Blog Update: Tristan Cowie

Tristan Cowie, May 26, Dahlonega, GA - Well, I’m back in the states. Finally.

It took over 14 hours of total flying time or something crazy like that. I had everything planed out. Sunday night I stayed up late so I could get some sleep on the plane. Except that it didn’t really work out. So I think I got like 10 hours of sleep in the last two days or something.

Anyway, on the interesting stuff. Saturday was a mass start hill climb in a local town. We drove over there at around 12 and rode around checking out the course. It was an 11.5K climb mostly on gravel roads. We started downtown and the first 2K or so was super fast pavement. I got a good start and hit the first part of the climb sitting around 5th. I missed a turn during my pre-ride and figured that that turn just rerouted the course away from downtown onto some side streets. Wrong. We turned onto a tiny single lane road that kicked up at like 25% for half a mile. Then it flattened out for a bit before hitting the gravel and kicking up at around 14% for the rest of the race.

So yeah, I blew up a little at the start and fell back quite a bit. Probably one of the hardest races I’ve ever done in my life. I ended up somewhere outside the top 20. I think there was about 60 total. So not too bad.

Sunday was another small-ish race north of Frankfurt. They started the U23 and Pro class together but separated the classes for the awards. There were about 10 or 15 pros and 30 U23 riders. I got another good start and hit the single track around 5th again. On the first climb, Ethan Gilmore from the U23 National team caught me and we worked together to try and catch the leading U23 racer. For most of the race we were sitting around 4th and 5th out of the pros and U23s. What we didn’t know was that the “leading” U23 was actually a Pro. So Ethan ended up winning the race and getting 4th overall and I slipped back and got 7th or 8th overall but 2nd in the U23s. It was sweet. I finally got to stand on a European podium. And win some sweet Euros.

It was a great way to end the camp. I learned so much in the three weeks I was there. I’d like to thank my parents, Coach Thad Walker, Wes Dickson and especially Brevard College for helping me enjoy this amazing opportunity. It was pretty sick to be able to post reports on the home page of the Athletic website. So thanks for reading. 

Plans for the rest of the year? Well, still up in the air. I will probably do some more local races before heading to some National level races in New York and Vermont. And maybe a trip to Canada. That is if I can get settled in my job and everything. Then school starts again and I will be studying and racing the fall mountain bike season before traveling to California to defend my two national championships in October.

I’ll see if I can find that picture of my podium shot and post it up here. I’m out so but keep reading because Marshal Hartley is going to pick up the reins and talk about his experiences in Spain. I’ll be posting more races reports and pictures on my personal blog if you want to keep updated. Just Google my name and it’s the second one down.

Once again, a big thanks to everybody who supported me over there and here. And another thanks to Brevard College for allowing me to share my life with you guys. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it.

Good night and good luck America.

Marshal Hartley, May 24, Bilbao, Spain - Today was my first race outside of the USA. It was a huge eye opener...

USA does many things better than Europe but bike racing is not one of them. We took one of the 6 team cars to the race. when we arrived I found that every other rider there was afilliated with a team verry simillar to mine; they all had several team cars, matching team bikes, sweat suits/podium clothes and custom water bottles specially made for each team. If you didnt know it was a U23 race you could have easily assumed it for a proffessional race.

I started the race with the goal of staying with the field. and I did for the first big loop. It included 5 two plus mile climbs immediatley followed by a decent. Then on the seccond lap four riders from the same team attacked and blew the field apart. I was somewhere in the middle of the placing when people in the group I was in started attacking. I didnt have anything else so me and some others waited to be caught by another group. We did and stayed with them for a while.

It started to rain. I have been cmplaining about my tires to my coach all week saying they are too slick. I realy did not want to race them but he said they will be fine. Today we were on a decent and I was taking a turn very easy, didnt hit the brakes and I still slid out because of the tires!! I was mad, to say the least!! But at least it is just road rash and nothing is broken. I am going to get back on verstiens first thing next week.

Next weekend I have a race sat and sun. They are both U20 races so I will try to do better there.

To be the man you got to beat the man!!

Tristan Cowie May 18, Kirtchzarten, Germany - Dirt. Dirt will make or break you. I did this interview one time and I told the lady about different types of dirt. I’m pretty sure she thought I was completely insane but whatever. The difference between road racing and mountain biking is the dirt. Road racing is primarily based on fitness and mountain biking is based on fitness too but with much more emphasis on skill.  If you can know the types of dirt and what equipment to use, that’s half the battle.

Why am I telling you this? Because I found the worst mud I have ever seen yesterday. And I made some good choices that helped me out with my racing.

