Bonelli Park 2014. Suffering on the steep climbs of the Bonelli US Cup course.

After riding through the snow and frigid temperatures of the past winter, I couldn’t wait for the first big races of the year. It’s equal parts excitement for testing my fitness after months of hard work and for escaping to somewhere warm. I love living in Philly, but after the past winter, who wouldn’t want to get away?

Already this year I’ve been lucky enough to get down to Richmond, VA, for my season opener at Monster Cross and to Austin, TX for the opening round of the USAC US Cup (the premier XC* mountain bike series in the United States). Currently I’m hanging out in sunny southern California, getting in some solid training in between rounds two and three of the US Cup.

Following two hard days of racing at the Bonelli Park US Cup, we’ve set up camp outside of LA with some family friends of my training/racing partner for this trip, Dave Flaten of the Giant Mid-Atlantic team. So far our days have been filled with long training rides exploring what seems to be an endless network of dirt roads in the area. In the evening our extremely generous hosts have treated us to some absolutely top notch Mexican home cooking seriously, a quality way to refuel!

Cali Dirt Roads. The dirt road riding out here is completely amazing!

As most anyone who has zig-zagged their way across the country can attest, traveling on a budget can restore your faith in humanity. I am constantly left amazed and thankful to the generosity of the people who have welcomed me into their home. Often we were connected through the racing scene, and other times it’s family friends. Sometimes it’s nearly random, save for making a vague connection over something seemingly trivial.

I’ve lucked into a place to stay on more than one occasion drinking coffee in some unfamiliar cafe. All it took was, Yo! Nice bike! or Hey nice shirt, that band’s great! Humanity’s funny like that. It only takes a simple connection to bring out the best in people.

Bringing it back to the now, I’m starting to taper off my training for this week as another weekend of throwing down against the worlds best is nearly here. This weekend we’re racing round three of the US Cup at Fontana City Park in the suburbs of LA. The course is well suited to my strengths, with long climbs and lots of rock gardens. Hopefully I’ll be able to improve on what was a mixed bag of results last week at Bonelli.

The view from atop one of the climbs surrounding Diamond Lake

I had a bit of a meltdown in the 95+ degree heat of last Saturday’s Cross Country (XC*) race. It was a disappointing end to my race after a solid start. I had been working my way towards the top 20 when I began to get dehydration chills. Then on lap four of seven I began to get dizzy and figured it was better to pull the plug than to risk heat stroke.

Sunday’s Short Track Cross Country (STXC) race went much better. I was able to punch it off the start, moving from the back row up to the front half of the race almost immediately. I steadily worked my way through the field and finished up 15th in a field containing multiple national champions and current Olympic and World Championship medalists.

Diamond Lake in the hills above Hemet, CA

It was a huge confidence builder, as now I know my fitness is right where it needs to be. I’m hoping I’ll be able to pull out some big results this weekend before returning home. Once I’m back in town it’s time to really knuckle down on the training. As my first real target race of the season, I’m planning to be in top form for the Trans-Sylvania Epic stage race held the last week in May. The field is shaping up to be one of the strongest ever, with many of the countries best teams sending riders. As one of only a handful of pros living in Pennsylvania, I’m hoping to pull on the leaders jersey for the hometown fans!

Watch me race live at the Fontana City National, US Cup round this Saturday at 4:40PM EST (

* Cross Country Mountain Bike(XC or XCO) races, at the pro level, typically consist of five to seven laps on a mostly dirt course, with many steep climbs and technical sections. Race time varies from 1.5 to 1.75 hours.

Short Track Cross Country(STXC) races are much shorter. They typically involve 10 to 15 laps on a two to three minute course. There are less technical features, and the speed is much higher.

Making our way down from our previous vantage point above Diamond Lake.

Bonelli Park 2014 Suffering on the steep climbs of the Bonelli US Cup course. Photo Credit: Cali Dirt Roads; The dirt road riding out here is completely amazing! Diamond Lake Climb; The view from atop one of the climbs surrounding Diamond Lake Making our way down from our previous vantage point above Diamond Lake.