There was a familiar face toeing the line of a recent, local Oregon road race – Carl Decker (Giant) had made the trip to mix it up in Eugene-Roubaix. I took advantage of the opportunity to catch up with Decker and find out how his mountain bike season has been progressing and what his upcoming cyclocross plans might look like. We also discussed his impressive run of Super D wins (including recently putting some Euro World Cuppers in their place!) and his goal to get back to more road racing. Combine his MTB skills with road-worthy engine – he won Elite Nationals a few years back – and it’s no secret why he can hold his own against the best ‘crossers in the country. What may be more surprising is that he and his teammate Adam Craig are also making a serious run to the top of the leader board in the national Rally Car racing series in their “spare time.”
CXM: You mentioned you’re looking to do some more road events this year. What races do you have coming up? Why are you racing more road, think it’ll help your fitness or are you just digging it?
Carl Decker: This weekend I’ll be trying to win the Chainbreaker MTB race again for my mum on Mother’s day, and doing some local road race with an unfortunate name on Saturday. I’m racing the ten-speed a bit this summer because there are some pretty big gaps to fill in a very long MTB season. I really like racing the roads, and it happens to make me a faster mountain biker.
[Editor's note: Some "local talent" (i.e. Ryan Trebon and Chris Sheppard) foiled Decker's plan for a win, but he was able to deliver his mom a bronze from Chainbreaker. The "unfortunately named" road race was Bend Don't Brake, where Decker finished 14th as a warm up for Sunday. Sheppard and Trebon also took advantage of the double-race weekend, and finished 10th and 19th, respectively.]
CXM: You’ve obviously done quite a bit of road racing in the past. You won nationals in Utah a few years back (2005), right? Were you racing with Hagens Berman for that whole season, or did you just hook up with them for a few races?
Decker: I was with Hagens (formerly Broadmark Capital) for three or four years, actually. They were a great group of younger guys that were fun to race and hang out with, and they were a Giant sponsored program, at least at first, which is how we ended up together. We were all very surprised and excited when I won the National Championship race. It was the second-longest ride I had ever done.
CXM: What’s happening this year on the MTB front? You’ve hit Sea Otter, what else? Any big goals for the season?
Decker: The PRO XCT (Cross-Country Tour) started in Fontana, California, in March, and I was racing at Keyesville before that to get the ball rolling. As for goals, I’d like to make the US Worlds team, since the World Championships are in Quebec. I’d also like to win every Super D I enter.
CXM: Looks like you got quite the result at the Sea Otter Super D. Tell me about that!
Decker: It wasn’t until after I won that race that I heard that (Manuel) Fumic and (Marco) Fontana (both Cannondale Factory Team) were in the race. And then those guys were sixth and eighth at the World Cup the next weekend! It’s nice to have some ringers in the mix to legitimize the Super D races a bit. Now that Adam Craig is recovering from knee surgery, all kinds of talent is showing up to keep me honest. I had to beat Wells, Plaxton and Prado to win at Fontana too. Pretty damn stoked that my PRO XCT Super D winning streak is still alive actually … seven in a row so far. Haven’t lost one since mid ’08.
CXM: Are you targeting the cross-country in the next Olympics?
Decker: I like to consider myself the fastest guy in the US with no Olympic aspirations. I love Olympic years – I usually have great results because the top five guys are all worked-over from the points chase.
CXM: What will your 2010 ‘cross season look like?
Decker: Nationals are two kilometers from my house, so I’ll race some ‘cross. It’s eally hard to know how broken I’ll be at that time of year though, so I never commit to anything until the MTB season is wrapping up.
CXM: Does having Worlds in Louisville make you interested in focusing more on cyclocross? What kind of impact do you think that will have on US ‘cross?
Decker: I’m from Oregon, where cyclocross is the fastest growing, and best attended cycling season. It’s been a while since I’ve had to explain what ‘cross is to someone around here. I have my doubts though, whether ‘cross will ever be as mainstream as MTB or road racing in the US. It’s just too hard and cold and dirty and lovely for most people to understand.
CXM: Tell me about the Rally Car circuit and the Subie you’re racing. You mentioned you’re ranked eighth in the national series, what are your highlight results?
Decker: AC [Adam Craig], the “Wheels of Teal” and I have been racing the Pro Rally National Championships this year, and it’s going really well. With seventh place results in Michigan and Missouri, and a forgotten helmet and DNS in Washington, we’re ranked eighth overall in the US. The Oregon Trail race is next week, and I think we can be top five. Either way, I think we have a decent shot at the X-games this year.
CXM: How the heck do you have time to pursue Rally racing and bike racing both seriously? When do you have time to train for each one!?
Decker: It’s hard. I do all the work to the car myself, and it’s labor intensive. In the last three days, I’ve spent 24+ hours in my garage, busting my knuckles to uncover that last two seconds per mile that I think the Wheels of Teal can give. Fortunately, I am of the “quality, not quantity” training school of thought. So, though I am spending a lot of time and energy on the car, I am still doing everything I can to win races on the bike. My social calendar is looking pretty grim until after this Oregon Trail Rally though.
CXM: Thanks Carl, we’ll be watching the MTB and rally circuits and keeping tabs on you.
For those in the Northwest, watch Carl Decker and Adam Craig represent the cycling world in the Oregon Trail Rally car race. The event starts this coming Friday, May 14th, at Portland International Raceway – the same venue that hosted the Portland USGP the past several years. Saturday’s races will be in Hood River, Oregon, before the event wraps up on Sunday in Wasco County.