Elijah Johnson- 2017 Highlights

As the 2017 year wraps up, I would like to go over some highlights of the 2017 racing season and thank some of the people who made this amazing season possible.

One of my greatest accomplishments this year was winning WORS Cat 1 Junior 15-16.  I began the season looking forward to the privilege of racing with the pros, even though I was racing in a different sub-category. The very first race of the year is always one that is very unpredictable, since I do not know what everyone has been doing all winter for training.  This race went far better than I expected with my first win of the season.  This was encouraging and challenged me to train hard to try to hold that position.  I was able to finish in first place overall because of all the coaching from Coach Nathan and encouragement from other teammates.

My second highlight of the season is placing 3rd in varsity in Wisconsin’s NICA league.  This also was far better than I expected.  My goal for the NICA season was to get in the top 5 overall.  In the first race, Minooka Mania, I finished in 5th, which had me questioning how well I could do since I had already been racing for 4 months.  At the second race, Nordic Navigator, I moved up to 4th.  This encouraged me that I could probably finish in the top 5 overall.  The third race weekend for NICA was going to be challenging since I decided to do 2 races that weekend.  On Saturday at the Fall Color Festival, the race began well with a quick breakaway by me and one other racer.  We kept the lead for the entire race.  About half way through the second lap, I was able to pull ahead of him.  I kept going at a medium pace and won the 22-mile Fall Color Festival.  The NICA race on Sunday, Trek Trails, was quite difficult.  Right at the start of the race, I dropped behind since my legs just did not want to go hard.  The first lap was difficult.  By the second lap my legs were doing better, and I was catching up to some of the racers in front of me.  On the last lap, I caught up to the racers who were in 3rd and 4th place.  I decided to stay with them and sprint out the finish.  The race was going great until the last 500 feet.  On the last downhill, my chain jumped off of the front sprocket.  I ended up running my bike to the finish.  This put me in 4th place.  The 4th race, Hayward Hussle, went ok, but it was muddy.  I stayed in the group I wanted to, but lost in the final sprint.  The final race at Iola was my best race, but not the best weather.  I was able to hold with the lead group for almost the entire race.  On the final lap, I dropped behind.  Another rider caught up to me about 1.5 miles from the finish.  This meant that the finish would be a sprint.  We sprinted, and I was able to pull ahead by 4 seconds.  I finished this NICA season in 3rd third place overall.

One final highlight this year was Ore to Shore.  I competed in the 28-mile event this year since I was too young to do the 48-mile event.  The race went quite well.  I held with the lead group for all but the last 4 miles.  I dropped behind on a long, steep hill.  I ended up finishing in 6th place overall and 2nd in 12-15.  This was far better than I had hoped to do.

I would like to thank Coach Nathan Guerra for the great daily coaching he provided me with.  Without this specific coaching, I would have never have been able to do this well this year.  I would also like to thank Wilhelm Harm for the race day repairs he helped with so that I could complete my races.  Wheel and Sprocket Delafield has also been very helpful in the repairs and services they have offered.



Elijah Johnson- WORS #8 Hixon Forest Epic – August 6, 2017

Last weekend’s race at La Crosse had some changes from the previous years.  Some of the trail had been destroyed due to heavy rain eliminating the long, fast downhill in the Cat 1 and 2 race.  This worked out well for the Cat 1 race since it began raining at about 1:00.

The morning of race day began as usual.  We watched the Junior and Citizen race begin.  By the time the Sport race began, I could see that the sky was not as promising as I had hoped.  During the Sport race, I watched several parts of the course to see how they flowed with racers close to each other.

At about 12:40, I began my warm-up.  As I was riding around, I was watching the sky.  It looked like rain to the west.  Part of the way through my warm-up, I ran into the Paterson brothers and rode with them for a bit.  At about 1:00, it began to sprinkle.  I lightly rode back to the vendor area so I could go to a shelter if it began to rain harder.  By about 1:10, it was pouring.  The temperature had dropped about 5 degrees, and I was wet.

At about 1:20, all the riders rode out from under the shelter and down to the race start.  I had my grandpa clean my glasses so I could see and did my best to stay warm.  When the Cat 1 Men were called up, the Cat 1 Junior Men forgot to stay back because we were so eager to get out on the course.  I rode over to the right side of the start chute so I would be on the inside of the first corner.

Right when we started, I sprinted up the right side and secured a good position.  The first corner was packed and there were almost several crashes.  The next straight section was very bumpy, so I did my best to hold my position in these slippery conditions.  After a short climb, we jumped on a more worn and hard packed trail.  The problem with hard packed wet dirt containing clay is it is almost as slippery as ice.  Pretty quickly a rider went down, and I barely managed to avoid crashing.  The rain made the first steep climb interesting since it was so slippery.  I made it up the hill and gained several positions.  The next section of double track was the last good passing spot before the first section of single track.  I made several passes and jumped into the first section of single track in a good position.

