The legendary Chad Cheeny putting it down in the Blitz Arm Wrestling Contest.
I can’t believe how many cool mountain bike events are going on right now in the US. There seems to be a reassurance happening and promoters are figuring out how to put on a great race for the competitors and also give the spectators a show as well.
After the Grand Junction Off Road I spent the week in Vail hanging out at Meg’s family’s house. I got some great training in but think I might have overcooked it a little bit going into the GoPro Games. When you have a few events back to back and you’re trying to build form after a break it’s always a risk of coming into a race both under and over trained at the same time. You are under trained because you just took a few weeks off but also over trained because you just did a bunch of 100 mile rides before the race. Not optimal for that particular race but hopefully beneficial down the road.
GoPro Games in Vail was a NoGo for me. From the time the gun went off I couldn’t hold the wheel at all. Normally at altitude if you’re worried about blowing up you can hold back a bit but for me I was going flat out and straight backward from the start. Needless to say it’s tough to fake it on a 20 minute fire road climb at 9,000 ft. so I suffered like a dog just to finish the race in 6th position. Howie rode super strong, took the lead on the second of three laps and never looked back. We even got some rain at the start which made the downhill on lap one a little tricky which allowed me to catch back on but it dried quick and was like velcro for the following laps.
Vail sure does know how to hold a first class event and the village was packed all weekend with an estimated 50,000 spectators over the course of all the events. The MTB race also had more spectators this year then I have ever seen in the past. It is almost impossible to park anywhere near the village and walking through town feels more like navigating a concert then an action sports event.
I had a day at home after the GoPro to do some laundry and get myself packed to go to Bend for the Blitz: http://www.blitzbikesbeer.com/#intro You may have heard of this event and may not have. It is a semi invitational downhill cross country that starts twenty miles outside of town and finishes at the Tetherow Golf Course in town.
The race is awesome and Bend is awesome. The start was at the same place Marathon National Champs was staged and it is a net loss of nearly 2,000 ft with only 300 ft of climbing so over the course of the twenty miles. There is a hole shot prime, a big air prime, a speed trap prime and an arm wrestling prime, each worth $500 so everyone has something to target.
The trails in bend are hardpack and super dusty. They are mostly smooth with some volcanic rock gardens and drops. I ran the S-Works Epic with a Fast Track Grid 2.0 27 psi in the rear and a Slaughter 2.3 control 25 psi in the front. There are lots of places to flat and when trying to keep up with the super fast locals on their home trails not only was I pushing my limits but I was mashing through the rock gardens blind from the dust. O yea, the race is at 7 pm too so there are some pretty dark sections.
In addition to the awesome XC style trails used in the race it drops down a bmx jump line before popping out on the golf course where the venue is along with the rock drop and big air jump. That is where the XC rider has an advantage because you ride around the perimeter of the course on the road before hopping on the cart path for three holes and then doing a cyclocross style circuit in the driving range. Finally it ends with a huck over a sand trop before climbing up the elevated tee box to the finish. Then it really gets serious because after you cross the line you have to chug a beer and only then are you done.
Everyone wants the hole shot so we all sprinted for that, I came up short and rolled into trail around sixth wheel. There isn’t much passing until you hit the first fire road and I was able to move up fifth on Carl Decker’s wheel which I was thinking was a great wheel to follow. Shortly after that Shultz crashed in a dusty corner so I was up to forth. Unfourtunately I couldn’t hold Decker’s wheel and made a few wrong turns on course so I was on my own to figure out where to push and where to rest. Craig, Decker and I finally came together once we got to the golf course and we were a group of three riding back up the cart path probably five minutes from the finish when Decker crashed and gave me the gap. Craig and I rode the rest of the race just a few seconds apart and I rolled into the finish maybe five seconds ahead but that’s where it all went wrong for me. My HR was pinned at nearly 190 and I could not drink that beer to save my life. We both were drinking in slow motion but Adam was not quite as slow as mine so he won the race in the drinking contest. That was the most expensive beer I ever drank since it cost me $1,000 in prize money. At least I know what I need to work on for next year and I have to say I’m looking forward to that type of training:) This is Katerina demonstrating the correct way to chug a beer and win the Blitz.
Erik Eastland knows how to put on a great event and Bend is the perfect town for it with hundreds of miles of trails, over thirty breweries and an apparently budding arm wrestling community. It was the most fun I’ve had in a bike race in a long time. I can’t wait for next year.
Next up is another night race in Missoula next weekend. I don’t think it’s going to be quite as much fun since we have to ride up that ski hill for the majority of the race but that is another town and promoter that know how to put on a great event. Seems the keys to success for an amazing MTB event are a descent size town, a big MTB trail network, lots of breweries and some passionate promoters. If you build it they will come.
I wonder if it’s going to stop raining in Durango sometime soon……