There has been a full fledged debate going on all year or more between myself and my riding buddies……
The topic is all fun, we aren’t talking about the greatest rock song of all time, or who is going to be on the cover of people as the worlds hottest couple, we don’t debate whether or not the Kardashians were the worst thing to ever happen to this country…. No we debate what the best bicycle would be if you could have only ONE!
I say if you had to choose just one because 99% of the people I know have more than one mountain bike, some have 2 mountain rigs and a cross or road bike as well. Some might ask why so many bikes, and to sum it up there are bikes that fit into each type of riding and each offers a different challenge while working different muscles or aerobic systems in a big way, Or another way to put it is it prevents burnout mentally and or physically from putting in hours upon hours on the same saddle.
I personally have read dozens of bike tests and still know what I knew from day one & that is you can’t touch a light 26″ full suspension for flickability and finesse & on the flip side once you get rolling not much can beat a hardtail 29er on a big long ascent.
So while I was spending a few days away from city life with my wife up in the Crested Butte area I woke up early one morning, actually it was the Saturday a.m. after the Blue Moon and I wandered out side from the killer room we had at the Grand Lodge , took a little early morning walk around the Village in Mt.CB snapping pictures of the moon, the village and the view down into the town of Crested Butte while reading upside down the painted words that the rabid fans in the area had plastered in a stylish way all up the road before the exciting stage 2 finish of the USA Pro Challenge Where T.J. Van Garderen essentially came out of nowhere to take the days win along with the coveted leaders yellow jersey only a handful of days before where I now stood.
So as I stand on the Bridge taking in the views and waiting for Camp 4 Coffee to open up I decided to launch my own test of what bike would best fit me and my riding style the best. When I got home I planned it all out to be as unbiased as possible and then chose 3 bikes all in different bike categories from different manufacturers to test out on a loop in my area that combines every element you could want to face on a bike. (climbing, technical, flowey etc) I went with a 23lb Hard Tail 29′er 100mm travel - A 25lb 26 inch full carbon, full suspension 120mm travel – and a 28lb full suspension, long travel 29′er 130mm travel.
I planned to race the loop to compare times and settle that own debate in my own head as to which is fastest, because with riding partners like the ones I have here in the CSprings you need to be fast at everything or you will get yarded at some or multiple points on any given excursion up a long climb or down a technical descent, so my goal is to find the best bike for myself. I am not a great climber I’m also not a bad climber, I have solid technical skills but I often dont trust my equipment in a given situation which will then mentally hose you from cleaning any section which at times and while riding with some of the local rippers has me walking the last part of a technical feature. My strong point is on high-speed descents, but as most know or figure out with logic…you spend a lot less time coming down than going up so I need a bike that will reduce my effort going up but still have stability at high speeds in the rough stuff and in tight techy stuff with big drops or transitions.
I do not intend to talk about or advertise the different brands that I rode because I don’t want this to turn into a discussion or “this brand that brand crap” I will say the bikes retail values varied between $3,000-$6,000 - all had top-notch components. I ran 2.2 tires front and rear on all three bikes, I ran SRAM 2×10 on all three bikes, turned my Garmin to data fields that would not skew my riding pace, I took in the same amount of calories and my sleep was consistent, the course conditions were mirror images of each other as was the high temps for each day. Below are my thoughts will riding them and looking back on the rides
Day 1 – Hard Tail 29er. Bike felt fast especially on flat or rolley terrain, handled well and turned responsively, I didn’t even really notice that there was no rear suspension but the biggest drop I did on it was about 4 feet.
Day 2 – All Carbon, Full Suspension 26″. Turns on a dime, accelerates well, breeds confidence in fast tight/technical sections but felt a little slow on the flat/rolley terrain.
Day 3 – Long Travel, Full Suspension 29er. Rolls fast, didn’t notice the weight except towards the end of a longer climb, you can just point and shoot it going downhill and it will eat everything up in its sight, Lets you roll down features with very little flat transition, felt big and sturdy.
So after 3 days on 3 different bikes I downloaded all the info from each ride at the same time and compared the laps and here is how it broke down much to my suprise: Fastest lap was put in on the long travel 29er, the second fastest was on the FS 26 and not far back was the Hard Tail. All laps were finished on the same minute with a 41 second gap from 1st to 3rd but only a 4 second gap from 2nd to 3rd. this course was taking me 1:17:08 to 1:17:49 to complete so four seconds is a crazy close margin.
Did I gain anything from this self test? I would say yes, it has leaned me closer to what I feel would best fit me as an all around mountain machine. It also taught me that a 3k difference in price is not going to buy you lots of speed, you might be better off using that 3k to stock your beer fridge for post ride recovery with your boys and girls.
In the end it boils down to this and my advice is
- Its 98% rider 2% bike
- Define your riding style (do you only race xc, are you the all day enduro type ( I will refuse to use the other E word) are you a weight weenie or feel that the heavier stuff is more durable)
- Test out many different bikes, take advantage of ride and demo days and then buy the brand you feel comfortable on
- Compare price points and notes to the different bikes
- You can always upgrade components so if the bike of your dreams is more than you are comfortable spending but has the same frame as one in a lower category.. start with that one and upgrade components as your ability increases
- Support your local bikes shops and get to know their staffs, we have a ton of great bike shops in town who are willing to offer great unbiased advice from what they have seen and heard from the community and what will best fit you.
- The best bike is the one that fits you, not the one everybody on the club team rides, or the one winning the world cup, it’s the bike that is going to get you pumped for as many days in the saddle as possible.
- I want a job testing bikes
If you are there follow me on Twitter at StevieT_Mtb & until next time ride hard!
I returned to action at the 24 hours in the Sage – Location Gunnison ColoRADo
Also known as the “best party in mountain biking”
The 24 hours in the Sage is based out of the KOA campground in Gunnison, the race is unique in many ways starting with the fact that food is provided for the racers and campers for the duration of the 24 hours & I’m not talking energy bars or chips and dip.. I am talking about burgers, chicken breasts, brats, lasagna, quesadilla’s pancakes and the list goes on! The support for the race is incredible and the atmosphere is full of electric fun even before the gun goes off at high noon Saturday.
I had been looking forward to this weekend for a long time, after nationals and my 3 week bout of lethargy I finally got back on track and was well rested going into the event which would be my first attempt at a 12 hour solo race. I didn’t have a crew with me for support which made the availability of food provided by the promoter even that much better as all I would have to worry about was filling up bottles with my fluids. So as I left CSprings midday Friday and cruised along in the zoom zoom towards Gunnison I tried to plan a strategy in my head of how I was going to attack this race and came up with a tentative plan of doing 3 laps at a time with a very short break and repeating that 3 times for a goal of (9) fourteen mile laps by midnight.
I rolled into town nice and early, took my time setting up camp for the weekend had a red solo cup from the freshly tapped SKA Brewing keg and shot the sh!t with some race friends who I hadn’t seen in a while.
Then being the semi superstitious person that I am, I wandered into town to get some dinner from Mario’s Pizza, the same place that I ate at the evening before the Growler back in May which was what I thought to be my best racing performance of the year. Spinach Linquini, meatballs, chicken breast and salad was going to be the selection of the evening along with a Red Hoptober draft. I polished off 75% of the food and took the rest to go so I could eat it before bed along with a sandwich and some chocolate mini doughnuts that I brought along for the fueling process.
Morning came and I felt great despite not getting very much quality sleep probably due to the uncertainty of which i was getting into and the bouts of noise out of the SKA loaded campers and fellow racers but I was ready to go and noon seemed like it took forever to come.
At Noon the race started and I tried to not get caught up in the 1st lap sprint that the duo and 4 man teams riders were doing, instead I just chose a pace that was faster than most but nowhere near my max, by the time we hit the single track I had a good group of people around me and we all had a nice steady pace going, then little by little I passed others here and there taking in the course and noting certain rocks and other items that might come back to bite my in the butt when darkness set in. The course was super fun with a couple brute climbs, more really fun rock sections and two killer flowing swoopy downhills, I came through the start finish with a 1:04 as my first lap and felt great, I followed that up with two more real steady laps and sat in 2nd place at about 3:30 pm. Lap 4 was a struggle as I must have got behind on my fluids and my legs started to cramp which led to my slowest lap of the day and it put me behind the pace I needed to get in my 9 laps. At the end of that miserable lap I basically took a salt shaker at the food line and dumped it down my throat along with doubling up on some Nuun tabs in all my bottles and headed back out, I recovered immediately from the salt and other electrolytes and put in two solid laps before I stopped in to mount my lights, stuff more energy foods into my pockets and head out for the final three laps of my race. At this point the guys in the pits next to me said I was 37 minutes behind 1st and over 20 ahead of 3rd, it was about 8pm at this point, I headed out as the sun continued to set and I continued to pedal on determined to put in faster laps than first place. I got in about 1/2 a lap before I actually had to turn on my Light & Motion Stella’s which I was trying out for the first time courtesy of my friends at UpaDowna – I rattled off a pretty fast lap and started to feel like I hadn’t even ridden yet that day. With Lap 7 in the books, the air temperature down and legs that felt good I just keep motoring forward and put in another solid lap… 8 down, at this point it was 10:30 ish and I knew barring a mechanical that I would get in my 9 laps and have a chance at winning my first solo race entered. Of course being dark I had no clue where the rider in 1st was and on the flip side I didn’t care knowing that my nighttime laps were going into the books pretty fast because I was passing more than getting passed so I went out for the final lap of the race with an aggressive attitude, just being cautious enough to not tear a side wall or risk a few seconds on a downhill that would end in a crash and result in minutes or more off the clock. Lap 9 turned out to be my favorite lap of the entire day, the night was clear with shooting stars all over, the temperature was perfect and I rode almost an entire lap without really riding close to anyone which made me just take it all in that much more. I finished my final lap at 11:57 pm and had a great sense of achievement inside of me knowing that I had either won or got 2nd place in my first try, after a shower and 4 huge quesadilla’s I went to the tent in hopes of a quick sleep before I got up in the am to check the results and cheer on my friends who were doing the 24 hour races as a duo or team.
Not much sleep was had due to my adrenalin being high and because the tiki torch fire pit jump “the Booter” was in full swing so each time someone crossed the finish line everyone was yelling hit the booter, hit the booter - Awesome just pure awesome is all I could think as I lied there trying to catch a little shut-eye so finally about 345am I gave in and joined the chaos around the booter with a cold beer in my hand.
By sun up the results were posted and I ended up in 2nd only 4 minutes behind first place, not a win but by far the most fun I have ever had in a race. The question I have been getting from most is what did you eat, what was it like etc so here is what I have for you
- It was the best time ever, no-one on course had any attitude about passing or getting passed!
- The race course and support of the KOA was Amazing!