The single track was very difficult because it was wet and slick.  Everyone was sliding and doing their best to stay on the course.  I made it through without any crashes.  The second section of single track had a different challenge since it was more protected and dry in spots.  It had a lot of roots.  This section was the driest part of the course.  The trail for the remainder of the lap was slick and wet.  I had to unclip several times and run my bike at least once.

By the time I had completed the first lap, the rain had pretty much stopped.  What I did not know going into the second lap was that the course was even more slick since it was a bit torn up.  There were even more spots I needed to run my bike since I could not get enough traction on the back tire.  I made it through the lap safely.

The last lap was definitely the most interesting since one of my competitors had caught up to me.  Most of the trail had started to dry out so it seemed faster.  Towards the end of the lap, I could tell it was going to be a sprint to the finish.  In the last section of single track, I rode at a lighter pace to let my legs rest.  Right when we burst into the last section of double track, we began to sprint.  My competitor passed me on the first hill.  Since I had about a ½ mile left, I drafted and waited.  About 500 feet before the finish, I passed him back.  I remained at a sprinting pace.  On the final corner, I chose the inside line.  My competitor took it a little tighter and almost passed me.  We finished only about 3 feet apart.  We were all grateful that we and our bikes had survived the muddy race.


Elijah Johnson – WORS #7 Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic – July 23, 2017

Sunday morning began with a quick breakfast of oatmeal.  Then we headed over to Minooka.  We arrived at about 8:30, so I could get a pre-ride in before the Juniors began.  The course had been closed on Saturday, because it was muddy from several inches of rain the previous week.  Upon completing the pre-ride, I rode to a good viewing area to watch the Junior race.  The place I went had 4 spots where the course crossed all within about 300 feet of each other.  I went from spot to spot to see both the Junior and Citizen race.

After all the Citizen racers went by for their first lap, I went to get some food.  For the remainder of the morning, I hung out around the bottom of the hill watching friends come through and finish.  At about 12:40, I began my warm-up which lasted until about 1:10.  I then checked my tire pressure right before heading over to the start line.

This race I began in about the 4th row.  My strategy was to go along the side and pass as many people as possible on the first hill.  By the top of the hill, I was in the top 10.  I maintained my position throughout the first section of double track.  Right before we jumped into the single track, I passed at least 1 more person.  I was able to keep up and even passed some people on the first lap.  On one of the rock gardens in the second section of single track, I bottomed out my back tire.  I was glad that Wheel and Sprocket helped convert me to tubeless last year.  If I bottomed out with tubes, I would have had a flat.  The remainder of the lap went smoothly with no crashes.

Right after I passed the start/finish area, I began to get a bit confused with the course because I had not pre-ridden that part.  I was in the lead of a group and thought that we would be turning right into a section of single track.  Instead, we turned left going what would normally be backwards on a section of single track.  Then we went to another section of double track which connected to the section of single track onto which I was originally planning on turning left.  Once I figured this out, I was able to get back up to speed and hold a fast pace.

As I climbed the start hill on the second lap, I grabbed a handoff from my Grandpa.  Throughout the first section of double track, I was able to maintain a good pace.  By the time I entered the second section of single track I could tell that my legs were beginning to tire out.  I maintained a good pace but did not go too hard coming out of the corners.  On one of the sections of double track, there was a long downhill, then a hard-right turn, and a climb back up to the top.  On the climb, I was unable to keep up with the group I had been riding with for the previous section of the race.  From that point on, my goal was just to maintain a good pace and hold my position.

As I completed the second lap, I was about 1 minute ahead of my competitor.  I was able to hold a lead for the entire lap, but the gap closed a bit.  On the final double track section, I could see him about 300 feet behind me.  I went at about an all-out sprint and finished only 9 seconds ahead.  Overall, it was another great race, and I can feel myself getting stronger each week with the help of Coach Nathan’s training.


Elijah Johnson – WORS Cup – July 7-8, 2017

On Saturday, the first day of racing, we arrived at about 10:45 so that I could get proper nutrition before the race began.  When the Sport races began, I watched them to study how various parts of the course worked when several racers went through at the same time.  At about 1:45, I began my warm-up which lasted until about 2:10.  One main difference between this race and the other races was that Pro, Cat 1 Juniors, and Cat 1 racers all lined up individually starting in 3 waves instead of everyone lining up together and beginning at once.  This worked better since there were a total of 24 Cat 1 Jr. males at this race.  5 states were represented in the Cat 1 Jr. race.    We started in the second wave 1 minute after the Pros.

