Exeter mountain biker working toward return to Olympics

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Posted March 25, 2011, at 3:58 p.m.
Last modified March 25, 2011, at 8:01 p.m.

 

For an athlete who spends most of his time maneuvering up and down mountain trails on a bicycle, Adam Craig also spends plenty of time in the air.

“My frequent flier miles probably average 70,000 to 90,000 a year, so it’s a lot,” said the 29-year-old Exeter native from Los Angeles on Friday, where he is getting ready to race in Saturday’s national mountain bike series event at Fontana, Calif.

The 2008 U.S. Olympian, on the comeback trail after a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee short-circuited his 2010 season, is set for a full schedule of US Pro XCT and International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cup cross country competition he hopes will pave the way for a second chance at Olympic glory at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

That means the travel continues for the 1999 graduate of Dexter Regional High School.

He has already spent 10 days in Cyprus at a training camp for the 11 members of his Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team. He also raced to a ninth-place finish at the first US Pro XCT stop of the season at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, Calif., two weeks ago — a less-than-spectacular performance he traces to a heavy cold he caught while in Cyprus.

After racing again in California this weekend, he’s off to Bogota, Colombia, for the Pan American Mountain Bike Championships on April 1-3 before returning to his Bend, Ore., home for a one-week respite.

That’s followed by a grueling stretch of competing in the Sea Otter Classic at Monterey, Calif., then the first UCI World Cup stop of the season at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and finally the U.S. Pro XCT stop at Dripping Springs, Texas, all on consecutive weekends.

“It’s going to be a fairly brutal travel schedule,” said the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Craig. “I’ve just got to go into it as rested as I can be and take it from there.”

Other UCI World Cup destinations for Craig this year are Yorkshire, England, and Offenburg, Germany, in May; Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec, and Windham Mountain, N.Y., in July; and Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic, and Val di Sole, Italy, in August, all leading to the UCI World Championships at Champery, Switzerland, the first weekend in September.

Craig also has additional U.S. tour stops planned in Mount Morris, Wis., in late June and Missoula, Mont., in late July.

Craig is looking forward to the chance to get back to his Maine roots during the World Cup stops in Quebec and New York in early July, which are followed immediately by the USA Cycling national championships at Sun Valley, Idaho, slated for July 14-17.

He’s also gearing his efforts toward the UCI world championship race, which offers the most direct path to another U.S. Olympic Team berth. A U.S. rider who earns a top-five finish at the Champery event earns an automatic spot on the team for the London Games.

“I’ve raced well there in the past,” said Craig. “I’ve been sixth and 10th the last two times I’ve raced there when I’ve been healthy, so I’d like to get a top-five finish there this year and be done with it.”

Craig also can earn a berth on the U.S. Long Team — from which the final Olympic team is selected — with a top-10 finish at the world championships or a top 10 at any World Cup race, by being ranked in the top three in the US Pro XCT standings for 2011 or by being ranked among the top 60 riders in the UCI rankings this year.

Craig, who led all U.S. riders in the UCI World Cup rankings each year from 2005 through 2009 and has finished as high as sixth overall in 2008, was 68th in the UCI world rankings and fourth among American riders as of March 1.

That’s largely because he missed the bulk of last year’s world and national schedules after tearing his ACL after slipping on some ice while walking near his home in February 2010.

“I haven’t gotten all the way back yet, but I’m looking forward to getting there,” he said. “Right now I feel fine, it’s just a matter of gradually getting into the season. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in California training and racing and trying to shake this cold I’ve had.”

The United States currently is ranked 10th in the world mountain bike team standings, which would give its men’s Olympic squad two spots in London. Should the U.S. move into the top five in the team standings, it could send three riders to the Olympics.

Craig was one of two U.S. men’s mountain bikers to compete in the 2008 Summer Games at Seoul, South Korea, along with Todd Wells of Durango, Colo.

Wells also is the top-ranked American rider in the current UCI standings, followed by Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski of Boulder, Colo., Sam Schultz of Missoula, Mont., and Craig.

“The big thing is I’m just trying to get my UCI ranking up after the injury last year,” said Craig, the U.S. national men’s cross country mountain bike champion in 2007 and 2008. “Really, a lot of this year for me is about getting good results to help get the nation’s ranking up so we can get three [Olympic] spots.”

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