Cyclocross in Southern California may lack the torrential weather that traditional ‘cross events are known for, but SoCal ‘cross riders more than make up for the lack of inclement weather with blazing-fast lap-times and incredible handling skills.
For Van Geslani ‘cross is an annual pilgrimage and one of his favorite forms of competition.
Besides racing as often as he can, Van’s ‘cross-fever sees him regularly organizing local practice sessions to help new and experienced riders develop their skills.
Having recently won the SoCal Prestige Series overall title in the 35+B Category, along with five races along the way, 2017 was Van’s most successful season yet.
Following his win in the final race of the series, which was a dramatic two-up sprint against the only other rider that could beat him for the championship, we asked this humble competitor to be the subject of the latest edition of the BWC Athlete Profile.
With that said, we’ll let him elaborate on what made this season memorable, enjoy!
Van is at home on the dirt and on the road, but his passion is racing cyclocross! Photo Credit: PB Creative/Phil Beckman
Primary Sport/Discipline: Cyclocross, Road, Gravel
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 7-9hrs
Upcoming Goals: Cyclocross National Championships
Question #1: Congratulations on winning the overall title at this years SoCal ‘Cross Prestige Series, Van! To win the series, you had to race hard all the way to the final round, every position counted. How did you earn the title?
Van Geslani: Thanks!
From the very beginning of the cyclocross season, one of my goals was to aim for a good placing in the overall series. This was the first season I could race 35+ Masters, so I chose to focus on the 35+B category.
The overall standings were based on your best 8-finishes plus the final race. Looking at my schedule for work I saw I could squeeze in exactly 8 races, plus the final event.
This made every race important since I basically had no “throw-away" races. Whenever I would encounter adversity, I had to remind myself that every finish counted.
The very first race I crashed hard, hurting my wrist and twisting my handlebars. I had to remind myself that I still needed to get points to achieve my goal, so I pressed-on to finish sore and with crooked handlebars!
Going into the final race of the series, there was a 1-point difference between me and my closest competitor, Joey Lanza.
Whoever finished ahead of the other would take the overall. It was tense!
That last race was so mentally tough because both of us really wanted to win and were trying to finish ahead of the other. Because of the added pressure, each of us were making mistakes during the race and it was “full-gas” the entire time.
The race came down to a sprint between the two of us… I won by less than a bike length. I was so stoked to take the race win as well as the overall series-title on the very last day!
Coaches Perspective/Coach Joy: Having coached Van for many years, I always look forward to talking with him at the start of each season about his goals. It’s a time when we set-out specific and attainable targets for the year.
Van has a busy-life as a doctor and father of 3 young boys, so mapping-out the season in advance has always been key.
Along the way, after each race, we reassess his performance and off-the-bike stressors in case we need to make adjustments.
Coming into the final races of the SoCal Prestige Series, the excitement was palpable as the riders racing for top honors in 35+B were not only tough opponents, but local athletes and friends.
Van did a great job, every race, of assessing the competition and being strategic about where he would place his efforts so he could finish as high as possible in each event.
He is a seasoned road and criterium racer with a knack for winning finishes, which created confidence every time he was “going to the line” during the CX season.
Needless to say, I am very proud of his success, he has earned every bit of it!
The final podium from the SoCal Prestige Series 35+ B Category was chock-full of great riders and Van was happy to be in the middle! Photo Credit: Van Geslani
Question #2: Besides the overall, you won five-rounds of the series, an excellent accomplishment. What was the most memorable part of your 2017 ‘Cross campaign?
VG: Here in Southern California, each race venue is a little bit different.
One of the most enjoyable and iconic venues is the course at Griffith Park, next to the Greek Theatre. Ironically, it's also one of the most physically demanding as it has more elevation-gain 'per lap' than any race we do.
In year's past, my best finish at Griffith Park was 8th.
This year, I told myself to start a little bit more conservatively (easier said than done when you just want to charge off the line!), so that I could ride my own pace.
Off the start I was happy to be in the lead group, but after the first lap I had to drop the pace a little bit and ride my own tempo.
I am happy to report that by sticking to my plan I was able to maintain a steady-pace and eventually caught the leaders, passed them, and won at Griffith Park!
I never thought I could pull-off that type of result on a climb-heavy course.
Coach Joy: Van’s win at Griffith Park was very exciting, even for me at home!
We talked about the course the week before and he was "on the fence” about racing, due to his performance in years’ past.
I stated that, "since last year he had not only honed his race-fitness, but fine-tuned his mental-prowess under pressure." I was certain that it could be a great opportunity for Van to test his tactics.
And just like that, he won the race!
Van’s result highlights an important lesson I like to teach my Athletes, you can never count yourself “out” of a race or event, even when the course does not “suit” you.
Van lined-up at Griffith with the mindset to earn the best result possible, regardless of the abundant climbing…And that turned into a win!