The start was a flat section followed by a climb.  I began in the front row and completed the climb in the top half.  We continued to go at max pace over the top and into the first section of single track.  We raced in and out of the single and double track at max speed for the first lap.  By the end of the lap, we had established our positions.  The second lap went well except for one time when my front tire slipped and I crashed.  I was fine, but I lost about 10 seconds.  The second lap finished smoothly.  I grabbed a handoff and made it down the difficult downhill right before the start area.

On the final lap, I was tiring out a bit so I did not go at max speed up the mile-long climb to the top.  For most of the lap, I was right behind another Cat 1 Jr.  This motivated me so I did my best to stay right behind him.  I was guessing it would be a sprint at the end, so I tried to save as much energy as possible.  While descending the final hill, I was unable to pass him.  On the final 2 sections of double track, we sprinted.  We finished within 1 foot.  Even though he was not in my age category, we helped push each other.  The cross-country race finished well, and the course was great.

Saturday night when we arrived home, I went on a light ride so my legs would recover for the short track on Sunday.

On Sunday, we left for the race early so we would be there before the Amateur Men’s short track at 9:00.  Since I had just raced the day before, I chose to do a longer warm-up than usual.  I began my warm-up at about 10:05.  About 5 minutes into it, I noticed that my chain was jumping consistently.  I brought it to Wilhelm, and he found that one of the pins had slipped out of place.  He quickly replaced it so I could finish warming up before the race.

At the start of the race, the Cat 1 Juniors lined up in 3 rows and the Cat 1 men 19-39 had 3 rows.  This worked well since each group had its fastest riders in the front.  The start of the race was interesting since there was about a 1000 ft section of flat double track before there were several turns before the first climb.  It was still tight when we entered the turns.  This resulted in some racers getting pushed out of their line and almost crashing.  The first climb was also interesting because everyone was still establishing their position by trying to pass in a section which was only about 5 ft wide.  After the first climb, most racers were content with their position and just held their spots.

The next several laps went smoothly with several people trading positions around me.  As we neared the end, the intensity picked up a bit.  On the final straight section of double track, I passed several people.  The remainder was a sprint.  At the finish, I sprinted and only beat one of my competitors by about 5 feet.  The race went great, and I learned a lot.
ScreenHunter_77 Jul. 17 14.04

Elijah Johnson- WORS #3 Battle of Camrock – June 4, 2017

The 3rd WORS race had some new challenges to it.  There were many rocky climbs, and the weather was in the upper 80s and sunny.  This was ten degrees warmer than average.

On the morning of race day, we arrived at the venue around 8:30.  We set up our canopy tent in a great spot for both handoffs and viewing multiple parts of the course.  At 9:30, the Junior’s race began, and at 10:00, Citizen started.  During these races, I was careful to stay hydrated and in the shade.  Shortly after the Sport race began at 11:30, I began to get ready for my race.  Around 12:40, I began my warm-up which lasted until 1:10.  I then made my way down to the start area.

We began to line up at about 1:20. This race they did not allow the Cat 1 Juniors to line up until all the Cat 1 racers were in the start chute, resulting in me starting in about the 6th row.  At the top of the first climb, I was trying to establish my position.  The first section of single track was tight since everyone was still in a close group.  In the next section of double track, I advanced in position a bit.  My front tire slid out about 2 miles in on a section of single track.  About 2 people passed me.  We then had a short section of double track followed by a fairly technical downhill.  I held my place for the next several miles through both double track and single track.

At the end of the first lap, we had a very technical climb with several switchbacks in which balance was critical.  I was able to make it to the top since Coach Nathan had taught us to do slow mo which is a race in which you go as slow as possible over a short course to practice balance.   As I passed through the start/finish area, completing the first lap, I took a handoff from my Grandpa.  Staying hydrated was more important than usual with the temperature being in the upper 80s.  The entire second lap went smoothly with no crashes.  By the end of it, I was only about 5 seconds ahead of one of my competitors.  At one point in the final lap, one of my competitors passed me when I went by the water station.  On the next hill, I was able to pass him.  There was a good amount of climbing and double track at the end.  After finishing strong, I spun around for a while and drank a recovery drink.  Overall, it was another good race.


“Ain’t no place like home” – June 4th

Hey team !

Here’s some race news from western France. So, today was (only) my 7th race of the year, and one of the biggest for me, 5 kilometers away from home. 20 laps of 4.5km (90km), with 2 climbs (1100m total eg) and a lot of wind.

Even if the legs did hurt quite a bit, I did manage to stay with the pack until the end, this time. And I even went forward and attacked in the last kilometer. I finished “only” 22nd, but still, we worked hard as a team, and we placed 5 of us in the top20… including a 2nd place !

The only fact that I was able to attack in the final kilometers is enough to give me some confidence back, as it is only the 2nd road race I complete this season, and the first one with the pack. Let’s see what the next ones will show ! 🙂

Strava link : https://www.strava.com/activities/1021141576/overview