- Everyone at the event acted like you were family
- It will be on the calendar every year for sure
FOOD & FLUID CONSUMPTION DURING THE EVENT
- I drank (21) 20 ounce bottles of Fluid – containing mostly Aclimate endurance and mountain formula’s
- I ate 6 packages of Honeystinger Organic energy chews. had 5 stinger organic energy gels and 3 lemon stinger waffles
- 1 chicken breast sandwich
- 1 slice of lasagna
- a few handfulls of lays potato chips
- 1 baked potato
Final stats for the day where 126 miles ridden, 11,256 calories burned, 13,000+ feet of vertical gain & A ton of Fun!
As always thanks for reading, thanks for the support and the questions, I feel the love people!
The past 4 weeks have been a whirlwind of events and emotions that I will do my best to summarize without writing a novel, boring you to death or forcing you to slam a pot of coffee to stay awake before finishing.
It actually goes back much farther than four weeks when my energy levels first started to feel like “whale shit” (An expression indicating the lowest position possible. An extremely low point emotionally or in life circumstances. From the assumption that whale shit reaches the bottom of the deepest oceans, the lowest point on the earth)
After weeks of struggeling with energy levels and using pure adrenalin just to get through the pro xct event that came through town I decided a mental/physical re-charge weekend was in order so I swapped out wheel sets on the Supermatic 120 from the XC racing setup and mounted up my Maxxis Super D tire combo of High Roller rear and Minion Dhf front and set out for my favorite spot in the state… Crested Butte for bike week & the 3rd round of the mountain states cup racing series. I headed out of town solo with full intention of camping and taking the ski lift to the top of the hill as many times as possible — just a pure fun weekend was in store.
I got into town late afternoon on Friday, caught the chainless world championships, had a bite to eat and retired back to my tent spot to stare at the stars and think about what I was going to ride in the morning as the first of two Super D races wasnt scheduled until 6pm Saturday. All was in order when the sun came up and I rolled over to Camp 4 Coffee for a quick bite and some rocket fuel, I flip-flopped my way over to watch the start of the Fat Tire 40 and then geared up & set out on a leisurely stroll on the world-famous singletrack that surrounds the area. With no need or desire to have communication with anyone I left my phone in the tent, pedaled at a snail’s pace and took in the scenery before returning to my tent about 3 hours later & that is when all heck broke loose! I had no less than a dozen pictures and messages regarding the Waldo Canyon Fire which started near and was already headed to one of our local riding hot spots, at this point my peaceful weekend turned to stress and unease, knowing that this area had never burned I had a really bad feeling about it, my friends and family and the entire city so I decided to head home the next morning to be with my community, The fire made world-wide news so I don’t need to go into detail but it was a mess and really made racing mountain bikes feel insignificant and made me not even want to go travel to the one single event I had been training for to peak at in 2012, the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in Sun Valley Idaho. But after being urged to make the trip combined with mother nature starting to cooperate and reports of the fire being contained I signed up on the last day possible and planned the journey.
Wednesday morning rolled around, I stuffed both my full suspension and hard tail 29er into the Mazda along with everything else needed for a 5 day racing road trip, then Phoebe and I hit the road spending the next 11 hours in the car as our nation celebrated Independence day.
The drive wasn’t bad at all as I got into Ketchum about 430pm local time, picked up my packet which consisted of the daily schedule and 3 different racing plates, one for each class (short track xc, super d & xc) & headed to the townhouse to unload the gear and get in some calories.
Thursday morning rolls around and my first event the short track isn’t until 3pm so I hopped on the 29er and went for an easy spin to try to wake up my legs as they felt like driftwood and I soon discovered why people come to and live in Sun Valley, this place is full of great trails that are easy to access from just about anywhere. 3pm rolls around and the gun goes off for the short track race that consists of a small loop around the venue on gravel, pavement and dirt – the race is 20 minutes plus 3 laps and figured to be about 28-30 minutes of all out effort. I hung on to 10th or so place for the first couple laps and then started to fade and get passed, knowing that I wasnt in contention for anything and wanting to save my legs for the XC on Saturday I backed off the pace and just stayed on the lead lap until the very end finishing 18th
Thursday – Short Track Cross Country 3pm – garmin file 27 minutes – 7.33 miles average heart rate 174 max hr 189
Friday there was nothing on the schedule for me race wise so I mounted the full suspension bike I expected to ride in Saturdays XC event and set out to preview that course. On paper it looked like a great loop using some of the areas best trails and a great loop it was as after 7 mile fire road and singletrack climb gaining 2,500 feet of elevation we were treated to some rip-roaring singletrack, a short climb, some more awesome singletrack, a quick stomach punch climb and then 20 minutes of singletrack bliss all the way to the sweet rock garden that was placed within view of the finish line. I should have taken a picture at this point because I’m sure i had an ear to ear grin from the past 45 minutes on the bike. A recovery shake and whole food meal followed as did the short jaunt back to the townhouse to prep bikes, dinner and get my head straight before Saturdays 8am XC start time.
