Blair raced the Transrockies Challenge
in 2005 with friend Marg Fedyna
(2005 WSC Champ
). I asked him some of his views on this type of racing.
M: What do you look for in a partner for multiday races?
Blair: Compatibility. Camaraderie. Reliability.
M: What was your favorite day in TR?
Blair: Every day except for day 4, where we lost the jersey in the mud, and day 6 where we missed a turn and went an extra 30k, essentially adding another mountain pass to our race.
The downhills on day 5 was the most thrilling, and without a dual suspension you wouldn't have been able to experience it.
M: What's the main challenge when racing with a partner?
Blair: Being in sync with everything from energy level to moving through a crowd.
M: Any advice on choosing a partner?
Blair: They are few and far between, because the sport is relatively extreme, so if you have a shot at a good one take advantage of the opportunity.
M: Do you think multidays are more fun that 100 milers, 12 hours and 24 hour races?
Blair: Both have their merits. You wouldn't be able to have a 100 miler in a stage race, so they each have their place.
M: Any tips for racers? Do's and dont's?
Blair: Do train intelligently and consistently. Do go for it once in a while. Do add variety to your schedule for longevity and interests sake. Do rest and recover as well as you train. Do have fun at it!
M: How important is recovery? massages--good, bad, a must have?
Blair: As important as training itself. My wife is a professional massage therapist so we are both big believers in its recovery benefits. Not a must have, but a must have to optimize your recovery.
M: How do you balance racing strengths? Climbing, technical, super fast descending?
Blair: Good question. Armstrong fits this description. Us mere mortals need to keep practicing and aspire to these qualities. Also, for me, I'm convinced the only way I can be a very good descender and technical rider on the mtb, is on a dual suspension.
M: What's the pace strategy for a 7-8 day race?
Blair: Patience, patience, patience. One of those I always have to work on, as my killer instinct sometimes comes back to bite me in the you-know-what sometimes. Above all efficiency. I always want to take advantage of a group situation wherever possible. And if the group isn't working together well, I don't mind giving a quick demo to get the group rotating, sharing the work load evenly. There is strength in numbers, and 10 heads are always better than 2. Also, unlike road racing you never really have to worry about dragging the other teams to the line for a sprint, because these races are usually decided by minutes not split seconds.
M: What do you do if your partner is "off" or having a bad day or bad couple of days?
Blair: Assess the situation and help according to the need. Bonking - apply gue and fluids, followed by something more substantial, back off the pace. Cramps - hopefully if caught at the first sign, apply fluids with salt supplements - back off the pace. If really bad, apply pressure to the area. Weaker - do all the pulling, push where possible, use bungy cord where possible. Morale issues - apply encouragement, tell stories.
M: What's different about a mixed team than a men's team?
Blair: Good question. You have a better opportunity of placing well in a mixed team, but as its even harder to find a good woman mountain biker it's a numbers game. The pace is a bit slower in some spots where you might be used to cranking up the intensity which allows you to recover more. With the smoothening out of intensity, this allows you to pull and push more where necessary. I was in the fortunate situation where my mixed partner gave me many windows of opportunity to open it up full bore, and we remained in tact (many a time I was on her wheel up hill). A pure men’s team intensity can be matched and therefore it’s important to spread this out over the course of the day and stage race.