This week, cyclocross racers from all over the country are headed to Reno, Nevada, to try their luck in the U.S. Cyclocross National Championships. One of those riders will be Sean Estes, the Global PR Manager for Specialized Bicycles and a relatively recent convert to the competitive side of cycling. Even with a heavy travel schedule and long work hours, Sean has found his true calling in cyclocross. We caught up with him to hear his personal story on what makes ‘cross special, and get some insight into this week’s nationals course, where he’ll be lining up in search of a podium spot in the 40- to 44-year-old age group.
What’s drawn you to cyclocross compared to other cycling disciplines?
I’ve been riding mountain bikes all my life just not as a racer; I had only ever done maybe two or three races and never thought of myself as competitive. When I started working at Specialized I would do the infamous lunch ride each day with some really fast guys and girls, then on a whim I jumped in a ‘cross race in November of 2011. I was completely hooked. There’s something about it that fits me. I don’t have a great sprint, but I have good off and on power from the mountain bike riding I grew up doing. That must have been some inadvertent training, and the handling skills I had certainly helped. I even spent a year racing on the road and it was fun, but it wasn’t my thing. It didn’t get into my blood like ‘cross.
How do you fit training and racing into such a busy work schedule?
One of the things I love is that the season lines up with my work schedule. I’m traveling so much in the spring and summer that maintaining a schedule is a challenge. In the fall, and when I’m in the office, I do the Specialized lunch ride, which is a high-intensity, one-hour ride that can mimic ‘cross type intervals. Having those rides at my disposal every day for hard intervals is really the core of my schedule. That gets me to a good point and then the racing begins and sharpens me. The reality is, you can be competitive as a ‘cross racer on 6-10 hours a week of training.
What are you expecting from the Reno course?
I raced two events there in the past and the venue really has so much potential; and from the looks of the nationals course, it seems to be the best use of the park. It has a lot of grass, a big sandpit, and a challenging off-camber section. Looking at it as an age grouper, something I like is the long, wide starting straight that should help give everyone an opportunity to get a good start even if you don’t have a front row call up. As far as weather goes, Reno is in a bit of a rain shadow from the Sierra, but it’s been raining heavily in the Bay area so you never know what you’re going to get over the course of the week.
Do you have a game plan for the race?
Having moved into a new age bracket this year I’m not sure what my call-up is going to be; I’m expecting to start from the back and gain as much ground as I can early. I’ll pre-ride and figure out the course as much as I can ahead of time, such as where I can rest and where I can push it. Ideally, you want to put in an effort going into a tight area, then you can let off and rest where it’s difficult to pass. During open practice, I’ll figure out my strategy. I’ll definitely be using PR Lotion at nationals since I think it’s huge for something like a 45-minute race where every single thing counts. It’s about finding that edge to get a few more positions. If you can gain three seconds per lap, lap after lap, that adds up to a lot. Marginal gains is a real concept, and in ‘cross it’s incredibly true.
Follow Sean Estes at the Cyclocross National Championships at on Instagram @like_the_wheel.