Here we are again, I kept telling myself I’d put up the race reports and then getting carried away with the travelling, training, and planning that comes along with racing and privateering. I’ll try and keep this one a short highlight reel covering the Whiskey 50 and Soldier Hollow Pro XCT in Arizona and Utah. I’ll work this weekend to get caught up on all the May races as I sit around all day before racing the Missoula Pro XCT tonight at 7pm MST (and no, it’s not under lights). Keep an eye out next week for the rest of the catch up.
Whiskey 50 Off-Road (Prescott, AZ)
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Whiskey 50 or any of the Epic Rides Series, these are some of the most fun races of the year. The Epic Rides team puts together races that embrace the MTB culture, mixing a party atmosphere at the Friday night Fat Tyre Crit, massive participation (and festival/concert action) all day long on Saturday with the Amateur racing, and the Pro men and women taking to the course on Sunday. This year was the 15th anniversary of the Whiskey Off-Road and it goes to show with Todd and his team making sure everything runs smoothly and everyone is having the best possible time.
On to the racing: The Friday night fat tyre crit is a twenty minute race plus three laps, and this one has a brutal hill to climb each lap, lined with people making a ton of noise. I started about third row next to Brian Matter who bet $5 I couldn’t win the first lap, so naturally I went for it when they shot the start gun and came around the first lap a bike length or two ahead, also taking the first El Yucateco prime. After that I was totally cooked and struggled around for 15mins till I was lapped by Howard and Keegan.
The backcountry 50 mile race was a bit of a different story on Sunday, with a hard start up the road and then into water-barred singletrack climb which sorted out the groups pretty quickly. After the climb I was a bit uncomfortable on the fast and loose descent, losing a little time to the lead group but finding my rhythm as we came back up towards the first feed zone and Skull Valley descent. After getting a little bite to eat I put the hammer down and took a couple risks on the dirt road descent to get back in touch with the lead group of ~12 guys. The second feed zone was at the bottom of Skull Valley and I’d had a chance to recover a bit from the chase back on and got another bottle in preparation for the next hour and 20min climb back out of the valley in the brutal heat. Feeling good at the bottom of the climb and with Howard doing most of the work in the group, we all knew it was going to be a matter of who could stay with him the longest. As it got steeper he started to turn the pedals harder, splitting the big group in to little pairs and threes with still 30min to climb. I was left with Geoff Kabush, a guy who I’ve always considered a badass and someone I wanted to put time into before the descent if I was to have any chance of finishing in front of him. That wasn’t the case as he sprinted to get into the singletrack first, and I hung as long as I could on the descent back to Prescott. Russell Finsterwald and Fernando Riveros-Paez caught me as I was cramping on cramp hill and I had to push my right leg around a couple times to get it to stop spasming. From here on I was able to pass Fernando and stay in no-man’s-land for the rest of the race to finish in 7th with a sure sense of belonging in the Pro Men’s category. It was now time for a quick couple days in Durango before heading up to Midway, Utah for the Soldier Hollow Pro XCT.
Soldier Hollow Pro XCT
After a couple days in Durango seeing all of my college/uni friends it was time to get up to Utah and spend a little more time with Keegan and Sofia, who along with Evelyn Dong, were going to host a bunch of us for the race weekend. It was a full house with about ten of us using the kitchen and bathrooms but it worked and was a lot of fun doing big dinners and lots of hanging out. This weekend consisted of a short track on Saturday followed by XC race on Sunday at Soldier Hollow, originially designed as the Olympic XC skiing complex for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics but now with some cool MTB trails as well.
Short track was a short and hard lap with a paved start/finish straight and climb, with a grassy descent back to the bottom of the pavement. A very simple course but the bumpy grass caused a lot of chain dropping problems for different people which I was lucky not to. I made a little attack half way through and paid for it when the group caught me and I went backwards in the pack. With three laps to go I tried to move up but didn’t have the energy left to do it and rolled through in 9th, a little out of the UCI points but still happy with the ride.
The XC race on Sunday was set to be a tough one, with some of the fastest guys in the US as well as Nicola Rorbach of Switzerland on the start line. To avoid any first lap trouble I started hard and led the first lap until Rorbach came around at the start of the second. This split up the lead group even more as we all tried to follow but were left with a little chase group of six guys. As the laps went on the group started to get bigger but the gap to the leader stayed close to a minute. With three laps to go I put in a big attack to make some selection in the lead group and a lap later it was down to Keegan, Russell and myself trying to get some time back on Rorbach. Two laps to go saw Russell start to struggle and I knew it was going to be down to Keegan and I at the finish… If I could make it up the climbs with him. Into the last climb he had more power than I did and started to open the gap but I kept doing what I could to make sure I stayed away from Russell. I was elated to come across the finish line in third, I’d say my best result to date, and to continue to improve with my results is something that’s made me more confident with my racing and competing at this level!
Huge props to the Summit Bike Club for putting on the awesome event and to Keegan, Sofia, and Evelyn for letting a mob of bike people take over your house for the week!
Ps. I'm stoked to have a couple more sponsors (Time pedals and Schwalbe tyres) on board since my last post and still a few more in the works, head over to the sponsors page to check them out!
Once again, thank you for reading and keep an eye out next week where I'll get current with the race reports and share some more exciting news!