SERC / US Cup East #2: Tsali and Hardtimes

by Sean Hess, Team Rider and Manager for Strackacobra

Tsali and Hardtimes

Tristan Cowie of CTS

Tristan Cowie of CTS, Coach of Awesomeness

Another race at Tsali, another heartbreak.

At least it was just my heart breaking, and not my front wheel (like last year).

I finished 28th in a field of 41 after I thought I had a pretty good race.

I blamed everything. I especially blamed everyone else having newer bikes, which is true but not the reason I placed where I did.

The fact is, while some of the group probably climbed better than I did, at least 27 of them descended better than I did.

And that’s fair. I always have a little difficulty with this race on the downhills. I live and train in Florida, and at this point in the season I simply am not acclimated to the speed yet.

Usually there’s a trade off; while I may not sparkle on the hills I’m generally in better shape than the other riders because I can train on dry roads all winter. So I usually place higher. But it’s been a warm winter everywhere and my built in advantage will now have to wait until it gets really hot.

So what to do?

Hardtimes Trailhead

The Hardtimes Trailhead is in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest in nearby Asheville, North Carolina. That’s where I met my coach, Tristan Cowie of CTS, the day after the race.

Officially Cowie raced for Brevard College and has stood on the podium at the USA Cycling Collegiate Nationals on multiple occassions.

But the reality is, if there was never a podium, Tristan was born to mountain bike. He’s like one of those guys you see in Bike magazine, photographed while flowing over singletrack. He’s like Harry Potter on dual suspension, coaxing magic out of the bike and the trail where none existed before.

As we worked the flowy uphills and downhills of Bent’s I trailed behind and absorbed as much as I could. At first he disappeared on the downhills like a ghost…literally gone while I trailed in the dust.

But we’d stop and work over a set or corners, walk through them and look at each of five different lines, and then go over them a few times. He still left me in the dust, but at least I could keep him in sight after awhile.

My whole approach to corners is different now, more elemental. I still overbrake at times, but I brake a whole lot less now because the bike natually finds the corners. And things are so much smoother, so much easier.

Will this translate into success in the SERC?

Well, if they don’t, it won’t be the bike’s fault.

BTW, my older, heavier bike did have an advantage at Tsali: more weight means more momentum means more free speed out of corners. An advantage I didn’t take advantage of but which I will in the future.

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