I went into Saturday knowing that the pace of this group & the long extended climb was not ideal for my riding style so the plan was to suffer more and push my self farther than I had ever done! I really wanted a top 5 finish out of this day and hadn’t spent an average of 15 hours a week on the bike since early January to come all this way and suck, so the goal was to hang on to the lead group as long as possible and keep them in sight when the climb was over and then catch them on the descent back to town. The race starts and all 26 of us ride in a tight group around the race venue and village before the course spits us onto a paved path, with the entire pack riding in a peloton fashion for a mile or two when we come to the start of the long climb which at first is a gravel road and the pace increases. I can already tell at this point that today is not going to be fun as I can already feel the burn and am having to pull a larger gear just to stay in contact with the top 10, I hold on to this pace for about 40 minutes until the legs blow to pieces and I am left dangling on at the bottom of a mile long balloon string while just trying to not get left in the dust. A few minutes later I hear “behind you Steven” in a recognizable voice & I know it’s a local buddy, single speed killer, and eventual national champion Cameron Chambers so I pull over to the side and let him rail past. About five minutes later I hear the pissing sound of air and see small amounts of Stan’s coming out of the side wall of my front tire, hoping that the Stans would do its job and plug the puncture I keep turning the pedals but keep noticing that my front end is feeling softer and softer like I’m riding on an air mattress, I milk it all the way to the very top of the climb so it is easier to fix the tire and so I don’t block the trail for those racing behind me.. After a fairly quick patch job I’m on the way down, knowing that I’ve dropped a good ten spots and hoping to reel in at least a few guys before the finish I try not to coast at all but in the end have lost way to much time with the blown legs and flat tire… & finish a very disappointing 19th on the day.
Saturday – Cross Country Race – Garmin file – 1 hour 55 minutes 20.31 miles average heart rate 151 max hr 182
The only race left for the weekend was Sunday’s Super D ( mostly a downhill race, but must have some climbing) This type a race suits me better than any other type of event and was my best shot for a national title or podium over the weekend.. most super d races are at the most 10-12 minutes long and the climbing is in short 30 second or less bursts, this course was the exact opposite as you started with a 3/4 of a mile climb up a dirt road while gaining 350 feet of elevation and then the rest was pure downhill. The only dilemma that was running through my head on Saturday night and into Sunday morning was what tire combo to run so I got up early and hopped on the gondola as soon as it started running, being the 3rd guy down the course in practice that morning & to my surprise the course was in great shape from some rain the night before and I put in a near flawless run. When I got to the back to the car I made the decision to stick with my XC set up tire wise due to the climb right off the bat being very important and how I felt they worked during the last practice run. Fast forward two hours to my individual start time of 10:37:30 — I got out of the gate well and started to climb with the goal of catching the guy who started 30 seconds in front of me which I did less than 2 minutes after leaving the start house, I then just pumped the pedals focusing on getting to the downhill portion knowing that I would have a clear course in front of me because of getting past him on the road. Within 30 seconds of seeing the singletrack I realized that the course was a whole different animal than my last practice run, corners were blown out, there was huge chunks of shale everywhere and I thought Oh shit I made the wrong tire choice! the very first real Switchback came soon after, it was a right hander out on the ski slope, I entered it put my front tire in the rut and low sided big time which sent me tumbling down the slope with nothing to stop my momentum. After I finally came to a stop I ran as fast as possible up the hill back the bike and to my surprise no one had passed me, so down the course I went pushing it even harder, knowing that I really needed to ride fast and perfect to salvage this race run. As the run continued I would catch a glimpse of the rider ahead of me but still no sight of anyone behind so I continued to push it & rode at my absolute max which led to a couple of short but costly off course lines before crossing the finish line in what would amount to a 8th place overall on the day.
Sunday – Super D – GarminFile - lots of Downhill Fun
If you want to see the helmet camera video of my practice run here she be
100% pissed off that I ruined a great chance to podium at the National Championships I loaded up the car and headed to Jackson, WY to visit a friend and split up the drive home into two days. No one is more disappointed in how my results where this weekend than me but I will be back and it will be with vengeance! I want to thank all the team sponsors for getting me to this point, my family for the un wavering support and I will leave you with some pictures from the solo journey – just scroll over the image for details of the picture and click on it for a bigger image ~ As always thanks for reading ~ Much Love!
Click on the link for an excellent event report by Drew.
Colorado Springs is full of outstanding places to ride with all types of different terrain ranging from very mild to pucker factor 101% we have sand, sandstone, decomposed granite and lots of soil types in between. We have a fairly large cycling community full of enthusiastic ambassadors, promoters, racers and non racers all of which just love to get out and spin pedal strokes at one of the many area gems. Having a communtity with awesome trails and great people often leads to our town being the host to some big time races on both the mountain bike side as well as the road, just to name a few: 24 hour mtb national championships - the ProCycling US Grand Prix of Sprinting One some of you might of heard of the USA ProCycling Challenge and just last weekend the Pro XCT mountain bike national tour stopped in town. Racers from all over the globe made the trip to Colorado Springs and could be seen spinning laps on the race course as early as Tuesday prior to the Saturday/Sunday events.
FLi Bye’s Andy Dukes who was fresh of a class and wave win during our local Wednesday evening series races at Palmer Park made the short trip across town to do battle in the Cat 2 race on Saturday morning, Donning the Green Fli Bye Jersey, a pair of Kahki colored Dickies shorts and his signature hydration pack, Andy lined up next to a group of serious looking racers. The gun went off and so did Andy as he stood on the pedals and pulled the biggest gear possible for well over a minute as the racers disappeared out of spectators sight, the pa announcer Larry Grossman was commenting on how big of a gap the “guy with the green jersey and back pack” had and that he wondered if he had fallen off his bike yet because he was sure to have redlined and collapsed! well that gap he opened up just grew and grew and after the first lap Andy had infiltrated the group that started in front of him and had a solid minute thirty lead over second place, that lead grew to over three minutes by the end of lap two and after it was all said and done Andy crossed the finish line with a cushion of nearly 4 minutes! Not a bad showing for one of our self-proclaimed “non racers”
Next up it was my turn, I decided to race a hard tail 29er that my bike tech from Bike Pro-Mobile had just built for me a few days earlier Bike specs: Tomac Flint 29 XL Frame, Full SRAM XO drivetrain including the new super smooth grip shifters, Rockshox Sid RCT3 100mm fork, Noir T40 bars and seatposts, Avid XO brakes, CrankBrothers Cobalt 3 wheelset, Maxxis Ikon 2.2 tires & Xpedo Pedals — end result 22.5 lbs flat with pedals.
