Driving in big sky country

Originally I had wanted to update my blog everyday on my two week trip, but it looks like that isn’t going to happen.  Its been too hard just to find cell service let alone time to sit down and type everyday while trying to drive.  But the last week has been a blast.

My first stop was Gooseberry Mesa in Utah, which offers up some great slick rock and elevated desert type riding (not to mention some amazing views) Its about a 7 or so hour drive from SD so I was able to get some riding in that night and the next morning, after finding a sweet little camping spot right near the trailhead.

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View from the Mesa

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Sweet camping setup at gooseberry

After riding the next morning I hit the road and headed to Ogden, UT and got a tour of the ENVE factory.  The awesomeness of the factory and  company deserve a blogpost all in its own.  There were so many different tests being performed on their own product as well as competitors wheels and components.  After seeing the failure rate of some of the competition, lets just say I added a  bunch of wheels to my list to never ride.

As everyone was heading out the door at ENVE they mentioned  local MTB race up in the mountains at snowbasin.  One goal on this trip was to keep a loose schedule and partake in some things I might usually skip, so 15 minutes later I found myself driving into the mountains to race.  They had gotten about 10 inches of snow the night before and the trails were in a super fun condition, a little wet and slidey but almost loamy compared to the same boring desert terrain I always ride.  Not to mention trees, single track through trees!

The race was only $15 and I was peeing on a tree when they said there was 30 seconds to start time.  I got there just in time to make it and work my way through some traffic to get third overall.  It was a super fun grassroots race and it was nice to get to know AJ and Dylan (the three best wrapper of all time) from ENVE.  I tried to camp at the base of the mountain that night but with the combination of altitude and the cold dry air I was having problems passing out.  So around midnight I hit the road and knocked a couple more hours off the drive time and slept at a rest station.

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Machine at the ENVE factory. Who knows what it does but it sure does look rad

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There were about 20 bikes right inside the door, cause just about everyone that works there rides in.

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Midweek MTB race, Snowbasin, UT.

The next day I made it to Missoula, a really laid back mountain town in Montana.  I now know the meaning of big sky country, I kept trying to to take pictures to capture just how big everything was (like the sky, why was it so ‘big’ looking) but they never did nature any justice.  I got a quick pre-ride in at the course that thursday, then setup camp at the race venue.

Friday night was the short track race, and by Friday night I mean freaking 9 o’clock at night.  Usually at 9 I have already eaten dinner and am pretty relaxed, so it was a little strange getting ready for this.  They ran a new format called ‘Miss N Out’ Where they pull riders every lap until there are only 10 or so remaining then they do two laps.  I brought with me both the 650b and 29er Focus Ravens and decided to run the 29er for the short track due to the flatness of the track and stiffness of the frame.  I had a decent starting position but a horrible start.  It took a couple laps to get the legs moving then, after a few more I was pulled finishing 21st.  Wasn’t really too amped for this race in the first place but it sure was a TON of funning hitting the single track, (called ‘local glory’), wheel to wheel with some of the best bike racers in the country, full gas at dusk with a bunch of people screaming and cheering you on in the woods.

The XC race took place at 7p.m. mountain time on saturday, still not used to racing this late at night but its understandable why the race organizers decided so.  On that note, this was one of the best run/hosted races of the year.  Ben Horan and his volunteers did a great job with everything, there was even free coffee and pastries so he definitely won me over.  This is arguably one of the most fun courses on the tour as well, I will definitely be back.

I had a top 30 or so call up, and was hopping to finish in the top 30 or 25, given the amount of competition out there it would be tough but doable.  There were a lot of tight switchies and steep descents so I chose the Raven 650b for the XC race.  I had a decent start and was right around the riders that I knew I needed to be around after the gun.  Its a fire road climb for about 4 minutes which meant there weren’t nearly as many bottlenecks as previous races and really gave racers the opportunity to move up if they were having a good day.

