Words and photos: Brice Shirbach
Originally published in Issue #191
For most of us, the UCI World Cup downhill series is a somewhat nebulous arrangement, largely unfolding by means of online media, live video streams and an assortment of social-media posts from the athletes themselves. While fans of the sport are well aware of what happens against the clock and between the tape, there’s much more to the process than what is conveyed through the various multimedia morsels we’re fed throughout race week.
From the start of the season, fans are glued to computer screens and phones, desperately seeking out anything they can find that will quench a thirst for knowledge of course conditions, suspension setups, injury updates and which riders are in top form on any given weekend. While all that information makes for compelling narrative, there’s a nuance to race week that goes unnoticed in the quest for big-ticket storylines.
For professional downhillers, there’s much more to their existence than just seven World Cup Sunday races. Strict training regimens, suspension and bike testing, contract negotiations and constant self-promotion are required in order to have a job, and that’s before the first race of the year.
Dirt Rag was granted the opportunity to spend crunch time with the Pivot Factory Racing team last August while they prepared for the lone American stop on the World Cup circuit. Made up of team manager and lead rider Bernard Kerr, as well as former motocross racer Eliot Jackson, Swiss national champion Emilie Siegenthaler and team mechanic Jack Noy, this squad of twenty-somethings is loaded with world-class talent. Here is a firsthand account.
Day 1: Track Walk
The team arrived in the town of Windham, New York, late on Tuesday evening, having spent the week prior in eastern Quebec, Canada, for the 25th annual Mont-Sainte-Anne leg of the season. Wednesdays are typically the first day of the World Cup week when it’s cross-country and downhill combined. Teams are permitted to walk the course as often as they want within a strictly defined time period. Practice runs on the bike won’t come until the following day, making initial track walk critical in shaping each rider’s approach to the rest of the week.
Dislocated shoulder the week prior at Mont-Sainte-Anne
I’ve been doing physiotherapy in the mornings and [racing this weekend] is on me. I need to see how I feel. It’s all about tomorrow’s practice. The guys rode at Bromont, Canada, after the race and I didn’t. If it’s just a pulled muscle, I can rest and it’ll get better. But I think it might be more than that. I had a collarbone break before, but this is more of a ligament issue. There are still more races to come after this, plus world championships. How many risks are you willing to take? I need to consider the team and the overall. It’s a lot to think about, so I just have to wait and see.
Coming off a disappointing result of 38th at Mont-Sainte-Anne
It’s hard to stay pumped sometimes. When you’re doing well, it’s easier to ride the wave. When you do badly, it’s hard to bounce back. But this place [Windham] is super fun. You can just get so many rides in. There are some places that are so big, you get tired and you’re not able to get as many runs in. Here you can play on the track all day. When I have fun, I do well, and this place is fun. I have my own riding style and strengths like any rider, so different races bring about different expectations. If I win timed practice, I want to win the qualifiers. That’s a good way to build your confidence. I think it’s good to change up your expectations depending on the track, so you’re not just going out and getting disappointed if the results aren’t always top. I’m ranked 17th currently, so I can go out and put something fast down in qualifying and not have to play it safe.
Two separated shoulders forced him to miss much of the season
I’ve been spending a lot of my time trying to get healthy again. I have to try and get back to where I was, which is obviously a different mindset than trying to go out and be competitive at each event. I have a little head cold, but am mostly concerned with trying to get over my injuries from earlier in the season. I separated my shoulder after the first World Cup, and once it healed I went up to Whistler for a few days to get some riding in and I separated the same shoulder again. I was out for over a month. At this point, I’ve only been back on the bike for about four weeks now, and it’s been only racing.
I’ve known Bernard for a while. We used to race against each other at the British Downhill Series and he was always way faster than me. I tried that for a few years and eventually decided to pack it in, as it’s a ton of money to spend a season chasing points. He asked me to wrench for this team when he first got on board. I had a lot going on at the time, so I passed on it at that point. But he asked me again last season, and I jumped at the opportunity.
Practice, qualifying and race days are pretty full on. After finals, you kind of polish up the bikes and take a breath. There’s definitely some pressure, though. I don’t want to get anything wrong. If something is running a bit nicer and that helps them get a half second faster, why not just do it? If it means I need to stay up late at night to get it done, so be it.
Day 2: Practice Round
For an hour and a half, riders have the opportunity to take as many timed practice runs as they want. For many, this is an opportunity to experiment with line choices and utilize the clock to measure the effectiveness of their decisions. For some, timed practice is as much a mind game as it is a training tool. Bernard and Emilie were both well inside of the eligible standings to participate, with Eliot having to sit out due to his ranking and having missed most of the season up until recent weeks.
After timed practice, most athletes will once again walk the track to examine problem areas they may have experienced on the bike, and to take stock of course conditions and changes after thousands of runs by the world’s best riders.
I usually try to just learn the track during practice. I take it slow and make sure I know where I’m going. That way when I add speed, I can add speed to the right lines. It’s good to ride with Bernard as well, so we can bounce ideas off of each other. Some stuff is obvious, while others need more attention.
I felt really good today. It’s still mostly a one-line course, and it’s hard because it’s so dusty. The track is going to get worse as it gets ridden more. The holes and ruts are just going to continue to get bigger. But generally it’s OK, just blown out, so you need to really focus on carrying speed out of turns. There will end up being so many guys on the same second here. My fastest practice run came in at 27th today, which is terrible. Times are just so tight. There are a few bits I know I will go faster on, so we’ll see what that does for me.