I hadn’t raced or hardly ridden a 29er in well over 18 months but I chose to go with this bike because the course was so fast and void of any real tight turning sections where I would do better with my 26 inch wheels & I felt pretty comfy on it right off the bat. So on to the race report, there was 91 riders in the Cat 1 start wave with 30 second intervals separating the classes, my age group was third in line, the start was short and tight with a sharp left directly up a small hill and of course there was a pile up within the first 30 seconds. After a fast and smooth descent we filtered into a very rideable rock garden that proved to be not so rideable for a few people in front of me so the frustration of the early pile up and this delay already had me frazzled knowing the top five guys were going to get away, little did i know it would get worse as we would start to catch some racers from the first two groups by the first short climbing section and have a 20 person run a bike stampede to the crest of the hill. At this point I had to mentally re-group because I was so wound up about the delay’s and from the people who couldn’t ride these sections that I knew I would make a stupid mistake if I didn’t cool down, So after a fast and really fun flowey section I settled into a groove and made my way back to the start/finish in a pack of 5-6 others from my class and the ones who started in front of us so I had no idea of what kind of position I was in. In a race where they don’t mark calves with a letter or number to differentiate classes you have no idea if you passed or got passed by someone in your riding group, so with this being one of those non marking races I just kept trying to distance myself from anyone I passed and hoped to ride strong for the remaining 3 laps. The course traffic got better and better each time around and I had a great support system of friends there to keep me charging and ended up laying down my fastest lap of the race on the 4th and final time around the circuit which was good for 9th in my class. Not the top 5 I was looking for but it was my fault for not getting out front in the first 90 seconds of the race and getting stuck in all the traffic as the leaders pedaled away.
All in all it was a great weekend for the team & always awesome to have a high-caliber event in your backyard.
Next up is some Super D action in Crested Butte with one race each day this coming weekend, This will be A much welcomed break from the Cross Country slogs of late
The Gunnison Growler
Last year I missed out on racing in the Growler as the race sold out in 7 minutes flat. This year I was not about to let that happen and was logged in 20 minutes prior to the registration opening and had confirmation about 28 seconds after 9pm that I was in the race. What makes the Growler so appealing you ask and why has the rider turnout gone from locals in the know to drawing from all over the USA? Well it’s a combination of everything that goes into making a mountain bike race great and those include in no particular order.. a sweet race course, great on course support, a big old-fashioned throw down after party, proceeds from the race going directly back to the trails you raced and the list goes on.
The 2012 Growler offered two distances on two different days, the actual race course was a big 32 mile loop and you had the option of doing one or two laps. Both races started in the heart of Gunnison with a few blast’s of a shotgun then a 4 mile paved road neutral roll out behind local law enforcement helped get the racers situated before we actually hit the dirt.
When Todd and I made the plans for this race way back when we talked it over and decided that racing the 32 mile option on Saturday sounded way more fun and would allow us to play ride on Sunday in nearby Crested Butte or Salida, which one depended on the current trail conditions but both gave us plenty of options for a sweet day of stress free single-track riding.
As usual we loaded up and got out of CSprings mid day on Friday & took our time driving to Gunnison, then we picked up our number plates and event t-shirts, dropped off some canned goods the promoters asked everyone to bring for the local food bank and set out to loosen the legs and get a little look-see of the race course, a solid dinner at Mario’s followed and off to the hotel room we went to prep bikes for the 9am start Saturday.
Neither one of us warmed up a whole lot before going to the start line as I figured the 4 mile (12-15 minute) lead out to the race course would be plenty, I spotted my buddy Nate Bird and Nathan Miller of the Honey Stinger Team in the front row and squeezed in next to them knowing they would be at the front when we actually hit the dirt and the race officially began. The shotgun went off and a very mellow pace ensued during the 4 mile lead out, both Todd and I were in a good spot at this point, then we hit the dirt and immediately what they call Kill Hill which is a short but near vertical climb in the first 1/2 mile of the race and blew apart the field as at the top I took a look over my shoulder and saw a 15-20 sec gap from the lead pack to the chasers. I estimate there was 35 – 40 people strung out in the lead group but a pretty decent distance from 1st to last and we were about 2/3 of the way back. Todd and I stayed within 10 bikes of each other for a good portion of the 1st half of the race until I got caught behind a couple of guys who slowed my progress through one of the many technical rock sections and he and the pack we were with slowly inched away as I battled out in no mans land with a constant headwind but came into the aid station half way through the race and was told I was top 25 ish which meant Todd was top 20ish. I shagged a fresh bottle of Acli-Mate and a handful of Honey Stinger energy chews without getting off the bike and mentally prepared my self for the final 16 or so miles, Like usual my 2nd wind started to kick in and little by little I picked off other racers as I counted down the miles remaining in the race according to my garmin and with less than 3 to go I could see 2 more racers in the distance and all I could think about was a top 20 overall finish which I knew would be good for my class so i put in one more standing charge and got by both of them prior to the final descent to the finish line.
