Canadian racer Craig Richey is back in North America after his first season racing ‘cross in Belgium. He checks in with an update on off-season successes and plans for a big adventure this August.
by Craig Richey
Since I only made the decision to focus on cyclocross at the end of last summer, this is my first time experiencing a summer “off-season.” This is definitely something I could get used to.
After returning from Belgium in early February, I spent the next three weeks riding the couch while most cyclists on a traditional cycling calendar were out logging soggy miles in one of the coldest and wettest West Coast springs in recently history. Come March, I escaped the grey skies and wet roads of Victoria for the sunny ski trails of Smithers in Northern British Columbia.
As April approached, it was time to get back on the bike and begin building for next ’cross season. My coach and I decided to go with a less conventional training model focusing on building base miles throughout the summer without any structured intervals. This model would leave me mentally fresh for ’cross season and with the huge amount of mountain and road races available over the summer, I could use races for my intensity workouts. This would often mean racing at the end of a 20+hour training week, but with little emotionally invested in the outcome, I was able to embrace the training benefit of the races and ride aggressively without fear of getting a poor result.
This off-season “racing for training” model generated some surprisingly good fitness and results. Maybe it is the ability to relax and race without stress, or it could be that three months of getting my face stomped by the top European ’cross racers has changed me as a rider. In previous summers, I had spent a lot of traveling with a full calendar of Canada Cup, US Cup and World Cup mountain bike races. This summer, I was able to race a bunch of West Coast road races including the Bastion Square GP Criterium in downtown Victoria. With a huge number of cyclists in town for the Victoria Cycling Festival and Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria, this would be a hotly contested crit with big money on the line. I haven’t done much crit racing in the past, but I think it is good training for ’cross and going into the summer I wanted to race at least a few crits.
Despite being at the end of a heavy three week training block, I managed to finish forth at the Dallas Road Time Trial, only 12 seconds behind Ryder Hesjedal. I entered Bastion Square the next morning feeling pretty optimistic. I was without any teammates and there were a number of major teams present, but there were also a couple single guys from UCI Continental road teams and I figured they would help create some confusion during the race.
The 70 lap race played out predictably and with 25 laps to go I was in a seven man break with most of the teams represented, along with Nic Hamilton of Jelly Belly. At six laps to go, I attacked just after a prime where the two strongest riders had just sprinted. Six minutes is like the final lap of a ’cross race and I thought, “I can go all out for one lap.” Just as I was caught a lap later at five to go, I re-attacked and this time, I was clear. I crossed the line with a seven second lead wearing my CyclocrossRacing.com p/b Blue skinsuit, taking my biggest road win ever. Off-season racing is pretty fun.
At road provincials a couple weeks later, I was marked pretty closely and it was obvious that the same type of performance would be tough to replicate. I still managed to get in some hard training miles, which is what my summer is all about. Next up is Canadian Mountain Bike Nationals and then later this month I head off to Mongolia for the Mongolia Bike Challenge. NOPSystems/BC Bike Race is sending me and my buddy Tom Skinner to represent for North America and fight it out on what is arguably the toughest mountain bike stage race on earth. 1200km over nine days all at elevation with 14,000 meters of climbing is going to give me plenty of opportunity to put some big deposits in the pain bank. Add a little interest on those deposits and I will be ready to rip it up come September.
[Editor's Note: Currently, Craig is racing in the Mongolia Bike Challenge, a nine-stage mountain bike race. He is sitting in third place as of stage five. Stay tuned to find out how he finishes and his thoughts on the race.]