Today things went quite well, considering. I didn’t push it too hard, and that was my goal for the day. I wanted to see if I could get a good run in while cruising down. I wanted to hit all of the jumps, but not take any big risks. That’s what makes the difference here between a fast run and an average run: willing to brake less going into certain sections to carry speed. Today was all about seeing how my body felt.
Day 3: Qualifying Round
Qualifiers hold a great deal of importance for riders, as not only does the run determine your place in the starting order for finals, but points are available for riders looking to move up or maintain their current place in the overall season rankings by qualifying inside of the top 20 for the men and the top 10 for the women. Riders inside of those respective rankings are always granted a finals run regardless of their qualifying time.
Once the dust settled that afternoon, Emilie, ranked eighth for the season, would end up having qualified in 10th place for the elite women. Bernard would notch in at 37th in qualifiers, nearly 12 seconds off of the leading pace set by top-ranked Aaron Gwin. Prior to Windham, Eliot was ranked 89th, having missed most of the season due to injury. A massive crash early in his qualifying run cost Eliot more time than he could make up on the season’s shortest and fastest track, forcing him to miss the finals in consecutive weekends with only the top 80 men making the cut.
I’m gutted for Eliot. I’d like to see him do well. Otherwise, we’ve done pretty well this week. Everything has been pretty straightforward. Bernard’s snapping his handlebars during practice was pretty crazy. Not sure how that even happened. He’s doing some big lines, but the bike shouldn’t have a problem holding up to it. But he’s pretty good at seeing things for what they are. The broken handlebar sucks, but it doesn’t mean that he needs to slow it down tomorrow.
I felt good today going into qualifiers. There’s a drop in the woods at the top of the track, and I hit my chain guide on it and went over the bars. I’m not hurt or anything, but I tried to get up and get going in a hurry but just didn’t quite make it in time. It’s too short a track to overcome something like that.
My whole day went pretty well. I started to get a bit looser and push the limits a bit more, which means I have more confidence in my body. I had a crash, but I’m OK and still did pretty well. I think that some of my lines were a bit too safe and not very fast. I think my shoulder is strong enough to push it a bit more during finals.
The track is just blown out right now—deep ruts and dust. I cruised down during my first [practice] run and had a huge crash during my second, so I ended up only getting one quality practice run in. It was hard to push it during qualifiers. You have to go all out everywhere and not make any mistakes. I ended up a mere three seconds off of 10th place, which put me in 37th overall. It’s so tight. In no other race can you be three seconds off of 10th and end up in 37th.
I walked the track again and want to go crazy tomorrow during finals. I have some big lines, and I’m going to keep them for finals. There are some little bits at the top and at the bottom that I need to clean up. I’m pretty sore right now, so I’m just going to relax and chill tonight. I’ll take a few practice runs tomorrow and hopefully go crazy in the race.
Day 4: Finals
With Eliot missing out on a finals appearance, the pressures of the day were left to Emilie and Bernard. Out of 20 riders in the elite women’s field, Emilie would end up in seventh place, less than two seconds off of the podium. Bernard, who qualified 37th the previous day, would fare much better during Saturday’s final, finishing in 24th. Bernard would actually share the same second, 2:46, with eight additional riders and was less than four seconds off of the podium despite finishing 19 spots down.
After the race, the team would engage in customary celebrations with the rest of the World Cup circuit before a pre-dawn departure the next day to Crankworx in Whistler.
I thought my time was pretty good. There were, like, eight or nine of us on the first half of a second. I lost maybe a second and a half in one part of the track, and there goes the top 10. Generally I’m just stoked that I’m alive. The bike feels so good right now, so I can’t complain about anything. It’s just tight racing here. I have to move on. Gwin made everyone look stupid, so what can you do? I was just a couple of seconds off the podium, and I’m in 24th.
My race run went pretty well. My last practice run in the morning wasn’t very good; I messed up in a couple of spots, one of them more than the other. If someone told me at Mont-Sainte-Anne that I’d be getting seventh-place points, I’d would have been happy to hear that. However, as you begin to feel better, you want to do even more, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.
I’m happy to still be in the top 10 overall. It’s good to know that I can crash and still be OK. I’ve been taking painkillers, so I can’t really enjoy a beer tonight. I’m excited to head to Whistler and to get next week started. It might be tough on my shoulder, but I think it’s going to be good preparation for Worlds. Once the Garbanzo race is over [at Crankworx], I will be able to relax a little bit.
Tonight we’ll have a couple of beers and a good time. You definitely begin to form a bond with these guys. This is Emilie’s first season with us, but she’s getting along really well already. Bernard and I go a ways back; Eliot’s a real cool guy too. We went and stayed with him last year before the season started. Perfect team. We’re all pretty excited about Whistler. I’ll actually get to ride my bike a bit, so I’ve already got my lift pass ready. All of that has to wait for a bit, though; I’ve got some bikes to clean.
Words and photos: Montana Miller
Originally published in Issue #191
My back just went numb, right between the shoulder blades. Which actually feels a lot better than the shooting pain I had a few minutes ago. I hike slowly next to my bike; hopefully I can make the top of this pass before sunset. I’m 16 hours into the first day and I’m still hours from the first resupply in Silverton, Colorado, at an elevation of more than 9,000 feet. This is way harder than I thought it’d be.
