This time around it was different. The mental state of a racer is just as important as the physical side. During a 100 mile mountain bike race your emotions are truly on a roller coaster from hell. The top racers have an uncanny outlook on life itself which directly reflects their ability to not only suffer on the bike but find light in the darkest of hours.

Shenandoah Mountain 100…

This race was the first race on my calendar for the 2017 season. I was able to do a lot of cool races last year but Shen was easily the best race of the season for me. Not only is the actual race amazing but the entire atmosphere is which leaves most with a weekend full of memories to never be forgotten.

Our trip started off early Saturday morning. I linked up with Bill, Hans, Roy, Kimarie and Larry around 7:00 am to make the trip South towards Stokesville, VA. It was a very relaxing drive down as we stopped numerous times (we weren’t in any rush to get there being that there was rain in the forecast for Saturday). Once we were roughly 30 minutes from the venue we stopped at Shenandoah Bicycle Company in downtown Harrisonburg. Really cool shop with a very helpful staff (definitely check them out if you are in the area). From there I checked into my hotel while the others headed to the event. Quick check in for me and I immediately headed over to the event campground.

There I link back up with Bill, Hans & Roy to help setup camp. We setup camp right next to our friends from MD. Matt along with Sugar Teets (yes that’s really a person and a story for another day) who were already setup. Ted arrived maybe an hour later. The gang is all here! We hangout for a bit share some laughs and of course talk about what’s to come. While there was a calmness to the evening you could still feel the nerves starting to take over. Wanting to get a good nights rest, I registered and headed back to the hotel. I watched some of the Alabama vs. Florida State game and quickly called it a night.

4:30 AM wake up because race day is here. I kit up, throw on the race day Reds and head over to the event Start/Finish area. The crew is getting themselves ready for the day as I pull up to the tent area. Race goes off at 6:30 AM. It’s 6:25 and everyone is scattered about. I’m not interested in getting thrown off of my game plan so I head over to the start and line up in the 11 hour section. There I see Matt Eggleton who I met at last years Shenandoah 100.

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The whistle blows and it’s game time. Baffled by where the hell everyone was I hesitated for a second but then began pushing pedals as I knew there was work to be done to break the 12 hour mark.

The weather is cool, the roads are damp and one by one I passed riders that were towards the back of the pack. We get into the first 6 mile fire road climb and there I see Kimarie and shortly thereafter I see my teammate Hans. I had a brief interaction with both and continued pushing pedals. At the bottom was Aid Station 1. I rolled right through as my plan was to stop at 2 which was roughly 31 miles in. Between AS1 & AS2 I run into Anne Pike, I had no idea it was her until she looks left and says “hey Jon” LOL. Hey Anne, how’s it going? “I’m good”, I’m good as well.  Short but sweet we continue pushing pedals. A group of 6 or so riders began to work together on a very fast road section. It was cool to see complete strangers work together and I guess everyone understood how much faster we would be sharing the work load versus being on your own. That was until Wolf Ridge…insert fck my life.

Wolf is a 5.3 mile technical single track climb that is absolutely BRUTAL. Last year I walked most of this section from the bottom. This year armed with go go gadget legs and a 11 – 46 rear cassette we were trying to clear this one. First section and I’m on one…dabs galore around me but Swaggy P is putting it down. First switchback clear and we still grinding, second switchback and I’m still on the bike but the legs are starting to feel this beating. Third switchback and I’m still on the bike but relegated to a crawling pace. I was still gaining on the walkers and anyone behind me had no intent on passing. There was a steep pitch ahead and everyone dismounts. I gave it a good attempt but that’s all she wrote. I walked the rest of Wolf. While the climb sucks you are instantly rewarded with some of the best single track that you can imagine. Fast, tight, bench cut trails with berms for days. 2 minutes in and I had completely forgotten about that 30 minute climb/walk section. This was simply amazing and probably my favorite descent of the day.

I roll into AS2 and I see both Dave Pike (volunteering) and my teammate Bill. Two bottles refilled with my Skratch Labs mix a couple cookies and I’m good to go. I pull out of AS2 with Bill and this was the most Epic part of the day for me. It wasn’t all fun and games though…first things first… Leaving the AS you are immediately thrust into a road section that leads directly into the 6 mile Hankey climb. It’s not super steep but it wraps around the mountain and feels never ending. We eventually get to the summit of the climb and after a couple other sections come to my 2nd favorite descent of the day. This section had it all. A similar cut to the first downhill section but there were rocks and roots thrown in which made it a little tougher and because of the speed you could carry you had to be on your A game. Getting the opportunity to share this with Bill was simply amazing! This section starts around the 4 minute mark in the below video. EPIC!

We roll into the ‘S’ turn section and there is Will Niccolls to capture this amazing Brands Factory Racing cover shot. He’s already known as an amazing photographer but talk about being at the right place at the right time…

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Eventually we make it to the 6 mile SR 715 climb and I lose contact with Bill. He had legs for days and I knew I had to follow the plan to PR and my HR being at 165 was definitely not part of the plan so I couldn’t risk a chase with so many miles to go.

As if shit wasn’t already getting real enough here comes the Death Climb. This climb can’t be explained to anyone who hasn’t done it simply because it sounds over exaggerated and just can’t be as bad as it sounds. F all that, it is exactly that bad! Legitimately almost 13 miles long and comes around mile 65 on top of that. While I PR’d it this year it still took me 1:45:45. I had all kinds of crazy discussions with other racers including me deliriously telling someone that I could fit into some skinny jeans right about now. No idea how that discussion went south so quick but we shared a laugh and it helped take our minds off of this never ending climb for a few seconds.

Death Climb is finally done and here is where I have made the biggest jump as a racer. Yes my fitness is better this season but mentally I have been able to stop myself from jumping into that deep dark hole. I’m on the diving board at times but I just don’t jump in. At this point I’m a salty sweaty mess. Legs are on fire, shoulders, arms and hands are sore and my ass was taking a beating from being in the saddle all day. I kept pedaling though! AS4 was a blur but I remember coming into AS5 as this is where I knew they had pizza. I slammed a slice and had the entire Aid Station laughing when I yelled I’m only here for the pizza. Grabbed a coke and I was in and out of there in less than 2 minutes.

More climbing was on the way out of 5 but I knew AS6 was 13 miles away and once I got there I was only 12 miles from the finish.

