The year after each Olympic Games enables its participants a chance to scale back briefly both mentally and physically — at least as much as anyone can while continuing to battle world-class competition.
Exeter native Adam Craig is no exception, as the 2008 U.S. Olympic mountain biker has focused more this season on domestic races that have enabled him not only to compete against his chief rivals within the United States, but to be a more visible presence in the evolving national mountain biking community.
“I think it’s been good,” said the 27-year-old Craig from his home in Bend, Ore. “I’ve been pretty much used to being on the road and racing hard from quite a few years of doing it, but it’s definitely been good to spend a lot of time closer to home.
“And I think it’s been important for someone like me to do some of these races when I can as far as spreading the word about the sport.”
But Craig’s comparatively low-key season picks up considerable steam this weekend when he competes in the 2009 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships at the SolVista Basin in Granby, Colo. Craig is the two-time defending pro men’s cross country champion, and the five-time reigning Super D (downhill) champ.
But after winning his two national titles at Mount Snow in West Dover, Vt., where he first competed as a teenager, Craig expects to face a serious challenge in his bid for a third straight cross country crown from two rivals who call Colorado their home, Todd Wells of Durango, Colo., and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski of Boulder.
Wells was Craig’s teammate on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team, while Horgan-Kobelski was on Team USA in 2004.
“The nationals will be tough,” said Craig. “I don’t live in Colorado, and there are a couple of guys who do who are strong.”
The U.S. championships will be followed by four consecutive weekends of world and national competition in the eastern United States and Canada that Craig hopes will provide sufficient preparation for the 2009 UCI World Championships set for Sept. 1-6 at Canberra, Australia.
“I’m pretty excited for the nationals,” said Craig, “and then to come to the East Coast for several weeks of good racing. Hopefully I’m ready for it.”
That stretch begins July 25-26 at Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Craig’s favorite stop on the World Cup circuit, followed by another World Cup race at Bromont, Quebec, the following weekend.
Craig finished a career-best third at Bromont last summer, one week after a fourth-place finish at Mont Sainte-Anne — which will host the 2010 World Championships.
“The two World Cup races are the priorities right now,” said Craig, who rides for Giant Bicycles.
Craig then will return stateside for the U.S. Cup at Mount Snow on Aug. 8 and another event on Aug. 15 at Windham Mountain, N.Y. — which recently was awarded a UCI World Cup race in 2010, the first U.S. stop for that circuit in five years.
“I’m pretty excited for all they’ve done to get a Cup race there,” said Craig. “They were aggressive and really fired up to make it happen, and they did.”
Craig’s most recent competitive efforts have included a course record-setting performance at the Test of Endurance 50, a 50-mile race just outside of Corvallis, Ore., that with its 8,000 feet of climbing provided some high-quality mid-season training.
“It’s been a different kind of year,” he said, “but I’m still getting paid to race and my sponsors want to see results.”
Craig’s training regimen also has included a ride on the scientific side. He’s been more active in interval training, and recently underwent a lactate test with the Rebound Sports Performance Lab to confirm his interval pace and establish a baseline to grow from throughout the summer.
Craig also has received a Mountain Bike SRM Powermeter Unit from USA Cycling that he’ll use to collect various physiological data to be used as a baseline for future training.
“You learn a lot about the stages of personal stress you put your body through during your workouts, and that information definitely will be important to have as far as training smart goes,” he said.