This is the Colorado Trail Race, a 540-mile competition from Durango to Denver. It’s entirely self-supported, with no entry fee, no registration and no pre-planned resupplies allowed unless you mail them to a post office along the way. The rules also forbid calling ahead to make hotel reservations (most competitors camp along the course anyway). It’s not broken into stages—it is an individual time trial—so riders who go the fastest will be riders who sleep the least.
It’s a few minutes before the 4 a.m. start. Nervous. Seventy riders with crossed arms, some hopping up and down in rain jackets to stay warm. Headlight beams flashing, shoes clicking into pedals, derailleurs snapping through gears. The pack moves up the empty pavement, away from town.
Onto singletrack, a few guys get excited and we start to move fast. Jesse Jakomait, who’s one of the guys who could win this year, sprints away. His light gets smaller and smaller as he winds up the steep switchbacks. I wonder if he’ll be able to hold that pace. Dust swirling in front of my headlight makes it hard to breathe.
A few hours later, in weak morning light, we are close to the top of Kenosha Pass in cold rain. I stop in a scree field to put my rain jacket on. “I hoped we wouldn’t get the weather so soon,” says a rider close to me. “Mountains do what they want,” is my reply.
It takes all morning to make it to the top of the first climb, 6,500 feet above Durango on Indian Trail Ridge. I can’t stop yawning; I would kill for a cup of coffee. I get on my bike and try to ride the rocky, knife-edge trail. A fat marmot stares at me, matted fur, yellow teeth curled over his lip, barely stepping off the trail as I dizzily ride past, making it perfectly clear who owns that spot.
Gray clouds swirl around the mountains. I lean back until my butt is on top of my seat bag, pull the brakes, inch around a tight switchback with a long drop off the outside. Letting off the brakes, the bike picks up speed and drops fast to the bottom of the saddle. Blackhawk Pass, Molas Pass, Bolam Pass. Walk up, boil hydraulic fluid on the way down. The trail hits every little rise, every high point, never dropping below 11,000 feet. Late in the day, I finally make the top of another pass.
It feels like there’s no way I’ll be able to make it to Denver—16 hours of hard riding and I’ve covered only 75 miles. I’ve finished hundred-milers in half that time. I’ll quit in Silverton tomorrow. It’s too much.
I throw my sleeping bag on the ground at the bottom of a pass, and I’m asleep as soon as my face hits the pine duff. I started dreaming about this race seven years ago, a high school kid on a laptop under a steel bunk bed in gray, rusty Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Ethan Passant and Jefe Branham were breaking new ground, covering huge miles without sleep. I was skidding a dozen-year-old Gary Fisher around on some slag heaps. I’d never seen a real mountain, other than the ones that glowed through that little computer screen.
Up before sunrise, headed for Silverton. The sun throws weak pink light on the reddish brown and gray mountains. There’s some good singletrack descending, and I can hear the highway. Pavement to the gas station, a few miles to relax. The sausage sandwich is hot, and that’s all the good I can say about it. Cold, canned espresso, because drinking watery gas-station coffee would be like trying to start a fire with olive oil. Stretch my back. Everything hurts. And only 475 miles to go.
The morning sun creeps over the tall walls of the box canyon. But, man, I’ve wanted to see this trail for so long. I could try another day, see if it gets better. Back in the gas station to resupply: three pepperoni Hot Pockets, two bags of peanuts and a couple cheese Danishes. I don’t think Salida’s much more than a day and a half away.
On the bike and out of Silverton, past the last coffee shop. For a really long time. I swing around and grab one more coffee. A couple hours later I’m grinding to the top of Stony Pass. A rider sits in the scree at the start of the singletrack; Colorado’s finest natural painkiller and antidepressant burns between his fingertips. I sit down next to him to rest. “Any idea how this next section is?” I ask. “Hard. You know how it is, man,” he says, and exhales a swirl of white smoke. “Just keep going until it stops.”
He’s not a liar. I push my bike up to the top of a peak at almost 13,000 feet. Wind screams over the mountain fast enough to make me stumble sideways. Scrubby grass and tiny flowers ripple and wave, green, yellow and pink. The trail rolls for miles, then out of sight over the next peak. Crossing the San Juans. Next time I make it to a place where there’s enough oxygen for my brain to work, I’ll think this was incredible.
I clip in to drop down, picking up speed fast. I see a few tiny dots way up the next mountain. Hike faster. Bikes come into focus. An hour later I’m just a switchback below them. When I walk past, none of us can spare enough breath to say much, even though we’re barely moving. The riders slowly fade back to tiny dots.
Hours later, I make the high point of the route at 13,300 feet. I lean my bike against the sign and sit. Man, there’s a lot more of this to go, but maybe I’ll actually be able to make it. Just keep going until it stops. I crunch on a mouthful of peanuts. Another sunset, and I struggle to the summit of a mountain that slopes so gently that it hardly deserves the title. But I still can’t ride it. The meadow is so rocky and the trail so faint that I have to just stomp along next to my bike, make beelines between wooden trail markers. Moving 3 miles an hour, making hundreds of miles seems hopeless.
Dark morning on the third day. I covered most of a long road detour last night, slept next to the road until I heard tires crunch past. I’m stopped next to an irrigation ditch to filter water; I wiggle my frozen fingers to try to get some feeling back. My water purification chemicals turn bright yellow in the mixing cup; the sun slides above the ridge.
Trapped in an endless rock garden. Head down, walking up the steep trail. I thought for sure I could make it through this 20-mile segment in a few hours, but it’s already been four. Sargents Mesa. No views or summits—just trees, rocks and fall-line climbs. Close to the top of the mesa, an old guy on a moto buzzes up the trail. Cuts the engine.
“Nice bicycle you got there,” he says, smiling a little. “I know I shouldn’t be up here on my motorcycle, but no chance I could make it any other way with my back being the way it is.”
“Hey, doesn’t bother me, man.”
“You know where Sargents Mesa starts? I’m looking for the Vietnam memorial up there.”
“I think this is the top of the mesa. Couldn’t say where the memorial is, though.”
“Thanks. I’ll just keep looking.”
He cranks the motor over. I get back on and start to pedal away, a little embarrassed at how down I was a few minutes ago. You’re not doing anything actually hard out here, not compared to what that guy probably did when he was your age. It’s just a hard bike ride, and nobody’s shooting. Suck it up and enjoy the scenery.
My back tire hisses, starts to squirm. Fudge. I put on the brakes and drift to the side of the trail. Sidewall cut. Dig through my frame bag to find my repair stuff. I’ll try a tire plug. Maybe it’ll save my tubeless. Another rider hikes up the trail toward me. We’re out of the trees in the afternoon sun, and he looks as burnt as my mom’s cooking. “How goes it? You racing?” I ask, crouched over my tire.
“Yeah. Left Denver on Saturday. Is there any water up there?” he rasps.
“I don’t remember anything until the other side of Windy Peak, and that’s pretty far. Some dirty puddles on the trail up there—I’d go for those if you’re close to out.”
“Oh. Damn, I should have filled up on Marshall Pass. I already lost a day in Buena Vista with heat exhaustion. Will the dirt in the water make me sick?”
I look up at him. Seems weird to be trying this trail without knowing how to filter water. “I don’t know, man; maybe try a sock to filter some of the dirt out.”
“Oh, that’s a good idea. Thanks. You have everything you need?” he says.
“Have any iced coffee?”
I shove the plug into my sidewall and start pumping. Over Marshall Pass, on the Monarch Crest. The sun drops, deep raspberry red. I stop in an avalanche path, wide open between the trees. Mountains stretch out for hundreds of miles. I just rode (or mostly walked) over those things. It seems impossible. And felt like it. Halfway there, halfway to go. I climb a little longer, then flop down on top of some pinecones.
Descending Fooses Creek Trail in the morning dew. Big root drops, steep, wet. First my left hand—no tapping the front brake here. I really hope I can make Buena Vista before this afternoon; it’s already been two days since I resupplied in Silverton, and I’m down to a few handfuls of peanuts. After this descent, there aren’t any huge climbs, so hopefully it’ll go fast.
It doesn’t go fast. By the time I cover the 40 miles of relentlessly up-and-down trail around the base of Mount Princeton, it’s late afternoon and I’ve been out of food for a few hours. When I heard people say it was 200 miles without resupply from Silverton to Buena Vista, for some reason I assumed they were rounding up.
I roll into town running on that handful of nuts from six hours ago, grab a burger and fill my top-tube bag with french fries. Maybe I’ll be able to get to Leadville before sunset.
I can’t. It’s midnight by the time I roll into the old mining town. A Nas track thumps from the kitchen of a closing restaurant next to the 24- hour gas station. I buy a few sacks of peanuts and call my wife from a pay phone. Leave a message after the beep. “Hey, sorry I haven’t been in touch. Phone died a couple days ago and I still haven’t found batteries for my tracker. This is real tough. I’m gonna go as far as I can tonight, though.” I hang up the receiver and pedal the dark highway out of town.
Over Tennessee Pass, there’s a puffy lump asleep next to a bike, then another. After seeing only tire tracks for three days, it feels like I’m in a race again.
Descend for an hour to the overgrown concrete slabs of Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division trained to fight in the Alps during the Second World War. It’s almost three in the morning. I’ve gotta sleep for a minute.
The next morning, I’m in a field of wildflowers, almost on top of the pass before the sun comes up. There’s a wooden sign at the top. Oh, boy—just a descent now. I’m gonna make it to Copper at a reasonable hour for coffee. I look at the sign for mileage to town: “Searle Pass 2 mi.” Turds. This high up, it’ll take almost an hour to hit the top of that next pass.
By the time I finish the long, pedal-y descent to town, it’s past lunchtime. No morning coffee. Everything takes longer than I think it should out here. I ride the highway down to a gas station next to I-70 and the place is jammed. Fleshy tourists jiggle to the bathrooms, a long line of people buy candy bars and coffee lighter than iced tea as an endless stream of cars whooshes by on the interstate. When I finally get to the front of the line to pay for my soggy ham sandwich, I can’t wait to get out of there and start pushing my bike up another pass.
I don’t have to wait long. A few thousand shuffling steps and three hours later, I climb up to some pointless nub, which is inaccurately named Ten Mile Pass. (A pass should be in a saddle, on the low point of a ridge—something that must not have been explained to whoever routed this trail).
I push my bike over and start the rough, hand-numbing descent down the other side toward Breckenridge. After the downhill, the rest of the afternoon is beautiful, effortless, flowing dirt. With heavy legs, a pinched feeling at the top of my spine and tingly hands, it feels real good to just cruise.