Climbing out of 5 a rider rolls up on me and says “hey New York”. I turn around and see Christine a rider from Bicycle Depot out of New Paltz, NY. I smile and say Hey New York. We engage in a little conversation and we talk about Lippman Park. She says…”yeah it’s okay but we have much better riding up there”. My eyes lit up with excitement as Lippman was already one of my favorite places to ride. Don’t worry Christine, I’ll be up that way soon and definitely going to be looking to ride with the locals. She passes me on the climb but I catch her on the descent into AS6.

AS6 was a fckn party. Music blasting, people yelling and all hell is breaking loose. No matter how you felt at this point you couldn’t help but smile. I head straight for the Pringles but someone hands me a coke with a side of fries. Holy s#$@! Fck the Pizza…I’m now coming for the fries. Suddenly I felt no pain. Was it the fries, the coke, the double fist of Pringles, cookies? You name it, I had it and I was still out of AS6 in under 3 minutes.

2nd round of Hankey…I got this. I’m behind a couple racers but I keep them in my sights. I climb and climb and climb some more until we hit the top of Hankey. It’s a left at the top but there is still more climbing to be had. On the very last climb I pull next to a racer and he says I thought they said the climbing was done. I laugh and say we are almost there. I tell him my legs are shot but I’m about to drop the hammer. I don’t think he wanted any parts of a hammer session so he declined to follow. I knew exactly where I was and once we hit the top it was truly all downhill from here.

I dip into the last bit of SWEET single track and pop out to people lined up on both sides of the finish area yelling and screaming for you. Someone yells out do a tail whip…of course I had to give the people what they asked for LOL. Unfortunately I missed the big finish on the GoPro!!!

Mission accomplished. I finished officially in 11:31:51. Mentally I was able to keep my head in a very good place for most of the day. Physically I suffered like everyone else but I cleared things I couldn’t even imagine clearing last year. Old friends, new friends, PR’s, stories and memories for a lifetime.

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Why do we do this? I talked to so many riders throughout the day that completed numerous SM100’s and all of them said I just keep coming back. It’s crazy how one could suffer so much and then reset to do it all over again. You learn a lot about yourself during these races. They are really long days on the bike and that both mentally and physically wears you down. The strong survive though! You have to be willing to push through barriers and walls that you never have before but one pedal stroke at a time and sometimes even one step at a time you just keep moving forward.

The 2017 iteration of the SM100 was really hard. Slick roots and soft climbing sections made for a long day but I finished. I PR’d by 40 minutes and the very next day I was thinking about if I would do it again. While I’m not ready to spit out a goal in terms of time I’m aiming for just yet I would 100% do this race again! There is just enough amazing single track to balance out the immense amount of climbing.

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I can suffer with the best of them.

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While I’m not the strongest rider out there my calm demeanor and strong will are things that drive me forward. It’s inevitable that things happen in a 100 mile MTB race. It could be a small mechanical, a crash, nutrition issues, going to hard, etc. Countless things could go wrong out there. That can’t stop you. At times it is just you and your bike for miles at a time. You get comfortable with this and it makes you focus on the goal at hand. It gets to the point where the only thing that matters is crossing that finish line. Once you do your life is changed forever (complete one and you will totally understand that statement).

I now get to welcome 3 friends to the club so congrats to Bill, Hans and Matt on completing their first and surely not last 100 mile MTB race.

What an EPIC day! Chris Scott puts on an amazing event. The Aid Stations, the course, the fries, the volunteers, the pizza, the world class field, the FINISH… Everything you could imagine is put in place to make this an experience of a lifetime and for that reason alone I’ll definitely be back.

Thanks to Dan and Brands Cycle & Fitness for their support all season long. Special thanks to Rohan, Charlie & Pasta for getting the bike SM100 ready. Shout to Bill, Roy, Hans, Matt, Ted, Joe, Dustin, Larry and Wynn for finishing. A special, special shout to Kimarie for finishing with lights in the dark (super proud of you)! Thanks to Chris Scott for putting on an amazing event. Lastly and certainly not least thanks to all of the companies that have supported me and help me to travel to these races doing what I love to do.

Photo credit to Will Niccolls and Tammy Eggleton

While a lot of progress has been made I still feel like there is a lot more work to do. The journey has started but it certainly isn’t finished. I’m so happy to be able to share my ups and downs and if you take nothing else away from my race reports…take away the fact that you can do it too!

Until next time…

My Journey, My Life

Jon Merritt

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Unfiltered…

The Stewart 45 is the race that sparked a fire in me!

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The 2015 iteration of the Stewart 45 was my first endurance race. On that day I was physically and even worse mentally broken…it was the hardest drive home I’ve ever had after a race.

Looking at yourself after a DNF you see a lot of ugly things that leave you with a lot of unanswered questions. I didn’t have a mechanical, I didn’t crash out, I simply gave into those little demons. What makes it even worse was the fact that it was half way through the 3rd lap. So I suffered for over 3 hours to not finish the last 45 minutes? Yeah that math doesn’t add up!

That defeat was probably the best thing that could have happened to me early in my racing career. It translates to life. It’s not about where you place. It’s about finishing what you started. Did the 101 in 95 degrees with 100% humidity hurt? Yup…but I finished. Did the Rattling Epic chunkfest suck when I tore a sidewall and proceeded to get 3 additional flats? Yup…but I finished. See that failure unleashed something in me to never want to feel that way again. When you’re in that place, I mean deep in that place…the mind will start to play tricks on you.

My mind – You serious right now? So you are cramping in your right hamstring and left quad and you want to keep going? You’re fckn stupid. Let’s live to fight another day…just shut it down. Oh shit you’re low on water…let’s shut it down. Fck lower back spasms, you can’t take your hands off the grips…yeah that’s a real problem. Let’s just pull over at the pit and sit for a minute. Whew, we gave it a good run today..let’s just chill out and get ready for the next one…

Shut the fck up!

2017 Stewart 45…

The day started with a 4:00 am alarm. Quick shower, add CarboRocket to my bottles which I filled the night before, pack the car and I’m headed out by 5:00 am. I link up with two of my teammates Bill and Marshal at the Sloatsburg rest stop off of 87. We pull up to Stewart around 7:00 am, park, use the bathroom, register, setup our feed zone and head out for a little leg spin. We go through the start area to where you hit the first piece of singletrack along with going from the finish line towards the feed zone. By the time we finish the rest of the team is there. Around 8:30 am we do a 15 minute warm up and head over to the starting line.

