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MONTEREY COUNTY, California (VN) – When Ashton Lambie was working at Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop in Lawrence, Kansas, he went on a staff trip to Salida, Colorado to go mountain biking.
It was formative — in a sense.
“I remember very specifically on this trail there were these big step downs and I was just thunking down every one,” Lambie told VeloNews. “And I was like, ‘man if this is a good as mountain biking gets, this just might not be for me.'”
That was the last time until very recently that Lambie mountain biked (it was 2014), yet this weekend at the Sea Otter Classic, the individual pursuit world champion will be back on fat tires. He’s in California for the Fuego 80k XC race, the first in the Life Time Grand Prix, a six-race series of gravel and XC MTB.
In order to prepare for Saturday’s 50-mile race (as well as the other two MTB races in the Grand Prix, the Leadville Trail 100 and Chequamegon), Lambie recently took a weeklong trip to Bentonville, Arkansas for a mini training camp. He and his partner, former trackie-turned-astronaut in training Christina Birch, rode the storied northwest Arkansas trails for five days where “it was basically a few days of her yelling at me to keep my elbows out,” Lambie said.
Lambie said that he saw some micro-improvements during their time on the trails — “I still don’t know how to steer with my hips which is another thing, but my elbows are a little bit more out” — at least enough to give him the confidence to line up on Saturday.
Lambie’s dedication to the track, and world records and championship titles in the IP in particular, have given him impeccable bike handling skills, so even if his elbows aren’t properly flexed, he should be able to navigate on the course.
However, he’s not banking on podium results at the mountain bike races in the series.
“I don’t have a lot of expectations, I think I could do well at the couple of the events, but I’m probably not a contender,” he said. “But I think having a UCI world champion even in a different event coming to the Grand Prix series adds a little bit of legitimacy to it, and a bit of character.”
In addition to the mustache that frames his million dollar smile, Lambie will bring character to the MTB race with his bike, a prototype from the brand Affinity Cycles. The Brooklyn-based brand that specializes in track bikes and fixies made Lambie and Birch a pair of titanium hardtail mountain bikes for the season.
Although Lambie will be much more in his element in two months at the 200-mile Unbound Gravel race, he’s not planning on lallygagging at Saturday’s event.
“I’m really gunning for that race [Unbound],” he said. “But this is a race too, and I wanna go fast and have fun.”