Bikerumor Interview: Dave Wiens on the TransAlp and Leadville 100
I followed Dave Wien’s (above, left) daily updates through the TransAlp, as well as the hullabaloo surrounding Lance’s appearance (and recent destruction of the field at Blast the Mass) and got to thinking…what must be going on in Dave Wien’s head right about now. A couple of emails later and I’m proud to present a candid, friendly interview that’s an enjoyable little read…
BIKERUMOR: You just finished the TransAlp, where you and teammate Alban Lakata place 7th overall. Looking through the names on the results pages, I didn’t notice any other well-known riders (at least not to U.S. cyclists)…did people there know who you were? Were other riders there similarly legendary in their respective homelands?
DAVE: The top riders at TransAlp were mainly what in Europe are called Marathon racers. The top guys are pros and are earning a living at it. I guess it could be likened to a minor league ball player: getting paid but not being at that highest level. The Marathon scene is healthy in Europe with riders racing in marathons and stage races the entire season. Alban Lakata, Carl Platt and Thomas Dietch are examples of full-time, pro marathon/stage racers. These guys are well known there in that circle. Me? I had to have security just to get to the starting line and then again to get back to the team bus each day. Not really!
BIKERUMOR: The TransAlp is on my personal bucket list, but if you’re getting 7th, I’m starting to think the competition there is well out of my league. Plus, you had a team mechanic and support crew. In your opinion, is the TransAlp something a generally fit XC riding buddies could or should do?
DAVE: If you like climbing (a lot!), want to ride in the Alps, and don’t mind riding much, much more pavement and gravel then singletrack, the TransAlp is a great event for you. You should be in shape because the climbing is off the charts, but you have all day to finish and there are great feed zones, not to mention restaurants, along the courses. The TransAlp is actually really intense to race, meaning to try to go as fast as you can. Climb as hard as you can, ride the motoring sections as fast as you can and ride the descents as fast as you can. It’s the last one that really got my attention. For the most part, the courses are open and you will negotiate hundreds of blind, sketchy turns at warp speed and you have no idea what is around the corner. The surface is often gravel and the grades can be really steep and long. You can burn through your brakes pretty easily if you’re not careful. I found it intense and unnerving at this stage in my racing career (um, retired, sort of, last time I checked) and my life. It’s very compelling racing but also the most dangerous descending I have ever done. Not just to ride the descents because they are generally pretty easy to ride at a moderate speed, but to ride them as fast as you can, that’s where it gets sketchy. Back to the meat of the question, if the Alps, climbing, great atmosphere and camaraderie, and not much singletrack appeals to you, and you are in decent shape, by all means, the TransAlp is a really cool event. It will go down as an all time bike racing highlight for me.
BIKERUMOR: In the Topeak-Ergon race (Transalp) reports we’ve been reading, you and Alban mentioned slight problems throughout the race. What went wrong and what would you do better next time?
DAVE: Let’s see, we broke a chain, lost the master link actually, fixed it in less than a minute and didn’t lose a place. We got two flats, one each, no biggie. Other than that, we went my pace. We went my pace because Alban was much stronger climbing (and riding the flats) and descending. I didn’t come into the race trying to peak for it. My primary goal has always been Leadville. But that being said, I don’t know that I could have been that much fitter for it and my descending speed isn’t related to my fitness. Alban and I were a good team. We had fun and all things considered, I think we did pretty well. I know he was frustrated at times, as he was so strong and all, but it wasn’t like he had this other teammate option waiting in the wings that he didn’t get to pursue since I was there.
BIKERUMOR: Is there a next time?
DAVE: There could be a next time for TransAlp but it wouldn’t be to compete at a high level. It would be with my wife Susan or something like that and it would be more of a tour. That would be fun as heck.
BIKERUMOR: Your sponsor, Rotwild, doesn’t appear to make a 29er, and by and large the 29er phenomenon seems to be an American trend. Was anyone at the TransAlp racing a 29er bike?
DAVE: I don’t recall seeing a niner at TransAlp, certainly not in the top 10 teams. Of course, Alban and I were the only team riding fullys in the top….20 probably. I think 5 years will decide the whole 29er issue. If there is truly an advantage to them racing, that will come out in the next few years. I remember in 1990, Tomac, Herbold and myself were the only guys riding on suspension forks. By the start of the next season, pretty much everyone had warmed up to them and realized what an advantage they were. I’m simply on the fence on the niner issue; no bike company I have had a relationship with lately has had one in their line to test. I haven’t ridden one since I raced my Diamondback Overdrive Comp in the Dirt Crit at the Cactus Cup in 1992. Harry Leary, you were an innovator!
BIKERUMOR: Which model did you ride and how was it spec’d out? What does it weigh?