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Horn goes off and as always it’s a Fast & Furious start. I settle into the 4th spot and decide to not chase the lead group of 3 into the singletrack. I’m running at a great pace and with a group of 3 other Sport racers. Navigating through the back of SS and Masters we continued to hold a great pace through lap 1. Then disaster strikes…around mile 6 right at the bottom of the Death Climb I dropped my GU flask. Out of pocket to mouth was Gucci, mouth to back left jersey pocket FAIL. I made the decision to leave it and kept with my group of 3 which eventually dwindled to 2. The back half of lap 1 it was me and Aaron (R-Cubed).

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The start of Lap 2 I chucked a bottle (didn’t pit) and moved the rear bottle to the front. I was able to ask our one woman pit crew to grab me a GU for the start of lap 3 without stopping which was awesome for me. Aaron and I pushed on. We pop out to a fire road and have a quick discussion. Aaron says “so what’s the plan, you want to close that gap or are you good?” I reply “I’m settled in nice and I definitely don’t want to blow myself up”. He replies “all good…I’m gonna see if I can catch them”. He takes off and I continue at my pace. At this point we were still very early into lap 2. I’ve passed a lot of people but have no idea where I stood in my category. My pace is still very good and all of the sudden it happened. The heat and humidity set in. Typical Stewart…so much for the 70 degree somewhat cool start. It was now well over 80 and the humidity was wicked. I see a Black & Orange jersey in the distance and set a target to catch. Eventually I catch the rear wheel and low and behold it’s my boy Christian. I don’t immediately say anything and just stay on his wheel. No doubt the young guns pace (Gabi) was brutal at the start and it’s now looking like my decision to not chase may have been a good move. Middle lap 2 and Christian says “anytime you want to pass just let me know”. I reply “nope I’m good”. He looks back and start laughing…dude why didn’t you say anything? My reply “oh I just wanted to see what those legs were looking like LOL”. We worked together the rest of lap 2 and both pit before the start of lap 3.

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I chuck bottle number 2 and grab a fresh cold one. Diana has GU in hand with the tops already off. My pit is 30 seconds max and I’m off.

Lap 3 was brutal. At this point the lower back is killing me. I’m having minor cramping in both legs but just continue to pedal. We take turns pulling and would push the flats and spin the climbs. Now my forearms are screaming and my hands are at times glued to the grips. Cramps are really starting to set in but I don’t say a word. We pop out to the death climb for the last time and I make a decision to see what’s left in the tank. I pushed hard on the climb and when I hit the top Christian wasn’t right on my wheel. I didn’t drop the hammer but I jumped into the singletrack and hit the flow section and tried to open a little gap. A couple minutes later Christian is right back on my wheel (but he burned a match to do it). 3/4 of the way through the last lap and Christian clips a tree. I yell out are you okay and he responds yes. Another small gap opens and he has to burn another match to get back on. I think the last straw was the last rock feature (nasty step up on tired legs) before you come out to the finish line fire road. I somehow was able to clear it and he didn’t…another gap opened and the last match that he burned to catch me on the fire road probably left him with nothing for the sprint finish. We cross the line 2 seconds apart and I have no idea what place either of us were in. Time on the day was 4 hours and 3 minutes.

Honestly it didn’t matter! I was hurting bad…I could barely bend down to open up my cooler. Everything felt like it hurt for about 10 minutes. The most important thing was that I finished. I could finally rid myself of what has been haunting me for the past 2 years. I completely forgot how hard this race was but was reminded very quickly. I made some major mistakes in terms of nutrition for this race. Some that were rider error, some that were outright bad preparation. Just knowing how bad the weather is there I should have went for 2 bottles per lap in lieu of trying to stretch 1 bottle per lap. That’s a story for another day though…right now I’m still riding on a high from finishing a tough race. When the dust settled I finished 4th out of 38 with Christian 2 seconds behind to round out the top 5. Shout to Aaron for pushing hard and finishing 2nd.

How are we defined? Is it past or present? I chose to believe it’s a little bit of both. I think there is a lesson in everything. Your failure one day could be the reason that you succeed another day. Racing bikes is hard but the hardest thing is controlling your emotions and keeping your mind at bay. Time and time again the mind will talk you out of something that you can totally do. Sometimes a bad word or two or hundred could be the difference. Don’t be afraid to tell your mind to… I’ll let you complete that sentence (post it in the comments).

As always thanks to Brands Cycle & Fitness for keeping me and the bike raceday ready. Shout to my Brands Factory Racing teammates for another stellar raceday and thanks to all of my sponsors/supporters for coming along with me on this journey. Special thanks to Diana for holding down the pit and pretty much saving my race at the start of lap 3. Lastly but definitely not least shout to Norm and the mtbnj.com crew. You guys put on an amazing event and I truly hope this wasn’t the last race at Stewart!

Photo credit to Diana Glick Toback & GT Luke

We have some big races coming up here in the second half of 2017. Time to get back to work. As always thanks for following my life/my journey…until next time,

Jon Merritt

 

The Bulldog Rump holds a special place in my heart, it was the first MTB race that I had ever done. It was a Cat 3 race a couple of years ago (2015) where I was broken and beaten into submission by what I at the time thought was a difficult course. Last year I did the Bulldog 4 hour endurance race and didn’t get the results I had hoped for. My goal was 7 laps, I only did 5.

Fast Forward to 2017 and the Bulldog Rump is race #5 on the H2H calendar. It was a date that I circled very early in the year. I love the course as it seems to perfectly suit my strengths as a rider.

My teammate Regg and I were able to get out to Kittatiny on June 4th for a pre-ride with some of the locals. The key points I was looking for were 1. Direction of the Course and 2. See the new switchback section that was added. Recon was perfect…course would run clockwise and the new switchback section was now part of the first climb as soon as you enter the singletrack. The newly added switchback’s made the bottom of the climb a little bit longer but much easier. The climb still ended with the steep, technical rocky section. This was the first technical section that could spell trouble depending where you enter the singletrack (lead group would be essential).

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There were a couple of other technical sections where line choice would be key but this was a course that I felt could be 100% cleaned with no hike a bike sections. Most of the climbs were short and punchy and most of the downhills were littered with small sharp angry rocks (tire choice/tire pressure was something to think about). There was even a twisty flow trail where you are riding right along the water. The course was fun, fast and beautiful. 3 laps done with a 4th serving of the infamous switchback climb and we were headed back to NY.

Race week went relatively smooth for me. I followed my training plan, properly hydrated, put together my race strategy and showed up feeling prepared and felt ready to race.