In the end it was a great day for the two of us as Todd raced himself to a 12th overall and a 2nd place class finish out of 71 (the top three in the 40+ open were separated by a total of 26 seconds) I ended up 18th overall and 7th in my class of 72 with the overall winner coming from my age group. All in all 295 riders of both genders crossed the finish line and another 35 or so did not finish… full results are here.
The post race festivities were great and we had a solid weekend, A big thanks goes out to all the people who donated their time to make this a great event.. I’ll be back!!!!
The past two weekends have seen riders from the Fli Bye Nation load up and head to the Southwest part of Colorado.
James, Drew & Andy made the trip to the 12 hours of Mesa Verde held in Cortez where they would compete as a 3 man team in the 3-4 Male open division and finish a solid 13th out of 33 teams, when it was all said and done the boys completed 8 laps on the 16 + mile course around what is called Phil’s world. The four statements I heard out of each of their mouths regarding the event was AWESOME COURSE – FREE POST RACE BEER – SO MUCH FUN & CAN’T WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR.
This past weekend I made the trip to round #1 of the Mountain States Cup series in Salida, this event was an Omnium event with a Hill Climb Time trial on Saturday morning, followed by a circuit race that afternoon & polished off with a Cross Country event on Sunday.
I was fortunate enough to get into town relatively early, grab a bite to eat and head out for a loop of the XC course as it was advised to all Pro/Cat 1 racers to do. So i set out chasing the pink ribbons that marked the course which started with a 2 mile steady climb to the north of town on paved/dirt roads before dumping you into great singletrack. After about 3 miles of winding through the trees the course took a hard left and up the most challenging climb on the course,, it wasn’t super long but it put a little hurt into your legs! Following said climb was the section that the promoters wanted you to see prior to race day – it was a section of trail named Uncle Nazty, .8 miles long and extremely technical on a fairly steep pitch in which I probably rode 50% of and walked next to my steed the other 50% It was one of those sections where you either rode the whole thing, walked it, or option three would most likely result in carnage or a trip in a bambulance! Following Uncle Nazty there was about 3 miles back to the start/finish and by far my favorite part of the entire course as it was fast and flowey but still had enough technical to make you pay attention. End result of the pre ride was a great time and the thought that this was a real xc course not a super speed way.
As I got back to the car and was about to load up and head towards my dad’s house in Buena Vista I ran into Macky Franklin who races for the Orbea Tuff Shed Pro Mountain Bike Team, we chatted a bit and I invited him to come stay up there and have a bed and shower as opposed to tent city by the course. At this time it was still fairly early in the afternoon as I headed back to BV for a bite to eat and chose to head over to Eddyline Restaurant and Brewing to spend a little time kicking back and refueling.
Saturday am 8:33 was my Hill Climb start time – a 1.77 mile course with 384 feet of climbing
Saturday at high noon was the Circuit Race – a 1.6 mile loop that we would blast around 3 times with a total elevation gain of 633 feet.
Neither of these went well for me as I just couldn’t the pace the front-runners in my class set so I loaded up and headed back to BV for the afternoon, stopped for some groceries and chilled out on the deck before cooking up a little spaghetti for my pops and company.
Sunday Am rolled around and it was back for stage 3 of the Omnium… 2 laps around the XC course for a total distance of 22.5 miles and 3,100 feet of elevation gain, My poor performance Saturday filtered over into Sunday as I struggled to hold the pace of the race leaders as we climbed out-of-town & knew I was in for a long day so I tried to get through the single track with a smile and block out the negative thoughts on the climbs which worked pretty well as I put in two consistent lap’s that were almost exactly the same times within seconds of each other. End result of the weekend was a good time off the bike hanging with my dad and Macky (who by the way threw it down with 2 podiums in 3 events) , a poor showing on the bike and the lesson that all weekends don’t go as planned! Time to train harder or just start riding for fun!
Next up we travel to the land of Acli-Mate to race in the Original and Half Growler in Gunnison May 26-27
Rewind a few months back to winter in Colorado & vision riding your mountain bike in Arizona…sounds wonderful doesn’t it? So when the registration opened online for the 2012 Whiskey Off Road three Fli Bye team racers (myself, Todd Shaffer & James Bailey) jumped on the computer to register the first day you could to ensure a spot in this huge event as it sells out every year with this years edition being no different as 1750 mountain bikers of all levels flocked to Prescott AZ to compete in their choice of the Whiskey 15, 25 or 50 proof races (proof’s = miles)
Our intention was to stay in Durango overnight before finishing the 700+ mile trek to Prescott on Friday, so after an hour ish in the car we exited I-25 in Walsenburg for a quick stop, then headed west into the mountains as the clouds rolled in over the Spanish Peaks .
Over the next few hours of driving we saw all four seasons with crazy winds, pouring rain, a bit of snow on top of Wolf Creek pass and sunshine in the San Luis Valley then more rain that continued all the way to Durango where we arrived within minutes of our planned ETA. We found a place to stay for the evening threw the bikes into the room and went towards main street to find some much-needed food and as luck would have it the first place we came across was the Old Tymers Cafe. As we were sat Todd noticed two banners hanging up on the wall, this was from the 1990 World Cup event held in the area in which American Ned Overend won the mens XC event.
Being one of those people who believes all things happen for a reason I felt that our choice of restaurants was a good Omen of things to come on this trip. The Old Tymer advertised that they had the best burgers in town since 1981 so we both ordered up one with the toppings of choice along with a huge plate of green vegetables, As advertised the burgers where very good, the service was excellent and the atmosphere made you want to stay for some fun but back to the room we went. Rain continued to come down and made for a very peaceful night of sleep but 6am came early as usual and we set out towards the four corners then across Navajo Country before turning south towards Flagstaff which left only 90 quick miles left to get into Prescott, or as the locals call is Prescitt.