Georgia Pass in the moonlight. Wind blows softly through the tundra. I get off my bike and put my forehead in the dirt. This trail is wrecking me. Completely. But I’m going to ride to the end of it. Deep breath and back on the bike. The white light from my Dynamo glows brighter as I roll faster down the mountain. Things reach out to grab at me. My eyes shut. Wake up in the middle of a corner, going 20 miles an hour. Pop a caffeine pill. Keep it together a little longer. It’s two in the morning. I’ll just sleep an hour. Six in the morning, the sun is coming up over the Front Range. The end of the mountains. Goddamn, I’ve almost made it.
Seventy miles on a road detour through a burned forest starting to grow back. Little green shoots around the base of wood skeletons. The sun is searing, then it rains. Flowing singletrack in Buffalo Creek. Only 35 miles to go now.
Mud. Slow, sticky, sucking mud. I’m so close to the finish in Waterton Canyon. I grind along at a couple miles an hour. Check the GPS. Only 20 miles to go. That’ s 10 hours at this rate. I’m not riding through another night.
I snap, scream at the mountains, suggest that they enjoy eating Popsicles made out of feces. The mountains just stand there, unoffended. Real mad, I ride faster. Down to the river, up the last big climb, almost going cross-country race pace now, I crash on a dusty switchback. Pick myself up, spin the bars around. OK, relax, man. It’s really almost over now. Finally off the singletrack, onto the road through the canyon. I put it in a big gear and crank. The sun sets, I roll into the parking lot. My wife walks over to meet me.
“Nice work, five and a half days!” says somebody standing next to a van.
“Five? I thought it was six,” I say.
Apparently I lost a day out there. “Oh, well that’s great.”
Colorado Trail Race Facts
- 540 miles
- 74,000 feet of climbing
- Race start time: 4:02 a.m.
- My 11th place finishing time: 5 days, 16 hours, 28 minutes
- Winning time and new course record set by Jesse Jakomait: 3 days, 20 hours, 44 minutes
- Final finishers time: 12 days, 12 hours, 19 minutes
- Trail Magic: Unexpected and unplanned support from a random person giving you a coke or snack or finding a box of girl scout cookies on the side of the road
- 2016’s event on July 24 will run reverse: Denver to Durango
Just so we are clear, this story is about Crested Butte Fat Bike World Championships, as in SSCXWC and SSWC and #fatbikeshit. The acronyms UCI and USAC had nothing to do with the super-fat-tire race that went down last weekend high in the Colorado mountains.
Crested Butte, Colorado, claims itself as the birthplace of mountain biking (in tandem with Marin County, California, of course), making it a fitting place to host a “world championship” for one of mountain biking’s newest iterations. But just like it shares that mantle, it has to share another: Midwesterners argue that they have hosted a citizens fat bike “championship” race for several years near Cable, Wisconsin, called Fat Bike Birkie. Others will tell you that Noquemanon World Championship Snowbike in Marquette, Michigan, which ran in 2012 and 2013, was first. On a more formal note, USA Cycling will run Fat Bike Nationals in Ogden, Utah, February 27.
Technicalities aside, there’s nothing bad about getting a bunch of knobby-tire lovers together for a weekend dedicated to fun. The four-day event was hosted by the chamber of commerce and sponsored by Borealis Fat Bikes of Colorado Springs. A relay/team race and bike demo kicked things off Thursday, January 28, followed by a regional advocacy and access summit on Friday.
The official, so-called world championship race happened on Saturday, when about 260 people gathered to ride a six-mile loop—three passes for the open class and five times for the elites—on a wide, groomed track normally only open to Nordic skiers.
Two hundred and sixty is also the number of people estimated to have showed up to race the first Single Speed World Championships of mountain biking in 1999, so Crested Butte Fat Bike Worlds is off to a proper start.
The event was very inclusive with categories including 55-plus, junior men and women, and adaptive racers. Kids on fat bikes were probably the coolest thing I saw all weekend. Most of the participants hailed from Colorado or one of the surrounding Rocky Mountain states. A handful of those were racing on demo bikes, having never powered a fat bike prior to the event, including the elite men’s winner, professional American road cyclist Robbie Squire.
Sanctioned shenanigans were decidedly tame when compared to the SSWC events (which I was under the impression this event was trying to replicate, at least somewhat), but the outdoor performance by Lez Zeppelin, an all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band was fantastically awesome and Odell Brewing was pouring tasty brews all weekend.
Race planner and chamber of commerce director Dave Ochs loudly proclaimed to the finish-line crowd that Fat Bike Worlds would never be taken away from Crested Butte, so there were no drunken games played to see which city would host the race, next, though free marijuana from the local distributor was included in some of the winners’ prize packs.
No matter what, Crested Butte is one of the most picturesque, charming mountain towns in Colorado—the archetype for a place were you’d be pleased to be trapped by a snowstorm for several days. And the bicycle culture is deeply ingrained. Adjacent each of the in-town bus stops were tall snow drifts with several rusty, old bicycles crammed into them, unlocked—apparently the formal method of bike parking. But it’s not an easy place to get to, and then there is Colorado’s penchant for dumping non-bike-friendly powder to contend with. As the locals said, “We don’t ride on snow days—we ski.”
At the end of it all, a rider still walked away with a permanent mark on his bottom, a la SSWC. Andre-Paul Michaud, winner of the men’s open race (pictured below in black), was the only champion who consented to having his skin branded, literally, with the event logo. Michaud, hailing from Durango, Colorado, laid down his three laps in one hour, 18 minutes and was rewarded by being laid face-down in the snow to have a hot branding iron pressed into his flesh (video from Bikepackers Magazine).