Just when you are ready to swing for the fences on that 3-0 fastball right down the middle, you get the curve ball instead. This time it was in the form of mother nature throwing us a 90+ degree day out of nowhere. All of us on the east coast have been riding in the 60’s & 70’s for the last couple months. Showing up on race day to a 90 degree day was surely going to be a challenge. Well at least I won’t be alone…we will all be suffering together!

The cool thing about racing in a series is there aren’t many secrets. You know exactly who is registered, you know who is leading in series points, you know who isn’t racing every race but kills everyone at every race they show up to, you know it all. I knew exactly who the big guns were and I had a race strategy in place. It was simple, go out as hard as I could and hold on until I couldn’t any longer.

Got a proper warm-up with the crew and it was time to lineup for the race start.

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Gun goes off and I immediately get onto Christian’s wheel. He’s pulling through the wide grass section like an untamed horse. 15 seconds into the race and the heart rate was already approaching Redline. Stick to the plan…I stay on his wheel even though I know there is a possibility that he would blow me up before I hit the switch back climb. Finally we hit the dirt approach on the other side of the field and he backs off a bit. Trust your fitness…I take a glance back and Ed the series leader is glued to my wheel with a small gap opened up to the 4th place rider. We hit the corner and he’s back on the gas as we approach the climb. Right at the start of the climb we all shift and up we go. I’m staying on his wheel as he surges up the root section at the bottom of the climb. We make it to the last portion of the climb where it gets technical. I back off a bit to ensure I clear my line. The top 3 all clear the climb and while I’m trying to recover Christian goes off the front and Ed goes around me and follows. I take a deep breath, look back and begin my chase. For the next mile their gap got bigger and bigger until I lost sight of them. I lose them around the 2.5 mile mark but my race plan worked. There were the top 2 that were super strong off the front and there was me sitting in 3rd. I was desperately trying to recover but they pulled me away from the rest of the field. 4th place was nowhere to be seen so all I had to do was hold my pace, race clean and I would get my first H2H podium. Legs were on fire, sweat was everywhere and I was panting like a reincarnation of Darth Vader. I pressed on racing with a certain paranoia of losing 3rd.

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I raced fast and stayed clean as I pushed up the punchy climbs and floated over the rocky descents. Halfway through Lap 1 I started to catch the back of Cat 2 19 – 39. This was great because I was pretty much racing solo up until this point. As soon as I crossed the field heading into another somewhat rocky, technical climb I caught a glimpse of my teammate Tom up ahead. It was exactly the motivation that I needed at the right time. Somewhere on the other side of the climb I catch him and simply say “what’s up Turz?”, his reply “what’s up Boss?, go get em.” It was a super short interaction but the sound of enthusiasm in his voice is always mind blowing. He’s seen me in all kinds of hurt locker moments and always finds a way to bring a smirk to my face. I gave him a “you got this” and pushed on. Rest of Lap 1 went smooth and out to the field we go.

Hammer was dropped. I pushed around the field as if it were the race start catching 2 others from the back of the 19 – 39 group. I knew I would only need to see that switchback climb one more time so I kept a harder gear and pushed to the top clearing the tech section for the second and last time. Just a quick update for Lap 2…heart rate 176 – check; legs screaming and telling me to go fck myself – check; Darth Vader mask on – check; hot as hell – check! Yup…were good! Carry on…

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I cross the field for the last time and know there are only a couple of tough sections that remain. The thought of getting on the podium is starting to sink in but I had to remain focused as a torn sidewall could take that all away. I stayed sharp but relentless, didn’t take any unnecessary risk but stayed aggressive. I wanted to make sure that I was still racing to win and not racing to try not to lose.

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On to the home stretch and the only racers around me at this point were the endurance racers who were probably working to squeeze one more lap in. The last flow section I ask for a pass and the racer was ecstatic to let me by. I let it rip past him and next thing I know he’s attached to my hip. WTF? You looked like you were about to pass out 10 seconds ago. “You have no idea how happy I am to see another racer” was his reply. I smiled and had no problem at all pulling a fellow racer out of the depths of the hurt locker. Lord knows it’s been done for me time and time again. I pushed hard and he followed until the last hard right into a technical climb. I cleared it, he dabbed and I didn’t see him again. I’m roughly a mile from the finish so I’m hard on the gas. Clear the last climb and clean the last rocky descent into the finish line. Race was over and I had left it all on the course. I saw Regg first (2nd Cat 2 SS) and then both Christian and Ed (1st & 2nd Cat 2 40 – 49), congratulated them and immediately dropped my bike and laid on the grass. That was hella hard!

We get stronger, we get faster but because of these two factors racing never gets easier. Shaving a minute off of your time comes with the same pain you felt the year before. You hurt the same and maybe even more but your time is faster and your results are better. It’s one of the things that draws me to racing. You see your improvement and it drives you to want to improve even more.

This was a really fun race, really hard but a ton of fun. Thanks to both Christian and Ed for setting the bar high. I know there is work to do and it’s awesome to get to race against really strong riders and have a day that I can be proud of. It felt really amazing to be specifically on this podium.

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Shout to the Brands Factory Racing squad. 6 racers; 6 top 8 performances and 4 podiums! BFR definitely had a great showing.

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Photo Credit to Michel Sales & Thomas Turza

Lastly and certainly not least I’d like to thank all of my sponsors for helping me reach my goals.

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This has been a season full of ups and downs but we are making progress and achieving our goals. As always thanks for taking this ride with me. Live your dreams!

My Life, My Journey,

Jon Merritt

It’s often times a misnomer when people say racing bikes is fun.

I absolutely love being on a bike! Racing…

I’m currently in my 3rd season of MTB racing and one of the things that has carried over from my lifetime of being an athlete is preparation. The thing with MTB racing is that preparation is only a piece of the puzzle. What I have learned is that you have to be diligent at controlling what you can control. Your fitness is on you, your nutrition is on you, did you pre-ride the course? That’s on you! Game plan, mental space, enough rest, following your rituals…that’s all on you. You show up race day with those things in order and the preparation part is done…now it’s time to show up and show out!

In all honestly I am just starting to uncover the mental side of racing. I prepare very well from a physical standpoint for races. Mentally not so much…I often times have thoughts of can I hold that pace, should I shoot for the hole shot, will I blow myself up, should I conserve, should I go all out??? On and on and on I go essentially psyching myself out of having any shot at putting together a good race.