Van started his 'cross season early at 'CrossVegas, a hotly contested and extremely competitive event! Photo Credit: PB Creative/Phil Beckman
Question #3: What is one of your long-term cycling goals? And what is next on your cycling ‘to do’ list?
VG: I really enjoy a wide variety of cycling disciplines.
I enjoy criterium racing, mountain biking, and of course, cyclocross.
One of my long term goals is to continue finding fun and freshness in cycling.
I would love to do some events that get me outside my comfort zone. Events like the BC Bike Race (MTB) or Haute Route (road) are so different from what I normally do that I would love to give them a shot.
After winning the 35+ B category, next CX season I will be racing the 35+ A category. That will be a “step-up” in competition and a good challenge, so I am excited to see if I can find success in that category.
In the immediate future, the cyclocross season is not quite over yet. I'll be heading to Reno in January to compete in USA Cycling CX Nationals.
I'll be racing the 35-39 Master's Nationals race, which is arguably the most competitive field out there.
Thus, my goals for Nationals are to have fun, learn, hone my race craft, and try and finish on the same lap as the leaders!
Coach Joy: Van’s championship race is Thursday January 11th and I hope he has a great experience!
He is a sponge for knowledge, skills and tactics, so I know he will take a lot from this championship caliber event.
Looking to the rest of 2018, there are many options for him. He has had success at the Belgian Waffle Ride (138-miles) and then been on the podium at the Dana Point Grand Prix Criterium one-week later, so you can see he really does excel in all cycling disciplines!
Van is always pushing to be his best, on the bike and off, so that he can race as hard as possible at the races. Photo Credit: Karen Ott.
Question #4: Describe your favorite workout in your training program, also, please share a ‘knowledge-bomb’ you have learned while training with Big Wheel Coaching.
VG: Honestly, I really enjoy the days when the workout scheduled just says "Exploration Ride!"
Lots of my workouts are on the trainer, so when I have the time and the space in the training plan to go for a long ride outdoors, it's literally (and figuratively) a breath of fresh air for me!
In terms of a "knowledge-bomb," I've really started to see how "on-the-bike" fitness is only one part of overall success.
Talking with Coach Joy helped me think about three other aspects of my performance that are just as important as my fitness.
The first category sounds obvious but it's making sure your gear and equipment remain in good working order.
You don't need the latest, most expensive, or lightest stuff, but you do need to make sure what you have is working well!
The day of the final race in the SoCal Prestige Series, I noticed that my rear tire had several cuts in the tread and that some of the tread was delaminating from the casing.
I didn't think twice about swapping-out my light-weight race wheel with a heavier training wheel.
Being attentive to my equipment got me to the finish without any mechanical problems!
The next category of importance is "off-the-bike" fitness.
As I've gotten older, I started to notice more aches, pains, and body soreness. I realized that if cycling is the ONLY thing I do, I'm going to start developing muscles imbalances and overuse injuries.
Doing weight-training, core work, stretching, and foam-rolling are important. All these things aren't as fun as riding but I've found them to be necessary.
And finally, the third thing I've found to be just as important as on-the-bike fitness is to be strong mentally.
Your brain is probably the most important organ in your body for athletic performance.
When you are tired in a race, or when everyone else looks “fitter” then you, or you are swamped at work and can't train like you want, how you talk to yourself and how you tackle those challenges is just as important as doing intervals.
With that in mind, I started listening to podcasts like "The Consummate Athlete Podcast" and reading books like "The Brave Athlete" by Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson.
These things helped keep my mind sharp and prepared me to handle the challenges that come with competition.
Coach Joy: Van can teach us a lot about embracing every aspect of being a cyclist!
With his demanding work schedule, he is diligent about practicing his off-the-bike skills while keeping himself in a positive mental space. This ensures that when he gets back to training, he is mentally sharp!
He spends many hours on the trainer with focused workouts, so I like to “unleash” him, so to speak, when he gets a chance to pedal outside in the daylight.
We have been working together since 2010 and have a high-level of trust and respect for each other. So, I always have confidence that Van will make the best decision for his training on those days when adversity strikes.
And sometimes that means spending time with his boys on their strider bikes at the park!
This well-rounded approach keeps him getting better and making gains every season. That’s something we can all learn from!
For Van, a day at the races is family affair! Here he is "racing" with his son on a rainy day at the Anza CX race. Photo Credit: Karen Ott
We hope you have enjoyed reading about Van Geslani’s cyclocross success as much as we have enjoyed sharing it!
Although Van has limited time for training, both he and Coach Joy have left “no stone unturned” to ensure he has the confidence he is as prepared as possible, every time he lines-up to race.
This highlights our highest objective at Big Wheel Coaching, to do everything in our power to help our Athletes’ achieve their very best.
It's a job we take very seriously, and enjoy very much!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching