Craig Evans was the runner-up at the recent ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships, but unlike the winner Conrad Stoltz, this Tennessee resident has a full time job.
Evans is one of the best swimmers in the XTERRA field and often has been featured on the leader board, but his second place last weekend in Alabama would appear to be his finest result to date.
Slowtwitch: It is good to have you here Craig.
Craig: It is an honor to be here.
ST: I have to say, that was a very fine performance in Pelham, Alabama.
Craig: Thank you. There has been a tremendous amount of pressure to represent the Southeast at the ITU Cross World Championships since the US was announced as the 2012 host and Birmingham was selected as the venue. The trails at Oak Mountain suit my strengths and I have focused my training efforts towards the best possible outcome for this course.
ST: While you may have preferred to take the win, you seemed thrilled with your runner-up placing.
Craig: My reality is a bit different than most of my peers on the start line. I not only manage a full time racing career, but a family and a sales career that is quite demanding. I understand going in to a race that I am competing with Olympians and athletes that devote a tremendously different level of time, preparation, recovery, and training that I can devote to my racing career. I have a lot of respect for my competition both professionally and personally. It is an honor to race with them. Of course, I have dreams to be on top of the podium. Everyone who shows up to the start line has the same dream. But for my reality, I am proud of the effort I put together on race day and am thrilled with my runner-up place. I hope I showed the spectators how to truly celebrate an achievement and exemplified the sportsmanship my supporters expect from an athlete lucky enough to represent the US.
ST: When Stoltz passed you on the bike, how long were you able to keep him in sight?
Craig: Conrad caught me near the end of the first lap on the bike. I was able to hang on for about 2 miles or so. He was absolutely laying it down on the road and I was fighting like a mad man to stay on his wheel. Once we dove into the single track for the second time, I was able to hang with him until he took a unique line that I hadn’t practiced. He used this to his advantage and the gap between us started to open. He is a very talented and determined athlete.
ST: On the run it appeared that you gained on him initially, but after that he opened up the gap again. Was that frustrating or did you not really know?
Craig: Yes, after the first lap of the run I saw Conrad on the road. My coach yelled, ‘you just put 30 seconds into the World Champion. Go get him. This is your day!’ I tried to pick up the pace, but I was already running at my red line. As I tried to put in a harder effort to close the gap, my body wouldn’t respond. I received another time split half way on the second loop and the gap was back up to 52 seconds. Reality set in that I couldn’t catch Conrad, but I wasn’t about to let second place go. I picked up my cadence and pushed all the way home. Anyway you look at it, for me it was an amazing run!
ST: Surely that Stoltz fellow must retire some time soon.
Craig: People keep saying that, but why should he? He consistently puts in unbelievable results, is having a blast racing, and is helping to maintain representation for off-road triathlons on a global stage. With his success, he remains humble and is someone who I consider a true friend. I hope he doesn’t retire for a while and keeps showing us how it is done.
ST: I have the distinct feeling he may grant you that wish.
Craig: Let’s just say that it would mean more to put up a win against him. I hope someday to earn it while he is still toeing the line.
ST: So where would you say this result ranks in your career?
Craig: Absolutely #1! I posted my best XTERRA finish on a World Championship Stage. I couldn’t have written it any better.
ST: But you actually still have a day job.
Craig: Yes, I work about 40 hrs a week. I told my wife (Holly) this morning that this week will be a difficult one. I’m still in a dream after this weekend, but have to jump right back in the groove of my “real job”.
ST: What exactly do you do?
Craig: I manage capital equipment sales for HillCo Medical (a distributor for Arthrex). We are an orthopedic company that sells orthopedic surgical equipment to hospitals. I cover Tennessee, Kentucky and Northern Mississippi.
ST: Did you ever consider racing and training full time?
Craig: I consider it all the time, but currently I do not have enough sponsorship or support to make that decision. I am open and willing if the deal was right. For now, I am enjoying the best of living in both worlds. It has worked so far, so you will hear no complaints from me. Besides, I can provide inspiration for the majority of off-road triathletes who live with the same daily demands that I have. If I can make it work, they can too.
ST: Does racing despite the Pro license sometimes still feel like a hobby?
Craig: Yes, I laugh a lot about my “PRO” career. I feel I train half the amount as my competition and don’t have time for recovery which is the most important part of success at this level. I train for a career in the sport despite all the distractions that might suggest it is just a hobby.
ST: Why not more road triathlons?
Craig: I would like to do more road triathlons, but there is a breaking point when you try to manage everything at once.
ST: Talk about your sponsors.
Craig: Stan’s No Tubes are the lightest wheels and one of my longest supporters in my career. Infinit Nutrition custom designs my “GO GO” juice for all my races. Pearl Izumi has phenomenal cycling and running shoes I can slip into and out of while racing. Skinfit is designing some of the greatest feeling race kits I have ever worn. Oakley is providing the best eye wear in the business and Swiftwick Socks are the best compression socks money can buy! Plus The Biker’s Choice in Hendersonville, TN – I could not race without these guys, my bike is always in good hands with them.
ST: No swim apparel sponsor for such as fast swimmer?
Craig: It is only because I haven’t focused my efforts on obtaining sponsorship like I need to be doing. There are only so many hours in the day. Wetsuit technology has come a long way and new designs are being introduced into the market that just might fit my shoulders without restricting my stroke. We’ll see what happens.
ST: What about a bike sponsor?
Craig: I have been working towards a bike sponsor for years. Without a company sponsorship, I have been lucky to have the support of my local bike shop, The Biker’s Choice, who helps as much as possible. Being in a market that isn’t flooded with professional cyclists and triathletes makes it much easier for me to work out a partnership like this than my peers in communities like Boulder or Colorado Springs. It would be an honor though to ride directly for a bike company and will continue to pursue sponsorship.
ST: Anything else we should know?
Craig: I just want to say my life is honestly better having triathlons in it. I have made life-long friends all over the world because of it. I hope more people expose their kids to it. It can make a difference in their future!
Thanks for the interview time!
ST: Well thank you Craig for being here.