We were welcomed with great weather and a very busy town, we found race headquarters signed in and picked up our racing numbers and the usual swag bag consisting of the event t-shirt, bike magazines and other industry products. We grabbed a quick-lunch, found the hotel, geared up and set out for a little 50 proof pre race course inspection knowing that we would being going into Saturday without seeing a large portion of the course but we started in town and followed the black course markers as they pointed us up and out-of-town on the black top, onto a jeep road and finally to an intersection of single-track. Friday’s 15 proof was in progress so we didn’t want to get in their way on the course so we took the other single track option which turned out to be a great section of trail and eventually led us to another intersection that the 25 & 50 mile course used to get back to town and the finish line, our hour and fifteen minute pre-ride gave us a great look at the start and finish of the race so we knew how hard we would have to go out and then when we would be on the downhill slide towards the finish line. After a post ride recovery shake, some bike washing and race prep it was time to put down some calories for Saturday’s big day and we chose a buffet so each of us could get what and as much of all the foods we could handle. With it being a relatively early start time my personal preference is to almost overeat the night before instead of sacrificing sleep to wake up at O dark 30 to eat a full breakfast so I started with a huge salad and tons of vegetables, followed that up with a heaping portion of plain noodles and rice topped with some tilapia and a little chunk of sirloin and of course topped off the meal with a scoop of ice cream and two rice crispy bars ~ Sufficiently Stuffed!
Race day – A 5:30am wakeup call, a shot of coffee with a couple scoops of oatmeal and protein powder and off to the start/finish area to get dressed and on the bike for a short warmup before the gun was set to go off. As usual I had my fueling strategy lined up.
Today stash included two Honey Stinger waffles plus two gels along with a water bottle in my back jersey pocket with two scoops Acli-Mate Colorado Cran-Raspberry mountain formula and a bottle in the cage with a super concentrate containing three scoops Acli-Mate orange mango endurance formula and an extra nuun tab. I planned to have one waffle, one gel and finish the mountain formula bottle by the time I hit aid station one (about 15 miles into the race) for the rest of the race I planned to eat the additional waffle, gel and sip on the concentrate all the way to the finish.
Craziness on Whiskey Row……….Riders were lining up in the start shoot way before 7am as I thought to myself WTF?
I knew it was a mass start (all classes combined at the start, all going off at the same time) and there was 270 racers in our open class with a total of nearly 600 in the start wave so I pedaled back to get Todd and tell him I was going to try to wedge us into the madness as close to the front as possible which turned out to be at least 1/3 to 1/2 way back as hundreds of people were ahead of us.
In old western fashion & 3 shots of a gun the race was underway with a mad dash towards the front for both of us as we had a ton of work to do and my first thought as the procession of riders winded through the streets on the way out-of-town was I need to get as close to the front as possible asap! A few minutes in I realized that my legs felt good which made me mentally push it even harder, another few minutes went by before I saw Todd up ahead and put in a quick surge of power to get right behind him as our plan was to try to ride the whole race together so we could pace off of each other and work the climbs as a pair instead of being stranded in solo land, this plan worked until I got boxed out in a corner and lost about 15 feet of ground on him right before the race course first entered the single track with a mini stream crossing and a switch back. I got hung up behind some fella’s that acted as if they never saw dirt before and couldn’t find a spot to get by this train of ten who seemed content on just cruising, the frustration started to boil in me as I saw valuable minutes passing by. A few more miles of this cruising pace went by and we finally came to a downhill section where I knew it was time to be aggressive if I was to pass the 8 riders I counted directly in front of me, luckily the guy behind me had the same thought and started yelling to the ones up front to get out-of-the-way.. we tried to be polite and ask to pass when the trail permitted but nobody seemed to care and one racer even said to me “hold you horses it’s a long race” I asked nicely once again to go by and once again was denied so I reverted back to the motocross days and parked him into the bushes the next chance I was given. The racer behind me who was from Mesa, AZ came right along and thanked me for getting us through that mess. We then chatted about where we were from and paced each other up the 3+ mile climb to aid station #1 which we both passed without taking more fluids or food doing so because the next 9 miles was essentially down hill with the exception of some short burst climbs on a dirt road into Skull Valley, a small unincorporated little town where aid station #2 was. At Aid #2 I stopped to fill up a water bottle, grabbed a few hard pretzels and got on my way back out of the valley on the same road, what came next was the test of the race… a 15+ mile climb and a gain in roughly 3,000 feet of elevation that everyone had warned the first timers about. I was in a good spot mentally and kept a nice steady pace all the way past aid #3 (Aid #1 and #3 shared same spot) trying to keep my pedal strokes smooth and just counting off the miles until I knew the course would turn mostly downhill for the remainder of the day. When that time came i looked back on the road as we turned onto the single track on a corner that was loaded with people cheering, ringing cowbells, handing out water and encouraging each racer to keep on it as the end was coming and more fun was to be had! Knowing I had less than 9 miles left, all of which was mostly downhill on excellent single track except a short hill climb they called “cramp hill” made me go into another zone, this is what Todd and I had finished Fridays pre-ride with so I knew exactly what was coming and charged as hard as possible in hopes of making up as many spots as possible. I turned it into mental game and counted the number of bikes I passed all the way to the final charge back into town and the finish line.. that number was 14, wether or not they were in my class or not I didn’t care as I came screaming into town and a rambunctious crowd lining “Whiskey Row” .. official finish time 3:51:40 and good for 35th place out of 270 finishers in our class – Todd posted an official time of 3:42:42 good for 18th in our class – a phenomenal ride/placing on his part while James being the toughest of us all did the 50 proof on a single speed and finished with a time of 4:20:10!