Going into race #3, I was sitting on two top 5 finishes. First race I had a bad crash at the start and entered the single track at the back of the pack. Second race I was sitting in 3rd place with roughly 2 miles to go and break my seat. I call it character building LOL. Preparation was there, it just wasn’t my time yet. One of my teammates told me it’s gods way of keeping me hungry. Well I’m definitely still starving!!! Let’s get into this race report.

Fortunately my preparation was on point. Pre-ride Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday had me and baby gurl dialed in. We were going to run 24 psi F & R tire pressure with 105 psi in the front fork 2 clicks open F & R on the Brain.

Race Day arrives and I get there around 9:15 am. With a start time of 11:00 I had enough time to hangout with the squad, get myself ready and get a proper warm-up in. Heavy jacket 7/8 laps around the field and I’m up on the start line already in a sweat. Jacket off it’s go time.

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Cat 2 40+/Fat Bike was the last group to go off. I get on the front line and give myself one last little pep talk before the gun goes off!

Countdown is done, siren goes off and 10 seconds into the race we are into the first turn of the glider field. I’m sitting in third and see my teammate Eric push through on the left side. I follow and pull behind him into 2nd. I eventually pull around him and pull the train for the back stretch of the field before we make the final left. At the left turn Eric and another rider (Doug) pass me on the outside and continue to push the pace. I jump on Doug’s wheel and follow suit. Sweeping right quickly followed by a hard right and we are into the single track! The hard effort was well worth it as we had already opened up a gap on the rest of the field.

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For the next 3 miles the three of us pushed the pace trying to extend the gap on the rest of the field. Eric did a masterful job pulling hard enough to make it a three man race. Unfortunately that was only until we get into the tech section of Snake Pit. Now yes it’s a section that everyone doesn’t always clear but dude was literally standing in the middle of the tech section with his bike blocking the entire trail. So much so that there is a legit pause in the action for a good 2 seconds. I know proper race etiquette and all but at this point I’m in a full body bath of Hurt Locker and there is a pack of hungry wolves fast approaching. I yell out run past him. We are off the bikes and running past this guy just as the pack makes contact. The only good part of this is that he didn’t move for them either. I’ll just say whoever that was is lucky it was a long island race…That could have gotten ugly quick!

We continue to push the pace and at the very top of Snake Pit entering Ewok Forrest Eric tells me to take it. I hesitate for a second and then go. I literally bury myself to create a little breathing room before we get into Loco. It’s me and Eric sitting 1 and 2 with no sign of Doug.

Macho 4

I’m hurting bad and knowing how much I was suffering, I could only imagine what every other racer was feeling. So much so that in the middle of a suffer fest I felt a slight smirk on my face. WTF??? Am I enjoying this suffering???

Hurt Locker

I exit Loco and let it rip through the hole and up the fence line. As I enter the field I lost sight of Eric and all I could think of was getting back into the woods and trying to add onto my lead knowing how strong Eric would be on the back half of this race.

I’m full on the gas passing the back half of the group that started in front of us so I knew we were running at a good clip. I knew this trail like the back of my hand so my goal was to remain fast and smooth and stay on the bike. Stillwell can bite you on almost every turn so there was never a moment of relaxing. Eric catches sight of me right before we drop into the Yellow trail which would take us to the bottom of the Sandman climb. I continue to press and keep the gap at bay. I had every intention of soloing this and had no interest in a potential sprint finish with Eric. HR is at 175, I’m foaming at the mouth and not willing to back off one second.

I get to Snake Pit and rip through it clean, at the top of the climb all I could think of was just getting in and out of Loco clean. I drop into Loco, clear the dusty, sandy, loose switchback and don’t see anyone behind me. Is this really about to happen? A couple racers from the group in front of us let me pass…On the last climb out and there is a contingent of supporters at the top. Shout to the crew at the top of Loco…you have no idea how bad I was hurting but you guys made it all worth it.

Macho 5

Loco is done. Let’s hit this hole one last time…

Macho 9

I’m on the fence line and I glance down at my Garmin and see I could possibly break the 1 hour mark. Legs were on fire, my heart was in my throat but I told myself that I had a little bit left and there is no reason to not collapse at the finish line. Fck it..I’m out of the seat like a mad man on a one way mission to cramp city. Last turn and I couldn’t even think of faking the I’m good face. I was nowhere close to good…I was 99.9% destroyed and was aiming for the full 100%.

Macho 8

Pain face engage…it was finally over! I crossed the finish line and immediately found a clear space in the field and was one with the grass. I couldn’t even un-clip on one side. Dead AF!

I somehow finished first in the Cat 2 overall standings while finishing under the 1 hour mark.

MACO Results

The best part of this was seeing Brands Factory Racing sweep the Cat 2 overall podium and have 7 of the top 10 overall spots.

Macho 7

Needless to say it was a very good day for the BFR squad!

Macho 2

Photo Credit to Dwayne Burgess & the Race Awesome Team

Special thanks to Corey Roberts, his wife and the entire Race Awesome staff for putting together a really good event. Great course, great volunteers, great photos and video and most of all flawless and super fast race results.

I’ll always be a team first guy and I am truly thankful for having teammates to continue to assist me develop into a racer. So thanks to the whole Brands Factory Racing Team. With that being said I have to give a special thanks to Eric Bosch. Not only did you bury yourself at the start which greatly benefited me but you pulled a good portion of the first lap which allowed me to dig deep while being less stressed since I was just reacting to what was going on in front of me.

Thanks to Brands, ESI Grips, Honey Stinger, NXT Level Apparel, Swiftwick, Handup Gloves, Carborocket and everyone else who supports my journey.

So do I like racing? I love racing. I haven’t always had the results that I’ve wanted but this one reminds me why I live this lifestyle. It’s validation for all of the early morning and late evenings. I train the way that I do because it feels oh so good when you reach your goals.

I hadn’t had a dream of winning a Cat 2 race. My goals and aspirations in my first Cat 2 season were simply to step foot on a podium. I guess the bar has now been raised! I now am one that can honestly say that it HURT so GOOD.

I love this sport!

Macho 6

This is in no way the finish line. Let’s continue to push our limits and see what the next step is. This day was a great day for me. It took a little while for it to sink in. I enjoyed the rest of the weekend and already thinking about getting back to work. On to the next one!

My Journey, My Life,

Jon Merritt

 

2017 Ringwood Rumble…

I crossed the finish line and my teammate says you need Jesus in ya life LOL. Well that is kind of an exaggeration but he did tell me I need to go to Church. In the spirit of Easter Sunday coming up it would be the perfect time.

