Total Telemark’s Nat Ross rides to new heights
Vail’s Nat Ross is a happy man. He’s ranked No. 1 in the nation in marathon mountain bike racing, he’s the two-time reigning European champion in solo 24-hour racing, and his latest Total Telemark movie is almost finished.To say the least, the 33-year-old former Breckenridge resident has been busy. And he’s now in the middle of the most successful stretch of mountain biking he’s had since turning pro for Gary Fisher in 2000. After winning the National Off-Road Bicycling Association (NORBA) National Championship Series (NCS) marathon race in Snowshoe, W. Va., on June 10, and placing fifth at Snow Summit, Calif., on May 20, he’s currently ranked No. 1 in the country in the demanding discipline – which features 60-mile courses and made its debut in America this season after becoming popular in Europe.He’ll get the chance to win the first marathon national title Aug. 1 at Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Idaho, at the last NORBA marathon race of the season.
“This season has been great,” said Ross, who is known throughout the ski industry for his popular and revealing Total Telemark series of free-heel movies. “I’ve had a chance to excel in a category that has never been a category. Now, instead of shooting for the top 50 in a given race, I’m on the podium every time.”He’s in good company on those marathon podiums, as well, usually sharing them with such well-known mountain bike veterans as Gunnison’s Dave Weins and David “Tinker” Juarez.Solo 24-hour racing has also filled up a big chunk of Ross’ summer. On June 26 and 27, he successfully defended his title as European 24-hour champion in the Mountain Mayhem 24-Hour Solo Mountain Bike Championships in Great Britain. On Sept. 4 and 5, he will be attempting to wrest the world solo 24-hour title from four-time defending champion Chris Eatough (“I want to win that because I’ve gotten third in it four times,” Ross said), and in October he will try to improve on his third-place finish in the 2003 Honda 24 Hours of Moab. Ross credits much of his saddle success to two things – his bike, a prototype Gary Fisher, and his coach, Jim Lehman of Carmichael Training Systems.
While most mountain bikes feature 26-inch wheels, Ross’ Gary Fisher model has 29-inch wheels. A recent development in mountain bike technology, the larger wheels are designed to roll over obstacles easier and more smoothly.Ross has found the advantage is especially helpful in endurance racing, where the primary concern of racers is not speed, but consistency. “Once you get them moving, you can notice the benefits,” he said. “It’s not like you’re sprinting, but it’s not like you’re going moderate – it’s kind of in between. As long as you keep your pedals turning, you can go through your movements and the bike is just fluid, smooth and consistent.” To go with the bike, Ross is employing the services of Lehman to get his training as dialed as possible; Lehman is helping him with everything from bike fit to nutrition. The program Lehman is using, the Carmichael Training System, is the same program used by Lance Armstrong, who is currently vying for his sixth consecutive Tour de France victory.
Programs, equipment and coaches aside, however, races are won by riders. And in that regard, it helps that Ross is as mentally tough as he is physically talented.”Doing these 24-hour and marathon races is not an easy thing,” Lehman said. “It takes a unique level of perseverance and focus, and Nat has that.”Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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