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Interview with Kenda/Felt Racer Drew Edsall

Posted by: Matt Williams |March 8, 2013 3:32 AM
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Last season, in his first with the Kenda/Felt Pro Mountain Bike Team, Drew Edsall criss-crossed the country in a Sprinter van, racing everything from NUE 100 milers, to short tracks, to stage races. Along the way he picked up big wins at the True Grit 50 and Syllamos Revenge, along with innumerable podiums.

In addition to racing for the Kenda/Felt Pro Mountain Bike Team, Drew has a successful coaching business where he helps numerous cyclists throughout the US get faster on the mountain bike. His clients have seen the podium over 200 times in the last 2 years. He also hosts his own podcast show, "The Dirt with Drew Edsall", on Mountain Bike Radio.

Drew was kind enough to take some time to chat with us about his 2012 season, what it was like to make the jump from privateer to full-time pro, why he loves coaching, and what's next for 2013.

MTBRacenews.com: Last year was your first year on Kenda/Felt. How was it to go from getting kicked out of Bi-Lo parking lots to riding for a domestic pro team?

Drew Edsall: Instead of getting kicked out of Bi-Lo, I was getting kicked out of Walmart! Kidding, of course, but I did live in my pimped out RV all year traveling the country. So there were some interesting stories including many Walmart sleep overs, and two times where we awoke to blaring horns from a nearby train that I swore, at the time, was going to hit us! 

All in all, moving to Kenda/Felt this last year was awesome! It was a dream goal that I wanted 7 years ago when I first touched a mountain bike, and I finally reached it. 

But, as the saying goes, "It's the journey, not the destination". I found this to be completely true.

Being on the Kenda/Felt team has been amazing in multiple ways but I do this because I like to ride my mountain bike. And being on the team allows me to take more journeys to new places throughout the Nation. That's the best part! Experiencing new trails, meeting new people, seeing places I have never seen, and getting paid to do it. And, of course, the ridiculous amount of awesome Felt bikes, Kenda tires and sponsor equipment I get. Riding new bike equipment on new trails everyday is the experience of a lifetime.

MTBRacenews.com: You did a little bit of everything in 2012. Was it difficult to race a program that included everything from Short Tracks to NUE 100 milers? What was the biggest challenge?

Drew Edsall: Yes, it was a very difficult racing program. Not neccesarily the best way to get fast at one single discipline, but I did have a really good time doing all the different events from NUE's, to Pro XCT's, to National STXC and XC, and the TSE Stage Race. All of it!

Biggest challenge? Easy answer to this—the biggest challenge all season was overcoming my own mental challenge. I was stoked to be on the Kenda/Felt team but felt a need and pressure to prove myself early on. I was from Florida, 30 years old, and needed some clarification that I deserve to be on the team. Unfortunately, that wasn't an easy road to travel at the beginning of the year. Despite some good early season fitness I had two mechanicals at the first race of the season at the Texas Pro XCT which put me in a dismal 41st place. Not a good start. Then at the second Pro XCT, I had another mechanical. "What the H_LL!"! 

So it took a lot of mental fortitude to overcome this. I re-focused, talked positive to myself, and let all the naysayers do their talking.

Things started to change pretty fast with a win at the True Grit 50 in mid March, and the another win at the Syllamos Revenge NUE on my new Felt Edict Nine LTD including a new sub 6 hour course record.  That got my mental state together and my blood moving pretty good! Everything moved forward from there.

MTBRacenews.com: What do you see as the highlight of your 2012 campaign?

Drew Edsall: The True Grit 100 win and the Syllamos Revenge NUE. I had some other solid results such as the Tatanka 100 win, but those first two race wins set the pace for what turned out to be a really fun and really good year for me. 

MTBRacenews.com: Looking forward to 2013, what are your big goals?

Drew Edsall: The NUE series and Translyvania Epic will be my main focuses this year. The team director and I have spoken in depth about picking less races, getting more rest and recovery, and spending less time on the road. I am all for that. I have seen the entire Nation on wheels the last two years and now get to focus on about half as many races as I have in the past. 

On top of that, I get to do races that I really enjoy. They all have a lot of singletrack, and cover a wide variety of terrain throughout the US. Most of the races, including TSE, are very well organized, are extremely fun to race in, and have some of the best singletrack on the East coast. Technical, shorter climbs, and lots of singletrack. Sweet! TSE is by far on the top of the list. Love that race!

MTBRacenews.com: How do you choose between your hardtail and dual suspension bikes? Do you tend to prefer the hardtail for endurance racing?

Drew Edsall: I actually did race my dually a good amount last year. I got my win at Syllamos Revenge on my Edict Nine LTD and also raced that about half the time while at Transylvania Epic Stage Race last year. It's a great bike!

Being on the team gives me a choice of the Felt Nine Hardtail and the Felt Edict Nine LTD. Both excellent bikes! 

The decision of which bike to race normally comes down to three things: 

1)Total amount of climbing (more climbing, more hardtail inclined): races at the Pro level are typically won on the climbs. Power to weight ratio is very important. That's where you can make up or loose most of the time. So being as light as possible is super important, but you also have to be able to finish the race (see 2 and 3 for those answers). 