Crested Butte Fat Bike Worlds will need to figure out its niche personality, especially in order to compete with the multitude of other fat bike races occurring in the state and across the country around the same time. Either way it leans—by growing more serious with a bigger industry presence or crawling a bit more underground—throwing yourself around in the snow with a few hundred new friends then drinking local beer, listening to live music and going skiing the next day is a recipe for a good time.
PRESS RELEASE — Crankworx World Tour announced it’s adding Les Gets, France, to the family. Crankworx begins in Rotorua, New Zealand, March 9-13, 2016, and will hit Les Gets the following month for a June 15-19 run. The event returns to its Whistler home base in British Columbia, Canada, for a 10-day event staged August 12-21.
Nestled in the 12-resort Portes du Soleil circuit and straddling the French-Swiss border, Les Gets is a pioneer destination for both mountain bike tourists and racers.
“Back in the 80s, Les Gets was one of the first regions in the world to use its lifts to shuttle riders and its 2004 UCI World Championships is the stuff of legends,” said Darren Kinnaird, Crankworx World Tour general manager. “This is a location steeped in the culture and history of our sport and we are thrilled to be adding the region to the World Tour.”
Having hosted five World Cups and numerous French nationals, many mountain biking fans the world over are familiar with the area’s steep, verdant alpine terrain. Les Gets’ World Championship is remembered as the beginning of Frenchman Fabien Barel’s Downhill dominance and his storied rivalry with British rider Steve Peat (who announced he will retire following the 2016 racing season).
The 2016 season marks the sophomore year of the Crankworx World Tour and the return of its four-series format, the Triple Crown of Slopestyle and the race to crown the next King and Queen of the Crankworx World Tour.
There is now a whole slate of champions ready to defend their titles in the Crankworx DH Championships, the Pump Track Challenge Series, the Speed & Style World Championships and the Crankworx Slopestyle Championships. And its expected the Queen of the Crankworx World Tour, Anneke Beerten, and King of the Crankworx World Tour, Bernard Kerr, will be looking to up the ante once more to hang on to their new status as the top all-round mountain bike athletes in the world.
(Waterloo, WI) — Trek and Trek Factory Racing announced today the creation of a marquee World Cup-level Downhill racing program for the 2016 season. The new team will take on the full UCI World Cup series as well as select regional Red Bull events. Joining Trek Factory Racing Downhill for its inaugural season will be Rachel Atherton (UK), Gee Atherton (UK), Dan Atherton (UK), and Taylor Vernon (UK).
The Athertons rank among the most triumphant families in cycling. As a trio, they represent decades of downhill racing excellence on the professional circuit. A combined six World Championship titles, fifteen National Championships, two European Championships, and over thirty World Cup wins decorate the family mantle.
Trek is proud to partner with Dan, Gee, Rachel, and Taylor, and will offer full support to their exceptional competitive trajectory. Beyond their success in competition, these athletes are phenomenal ambassadors for the sport of downhill mountain biking. The Athertons’ wealth of experience also gives them a unique perspective on product development. Trek will rely on their expertise and input in the continued development of downhill bikes and equipment that have been raced to victory at the pinnacle of the sport.
“We are delighted to be a part of Trek Factory Racing,” said Team Director Dan Brown. “The team have substantial goals and we’re really excited to have Trek’s support and partnership. We’re looking forward to bringing the passion and professionalism that Trek have demonstrated across their whole cycling portfolio to our World Cup Downhill campaign and beyond.”
Trek Factory Racing’s product development relationship with its athletes has been a successful recipe, and one Trek plans to replicate with the new downhill program. Trek will work with the new team on the continued development of the best bikes and equipment through active research and testing around all aspects of downhill racing. “A lot of people out there are already saying that the Session is the fastest bike on the circuit,” said Gee Atherton. “Trek have shown how receptive they are to rider feedback, and we want to put our own stamp on the bikes.”
Dan and Rachel Atherton are equally excited to participate in the development process. “Trek is super-motivated to develop the bikes and push the brand forward,” said Dan. “They are as hungry to progress the sport as we are and we can’t wait to get started.”
Rachel added, “I’m stoked to be working with Trek. I remember watching my fellow Brit Tracy Moseley absolutely tearing apart the field at Worlds in 2010 on her Trek Session, then going on to dominate the 2011 season. Trek is a brand with a lot of positive associations for me.”
Gee, Rachel, and Taylor will ride the Trek Session, one of the most decorated mountain bikes in history, equipped with Bontrager components, wheels, and tires. Dan Atherton will be taking turns on the Trek Session and Slash depending on the race and terrain.Tweet Print
By Rebecca Rusch
From Issue #188
As a kid, being able to ride no-handed was a rite of passage and the pinnacle of bike-handling coolness. It’s a killer move I never mastered until well into my 30s. I’d started bike racing and I’d won a few events, including three 24-Hour World Championships, but all I had in my toolbox was the lame one-handed salute crossing the finish line.
Before my first Leadville Trail 100, years ago, I made myself learn this skill so I could finish without being ashamed and could nail that coveted hands-in-the-air finish photo. I even practiced the day before the race, riding down 6th Avenue right where the red carpet would be, and in my mind I visualized the crowd, the noise and a fast time. I actually put my hands proudly in the air while pedestrians and cars looked on and smirked.