Post race we got our Whiskey 50 finisher pint glass, met up with Todd’s friend Dave and grabbed a bite to eat before heading north out-of-town towards Williams, Arizona (the gateway to the Grand Canyon) It was still early in the day when we got into town so we grabbed a quick snack and I had to try out the barley pop selection at Grand Canyon Brewing Company . We later ate at an excellent Italian bistro with a roof top one man act performing any song you could think or or request.. when he found out I was from ColoRADo he played a rocky mountain high as the crowd sang along, By this time of the eve… 9pm mind you we were spent and hung our hats for the evening. Todd and I agreed that 4:30am AZ time was a good time to get up and on the road in the am, we pulled out of the drive at 4:40 and started the journey east on I-40.
Adios Amigo’s - thanks for reading
April has brought warm temperatures to the region and the local race scene is following right along with races all over the front range each weekend. FLi Bye has been right in the thick of it with Jonathan Bearden picking up where he left off in March in the Colorado Cycling road race series putting in solid effort after solid effort starting with a 3rd place finish on April fools day in the Colorado Springs Classic Crit held on the campus of Colorado College. He then followed that podium appearance up with a 7th place at the highly competitive Boulder Roubaix (the event drew 824 total entries with 47 in Jonathan’s class) Here is a great link covering the event from Mary Topping from Pro Velo Passion & a picture of the the Cat 3 leaders with Jonathan sitting about 5th wheel back.
The next weekend was another in town event with the United States Air Force Academy hosting the annual Front Range Cycling Classic with a two-day two event format, A crit on Saturday and a road race on Sunday so Both Jonathan and I registered for both events & I was eager to try my hand at road racing for the first time. Saturday rolled around and I went to the line for a 35 minute crit on a chilly windy afternoon, on the first couple laps the pace was blistering as the top ten guys with myself included at the back of the ten man train, I watched as some at the top made break away attempts with the strong wind halting almost any progress that was to be made.. in the end I finished 7th and was satisfied with the race and learned a ton of how that format works, Jonathan on the other hand put in a 4th place finish in a small but talented field. The weather forecast for Sunday’s road race was not good and mother nature dropped 3-4 inches of snow on the AFA base overnight but the promoters posted at 9am that the 11am start time was still a go………. at 10:40 they called off the race due to high winds and the threat of a gust blowing a pack of riders into on coming traffic as the course was not completely closed to motorist. So we all packed up and went on a training ride to salvage the day.
April also means its time to hit the dirt for some fat tire racing as well, the RME series firing up in Pueblo with the annual Voodoo Fire race held and Lake Pueblo State Park. This race offers a marathon/half marathon or XC event consisting of 66,44 and 22 miles respectively. Todd Shaffer carried to torch for us at this event as our teams only entry and posted the 14th fastest time overall in the entire 1/2 marathon field (pro’s included) and took home a 5th in the Open 30-39 class ~ Well Done!!
Next up for our team.. Todd and I travel to Prescott Arizona for the Whiskey50 where we will both tackle the 50 proof event which features 50 miles of awesome terrain and includes 7,200 feet of climbing. This race is one of the biggest mountain bike draws of the year due to the $30,000 pro purse. On the Pavement Jonathan will make the trek to Silver City New Mexico for what is known as the Tour of Gila and a very important stage race on his season calendar.
With these kind of races coming up it is vital to have your pre and during race nutrition in place, luckily we are loaded up with Honey Stinger and Acli-Mate products and oh so prepared to do battle at these big events coming up.
Fli Bye will catch you on the FlipSide!
Spring! one of the 4 temperate seasons and for some the most exciting time of year when rebirth, renewal and regrowth takes center stage, when the days are close to 12 hours long, when most start to venture outside as the length of daylight increases with each passing day as the season goes on. Spring is also the time when the Cycling season gets fired up in Colorado, after months of either layering up and battling the cold outside or for some putting in hour upon hour of mind numbing sessions on a stationary trainer, Spring is the exciting time to see where your fitness stands & where the fitness of your closest racing competitors ranks.
In addition to training for the early season races FLiBYe’s Jonathan Bearden had the added task and exciting addition of a newborn son to add to the mix of working full-time, coaching a junior cycling group and preparing for the Spring races. Would he come out ready? How’s a 9th place out of 91 starters at the CU-Stazio Crit sound, Backed by a 1oth place at the DU Crit the following week, not a bad way to start the season off & a great indication of what is in store when the “peak” races come around.
The rest of the team has been hard at work with each rider going about their own way(s) of preparing for the season you can follow myself and Joel Krause “the summit county killer” at strava ~ FLiBYe is loaded up with fresh Maxxis Tires and everyone has ample supply of HoneyStinger waffles, gels, energy bars and organic energy chews. Add in the Mountain & Endurance Formula’s from Acli-Mate that everyone has on hand and there will be no excuses only results when the first mtb race of the year for most comes along .. the Voodoo Fire - April 21st!
Stay tuned for more Crit results as I will attempt my first ever & Jonathan will bring the noise as usual this weekend at the Colorado Spring Classic this Sunday April FOOLs 1st.
Until we meet again keep on pedaling, keep on having fun throw in a cold one here and there