2) Technical aspects on the climbs and flats (more full suspension inclined): If it's flat or inclined, has lots of rocks and roots, and is going to require a lot of pedaling while seated, then I like the full suspension more. I don't worry as much about the descents being technical or rocky. Most of the time I can get away with riding a hardtail downhill almost as fast as the dually on technical downhills. It's the flats and technical/rocky terrain seen at courses like Syllamos Revenge and TSE that I feel a dually can really help at. You have to be able to keep pedaling on the flats and maintain your momentum on quick up and downs on the rocky, technical terrain. The Felt Edict Nine helps a lot with that and also is part of the reason I set a new record at Syllamos Revenge last year. I kept pedaling on the flats and throughout the rocky/technical terrain while minimizing fatigue.

3) How flat prone the course is: full suspensions are less likely to get flat tires due to the suspension. In the longer 100 milers and stage races, this can make a big difference. Syllamos Revenge is the perfect example of a flat prone, dually course in my opinion. I love my Felt Edict Nine there! You've got to be able to finish the race. In addition to that, a flat can make things a bit hectic and screw with your mind in the middle of a race. I prefer to avoid them with good bike choice, and of course, a solid tire choice also. Luckily Kenda has that covered with their new SCT tire versions as of last year.

MTBRacenews.com: Even though you had more significant support in 2012, word has it you still lived out of a sprinter van. Why did you choose to do that? Is it something you'll continue to do in 2013?

Drew Edsall: No better way to enjoy the journey then to experience the entire country on the road.

The Mercedes Sprinter gave me the opportunity to do a lot of racing throughout the Nation. I always wanted to see what the terrain was like throughout the US. It was a decision I made two years ago prior to getting on the Kenda/Felt Team. Financially and logistically it made a lot of sense. We went to a race, stayed in the area for a long time, and I was able to get to race venues early to scope out the courses. Saves time, money, and helps learn the courses.

Riding the NUE's made it even better. I got to explore almost every State in the country with awesome mountain ranges. That's why I do it! To ride new trails, experience new adventures, and see the world on two wheels. Why not do it that way? Mountain biking at it's greatest in my opinion.

With that being said, this next year I plan to put a little more focus on rest and recovery. My girlfriend, Dyan Lee, and I now have an apartment in St. Louis with our three dogs and her daughter, Sabrina. It's great to actually have some space, running water, and hot showers all the time. That will be home base for 2013. 

I've done the whole view the country on in an RV thing and am ready for a new journey in life.

You can still count on seeing the Mercedes Sprinter at many of the races, but not full time anymore. I still gotta live the life of riding new singletrack sometime and the Sprinter makes that life that much better!

MTBRacenews.com: What's one thing you couldn't be without while living on the road?

Drew Edsall: My girlfriend, Dyan Lee. She has always supported me. Last year she was my Pro photographer at every race, kept my website up to date, and told me what I needed to be told at tough times. Might not have been what I wanted to hear, but sometimes what you don't want to hear is what you really need to hear. 

Having support like that is paramount to success in any aspect of life. 

MTBRacenews.com: Having done nearly every type of mountain bike racing out there, where do you see racing going in the US over the next few years?

Drew Edsall: Enduro, Stage Racing, and Endurance (100 mile backvountry style) racing is going to take off I think. There's the whole "adventure" aspect to all of this along with the challenging/scenic outlook to all three of the events. 

Mountain biking should be about seeing new places, experiencing new things, and having a good time. I think all three of these events take that to heart and bring the fun back into mountain biking. 

I hope to see more and more stage racing. I think that is at the best of it all. Whether that is Enduro Stage racing or regular stage racing. When it is done right, it is like a vacation on wheels. My first stage race was the Transylvania Epic. They do it right at that race. That race is awesome and I have done it ever since the first year they had it.

MTBRacenews.com: What's one aspect of being on a domestic pro team that makes a big difference for you, but is also something that people might not think of when they think about being a sponsored mountain biker?

Drew Edsall: One of the aspects of being a Pro that I really like are the extra little things I get to do to help grow the sport.

These past few months I have worked with a Junior Development Team coming together here in Florida. It's growing dramatically. I arranged to put on a few junior/kid's clinics with them and have been loving it. The kid's really enjoy riding their bikes, and they listen and learn really fast. It's the best job ever. All I do is ride with the kid's on the mountain bike trails, show them a few tricks, and they soak it all up. They all have smiles on their faces at the end and are having a great time. That's what it is all about!

It's very rewarding to see kid's like that getting into the sport, and to see how fast they learn. That's one of the best parts of my job as a coach and Pro rider.

MTBRacenews.com: What's your favorite artist/album on long road trips?

Drew Edsall: Don't have one I can narrow it down to. I listen to just about everything. Just depends on my mood and what I need to get me going. Techno, rap, classical, opera, pop, you name it I probably listen to it. Everything but jazz and Bob Marley style. That's a little too slow for me. I like to be fast, and slow/relax doesn't do it for me! I say that but I listen to Opera....??? I must be crazy!

To follow Drew in 2013 or to learn more about his coaching visit his website,  www.coachdrewedsall.com

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