DAVE: I rode the Rotwild R.R2 FS full-suspension, full carbon frame with a DT Swiss rear shock and Ergon GX2 Team Issue Carbon grips with barends. Then, Magura Durin MD 100 R suspension fork and Magura Marta SL brakes, both the best of each category I’ve ever ridden. DT Swiss Carbon wheels and Continental Race King Supersonic 2.2 tires with Conti latex tubes, as a connection to the ground. Shimano XTR drivetrain, shifters, pedals, and deraileurs. Thomson stem and seatpost. Terry Carbon Rail saddle. Topeak Carbon Shuttle bottle cages, seat bag, and mini pump. Inflation Innovations inflation devices. I didn’t weigh it but I’d guess it would come in around 23lbs bare bones.
BIKERUMOR: Will you be changing any components, tires or other gear for the Leadville 100 this year?
DAVE: Yes. For Leadville, I’ll be riding the Rotwild R.R2 HT, full carbon hardtail. Everything else will be the same except I will use the Magura Durin SL 80 suspension forks and Continental Race King 2.2 Tubeless tires. this bike will weigh in around 21lbs bare bones.
BIKERUMOR: Speaking of the Leadville, some of the comments on Bikerumor seem to think this is the year Lance Armstrong beats you. Your thoughts on that?
DAVE: Honestly, it’s hard to see on paper how he can lose. Last year he was a couple of weeks into training and I was as fit as I think I have ever been, at least for a race of that distance. He pushed me to the limit; it wasn’t like I had much more to give. This year, he’s a year and a couple of weeks into training and fresh off of two Grand Tours and nearly winning The Tour. It wasn’t as if I could so something different to be way fitter for this year’s race. I’ll be stoked if I have last year’s fitness and head to head, no technical issues, that just won’t cut it against him. Additionally, and I can’t say this enough, there are going to be some other hammers in the race this year gunning for both of us. Last I heard it was Tinker, Jeremiah Bishop, although he might be hurt, and Travis Brown, to name three. And you never know who else might pop his head in there, known or unknown.
The other element here is that Leadville has never hosted the best bike racers. My wins there all have an invisible asterisk next to them, as in, who wasn’t there that could possibly have won? When Lance wins The Tour or gets third, it’s not like there are people saying, “yeah, but such and such guy wasn’t there and so and so wasn’t there either.” But that’s another difference, too, at The Tour, your racing for tons of global glory and piles of money; at the Leadville 100, you’re racing for a fifteen pound ore cart trophy, a belt buckle,a gold mining pan and, last year, a sweet long board! Before Lance and Floyd, the winner of this race got scant more attention than the rider that came in closest to the 12 hour cut-off time. But that was a good thing and was perfectly aligned with the spirit of the event.
BIKERUMOR: You’ve got the double whammy, too, with Levi Leipheimer signed up to race…what’s it like going in to defend your title against some serious horsepower like those two?
DAVE: I can only do what I can do. I realized that against Floyd in ’07 when he pedaled away from me, and I mean pedaled away from me! I can only go so hard before I’m in danger of blowing to the moon. Regardless of who is there, I will simply try to ride at the front of the race as long as I can. If I can’t hang anymore, I’ll drop off and go into time trial mode and hope I can ride that pace steadily to the finish line. My time will be my time. I’m going into this race feeling like I can’t lose. That’s a loose and metaphorical “can’t lose” because while I may not win the race, for me there will be personal victory in defeat. But I will be trying to win the race!
BIKERUMOR: What’s the hardest workout you do to prepare for the Leadville 100…the one that hurts the most and you just wish it would end?
DAVE: I have a tempo workout I do on the flats on a road bike I call AMU. You’re on the pedals constantly, never getting a break, and I’ll work up to about 3 hours of this. Heartrates will vary between 135 and 160 and the average will be about 148. It is simply torture, in my opinion. This year I did less of this workout with the TransAlp plopped right down in the middle of my typical Leadville training block. I do lots of hard trail rides around Gunnison, too, but trail riding, even really hard trail riding is fun and you hope it never ends. Road intervals hurt, too. I’ll do 2 to 2.5; 4 to 5; and 8 to 10 minute intervals, either on the flats or in the hills. My watch can’t move fast enough for those. Intervals into the wind are especially hard!
BIKERUMOR: What’s harder, the Leadville 100 or the TransAlp?
DAVE: Overall, TransAlp, but it’s hard to compare the two.
BIKERUMOR: If you could only do one next year, which would it be?
DAVE: I like them both but my heart and soul is in Colorado.
BIKERUMOR: Any other stage races in your future plans?
DAVE: Not certain I will do one but the BC Bike Race, Breck Epic and Pisgah Stage Race all sound pretty cool. Maybe I’ll see if I can get hired on to cook for the riders or something! I’m a really good cook!
BIKERUMOR: Thanks, Dave, and good luck this weekend! Ã‚Â We’re rootin’ for ya!