I love Sun Valley, the town has been very good to me over the past couple of years. It is such a cool little town and everyone is so friendly. And if you’re a dog lover, it has to be one of the most dog friendly places I’ve ever been. On top of that the weather is always great when I’ve been there(lives up to its name).
I had a day and a half back in Durango after CO Springs and then Howie and i took off for Sun Valley on Tuesday evening. SV has to be the best town to hang out in before a race. Everything is really close, there are great coffee shops and restaurants and it’s easy to stay entertained while resting. John, Mike and i spent some time at Java.
The organizers took some of the feedback from the race last year and made some great changes to the course. Last year we had a ton of lapped traffic and since the course is probably 70% single track they moved the Pro start to the afternoon to give us a clear course. I think we only encountered a couple of lapped riders and they all jumped of the course right away. The difference between racing at 8am and 1pm is it’s way warmer in the afternoon. Last year the high temp on my computer was 77 degrees, this year 102.8! They also added some distance to the race because it was too short last year. They added a steep climb in the middle of the loop so we climbed to the top again and then looped back into the normal descent. It only added 10 miles but the climb was really steep and they had used it in the previous weekend for an enduro race so it was pretty blown out. It is one of those climbs where the computer is constantly auto pausing.
The race started chill enough with the group rolling out down the bike path south of town and no one going too crazy. We made a right turn and started onto the dirt and it was still pretty civilized until the road started to go up. Josh Berry(Smart Stop road team) went to the front and started to set a hard tempo. After a few minutes the race had blown apart and it was just Ettinger, Howie and myself still in contact. The climb goes for about 45 minutes and when we finally crested the first climb we were down to three as Howie had just lost contact before the descent. Ettinger and I managed to gap Josh on the descent and we were only two when we started the new climb.
The Bald Mt climb is quite painful but at least at race pace it takes less then a half hour. That is a half hour in my smallest gear on the on the nose of the saddle trying to get as much power going with out losing traction.
Ettinger and I were together at the top but halfway down the Broadway trail he flatted and I rode away. Luckily he flatted just about 3 minutes from the tech zone but since it seemed like we were pretty evenly matched it was enough for me to get a gap. I spent the next 2 hours riding by myself. I was super motivated so it was no problem keeping the pressure on but I was trying to be careful not to flat myself and with the temperatures in the 90s I was also worried about cramping.
In the end I managed to stay away and take the “W” for the third year in a row. Ettinger got another puncture towards the end of the last lap but still hung on for 2nd with Howie rounding out the podium and Josh rolling in 4th. Those guys could all see each other on the steep road climb at the start of the last lap and had a real fight to the finish.
I used the Epic with Renegade Control tires front and rear 25/26 PSI.I wanted the protection of the control casing but with over 8,000 ft of climbing I didn’t want any extra weight so I sacrificed the traction of the Fast Track for the lighter weight of the Renegade. I also ran a 32 tooth front ring because of the long, steep Bald Mt climb. I didn’t want to push too big of a gear in the middle of the race. I drank 8 or 9 bottles in the 3:51 it took to complete the race and ate 2 packs of Margarita blocks and a bunch of gels.
Then we had the feed/tech zones. We had Mike in the top zone, John in the middle and Mallory helped us out at the start/finish(thanks Mal). It is a big operation to provide support in the marathon events, Mike took the gondola, chairlift and rode the 2 miles after that to the zone. Then the lifts were shut down by the time race was over so he had to ride back down. Fun, yes but with a back pack full of spares and 2 miles of climbing before you get to descend it’s still a bit of work. John had to drive over to another part of the mountain and then ride with a pack full of parts, ice and lots of bottles the 40 minutes up to the zone. The team really worked for it this weekend. Mal was nice enough to help us out so she just had to make sure she made it from the bar to the feedzone(about 30 feet) before we rode by the base area lodge:) You never win on your own, there is always a huge support structure behind any racer, win or lose.
This is the crew enjoying some amazing desert at the Ketchum Grill after the race. I would highly recommend the chocolate mousse.
Some notes from the weekend:
I knew Josh was going to throw down on the climb but I had no idea he was going to go down hill so fast. After some physical problems on the Bald Mt climb he managed to pass Bishop, Grant and Howie on the descent! Not only is he a roadie, but he was on a HT too, great ride Josh.
Sun Valley has a gas station that is completely painted in camo, gas pumps and all.
Java has amazing scones and muffins, maybe the best I’ve ever scene.
Sun Valley is the only town I’ve ever been to that has orange flags to carry when crossing the street. Maybe Durango should get some of those flags for the new crosswalk on Camino del Rio so motorists stop running over kids.
Instead of going home to Durango, i went back to NY in hopes of acclimating to the heat, humidity and big O2 we will have at XC National Champs in PA 2 weeks from now.
I wonder what Meg, Coop and Winston are doing right now……