Prescott Arizona isn’t just home to old west bars on Whiskey Row, it is the town that’s seeing a resurgence in mountain bike racing in America. This weekend was the festival known as Whiskey 50 which is a fat tire crit, an amateur 15,25 or 50 Proof race and the biggest prize money purse in the U.S. Todd Sadow and his Epic Rides crew know how to promote events and we are lucky to have him taking the reins of marathon racing here at home.
Prescott, AZ sits at 5,500 ft and is about 90 miles outside of Phoenix. The town is probably most well known for the horrible forest fire last year that took the lives of all those firefighters.
“““`Pros must start the crit or they will not be allowed to race the 50-mile marathon on Sunday. The course is a 2:20 minute circuit with about 1:50 of climbing and 30 seconds of descending per lap. Needless to say with a short race and that much climbing the field splits up fast. The crit is all about bragging rights as there are no overall points or prize money for the race. What they do have is great crowds and quite a few primes to keep the pace high.
With one lap to go the field had been reduced from ninety to a group of twelve when Zanstra took a flier at the top of the climb looking to snatch the prime. He got the prime and we never saw him again as everyone was looking to someone else to chase him down. I rolled in at the back of the group for 9th place. I was happy with that result as I was looking to get a good opener in for Sunday, avoid crashes and not do too much work. Mission accomplished.
Saturday is for the amateurs and even though they knew they were signing up for an Epic Rides event, I can guarantee they had no idea what they were in for. Temperatures in Prescott in late April are usually around 70/75 for a high and 45 for a low at night. I don’t think they had seen any precipitation for months either. This year we awoke to snow/rain/32 degrees and 40 mph white out winds. The 7:30 start for the amateur 50 proof was probably the most miserable conditions a lot of the field had ever raced in. The conditions didn’t clear up until later in the day and over 40 people had to be evacuated off the course. That miserable weather for them meant the course was going to be perfect for the pro race on Sunday.
Sunday was the complete opposite of the pervious day with blue bird sky, calm winds and much warmer temperatures. We rolled out from downtown in mass under a police escort for the first few miles before we turned right onto the double track road and shortly after the sprint for the single track was on. I managed to hit the single track first and by the time we popped out on the first dirt road we were down to a group of four, myself, Susi, Zanstra and Fernando.
We climbed up to the first feedzone, rolled down to the turn around point at Skull Valley and rode the next eight miles back up fairly civilly before Susi attacked and took Fernando with him. Zanstra and I were chasing but by the time we got to the single track at mile 12 Howard had caught us and the lead group had about a minute gap. I got the jump into the single track and halfway down the descent we had caught Fernando but Susi still had a 30 second gap. We hit the final pavement stretch of downhill coming into town, dropped Fernando and with about half a mile to go Zanstra had pulled us within a few wheel lengths of Susi. We never made contact though and with about five hundred meters to go I jumped him and Specialized rolled in for 1(Susi), 2(Me) and 5(Howard).
The race was awesome with plenty of single track, tactics and perfect course conditions.
We all chose to race the S-Works World Cup Epic this year and I think it saved me because I didn’t have any problems with cramp hill and it was amazing on the rough climbing and fast descents. I used a 36 front chain ring and Renegade 1.95 Control casing tires, wouldn’t have changed the setup at all.