Photo Credit: Eric Benjaminson (@adventuremonkey.com)
Yuri Hauswald has been a fixture in the Northern California bike racing scene for years, and his win at the 2015 Dirty Kanza 200 has cemented his place as one of the premier endurance athletes of our time. We spoke with Yuri as he was preparing to depart for this year’s Dirty Kanza in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
What has your training routine been like for the last year?
When I finished the Dirty Kanza last year, I didn’t take time off. I still continued to ride a lot, but I didn’t start training in earnest for this year’s Dirty Kanza until November. Lots of big, slow base miles: a Zone 2, base mile program. I also did a couple of different things this year: I had the opportunity to go to New Zealand in January, and I did a seven day stage race through the southern Alps of the South Island. That was 250 miles with 50,000 feet of climbing. It was a super hard event, big miles and big climbing. I did it with a friend from New Zealand. We were pinning it every day and we ended up on the podium, so that was a pretty rad way to kick off my season. It was also something that I definitely didn’t do the year prior. I’m working with a coach named Adam Poulford. He’s had me focus on specific power zones, doing five-minute or twenty-minute efforts. I’m fortunate because I have a unique schedule that allows me to train.
Vinyasa Yoga is a big part of my prep. It’s about the flow, not static poses, and it keeps me limber and focused on breathing, mindstate, and it keep me strong where i need to be strong: my legs, my core, and only a little bit of upper body. I’ve been doing Yoga for years.
What conditions are you expecting at the Kanza this year?
Last year was biblical. Last year was the gnarliest, worst conditions they’ve ever had in the race’s ten year history. It had been raining for weeks and they were contemplating changing the course because it was so bad. There were some stretches of mud that were just ridiculous.
This year I’ve been watching the weather and touching base with friends out there. They just got three inches of rain in the past two days. They’re in their typical pattern of thunderstorms, it’s hot and humid, wind looks like it’s not going to be a factor, it’ll be below 10 mph. That’s great, because it can get howling and that really affects your mindset and speed. From what I’ve heard, it might be a little bit sticky but nowhere near as bad as last year. Fingers crossed it’s not as bad as last year, but that actually played into my hands. It seems like the worse the conditions, the better I do.
Do you feel more pressure this year, returning after taking the win last year?
I have a target on my back, big time. I’m honored to have that target on my back. It’s arguably the biggest, hardest gravel race in the country, if not the world. I feel a lot of pressure. Right after I’d won last year, the first question out of people’s mouths was whether I was coming back. Obviously I have to go back and defend. Since last November, I’ve been in that mindset where I’m really focused on this goal.
I know this sounds negative or pessimistic, but I probably won’t win again. I wasn’t the strongest or the fastest last year. The conditions played into my hand and I was well prepared. But Ted King’s coming this year, Tim Johnson is coming. Anything can happen in 200 miles, and I’m definitely not gonna go down without throwing some serious haymakers. But I’m not hung up on winning again. I’ll give it my best shot. I’m physically more prepared than I was last year and mentally I know what it takes to get through a rough Kanza. There’s also a part of me that’s just excited to get that monkey off my back, to have as good a race as possible and then be done with it so there’s not the pressure or expectation that I’m going to win it again.
Do you have any advice for racers looking to improve?
Set a goal for yourself, no matter what the goal may be. Once you set that goal, whether it’s riding your first century or a mountain bike race, then figure out the steps that it’ll take to reach that goal. Be consistent in training and be realistic about what you can or can’t do with your life, work, and family schedules. Structure has helped me. Working with a coach has allowed me to find those spikes of exceptional fitness through following a plan.
Nutrition is huge. Figure out what kind of hydration and nutrition works for you. Get the proper amount of sleep, because that’s the best recovery aid.
If you have the means to afford a coach, it makes a big difference. I don’t sit around geeking out on data. I put that in my coach’s hands. You can get as geeky or as non-geeky as you want, but I think there’s a happy medium in there where you’re following the structure and you still have a real life, hopefully, and you’re making those fitness gains to reach your goal.
You’re a brand rep, a racer, a writer, you put on the Bantam Classic and pre-rode the Tour of California. What’s it like to be one of the hardest-working men in the bike business?
I’m glad I have all these different things to do! I’m not fast enough to be a Pro Tour rider. I’m a diesel, a turtle who’s discovered endurance racing. I’m fortunate that my work allows me to go to events where I pull double-duty. I’ll work the booth, suit up, race, and then come back to the booth. I gather no moss. It’s easy to be nice, to inspire folks. I get that from being an elementary school teacher. Just be nice.
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