Mountain bike racing has been kinda lost over the past couple years, and I myself have been tumbling around with racing, unsure. So unsure that I got my haircut into some kinda of a mullet-mohawk the other day as kinda of a mid-race season ‘fuck-all’. The bottom line is that there just aren’t enough races, and even fewer quality events. If you’re trying to make it as a pro, and chase points its super tough, with only 8 races on the calendar. Thats it 8. Not to mention three of those this year were stacked like world cups. You have to put so many things together to break into the points at these races that it can get very frustrating. Just as a comparison there are, I believe, 45 races on the CX calendar this year where you can earn points. Im not saying that CX is easy, and the racing is still very competitive, but I think its safe to say theres a bit more opportunity.
This is where Epic Rides comes in… keeping it real…leveling the playing field…offering real mountain bike courses…and real (good) money for pros.
This past weekend was the first time I attended one of their events, Ive been wanting to race the Whiskey for years but it is usually the weekend after Sea Otter which uses up a lot of vacation days, so its been hard for me to justify taking more time off of work. But not next year. The Grand Junction Off Road was such a blast, that I will be making as many events of theirs in the future. Downtown shuts down and its all about bikes, music, art, beer, food, and a good time the entire weekend.
The weekend kicks off with a fat-tire crit downtown on Friday night, where you must race the same bike you plan on racing Sunday, where the only allowable modification is changing of the tires (min width 1.5″). I brought a CX chain ring and was gonna run the 44t but thought that they might make me run it on the race Sunday and that would have been, well nearly undoable. I waited until the last lap of the race to start moving up, but it was a little late and ended up in the group in 11th, but had such a blast racing with everyone, and not to mention in front of a decent crowd.
Unfortunately I had a pretty off day as far as racing goes for the 40 mile XC event on Sunday. You cant blame a poor call-up or anything like that for your lack of performance here because the playing field is completely level. The race starts in downtown with a gradual climb to the trailhead for the first 10 minutes or so, there is still a good bit of tactics involved to get near the front once you hit the dirt, but you have no excuse not to be in a position you’d like to be. I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be on the way to the first aid station, probably somewhere around 25th but there was plenty of time to move up.
The first aid station is only about 30 minutes into the race, and being such a ‘technical’ (aka-fun) course there really isn’t time to drink or eat anything, so I skipped getting water here since I was still pretty topped off. After a short road climb there is a super fun, technical 8 mile single track trail called buterknife, this thing was a blast. Same thing though not many places to drink or eat.
After popping out of butterknife, about an hour into the race, was the second aid station, I was going to grab a bottle here, but they weren’t handing them out. I was gonna stop and fill my bottle up some but didn’t see a cooler immediately, and the other 3 riders I was riding with just kept cruising. Knowing we were coming up to the 7 mile climb, Windmill Rd., I kinda wanted to be in a group, and still had half a bottle so thought I would be alright.
I hit the climb at a pace I know I can usually keep and pulled away from the guys I was riding with and was putting time into the few riders I could see in front of me. This only lasted for about 30 minutes though, as I was out of water and getting super dehydrated. Since I didn’t pre-ride I had no idea how far away the next aid station was. Had I had known how far away it was I would have stopped at aid station 2 and filled up!
I limped into the third aid station beat, ready to drop out, and with a good bit of heat exhaustion going on. I was pretty intent on dropping out, I wasn’t anywhere near my goal of a top 10 and there was no way I was gonna do half that good now, let alone barely finish. Brady Kappius came into the aid station and I asked if he wanted to ride together, and he was all about it, I also asked if he thought his dad would give me a ride back into town at the next aid station, haha!
Brady and I somehow talked each other into finishing, and even had a good bit of fun descending Andy’s loop at the end. This race is such a real MTB race, its what the sport is all about, it caters to everyones strengths at some point, and to do well you have to be a really good all-around rider.
Todd (race promoter) mentioned the addition of another Epic rides event next year and making a three race series. I cant wait to see where its gonna be (hopefully no more altitude races), and more so cant wait to race it! It would be insanely rad if it could grow into some kind of 10 race series. I will definitely be back for some redemption next year.
Some data… 269 normalized power, 2,727 kj’s, 39.8 miles, 4,931 ft of climbing, 105 max temperature, 211 tss. The good thing about not riding great is that Im pretty recovered to resume training, haha!