While his fellow Junior Worlds team teammates were crushing the crits in Wisconsin, Wisconsinite Caleb Swartz was unable to be part of the Dairyland welcoming committee because he was busy racing bikes out West. Swartz was in Angel Fire, New Mexico over the weekend for the Chile Challenge UCI Junior Series mountain bike race. The event featured a cross country race on Saturday and a short track race, kind of like cyclocross on a mountain bike, on Sunday.
Swartz won Saturday’s cross country race in impressive fashion, finishing in a little over 1:08 and beating the 2nd-place finisher by over 30 seconds. On Sunday he barely missed out on the double, finishing 2nd in the short track race by just 3 seconds. Swartz’s success against his mountain bike peers was no fluke; he was also leading the Wisconsin Off-Road Series mountain bike series before missing Sunday’s race while in New Mexico.
Swartz finished 4th at Junior Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford and will be making the jump to race U23 cyclocross this season. As he has since he was a lil’ ripper, Caleb has chosen to go with mountain biking as his cyclocross offseason discipline.
I got the opportunity to ask Caleb a few questions about the UCI race at Angel Fire and how his mountain biking season has been going thus far.
Cyclocross Magazine Interview with Caleb Swartz about the Angel Fire UCI Mountain Bike Race
CXM: How did the race play out? Was it what you were expecting when you headed down there?
Caleb Swartz: I started second row and was second into the single track which was the start of the climb. The course basically went straight up and then straight down. Everyone was in one big group, so I attacked to break things up and got a gap into the downhill. Another rider caught me on the downhill and another on the climb on the second lap to create a group of three.
On the third lap it was down to two again and at the top of the climb on the third lap I counter-attacked and opened up a 20-second gap on the descent. I put in my fastest lap on the fourth and final time around and finished with a 40-second gap to win. I was expecting to suffer a lot more from the elevation, but after my time in Boulder, it wasn’t too bad.
My goal was to win the cross country race, but I wasn’t per se expecting to win.
CXM: Your race took a little over an hour. What do you like about mountain biking for CX season prep?
CS: For this race, it was pretty similar in length to a pro men’s ’cross race, but the effort was a pretty different. It was basically a nine-minute threshold effort and then seven minutes of recovery back to the bottom.
Mountain bike racing in Wisconsin is pretty good for ’cross prep because the high speeds and accelerations are similar to a ’cross effort and of course, it keeps my skills sharp for the approaching ’cross season.
CXM: Any secrets for adjusting to the altitude?
CS: Time is the best thing for adjusting. If you can’t get their early, get lots of sleep, eat leafy greens and make sure you don’t overdo it since you don’t recover as well at altitude. Also, not having the mindset that you are going to perform poorly simply because of the altitude can be important
CXM: Did you miss racing back at ToAD with Denzel, Lane, and Ross? You do any road racing?
CS: I don’t do much road, but I usually jump into a few crits and road races each year. If I hadn’t been out west it would have been a ton of fun to mix it up with those guys at ToAD.
CXM: You’ve been riding with Brian Matter a bunch this year. Any good tips he’s given you?
CS: Yeah he’s been helping me out a lot this year and has taught me quite a few things. One really important thing he’s helped teach me is how to keep training fun and never lose that hunger to get on the bike every day. It’s really important to find that balance of work and fun. For me, spending my easy recovery days with Brian hitting jumps and learning new tricks is the perfect antidote to after a few days of hammering out intervals.
CXM: You’ve been throwing down with Cole House, Fat Bike national champion, and Isaac Neff, cyclocross national champion, in the WORS series this year, how has that helped your skills?
CS: Riding with those guys has helped me grow and mature a lot as a racer. They’re both very experienced and strong riders and racing with them has pushed me to up my game every race so that I can stay on their wheels and give them a run for their money.
CXM: What’s up next for you? Mountain Bike Nats?
CS: Next up for me is the WORS Cup in southern Wisconsin and then Mountain Bike Nats in West Virginia where I’m hoping for a big result.
CXM: Thanks for your time. Anyone you’d like to thank?
CS: Yes definitely. I’d like to thank my team, Linear Sport RT and our sponsors: Trek Bikes, Bontrager, Wheel & Sprocket, Styled Aesthetic, Kettle Moraine Preservation and Restoration, and David Hobbs Honda, as well as Honey Stinger, Mike’s Mix, Englewood Grass Farm, Wolf Tooth Components and ESI Grips for their awesome support.
Look for Caleb flying your way on his mountain bike the rest of the summer and on the ’cross course this fall.