: sunscreen and herbal cool arnica spray for sore and tired muscles.

We look forward to another great experience and perhaps more top results next year!

A few videos from our trip

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Super - D & Short Track

Today was our final day at Nationals. Max Houtzegar and Will Patterson took 6th and 7th in the Super-D, while Nick Newcomb placed 13th in an extremely competitive Junior Cat 1 - 15-18 field. We packed up and hit the road immediately after and made the drive to Park City, UT for a good night's sleep. Tomorrow is the long haul across Hwy 80 all the way back to the Bay Area. See you soon!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

MTB XC Nats - Two days down, one to go...

After two days of racing, the Whole Athlete team has racked up some good results, despite some bad luck with flats and mechanicals. On Friday Will Curtis took a strong top-10 with 8th place in an extremely competitive Cat 1 17/18 field. Nick Newcomb was on a top-10 ride as well, but a final lap flat foiled his efforts. Alec Kassin followed with a 5th place podium finish in the Cat 2 15-18 race, despite tearing his rear deraileur off on the last lap. Today, Tony Smith took 6th in the Cat 1 15/16 field, while yours truly won the Cat 1 40-44 title (video of start). Tomorrow we have the Super-D and short track races, so I hope to share more good news then!