The secret to winning EVERY mountain bike race:

RECOVERY.

It’s not really a secret, but it’s probably the one thing that people spend the least amount of time on.  I don’t mean “sleepy-time, take a week off the bike and eat doughnuts” recovery, I mean the “30 seconds between sprints, my heart rate maxed out 20 beats ago” recovery.

I’ve put in a lot of rides this year, and I’ve really focused on sharpening my climbing skills from last Fall through now.  It has paid off big time, but the difference between my spot on the podium and the riders one or two steps higher has been their ability to recover.  It makes no difference who makes it up the hill faster if you can’t drop the hammer once you go over the top.

This flaw of mine was pretty obvious to me during the last WORS race, but subconsciously I chalked it up to the heat.  This morning was a “Puker” morning – just over a half mile loop of hill repeats.  I showed up expecting an hour of moderate intensity climbing, and Ben Barbera showed up with his game face on and illustrated just how important recovery is.

Ben is a strong climber – he holds the lap record for the “Puker “Le Mans” at 36 in one hour – but once he got warmed up I was hanging with him.  The difference in my laps vs. Ben’s though was his recovery.  Apparently he doesn’t need any.  We’d jam up the 3 block long hill together and take a hard right at the top only to have Ben downshift and pick up speed on the down hill.  Doesn’t he know that the downhill is for recovery??  What the Hell??  I didn’t sign up for this kind of torture at 6am today!

After (?) laps, I pulled back and went back to my “normal” pace.  It was a big kick in the head.  Sure, I could have hung in there for a few more laps.  I could have faked a smile when I passed the slower riders, and then gone back to sucking wind like I just finished a pack of Marlboros as soon as they couldn’t see my face.  I could easily think of a million excuses why I didn’t hang with him all morning, but the truth is – I’m not as a strong a rider as Ben.  We all did our laps and when we left, Ben was still at it.

I guess know what I’ll be doing this off-season, and I am NOT looking forward to it…

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