Jeff kerkove, aka Mr. 24, is a Professional Endurance Racer for the Topeak/ Ergon Racing Team. Standing on over 30 podiums in the past five years, he has become a staple in the world of long distance Mountain Biking. We caught up with Jeff as he prepares for the upcoming 2009 season.First off, how did you get into the sport of Mountain Biking?
Mountain biking…or simply riding bikes with friends…was something that my friends and I did while growing up. We were always riding after school and on the weekends. In the mid-90’s it seemed mountain bike racing was getting larger and becoming more mainstream with some coverage on TV. Of course this got us drooling at all the high dollar bikes out there that we couldn’t afford and trying to find the most extreme terrain in the area to try and ride. Eventually, there was an ad in a newspaper for a race down in Ames, IA. We went down that weekend to simply watch and see what it was about. A few weeks later, I found myself racing at an XC race in Des Moines, IA. From then on, I was hooked doing xc races all over the Midwest…and occasionally hitting up a few National events.
There are a lot of different ways to have fun on a Mountain Bike. Maybe the hardest to understand as an outsider is Endurance Racing. How did you get in to that area of MTB and what's so great about riding your bike all day?
I got into endurance racing simply out of the need to change up the fact I was racing for 2 hours every weekend. It got to the point where I wanted to race longer. This was back in 2002 and the 24 hour racing bug was getting its momentum going. I decided 3 weeks out from the 24 Hours of 9 Mile in Wisconsin I was going to try racing solo. So, I did a bunch of 5-8 hour mtb rides…and some night rides. That race day finally came and I just went out and did it. I ate nothing but junk food and drank Cytomax. I never once got off the bike….because I read on the web someplace that you had to keep going if you wanted to win. If you sat down…you would never get up. Well, I finished that race 1 lap down and in 2nd place behind Tinker. I covered 277 miles in that race….which is still my PR for distance travel in a 24 hour race. For some crazy reason I was hooked! From that day on, I have been focusing on races between 6-24 hours long.
How's the off season been in Fort Collins? Compared to Iowa?
It pretty obvious….the winters are a lot milder here in Colorado, the snow doesn’t stick around for 6 months at a time, you have your choice with the bike to climb all day or cruise the flats, and as an added bonus there are solid group rides going on all year long. Iowa the riding was good…but the winters are harsh. I can remember doing 4+ hour roller rides and gravel rides in temps near zero. I’ll be honest…I don’t miss it. But, it is what you have to do if you live in the Midwest and are a cyclist.
What's a typical training week look like for you this time of year?
When I moved to Colorado, I hired a coach (www.lwcoaching.com) so I could take 100% advantage of the area I was living in and make the most of my bike time now that I was working with Ergon. My training weeks this time of year are roughly 20-25 hours long. Mondays are typically a day of rest with no riding. Tuesday through Friday you’ll find me out training alone, doing wattage specific intervals on the road bike. Saturdays and Sundays are my bigger day usually around the 5-7 hour mark. Weekend workouts vary with race pace group road rides and long mountain bike rides.
Endurance racing has seen a big growth in numbers and popularity over the last few years, while XC has been at a bit of a stand still. Is there anything you think XC races can learn from these successful Endurance events?
I think a lot of people just want to get a good bang for their buck and a challenge when it comes to racing. I got tired of XC racing because the travel & cost was insane for the amount of actual bike time. Not to mention the XC courses were getting easier and faster. Now, I can see a new rebirth with the current XC scene in the USA. I can remember when I started racing xc as a Beginner ….since then, the courses have become shorter and terrain less technical over the years. There simply needs to be a festival like atmosphere. Give racers a reason to bring the family to a race venue for the weekend to camp, eat, hang out with friends, and ride/race their bike.
What do you think about an all-in-one National Mountain Bike Series? XC, DH, Endurance, etc. all at the same event? Or do we need to keep them individual?
I am cool with the idea. I would love to see a National Series at locations all over the USA with an XC, DH, and Marathon race at each stop. Personally, I think the marathon format is the un-tapped format here in the USA. There is so much potential for these types of races all over the USA. I know it was attempted a while ago at the National level….but it might have been too early for its time. I would love to see another go of it.
How are things at Topeak/ Ergon? What's your role with the team?
The Topeak-Ergon team is starting off 2009 right where it left off in 2008. Based out of Germany, the team is International with 6 riders here in the USA and 6 riders in Europe. You can pretty much expect to see team members racing at World Cups, stage races, as well as your local xc and endurance events.
As mentioned, there are 5 other team riders here in the USA in addition to myself. We have two racers in Georgia and there are 4 of us here in Colorado. I am the go-to guy for the team riders here in the USA. I am their connection to our team manager in Europe and sponsors. I organize some of the USA team travel, event logistics, organize all the team equipment for distribution at the beginning of the year, wrench on team equipment at team events, and serve as Dave Wiens’ personal pastry runner. That guy likes his pastries…what can I say. This is actually just a small portion of my job with Ergon USA, in which I have a big part with customer service, marketing, sponsorships, and event logistics.
Piece of equipment you couldn't live without?
Honestly, it is Ergon grips. Other than front suspension and disc brakes, Ergon grips is the only other product to change the way I ride my bike. I found the product while working at a bike shop in Iowa. Due to all the endurance racing, I was having wrist issues during and the days after my race efforts. I purchased the grips as the solution to a problem. I was so excited how much it helped I couldn't stop talking about the product on my website. This has led me to where I am today with the brand here in North America. I am so passionate about products that work so well.
Goals for the 2009 season? Where will we be seeing you?
2009 has me focusing on events in the 4-7 hour range. I am doing as many marathon-like events that I can with the simple goal of reaching the podium. I am also going to try my first stage race in July at the Breck-Epic in Breckenridge, CO. Most of my events are in Colorado…but I will be getting out of state many times during the year. Right now a sampling of my schedule looks like: Ouachita Challenge in Arkansas, Sea Otter, Whiskey 50 in Arizona, Front Range 50 and Firecracker 50 in Colorado, XC National Championships, Dakota 5-O, Gunnison Growler, 12 Hours of Snowmass, as well as select xc races in the Mountain States Cup.
[check out more with Jeff at www.jeffkerkove.net]
Updated on May 6, 2013, 6:17pm