The next day, it played out exactly as I had visualized. I won, and even though every ounce of my fatigued being wanted to hold onto the bars, I nailed my first-ever hands-up victory pose.
2015 was my seventh Leadville, and for the first time, I was lining up near the back of the race. And I mean way back, behind thousands of riders. I’m accustomed to the pro call-up, elite staging and being able to see the empty course stretch out in front of me.
This year a sea of riders clogged the view. This year I was going to get an unexpected education from a different vantage point. I was racing with Army SSG Matt DeWitt— his third Leadville. During a 2003 tour of duty in Iraq, DeWitt lost both of his arms and suffered other extensive injuries when his weapon was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade during a firefight. DeWitt rode a bike before his accident and now riding is a big part of his emotional and physical recovery and well-being.
DeWitt’s goal in Leadville was to break the 11-hour threshold for the first time. I was there to share my race experience and help him get there. We were racing as part of Phoenix Patriot Foundation (PPF), a group that helps provide equipment and opportunity for our war veterans. I liked what PPF was doing and wanted to help.
DeWitt agreed to let me ride with him and we began the process of getting to know each other. He was straightforward about how he goes about riding with no hands and the additional challenges he is presented with. Riding no-handed means shifting with his knees, braking with his butt and having
way less control of the handlebars. Had I not seen the prosthetics and the steel clamps, I would not have known he was riding with any sort of disability. You certainly can’t tell from the way he bombs downhill, whips the bike around sharp corners and bunny hops obstacles. He is a bilateral amputee who just might handle a bike better than you do. And he does this while riding with no hands.
DeWitt was dedicated to his goal and crawled deep into the pain cave to get there. As we neared the red carpet at 6th and Harrison, the clock was ticking. Crossing under the banner at 10 hours, 52 minutes, I didn’t take my hands off the bars to put my arms in the air. Instead, we busted out DeWitt’s
signature move, a bunny hop. Wheels up is better than arms up.
I was supposed to be educating DeWitt on how to ride faster, but really, he was educating me on what it really means to ride with no hands and all heart.
Few mountain bike races have earned the title of “legendary,” but if one is a shoo-in for the list it’s the Leadville Trail 100. With a starting elevation above 10,000 feet, it climbs to more than 14,000 through thin, Colorado air. In a race where just finishing is a victory, this year Alban Lakata took the Men’s victory in 5 hours, 58 minutes and 35 seconds, while Annika Langvad took the Women’s victory in 6 hours, 59 minutes and 24 seconds. Lakata is a three-time winner, the reigning Cross Country World Champion and was the first to finish the course in less than six hours. There were more than 1,600 starters.
Photographer Rocky Arroyo was there to capture the action in this photo gallery. Click on the magnifying glass to see full-size images.
Photos by Justin Steiner and Adam Newman
The racing here at Crankworx took center stage Friday night as the threatening rain clouds hovered overhead but never dampened the action.
The dry and dusty course was running fast as rookie Dakotah Norton, left, came out of nowhere to take the win as challenger Martin Maes took a spill on the first heat of the finals and couldn’t finish.
On the women’s side Jill Kintner held off all the competition to take her third straight victory. Even with fresh stitches in her arm runner up Anneke Beerten collected enough points to lock in her title as the 2015 Queen of Crankworx.
Click on the magnifying glass to see photos full size.
Courtesy of USA Cycling. Photo by Philip Beckman.
On Saturday Jill Kintner (Bellingham, Wash./Red Bull-Norco Bicycles) followed up Friday’s dual slalom win with a convincing 15.64-second downhill margin of victory, crossing in 4:03.95 to earn her 15th career professional national championship. She defeated dual slalom silver medalist Jacqueline Thomas (Winter Park, Colo.), who earned downhill silver in 4:19.59, while Rebecca Gardner (Marlboro, N.Y.) took bronze in 4:55.05.
“It definitely feels good to get another win. I’m happy to keep my sleeve a bit longer,” Kintner said. “I’m happy with how the day went and to represent America.”
The pro men’s downhill competition came down to Aaron Gwin (Wildomar, Calif./Specialized Racing), the six-time downhill champion and No. 1 seed in the event. On the final run of the day, Gwin assembled a 3:20.52 effort that upended Michael Sylvestri’s (Truckee, Calif.) then-top time of 3:23.45 to take the win. Sylvestri earned silver and Luca Shaw (Hendersonville, N.C./SRAM-Troy Lee Designs) won bronze with his 3:24.47 run.
“National Champs have always been a special event for me,” Gwin said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win it a few times, and it’s always a race I look forward to, one that I definitely want to do well at. I’m really stoked to keep the Stars-and-Stripes sleeve for another year and take it back to the World Cup.”
Chloe Woodruff’s (Prescott, Ariz./Team Stan’s NoTubes-Niner) second gold medal of the weekend was not as lopsided, as the Arizona native outlasted Erin Huck (Boulder, Colo./SCOTT-3Rox Racing) in a final sprint, crossing in 1:39:39, one second ahead of Huck’s1:39:40 finish. Woodruff and Huck battled throughout the majority of the five-lap race, two constants at the front that at times also included Rose Grant (Kalispell, Mont.) and Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo./LUNA Pro Team). Defending champion Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt./Specialized Factory Racing) suffered a rear flat early, causing her to settle for sixth place and opening the door for other riders like Grant, who finished third in 1:40:16, to reach the podium.