Saturday we packed the van and sweet VW Golf. Totally Euro car. The Rothaus team met us at our house and we drove up together. It was about 3 hours to Heubach. The course was pretty sweet, literally downtown. But no pavement. The town backed up to a forest and the course took off up a gravel road to the top of a mountain with a huge antenna. Anyway, it had been raining in Heubach for the past two days and the course was a wreck. This mud packed onto tires and the bike and started to clog up the fork. A couple of sections were really soppy mud and it threatened to destroy brake pads and drive trains. Not cool. This mud was really pasty, hard to describe but the mud was probably a clay base which meant once it dried it would be like cement. Clay based mud probably packs up the worst too. However, this mud did not really mess with traction; usually mud will coat rocks and roots and turn them to ice. Heubach mud almost added traction because it was also a really gritty, rocky based soil too. If that makes any sense, I’m starting to believe that lady now.

So this race also had a downhill race. They ran the downhill race down the same decent as the cross country. This was not the best thing in the world for us. The big downhill bikes rip the track apart; braking bumps and ruts covering the trail. Our little XC bikes struggle on the bumps and deep ruts. A good tactic for avoiding the rough stuff is to cut across the trail between the ruts to get out of them, risky though because if you go too wide you might not make the next corner. Dilemma. Usually a combination of the two will get you down the hill in good shape.

Tires go hand in hand with the dirt. If it is hard, fast track you want a fast rolling tire. If the trails are super muddy you want a more aggressive (more tread, bigger tread) tire. The pre-ride I rode my normal dry tries since I didn’t know what the course would be like. Didn’t work out very well, too much mud started to pack up the dry tires. Saturday night, our awesome mechanic switched my tires to my “wet” tires. They hooked up on Sunday and probably helped me do so well.

So yeah, the race. Big race, there was supposed to be like a hundred starters but I think only about 80 actually showed up to race. Still huge. I got a pretty good call up, I think 4th or 5th row. I got a pretty bad start, but the plan was to take it easy for the first couple of laps while the rest of the guys went hard and blew up. Took my time and tried to stay safe on the decent and no flat or anything. I didn’t really feel good and I didn’t feel bad, just rode the same pace the entire day. About the 5th lap of 7, I caught Mitch who was sitting in 25th. We rode together for a bit before he slipped back on the climb. I tried to catch some more people but only succeed in bringing back two more. Since I was mostly alone on the decent I did some tricks for the cameras and had some fun. At the top of the climb there was like a little BBQ and 30 people were milling about and when I came through the announcer said my name and where I was from. The crowd started chanting: “USA, USA” and that was pretty cool. Even though they can’t really pronounce the “U”, it’s more like an “ew”.  

So I came in at 23rd. Not bad, I don’t think, I was kind of bummed that I there was a huge group of dudes less than two minutes ahead of me. If I was in that group then I probably would have made the top 20 if not top 15.

Wow, that was pretty long. I figured it would be cool to give you guys some more knowledge about what mountain biking is about since my stories about racing are kind of boring. They might not be, but they’re pretty boring to write. One more week in Kirchzarten and then I fly back on Monday. We have a hill climb on Saturday and another cross country race on Sunday. I’m not really sure where the race is, but it’s in the north again. Probably about 4 hours away and we are staying up there Sunday night and packing up that night and driving to the airport in the morning. Pretty packed weekend. I’ll try to make up for it by just chilling for the entire week…haha. Nah, I’ll be training and hopefully make that next group.

Hope you guys haven’t done something weird like starting to drive on the other side of the road over there.  

Tristan Cowie, May 15, Kirtchzarten, Germany - Today is a great day. Not really sure if it is yet but I’ll find out. Today is Friday. It is also laundry day. I really, really need to do some.

Since the weather over here is still deciding whether it wants to rain or not, I’m still trying to decide whether I want to ride or not. We are passing the time by sharing music with one another. I have some pictures I could up load but it takes forever. I might start it now and hopefully when I come back from my ride they will be up. Perhaps.

Well, uh….what have I been doing? We rode to the top of some mountain the other day. About an hour or so climb and a 20ish minute decent. It was pretty cool at the top because we got back into the snow line. The decent was pretty fun, but it was really steep so you really had to stay on the ball and chill on the straight bits to make the hairpins.

I found out a little bit about the race on Sunday. It’s in Northern Germany. You can get on the website: The English is terrific. At this race there is an actual class for the Under 23 riders. Pretty cool because we don’t have to race the super, super world cup guys that would lap us. Come to think of it, the fastest U23s are probably just as fast as the Elites so I’m probably still going to get lapped. Hooray!

The kicker is that there are 104 U23 registered. One hundred four!!! That’s freaking nuts! The biggest race I’ve done in the states had like 100 guys of all ages in there. This race has over a hundred in ONE class. Not cool guys. There are more Under 23 riders than in the elite (pro) class. Easy race? NOT!

