Local cyclist Jim Hoffmeister has proven that age is not always an inhibiting factor when pushing limits. The 70-year-old retired general surgeon placed third overall in his age category at Cyclocross Nationals, held at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.
Cyclocross is a cross between road cycling and mountain biking, where riders start in a pack and quickly try to get up to speed, outpacing other racers into what is known as the “hole shot:” a short window which, if executed directly, can give a racer an advantage. Courses are generally held on grass tracks filled with barriers similar to equestrian steeples and steep run ups that force most riders to dismount.
Hoffmeister said that his category was made up of ten or eleven other racers from all over the country, and like him, all had their sights set on the podiums top step.
Hoffmeister isn’t new to cycling. An experienced cyclist, he and his wife Beth moved to Brevard about ten years ago just for the cycling scene.
Hoffmeister is now twice retired – after moving to Brevard to retire formally, the recession hit, and he went to work at Transylvania Regional Hospital, where he performed general surgeries for about three years, and has since retired again.
His podium at the Biltmore Estate comes just after two other big races in 2015, where he took first place in his age group at the National Endurance Championship and another third place finish at the Cross Country National Championships.
“It’s been a whale of a year,” he said. But Hoffmeister is never out of shape. He swims, lifts weights and spends as much time cross training throughout the various cycling disciplines as he does focusing on training for particular events.
“My wife and I ride year round,” he said. “Gravel, road and mountain biking. I had already peaked in my training for four events this year.”
To get into cross-specific shape, Hoffmeister spent time doing intervals, where he would incorporate high-intensity workouts into shorter rides, and practicing dismounts in preparation for the barriers in cyclocross.
Hoffmeister said that the venue at nationals did a great job laying out the course, and the local scene and volunteers made it a lot of fun.
“The course was fabulous, I thought it was great,” he said. “It was steep, with hard run-ups, and sketchy downhills. You had to be really comfortable to be competitive there. In cross you’re just a few feet away from people all the time so its really lots of fun. “For the first five minutes you think you’re going to puke and by that time you pretty much have it sorted out. There were lots of people on ‘heckle hill’ and they were still out there cheering you on. One guy yelled: ‘Hey buddy give your lungs some Viagra.’”
While Hoffmeister spends a good bit of time training, he said cycling is not all about racing for him.
“I have love for all types of cycling,” he said. “Preparing my bike and myself is the whole process, and then going out and doing a good job, whether it’s an afternoon spin or an event.” Hoffmeister offered advice for other people interested in taking up cycling in the area.
“If you want to improve then hook up with other people,” he said. “Around here we have people of all skill levels. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Last year I ran clinics for riding long gravel events. Keeping your weight under control for cycling is the most important thing you can do for longevity.”
After taking a little time off from the bike, Hoffmeister said he is going to get back in the swimming pool and then get back into cross training. He has his sights set on training for Southern Cross, a 50-mile race in north Georgia this spring.