I was not having one of those good days, one of the worst in a while for me actually.  I usually get faster and faster as the race goes on but I was pretty much out of energy and power on the third lap.  Im not really sure exactly why, probably a combination of multiple things, but as you can’t explain the awesome days you have on the bike better not dwell on the bad ones.

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Suffering (slowly) up a climb at the Missoula XCT race.  Photo: Mark Thome

Im currently nestled up in Ft. Collins, CO after driving through Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.  Im gonna get some good rest in (on a real bed!) some fun riding, some rafting, and try to hit up the short track series in Boulder before heading to Co. Springs for the last race of the US Cup.  Thanks to everyone for reading, and thanks to Focus bikes for letting me use the sprinter, ENVE for making the BEST components, Gordon and Laurel at Velo Hangar, Skratch labs for real food and hydration, Lorenzo at Citizen juice, Giro.  Don, James, Jamie and Caroline from Raleigh/Clement for making the best dinner Ive had in a while on Friday night after the short track, and everyone else who has reached out to me along the way.  Also none of this would be possible without my awesomely supportive ‘wife’ Ellen either!

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Wonder where this guys was coming from/going to

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Overcooked that corner. Rescue crews trying to figure out how to get a car out of the river

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The ‘A’ line

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Loaded up!

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Setup at Missoula

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Focus Sprinter in MT

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End of the cup, but not the end of the road

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If you’ve been to Yellowstone you’ve probably seen this guy

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Focus Sprinter in Yellowstone

 

Altitude, dry air and gels

Going for it on the single track!

Going for it on the single track! Photo by PB creative

 

With the second part of the season only three weeks away Ive been trying to get in as much racing and high intensity in as I can, and holy hell is it tough.  Considering that the next two Pro XCT events are at altitude Ive been trying to get in as much thin air training as I can, and this past weekend I went up and raced at Big Bear.  Depending on who you ask its between 7,000 and 9,000 feet up there.  To make things worse there air has basically no humidity in it!

The course starts with a 10 or so minute climb, I truthfully have no idea how long it is because I am usually too oxygen depleted to look down at the Garmin.  It could be 2 minutes for all I know but it feels like 25mins.  Shortly into the race 5 of us had a little gap, but knowing how bad you can implode at altitude I had to back off for fear of finishing dead last if I didn’t.

This left me around 6th place or so, but once I gathered my thoughts and surroundings, it turned out we are only 30 minutes into the race.  Being 25 or so miles long I knew we still had about an hour left of racing.  I started putting in some good efforts and riding right at my limits making sure to not overcook it in the thin air.

I shortly started reeling in a few guys and was sitting in third.  I knew the two off the front probably weren’t that catchable but I figured I’d give it a go.  The trails at this point were mostly flowy, loose, techy singltrack with a lot of switchbacks and the Focus 650 was a definite advantage over 29″ wheels.  I saw Jason Ranoa from SoCal endurance about an hour into the race and he said the two leaders had about 2:30 on me.  It would be tough but I thought if I rode mistake free and put in some good efforts I could catch them.

Then with about 5-8 or so miles to go I hit traffic from the lower categories who were doing a shortened version of the course, and unfortunately we were on single track.  While some racers where stoked to slow down and allow you to pass the majority of the riders weren’t to keen about letting you by.  Even after asking nicely and understanding they are racing as well, it was still tough.  I could only hope the leaders were slowed down as much as I was.  This continued for the rest of the race and really is quite a bummer.  It just doesn’t allow you to get into a good flow and concentrate when you have to constantly be talking to people and passing.

I finished 3rd, and while it would have been huge to reel the leaders back in (as they are legit pros) I will just never truly know.  But its all good the main goal was to get some racing in, and this one was at altitude to top it off.  Ive got a knarly cough to back up my effort from yesterday too, thanks to an untimely gel that didn’t want to go down, or come back out for that matter.  Im gonna keep getting in as much racing as I can before I depart for Montana on the 16/17th.

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