It’s hard to explain how hard these Euro races are. In the states, the courses are usually long (8-10miles per-lap) and hard. In Europe the courses are short and relatively easy (1-3miles per-lap). Although the total distance is about the same (it depends on terrain but it will be around a 2 hour race) the Euro races have twice as many laps. You’d think that the “easier” courses would be “easier” but that’s usually not the case since you can go so much faster and carry more speed.

Anyway, we’re meeting a German team at 9 tomorrow and driving three hours up to the race and going for pre-rides and chilling at the hotel tomorrow. I think we race at like 9 something tomorrow which is like 3 in American time. I don’t think I’m going to bring my computer so I’ll write a report on Monday when we get back. I'm hoping to have a good race since Saturday is the good old birthday. Whatever happens, I'm going to have fun because this whole experience is amazing. 

Don’t float away America, someday I’m coming back.

Tristan Cowie May 14, Kirtchzarten, Germany- So, I'm back. I was able to get connected to the internet last night but didn't really have time to do much as it was pretty late and I had been up for like...uh...several hours. I did post the blogs about my exciting time in the airport. It was awesome. And some pictures, the pics took way longer than normal to post so I might not be able to do a bunch. We'll see.

I tried to sleep a bit on the plane, it was really nice that I didn't have anyone sitting next to me but I was planning on staying up as late as I could and then sleeping and waking up on the "German" time. It kind of worked out. I woke up this morning at 5 but that might have been because of the thunderstorm we had last night.

Anyway, Saturday was the first race. I got 35th out of 75 or so starters. I was the 4th American and 11th U23 rider. Not bad for the first race. Of course Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel beat me by 20 minutes. But Nino got third at the Olympics last year.

I spent most of the race stuck in a big group of like 10 guys with Tad Elliot, Rob Squire, and Mitch Hoke. All the Euros wanted us to work to try and catch the leaders since we had 4 guys (Americans) but Tad and Rob kept trying to break it up. Eventually they did and gapped me and Mitch. We rode 8 of 9 laps after the leaders lapped us about half way around our last one.

Tad was the only one from the US that didn't get lapped, he got like 27th or something so big props to him.

The course was about 60% or 70% pavement with a short but really rooty and slick as hot butter climb. The decent was pretty fun, some cool places where you could make up so time and my big o'27 inch bars were doing the work for me.

The climb was pretty steep with some snot covered roots, I didn't get any pictures but I'm hoping to go out and get some at the next race. The race itself was pretty cool, there was a huge expo with tons of companies and bike and free stuff. It was like twice the size of a US race. Kevin put the race into a good perspective. In terms of prestige in winning the race and the size of fields it's like a Mountain States Cup (Mid-west race series-small fields, small purse, but bigger than your average “local” race). But in regards to who shows up to these "small" races it's more like a ProXTC race in the states (a national level race).

Pretty funny too, near the end of the race some Swiss chick was cheering me on and I'm certain that she was saying: "Time for a change, time for a change."

Sunday's race. It was really, really short. Under 10min laps. It went straight up this super steep climb and a gradual downhill before climbing again and a really fast loose downhill to some grass back to the start. It was really short, did I say that before?

Anyway, we had to do 10 laps for about 20K total. It was a much smaller field than the Swiss race but still there were 30 guys in our race. About as big as my biggest regional race in the states.  We rode from our hostel to the race and then back home after it was over. It took about an hour of easy spinning to get down there. So we raced 2 hours on Saturday, rode Sunday morning for half an hour to spin out the legs, rode down to the race, raced for an hour, and rode back. Pretty long week end. I'm a little tired of riding my bike.

The race went good, I figured most of the guys would be gassed by the super steep climb so I sat back and chilled until the top where it flattened out. Didn't really work because the Euros were thinking the same thing. Anyway, Tad drove the front for a few laps and it got whittled down pretty quick, I rode in 3rd for most of the race before blowing big time on the last couple of laps. Rob passed me and caught 2nd and I ended up sprinting a dude for 5th. Pretty sick, I didn't get on the podium but I still got paid some Euros. Sickness!

Monday we rode with Rob on this super long ride where we climbed for at least an hour. It was pretty cool but probably not the best thing for after a race. I took some pictures at the top when we hit the snow line.

Tuesday, we rode some more trails and rode up to these three wind turbines and hiked up to the top of a tower and then rode some pretty sweet, steep trails down. I took some pictures at the top. After we were done riding I walked around town and took some more pictures of Kirchzarten.

Tuesday night, Mark Gullickson (the camp director) and his wife, who are staying outside Kirchzarten are going to cook us dinner. We are going to go up there and hang out for a bit and probably play some soccer with his kids. Sounds like some good times.

Later America, I'll be back soon.

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