The second half of my season kicked off last weekend at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in my hometown of Durango, CO. So what was I up to between Marathon National Champs and then? Well, I had a ten day break scheduled that turned into a two week break because of a nasty cold that turned into a sinus infection. I was laid out in bed and had to get on antibiotics to kick it, yuk! I also made the trek back to Durango from my winter base in Tucson. We look like quite the group caravaning back with me, Meg, Cooper, Winston and Maddie and all of our stuff.
Anyway, it’s always nice to come back to Durango but May is always hit or miss with the weather. Tucson is so consistently perfect all winter I forget it’s cold and rainy other places. I finally got healthy enough to train about a week before the IHBC and wound up riding in the rain just about everyday, didn’t want to get too soft. All that rain has made Durango super green and when it isn’t raining and the trails get a day to dry out they are perfect, like velcro traction.
Each year the IHBC is like a FLC cycling team reunion. It is great to see everyone I went to school with and I’m really bad at keeping in touch with people so it’s awesome everyone shows up in town at the same time. We have been doing an alumni(honorary) ride in the valley before the road race the past few years and it’s awesome to see everyone getting back into cycling.
I was always planning on skipping the RR to Silverton and just doing the MTB race this year. The course is probably one of the coolest we do all year. We race right through downtown, in the front window and off the back deck of Steamworks Brewery and hit some awesome single track in between. The area near Steamworks has to have at least 1,000 people packed inside the bar and all around the property, it is such a cool atmosphere.
I didn’t know what to expect with my fitness level but I ride the trails used in the race everyday. I also don’t get the chance to race in front of my hometown very often so I was super motivated. I found myself off the front with Chris Baddick and The German(Ben Sontang). We took turns attacking and pushing the pace. I was able to just barely get clear on the last lap and sneak in for the win. I couldn’t believe how many people were watching the race. MTB racing is alive and well in Durango!
Next up was the Epic Rides Grand Junction Off Road in Grand Junction, Colorado. It is the same format as the Whiskey 50 with a fat tire crit in downtown on Friday night and a marathon on Sunday. I went up early to preride the 40 mile marathon on Wednesday and wound up getting caught in a mud pit. My poor bike got destroyed but was looking like new again by race day.
The crit on Friday night before the big event is always fun. Unlike Whiskey 50 it is completely flat with no giant hill so the race stays together. With only bragging rights on the line my goal was to win some $$ in the primes. I didn’t accomplish my goal though and got 2nd in every prime.
Sunday was the big day with $5,000 on the line for the win I was hoping for a good result. The trails in Grand Junction are awesome the race consisted of two main loops, one through the “Lunch Loops” and the big Magellan loop. The lunch loops are pretty technical with lots of Moab like slick rock drops and gardens. Connecting the rocks together are smooth sections of hard pack clay and sand. The big loop has a long nearly hour long rolling descent that is super rocky. It’s more of an upper body work out then an aerobic. I even used a hydration pack for this part of the course. Finally there is a long gradual climb back up with a steep slick rock section at the end. From there it’s back through the Lunch Loops and in to the finish in down town.
The race started just like I hoped and I quickly found myself in a group of 4 with Alex Grant, Fernando and Bishop. We all hit the long climb together nearly half way through the race together and Fernando attacked. I bridged to him first and then Alex joined us. Not too long after that my day took a turn for the worse when I cut the sidewall on the smoothest part of the course and watched Fernando and Alex pedal away. The cut was pretty big and lots of other racers past me before I got it fixed. I also had a slight malfunction with my CO2 head and only managed to get about 20 psi in the tire. That held for about five minutes before I flatted again. Luckily there were tons of people coming by and everyone offered to help me. I got another tube and CO2 from Brain Smith. I got it all fixed up and saw my Clif Shot boot had moved during inflation and the tube was sticking through the tire. I had to take it off again and luckily Jay Henry offered me another CO2. Finally it was fixed for good and I was able to pedal the rest of the way to finish.
The result wasn’t what I was looking for but the form was good so I’m happy with that. The trails were also awesome so even with such bad luck it was a fun ride.
I rode the Specialized S-Works Epic with 120 psi rear shock/90 psi RS-1. I ran 2.0 Fast Track Control 25 psi front and 2.2 Fast Track Control rear 26 psi. I never run larger then a 2.0 tire but with such rough terrain I was worried about flatting or cracking the rim since it was super rocky. The bigger volume tire didn’t manage to ward off my flat tire but it did work great in all the rough areas I was worried about. To cut a tire on a smooth fire road climb is just bad luck so I would run the same setup again.
I’m spending the week in Vail at Meg’s family’s house before tackling another CO race, the GoPro Games this weekend.
I can’t believe what great job Epic Rides does with their events. GJOR had 20 bands playing at the start/finish downtown over the 3 day weekend and the place was packed. Between IHBC and GJOR I haven’t seen so many people at a US bike race in a long time. I don’t know what the demographics are for putting on a hugely successful MTB race but Durango and Grand Junction are definitely model towns for it.
I wonder how wet the GoPro Games course is going to be this weekend…..