Let’s rewind back to Saturday morning. I head out with the NSVT crew for a pre-ride. It’s a super chilly start and while the race promoters were out getting the trail in pristine shape for the actual race, the course wasn’t marked yet. We speak to the promoter and have a general idea of the course, so off we go. The course starts off with a gradual incline fire road that goes on for roughly a mile. You make a right and go up, make a left go up again and finally get to the first downhill section. This downhill section was chunky and wet during the pre-ride. There was a risky but fast line almost right down the middle. It’s kinda in my DNA to take risk so of course that was my line of choice. I was swiftly reminded that taking risk doesn’t always pay off. Rider error alert…I clip a sharp rock and tore right through my rear tire. Rich hooks me up with a tube I make the repair and continue on with the pre-ride. Sharp left at the bottom and this is where the trail gets fun. Course is riddled with rocks! Rocks are one thing but once you add in the element of water things really get interesting. It even get’s more interesting when this is all going uphill. Once you make it up the fire road chunkfest you have to tread carefully through a swamp and then the course slaps the ish out of you! Super wicked, technical, rocky switch back climb. You saw this climb and instantly knew that if you don’t have any gas left you’re walking, if the person in front of you dabs you’re walking, anything happens that isn’t perfect and you would be relegated to walking this climb. You get to the top and you still have work to do; a couple of up downs and you head into what I believe was the hardest switch back on the course. A rock faced hard right switchback that had water running down it. Super tough and after a couple attempts I went with the dismount and run idea to save time. It’s all downhill from here as you serpentine your way back to the Start/Finish line.

Pre-ride was a success, now it’s time to clean the bike and get this tire situation taken care of. I went to a local shop called Town Cycle. Luckily they had a Maxxis 29 X 2.2 Ardent Race tire in stock. They made the swap and I was on my way in roughly a half hour. Shout to the store manager Mike for taking care of me!

It’s Sunday morning and that means it’s time to race bikes. I link up with my teammates pretty early and get registration taken care of. Shortly after that we head out for a little course recon since I was the only one who had ridden it the day before. It was prefect for me because I wanted to see what the trail conditions were like and also look for a cleaner line through the area I had previously blew out a tire. Recon ride in the books we head back and get ready to dig deep.

I’m in the front row for my start as my plan is to get out early knowing there would be a ton of people walking sections. The gun goes off and I settle into 4th position. The pace is wicked fast and about a half mile in one of the guys takes his foot off the gas. I’m with 1st and 2nd place until we make the right and really start going up. I back off as I knew I needed to have some legs left for the technical climbing ahead. At this point we catch the back of the 19 – 39 group. They were still in sight but I didn’t have the legs to bridge up. We finally get to the downhill section and I close the gap. I knew it was risky but fck it. Ass back, no breaks, right down the middle…I clean that section and catch sight of them on the hard right turn at the bottom. I’m chasing but know that I can’t make any mistakes in order to catch them. Unfortunately I get caught behind a rider on the chunky fire road climb and have to dismount. I never saw 1st and 2nd again. I can’t even say I would have caught them seeing how strong they were on the climbs but it would have been nice to see how long I could hold on to them before they blew me apart lol. Either way my focus was there and I made my way towards the switch back climb.

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I’m up and through the switch back climb and the legs are finally ready to go to work. We out here hunting…

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I’m still in the 19 – 39 group which is good because I had a rabbit to chase. It kept me hungry and focused. I kill the backside and finish lap one sitting in 3rd place.

I’m through the Start/Finish line with a group of 3 riders. We work together through the long fire road section and I eventually drop them once we make the right and start really climbing. I’m feeling good and start thinking now is the time I have to stay clean. Through the treacherous descent I decide to take the safer left line to minimize the risk. I push through the rest of the course knowing that the switch back climb would make or break this race for me.

I clean the bottom section of the climb but as soon as I make the right at the top, my seat literally comes off.  Gone…rails are there but the seat is laying on the ground. WTF??? I try to pop it back on the rails, I take two turns of the pedals and it’s on the ground again.

No seat

At this moment I really didn’t know what to do. I see my teammate Eric and really start to panic knowing I started with a minute gap on his category. I said fck it, I handed my saddle to someone on the side of the trails and proceeded to stand and swang the rest of the way. A couple of people pass me as the rails are digging into my inner thighs but all I could think about was finishing. I was only 2 miles from the Finish line.

As fate would have it a racer named Michael comes up to me as I’m walking a section and says are you 40 – 49? I reply yes, he follows it up with I guess the stage is set! You damn right it is! He doesn’t know it but that’s the push that I needed to get me to the finish line. He runs around on my right and I get back on the bike. He tries to get on his bike but can’t clip in right away. I yell out on your right and it’s game on. He just unleashed the SAVAGE in me. I’m out…ass is literally out as my bibs are shredded from the rails. If I can just make it over this last climb there is no way he is catching me. I crest the last climb and decided it’s time to go for broke. I couldn’t really sit and pedal so I had to use momentum.

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I was hurting, I knew I was going home with some nice cuts on the inner legs but the only thing I could think of was finishing the race and not letting him catch me. Little did I know I actually got a little lead on him.

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Final decent and I’m pretty much by myself.

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I get out to the fire road that leads to the Finish Line, shift 2 gears and sprint to the Finish.

Somewhere during the seat debacle I lost 3rd place.

Results

Photo Credit to Michel and GTLuke

Special thanks to Michael for getting me over the hump. It was the right mental motivation at exactly the right time!

It was a big day for Brands Factory Racing:

Eric – 1st, Reggie – 2nd, Tom – 6th, Brian – 8th, Me – 4th in our respective classes.

There are a lot of reasons that we race. I think we all want to see results to make the training efforts feel like they are worth it. I’m no different but I do enjoy the process. Sometimes I need to be reminded of things and I know eventually the results will come. For now it’s the universes way of keeping me hungry.

Don’t let that beast inside of you lay dormant forever. Every now and then you have to let them out to play. For me that takes place on race day!

We are on an amazing journey and I appreciate everyone who is along for the ride!

Until next time…

My Journey, My Life

Jon Merritt

Where do I start? Let’s not talk about fitness for a minute and discuss preparation. I think for this race report in particular this makes the most sense…mostly because you just can’t plan for everything.

Race week is usually a very stressful week for me. For some reason this year I have been in a much better place mentally. As race week rolled around I felt like I was prepared. My bike was dialed, my routine was flawless and I showed up on race day with an ironclad race plan (well at least that’s what I thought).

