Paul Zarubin’s (Mt. Bike) race report: World Championships
I am back from two weeks of traveling and wanted to update you on my quest. First, Durango, Colo., was the final stop of the National Series. Although I was leading the series earlier in the year, I was never able to finish higher than third, and I had dropped to fourth overall. The race started at an elevation of 8,700, similar to Snowmass, Idaho. It climbed to a lung-searing elevation of over 10,000. The two locals were of course the favorites, and I knew that the battle would be fought for third, fourth and fifth. The start made a one-mile loop through the village to spread out the racers, and then we started the climb. The initial grade was the steepest of any venue and the climb to the top was relentless. After the village loop, I was in fourth on the climb. The guy who beat me by 30 seconds at Snowmass was in front of me. As we started up, about halfway I realized that he was already suffering. I needed more speed to keep from falling over, but soon he was in my way. He tipped over and blocked me, which caused me to get off my bike and run past him. A few more yards, and I was back on my bike climbing again. It seemed like we climbed forever. Occasionally the single-track leveled off for a couple of minutes, but it quickly turned right back into a climb. I felt good until the top. Then 45 minutes into the climb, I got passed by a guy who only beat me one time, and that was when I flatted at Big Bear. I tried to stay with him, but he put up a big gap on me that I would never make up. We hit the descent, and it went by so fast I never had time to think about my position. I just needed to get down without being passed. I ended up in fourth, losing third by 30 seconds again. It was disappointing because those 30 seconds ended up to be the difference between fourth and fifth in the overall series. It turned out that the guy who beat me stayed in Colorado after Snowmass and trained and raced at altitude, which really did improve his performance. I ended up fifth in the national series with the worlds and US nationals still to go.
The worlds were incredible. After Durango, I flew home, worked Sunday and Monday, jumped on a flight Tuesday and landed in Montreal on Tuesday night. It was warm and humid and everyone spoke French. The race was being held at a ski resort about 90 kilometers east of Montreal called Bromont. What a neat place. I made two training runs each day; each lap was about 6 miles with 1,000 of climbing. The terrain was similar to Vermont lots of roots, mud and rock. The initial climb was as steep as Durango, but much shorter. The start list to me was a list of everyone who had beaten me at some point in the season. In fact, a few of them pointed that fact out to me. One of them was Jorge, who was the two-time Mexican national champion and had beaten me all year. At an altitude of 2500, I really did not have much of an advantage over the field. As they called us up to the start, they position you on how you did last year, and being my first year, I was called up second to last. I took the far outside lane, thinking it would be good to stay away from any possible crashes. The gun sounded and we were off. I quickly got by the first row, and got behind one of the guys that I thought would do well. The first turn was a sharp uphill left hand turn in soft gravel, and I took it way wide. Sure enough the inside was clogged, and I saw the green jersey of Jorge go down. I sprinted up on the far right to the base of the first hill, then settled in for the tough climb. Once I settled in, I looked up and was shocked to only see three riders in front of me. My hopes soared, but I realized that we had three laps to go, and I would need a perfect race to medal. At the top of the first hill we dropped into a tough little single-track in the shade with lots of wet rocks and roots. It rained just a little overnight enough to coat everything with grease. We got through the first set of obstacles, and already I had another rider on my tail. I jumped into a descent and got away, and started a moderate climb on a fire road. I started to push here, one I needed to get more distance away from fifth, and second I wanted to get on the back tire of third place. As I pushed, the sound of the rider behind grew more distant, and I was actually closing in on third. We climbed a little more single-track and again it opened up to a fire road. I made my move and hoped it wasnt too soon. As I passed the third place rider, I could tell he was suffering and he made no response. I finally made it to the top and began the descent. The descents had lots of sharp pointy rocks, and sure enough there was second place changing a flat. I was elated. I was in second place! First lap done and up the short steep hill, but disaster hits: My chain dropped off the small chain ring. Instead of stopping, I ran pushing my bike with one hand and pulling my chain out with the other hand. It worked. I jumped back on but the hill was so steep, I could not get momentum. I got off and pushed my bike up the rest of the hill, losing precious time. Soon, I was back on and maneuvering the single track. Then, near where I made the pass to take third, I was passed by the guy with the flat; I was impressed. I started pushing to keep up, and gave it my all, but he was slowly pulling away. Now I was worried about third. As I was descending, I could hear a bike behind me. I made it through lap two in third, but just as I started the climb, I got passed by the guy I passed in lap one. It was very discouraging. My legs were screaming in pain, and I could not get any more power. As I started into the first tricky single-track, I had to focus on making a clean ride. The next climb was really hard; I lost visual contact with third and I was struggling to keep my line. Climbing over roots and rocks, I had to be precise. If you allowed your front tire to wobble, you would come off the bike losing more time. I came off twice on that climb. Now I was starting to worry about riders behind me. As I got to the top, I looked back and with a sigh of relief, I saw no one. I flew down the descents being careful to avoid rocks and finished in fourth, 1.5 minutes out of third. The gold went to a Canadian from Vancouver, silver and bronze to Americans from the east coast. I was able to beat Mexico, and I met my goal of placing in the top 5 in the world! I know that stepping up my training, I could do better next year. I am very satisfied with my performance, fourth in the world!The US Nationals are Sept. 25 at Mammoth, again top 5 would be an incredible accomplishment for me. After that, it is some much needed R&R and then back to winter training.Powered by God,Paul Zarubin[Paul Zarubin, a Tahoe Donner resident, races in the NORBA 50-54 Expert National Mountain Bike Race Series.]