Marine Corps Mountain Biking Team tackles Mount Snow Vermont
By Sgt. Jonathan E. Agee
| | August 21, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUITING SUB-STATION BARRE, VT. --
The Marine Corps Mountain Biking Team participated in their largest competition to date at Mount Snow, Vt., Aug. 16-18.
The three-man team, consisting of Cpl. Jesse Peel, Sgt. Jeffrey Fox and Capt. Michael Holt, raced the cross-country course as part of the National Off-Road Bicycle Association 2002 Championship Series.
The 16-mile course took roughly two hours to complete and proved to be more of a learning experience for the Marines than anything else. Holt, the team captain, placed 45 out of 75, Peel completed the race for fun and Fox was unable to finish because his chain broke three times during the race. Each Marine raced in his own age group. Peel and Fox raced in the expert 19-24 age bracket and Holt raced in the expert 30-34 age bracket. The Marines have been racing as a team for one year, and as individuals for much longer.
"(The race was) very competitive," said Holt. "(We) need to compete in more national races next year to gain experience at the national level. There is one racer that I always gauge myself against - a local civilian from Virginia, and he placed 6th. I usually place just behind him in the local races. Sometimes you have bad days; he fortunately had a great day."
According to the Marines, the track was very technical and they will require similar training courses throughout the year to improve their skill level for future competitions.
"The team needs to get out in the Virginia mountains for some early training next year," said Holt. "There were tons of rocks and roots on a steep slope. Even some of the climbs were like downhill sections. Right off the start you climbed a steep hill. Talk about lactic acid build up; you had to start off easy or you would burn up your legs with an overload of lactic acid."
Competition on a national and pro level for such a novice team like the Marines can only prove to be beneficial for future races. Some of the things they will do different for next year involve pre-race strategies that they feel will improve their placement.
"Monitor the activities we do three days up until the race, making sure we do not wear ourselves out" said Holt. "Just being at the mountain bike hub of racing gets you excited and you want to watch everything. Not a good idea because you can wear yourself out. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Did I say hydrate?"
Aside from the Marine racers, local Marine Corps recruiters were on hand to provide support to the team and scout the area for future recruits. The recruiters set up a pull-up challenge where individuals won prizes based on the amount of pull-ups they could complete.
"Just like all the pros have their sponsor tents and set-ups, it made us feel the same as the pros," said Holt. "Being at a competition like this with the support of the Marine Corps is awesome. Everyone looks at you differently, actually with a lot of respect. I had other riders come up to me thanking me for my service to our country or protecting our country. This even happened while racing on the course when most of us were out of breath from the pain of exerting ourselves. Having a Marine tent in the vendor's area was a big help as well. They made us look even more professional and drew quite a crowd. Special thanks to the recruiters!"
In the future, Holt plans to develop some of the younger racers into professional racers.
"They have what it takes but need the experience and time to train," said Holt. "I just want to see a Marine Corps jersey on the starting line in the pro category. Next year I plan to have more riders on the line and ready for any obstacle that comes before us. I also am looking for more support at the national races from the Marine Corps; such as the recruiting station vendor's tent and other sponsorship. This motivates us to do well and instills pride to wear our team jersey. It also feels great when you pass another racer and think in your mind 'watch out ... a Marine is coming through.'"
For anyone interested in learning more about Marine Corps Mountain Biking and becoming part of the team, contact Holt at (703) 784-9306/7.