It was an early start as I met up with two of my teammates (Tom & Eric) for a 0550 roll out of Queens. It was roughly a 2 hour drive down but of course we hit traffic on the GW Bridge. We still arrive to the race venue super early and have plenty of time to change, register and cheer on one of our teammates who had a 0900 start.

After the CAT 3 start the plan was to head out for a course pre-ride since we weren’t starting until 1100. At this point Regg shows up and the four of us head out.

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It was a slow crawl as we stopped to discuss line choices, bottle grab spots, sample key sections of the trail, etc. Feeling as prepared as I could possibly be it was time to kick the season off.

My mind was on the hole shot…unfortunately that plan exited the window expeditiously. The guy on my right (cool guy) not even 10 seconds into the race decides to Lean wit it, Rock wit it and goes down hella hard right in front of me. I do my best to avoid him but down goes Frazier. It’s a 8 car pile up right at the fckn start! Race plan is a wash it’s now full on chase mode.

I’m roughly 20th into the single track so I knew I was going to have to burn tons of matches just to bridge up enough to place top 10. It’s a full on assault through the woods. Fortunately I link up with a super aggressive rider, he’s very vocal and get’s guys to either bridge up or move over. One by one we would catch up and immediately pass. Fire roads turned into out of the saddle sprints, flat sections were no brakes point and shoot and hope for the best and downhills turned into taking as many risks as possible while staying rubber side up.

I didn’t have the legs to go with him but at the end of lap one I was sitting around 11th. This is where the voices started in my head. I’m not gonna lie, I was knee deep in the Hurt Locker. I was able to give myself a quick pep talk on the fire road up to the single track and even though I didn’t know exactly what spot I was sitting in, I told myself you can get 5 more spots.

As I entered the single track for lap 2 I could see one of my teammates up ahead with a group of 4 to 5 riders. I think that’s Brian…if I can just somehow bridge up to him we could work together to get into the top 10. Well that’s at least what I told myself. I pushed through the twisty sections and eventually caught onto the back of their train. I called for a pass and was able to get 3 spots on the pass but couldn’t catch the other 2. As I passed Brian I caught the “way to catch back on” comment but thought he said that he was sitting in 10th where after the race I realized we were already in the top 10 at that point. I chased and eventually caught the two that were off the front.

mayhem-cat2-093

Here is where the race turned into a race for me. While I didn’t know what position I was sitting in at this point I did know that I was in a battle with two other riders that didn’t want to give up any positions. I pull the train through the back end of Lap 2. As soon as we get out to the fire road they both pull away and drop me. Lungs busting, legs screaming…I thought to myself, 6 more miles to see what all this off-season training has turned me into.

I hit the single track and it’s game on. I dig all the way DEEP and catch the first guy in the twisties but can’t quite get around him. I’m on him like a cheap suit though. As soon as he takes his foot off the gas I’m around him. I feel him breathing down my neck until we get to the sandy, rutted climb section. At this point I can see in the distance what I now know is 5th place. Two shifts up and I’m up to the top of the hill. The guy sitting in 7th place didn’t have the legs to chase any further so this turned into a 2 man race. We are into the last twisty section and finally I get on his wheel. It’s tight, twisty and soft as it was newly cut trail. While my legs were begging for mercy and threatening me with the infamous “c” word I knew I had 3/4’s of a mile left and there was absolutely no reason not to be on E when I finished. We exit the twisty section and cross over to the last bridge. He get’s out of his seat, I get out of mine, he downshifts, I downshift. I mimic his every move. I say to myself (and maybe he is but…) he’s not up at 0330 on the trainer, he’s hurting just as bad as me but I know he doesn’t want it more. He might be hungry but your boy is famished. We pop out onto the fire road and immediately he is standing and swinging, I follow suit and drop down two gears. I’m around on his left and take the sprint finish for 5th place.

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I’m not going to say what could’ve happened because I have no idea. What I do know is that I was destroyed crossing that finish line. I had nothing left and that’s all that I could ask for. Maybe it was just 5th place but for me it was the best race of my life. I was able to overcome physical and mental challenges and literally left it all on the trails. The training isn’t always fun and your schedule is drastically affected but moments like this is why we love racing. Very hard to describe what it feels like crossing the finish line of a tough race but there is something special about it.

 

Shout to the organizers for making Mayhem an unbelievable early season venue. Course was fast and furious, the racers were amazing and the weather was simply unbelievable. Shout to Rich & Steve (NSVT Racing) for the push at the end. Didn’t want to let you guys down LOL. Lastly Shout to Michael and David for one hell of a race. I think we all pushed each other to our limits. We have some work to do to get one of those podium spots.

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Special shout to the Brands Factory Racing crew. What a way to kick-off the season!

Mayhem 2

Photo credit to Diana Toback and Bike Race Pics

Last season the focus was on endurance racing. This season I’ll be competing mainly in XC racing with a couple endurance events later in the year. Now in my 3rd season of racing I’m not only looking to continue to improve as a rider and racer but also bring home a little hardware. Thanks to Brands Cycle & Fitness, Handup Gloves, ESI Grips, Honey Stinger, Carbo Rocket, Swiftwick Socks & NXT Level Apparel for supporting my journey…we are on a Mission.

What do you do when your game plan goes out the door? Simple…Come up with a new plan!

Thanks for taking this ride with me. 2017 is sure to be an amazing journey! Let’s get it.

My Journey, My Life,

Jon Merritt #saVage

 

 

2017 Brands Factory Racing

Eric Bosch

Discipline: XC/Endurance | Years Racing: 2 | 2017 Key Races: VT50, RP50, SWE, Macho, HFH | Bike: 2016 Project 1 Trek Fuel EX 9.9 | Shoes: Sidi | Helmet: Kask | Glasses: Oakley | Career Highlights: 2015 SWE 4X 1st Place, 2016 HFH 3rd Place, 2016 Edgewood TT 4th Place

Mike Brunken

Discipline: XC/Endurance | Years Racing: 10 | 2017 Key Races: Muddy Tire, ERock or Bearscat, Stewart45, RP50, SWE | Bike: Yeti ASR | Shoes: Sidi | Helmet: Giro | Career Highlights: 2013 Wildcat 100 Finisher, 2013 New Hampshire 100 Finisher, 2014 SWE 5th Place, 2007 3rd Place Pats Peak 24 Hour Race

