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Mitch Hoke, right, races past fans during the bike criterium event at Vail's Golden Peak during the Teva Winter Mountain games on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, in Vail, Colo.  (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Daniel Petty)  MANDATORY CREDIT; MAGS OUT; TV OUT
Daniel Petty
Mitch Hoke, right, races past fans during the bike criterium event at Vail’s Golden Peak during the Teva Winter Mountain games on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, in Vail, Colo. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Daniel Petty) MANDATORY CREDIT; MAGS OUT; TV OUT

Cyclist Mitch Hoke has been mountain biking for 10 years, but he’s only raced a snow bike twice. The second time, however, was his winning race at the Winter Teva Mountain Games at Vail over the weekend.

It’s Hoke’s offseason for racing bikes. But he didn’t worry about that too much, he said. 

“For the most part it’s everyone’s offseason, at least in the cycling community.”

After the races, we caught up with Hoke to find out what his strategy was going into the snow bike criterium, what PSI to set your snow bike tires to, and why his snow biking season might end a little early this year:

Q: What was your strategy for the race?
A: I’d raced at altitude quite a bit, which I think was the biggest factor. A lot of people tend to go way too hard at the beginning of a race like that. Once you go anaerobic at altitude, you can’t really recover. So I started easier.

Q: Can you tell us about the format?
A: Originally they had planned eight laps on a 1K course. Then, I guess there were concerns that would be too long, because it was almost straight up the ski run. So people — for good reason — were concerned it was going to be a little too difficult at the end of the race. So they changed the format to: how many laps can people do in 35 minutes.

I ended up doing 10 laps instead of the eight laps. (Hoke laughs.) They were pretty quick laps.

Q: Did your strategy work?
A: Yeah, just ride into it. One of the more critical parts is riding back down through the tunnel and through some S turns. Just being able to ride through that quickly and not crashing was a good thing.

Q: You didn’t fall at all?
A: I did not crash. I had some close calls, because you’re sliding around on snow. I know there were some pretty spectacular falls on this one slalom S turn on the descent.

Q: Have you ever crashed the snow bike? Does it hurt?
A: It’s like falling on skis, except you don’t have the big thing connected to your foot with an edge where you can hurt your knee. As long as you clear the bike, you just slide to a stop, so it’s not bad.

Q: How were conditions, and how did the bike do?

A: The bike did really well. It’s like a groomed run, but as people ride it, it gets chewed up more. The big tires are an advantage, but one of the key points is tire pressure. Normal bikes are like 30 PSI, but these I run at like five-and-a-half PSI.

Q: Since this was only your second snow bike race ever, are you encouraged by your results? Do you plan to seek out more races?
A: I know Leadville has some more, they have a winter-long series. I need to look at when the next ones are — I think they’re in March, and as of right now, I think me and my teammate are going to Puerto Rico to go mountain biking.

Q: What? You’d rather ride in Puerto Rico than snow bike?
A: (Hoke laughs.) It turns out going to Puerto Rico to do a couple of races and go to the beach sounds better than snow biking.

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