Freeskiing and cycling go hand in hand
Spoke 'n' Word
The Marc Pro-Strava Cycling Team is not only into bikes. We are avid skiers too. Why else would we live in an area that gets hundreds of inches of snow every season?
It’s not exactly the prime area for offseason training. On any given powder day, members of the squad can be seen shredding at Squaw, or in the backcountry of Rose, Donner or the West Shore.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Jeremy Benson, a local pro freeskier, expert mountain biker and all-around good guy. He gave me a unique perspective on how he uses cycling to cross train for his wintertime profession.
Q: What does a typical winter day in the life of Jeremy Benson consist of?
A: “My typical winter day depends on the conditions, but when the skiing is good I am probably out for six to eight hours. I spend storm days at Alpine Meadows and pretty much all other days hiking in the backcountry, chasing the powder until it’s all gone. When I’m skiing in the backcountry I like to go for big days as often as possible, and hiking 8,000 feet of vert in a day isn’t out of the question.”
Q: How often do you ride your bike during the ski offseason?
A: “I generally ride five days a week, between 10 and 15 hours, depending on work, etc.”
Q: Road or mountain bike?
A: “Mountain bike. I sold my road bike about five years ago because there are so few options and the roads are in such terrible condition in Tahoe. Sometimes I will do laps on Barker Pass on my singlespeed beach cruiser; it blows people’s minds.”
Q: Do you focus on any specific workouts, or just go out and shred?
A: “I don’t focus on specific workouts anymore. I mostly just go out and ride. I do like to go for really long climbs. Stanford Rock and Scott Peak are my neighborhood rides, and I generally won’t go on a ride if it is less than two hours. If I have less than two hours to ride I will go for a trail run or hike instead.”
Q: How does riding your bike translate directly over to skiing and#8212; physically and mentally?
A: “Primarily, riding translates directly to skiing through overall fitness. Skinning up mountains for hours and feeling strong while skiing all day long are important to me. Taking advantage of conditions while they are at their best is easier when you are fit. Fitness helps me achieve my goals as a skier. Climbing a peak and skiing a line comes easier because of my level of fitness, which I maintain through mountain biking. Additionally, endurance is something you have to develop and is required for bell-to-bell skiing or eight-hour days in the backcountry. Balance is another thing that translates pretty directly. The subtle balancing act that you are playing while riding helps you a lot more than you might realize. Mentally, riding keeps your reflexes quick and helps to train your brain and eyes to look where you are going, not where you already are, things that translate directly to skiing.”
Q: Are there any aspects of big-mountain freeskiing that you feel that cycling does not adequately prepare you for?
A “I think the kind of riding that I do prepares my muscles more for endurance than for power. Sometimes I feel like I should work out with weights to build more muscle. Cross country riding like I do doesn’t really prepare you for sending cliffs like you might on skis, but a little freeriding or downhilling can help with that. A more well-rounded mountain biker may be more adequately prepared than I am. No matter what, you are better off riding all summer than not.”
Q: Have you ever done any bike racing?
A: “I raced cross country in college. I haven’t done a bike race since 2002. I was on a team that won the 24 hours of Tahoe; we won by two hours and set a new course record. I don’t race anymore but I am very competitive with myself and others on the bike these days.”
Q: If there were ever a combination of a freeskiing and mountain bike race, who would win?
A: “Probably Jon Morrison. He’s fast on a bike and on skis. Combining cycling and skiing can be a lot of fun, for late-season skiing missions especially.”
and#8212; Team rider Nate Freed is the author of this week’s Marc Pro-Strava Racing column, Spoke ‘n’ Word. For more information, results and upcoming events from the team, visit http://marcpro-strava.com.
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