Brian Galletta

Discipline: XC | Years Racing: 3 | 2017 Key Races: H2H Race Series, NYS MTB Series | Bike: 2016 Scott Scale | Shoes: Gaerne Carbon | Helmet: Bell | Glasses: Oakley Jawbreaker Prizm | Partners: CarboRocket, Handup Gloves | Career Highlights: 2015 H2H Series Champion, 2016 H2H Series 5th Overall

Juan Miguel Lizares

Discipline: XC/Endurance | Years Racing: 1 | 2017 Key Races: Macho Man, Muddy Tire, SWE | Bike: Specialized Stumpjumper WC Expert HT | Shoes: Sidi | Helmet: Specialized S-Works Prevail | Glasses: Oakley Jawbreaker

Chris Malanga

Discipline: XC/Endurance | Bike: Specialized Camber Carbon | Helmet: Specialized | Career Highlights: 2010, 2011, 2012 DH40 Finisher, 2016 VT50 Finisher, 2013, 2014, 2015 Stewart Six Pack Competitor, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 SWE Competitor

Jonathan Merritt

Discipline: XC/Endurance/Ultra Endurance | Years Racing: 2 | 2017 Key Races: H2H Series, Shenandoah 100, VT50, Stewart 45, SWE | Bike: 2017 Specialized S-Works Epic FSR | Shoes: Specialized S-Works 6 XC | Helmet: Specialized S-Works Prevail II | Glasses: Custom Oakley Radar EV | Partners: ESI Grips, CarboRocket, Handup Gloves, Honey Stinger, Swiftwick, NXT Level | Career Highlights: 2015 Macho Man 1st Place, 2015 SWE 4X 1st Place, 2015 Muddy Tire 2nd Place, 2016 Wilderness 101 Finisher, 2016 Shenandoah 100 Finisher, 2016 VT50 Finisher

Bill Munch

Discipline: XC/Endurance/Road/Duathlon | Years Racing: 10 | 2017 Key Races: Muddy Tire, Macho Man, NYC Tri, Shenandoah 100, RP50, Edgewood TT, Boo Du Duathlon, VT50, SWE | Bike: Niner RKT RDO | Shoes: Sidi Dominator | Helmet: POC Octal | Glasses: POC Do Half Blade | Career Highlights: 2014 SWE Co-Ed Relay 2nd Place, 2015 SWE 4X 1st Place, 2016 SWE Solo 1st Place, 2016 Macho Man 1st Place, 2015 Muddy Tire 2nd Place, 2011 Carl Hart MTB Race 1st Place

Hans Niederhausen

Discipline: XC/Endurance | Years Racing: 2 | 2017 Key Races: Shenandoah 100, VT50, SWE | Bike: Rocky Mountain Element | Shoes: Shimano RT82 | Helmet: Scott Stego | Glasses: Tifosi | Career Highlights: 2015 SWE 3rd Place, 2016 SWE 1st Place, 2015 Rumble in the Jungle 1st Place, 2015 Muddy Tire 1st Place

Reginald Polynice

Discipline: SS XC/Enduro | Years Racing: 2 | 2017 Key Races: H2H Series (partial), NYS MTB Series (partial), SSAP, Bearscat 50, Round Top Enduro, Stewart 45, DH40, SWE | Bike: Niner Sir 9 SS, Yeti SB6, Transition Trans Am | Shoes: Sidi Dominator | Helmet: Smith Overtake | Career Highlights: 2016 Stewart SOS 1st Place, 2016 2nd Place overall NYS MTB Series SS, 2016 Chainstretcher 3rd Place

Levi Reyes

Discipline: XC/Endurance | Years Racing: 2 | 2017 Key Races: VT50, DH40, Stewart 45, SWE | Bike: Open Cycle 0-1.0 | Shoes: Sidi | Helmet: Kask Protone, Giro Synthe, POC Octal | Glasses: Oakley Flak 2.0

Lionel Senior

Discipline: XC Fat Bike/SS, Road | Years Racing: 2 MTB, 4 Road | 2017 Key Races: Muddy Tire, H2H Series, SWE | Bike: Specialized Crave SL, Specialized Fatboy | Shoes: Specialized S-Works XC | Helmet: Kask | Glasses: Oakley Radar Lock Path | Career Highlights: 2016 SWE 3rd Place, 2016 H2H Fat Bike Series Champion

Daniel Sirota

Discipline: XC/Endurance | 2017 Key Races: SWE, Bearscat 50, New Hampshire 100 | Bike: Specialized S-Works Epic FSR | Shoes: Bontrager | Helmet: Specialized S-Works Prevail

Douglas Toback

Discipline: XC | Years Racing: 2 | 2017 Key Races: H2H or NYS MTB Series | Bike: 2017 Trek Top Fuel | Shoes: Sidi Dominator | Helmet: Giro Montaro MIPS | Glasses: Tifosi Phototek | Career Highlights: 2016 HFH 3rd Place, 2014 H2H Overall Series 4th Place, 2015 H2H Overall Series 4th Place, 2016 3rd in State in Category & Age Group

Thomas Turza

Discipline: XC/Endurance/Ultra Endurance | Years Racing: 3 | 2017 Key Races: Shenandoah 100, Bearscat 50, VT50 | Bike: BMC Fourstroke | Shoes: Sidi Dominator | Helmet: Specialized S-Works Prevail | Glasses: Oakley Radar Lock | Partners: Base Salt | Career Highlights: 2016 Wilderness 101 Finisher, 2016 Shenandoah 100 Finisher, 2015 SWE 4X 1st Place

John Wickham Jr.

Discipline: XC/Endurance | Years Racing:1 | 2017 Key Races: Bearscat 50, HFH, Stewart 45, DH40, Muddy Tire, Mach Man, SWE | Bike: 2015 Specialized Camber Expert EVO | Shoes: Scott Team BOA | Helmet: Specialized S3 | Glasses: Oakley | Career Highlights: 2016 SWE 1st Place

2017 is going to be an awesome season for the Brands Factory Racing Team. Big Goals and Big Challenges will lead to Big Accomplishments. Be sure to follow along with us through the 2017 season!

Shout to Dwayne Burgess for doing the Brands Photo Shoot along with all the event photographers for the race pics.

I’d also like to thank all of my sponsors for the upcoming season (ESI Grips, Handup Gloves, CarboRocket, Swiftwick, Honey Stinger & NXT Level Apparel)!

March is right around the corner. See you on the trails…

Jon Merritt

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