“I had a lot of nerves coming into this weekend,” Woodruff said. “I wasn’t really thinking about (winning), but I had some people telling me, ‘Hey, you’re going to do it. You’re going to come away with two jerseys.’ I thought that’s a pipedream. I knew I could do it; it was just a matter of hanging with Erin.”
In the final event of the day, the 22 year-old Howard Grotts (Durango, Colo./Specialized Factory Racing) dethroned three-time pro cross-country champion and teammate Todd Wells (Durango, Colo./Specialized Factory Racing) following a daylong battle with the defending champion. Grotts and Wells played cat and mouse through the first four laps, with Wells creating space on the ascents and Grotts catching up on the climbs, until Grotts took over on the penultimate lap.
With Keegan Swenson (Park City, Utah/Sho-Air-Cannondale), Stephen Ettinger (Bozeman, Mont./Sho-Air Cyclery) and Alex Grant (Salt Lake City, Utah/Ridebiker-Cannondale) gaining, Grotts attacked and never looked back, crossing in 1:42:13, 1:03 ahead of the field. Swenson earned silver in 1:43:16, while Grant claimed bronze in 1:43:51. Like his fellow 2014 XC champion Davison, Wells finished sixth in 1:46:34.
“On the second-to-last lap I gave it a go because I saw Keegan was coming up to us so I had the opportunity to get as much time on the climb (as possible),” said Grotts. “That was enough of a buffer on the last two descents that I had to do to roll in for the win.”
On Sunday Kintner completed her three-event sweep of women’s pro gravity and enduro events on the final day of the 2015 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships on Sunday, taking the first ever women’s pro/open enduro title at Mammoth Mountain.
Mitch Ropelato (Ogden, Utah/Specialized Factory Racing) climbed the podium as the inaugural men’s pro/open national champion.
Men’s and women’s pro/open and 15-60+ divisions raced the four-stage event, which included various sections used in the pro and amateur downhill courses, as well as trails not yet utilized at the five-day event. A rider’s final time was the accumulated tally of the four runs minus transfer time.
Kintner left little doubt on the day, taking the top time in each of the women’s pro enduro legs to accumulate a 34:54.79 result, 2:17.39 ahead of the field. Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo./LUNA Pro Team) took silver in 37:12.18, followed by Lauren Gregg (Santa Cruz, Calif.) in 37:58.40 for bronze.
The championship is Kintner’s third in three days and 16th elite pro national championship of her career.
“That was really hard,” Kintner said of winning her third Stars-and-Stripes jersey in as many days. “Stage 2 was a massive flat pedal for 11 minutes or something. I trail ride at home and I got to ride the downhill, so I had that pretty dialed. My plan was to get a gap on that and I was definitely winging the rest of it because I hadn’t seen the other trails. There’s something sort of special about being in the present and winging it, sort of riding a trail as you see it.”
Ropelato opened the day with a division-best 3:52.77 time on the first run, which he followed with three consecutive second-place finishes on the ensuing runs, giving him a 29:03.18 final time. The result, which was good for gold, topped Brian Lopes’ (Laguna Beach, Calif./Intense-Maxxis- PearlIzumi) 29:11.68 silver medal finish and Kyle Warner’s (Chico, Calif./Marin Sr. Suntour Amain.com) bronze medal-winning 29:17.53 time.
“It was a nice, easy day,” said Ropelato. “Climbing wasn’t too bad, but you were sprinting pretty good on all the runs. All the courses were pretty fun. I was a little nervous on Stage 1 because it was pretty rowdy, but other than that it was a great day.”
To see full results of all the national championship events, visit the event website.
Courtesy of USA Cycling. Photo by Philip Beckman.
Luca Cometti (San Diego, Calif./Intense Factory Racing) and Jill Kintner (Bellingham, Wash./Red Bull-Norco Bicycles) repeated as men’s and women’s professional dual slalom national champions, and Russell Finsterwald (Colorado Springs, Colo./SRAM-Troy Lee Designs Race Team) and Chloe Woodruff (Prescott, Ariz./Team Stan’s NoTubes-Niner) took over as men’s and women’s professional short track cross-country national champions on Friday at the 2015 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in Mammoth Mountain, California.
Cometti worked his way through the men’s dual slalom bracket to earn his second-straight pro dual slalom title, defeating Kyle Strait (Costa Mesa, Calif.) in the final after trailing by 0.04 seconds following the first final run. Dakotah Norton (Atlas, Mich.) took bronze in the event.
“I wasn’t expecting (to win) last year, and I wasn’t expecting it this year either,” Cometti said. “I just tried to do my best. That’s all I can ask for.”
Kintner picked up her third consecutive dual slalom Stars-and-Stripes jersey and 14th elite pro national championship with a convincing win on Friday, defeating Jacqueline Thomas (Winter Park, Colo.) on both gold medal runs to take the win. Alison Osgood (Carmel Valley, Calif.) finished with bronze.
“I’m pumped to win another slalom national title,” Kintner said. “It was definitely pretty loose out there and wild, and we’re out there until dark pretty much. I guess my focus always is just to ride as good as I can, keep my eyes forward and be as focused as I can be on the task.”
Finsterwald battled with four-time short track cross-country national champion Todd Wells (Durango, Colo./Specialized Factory Racing) for the entirety of the pro men’s short track contest, and the two held off Stephan Davoust (Durango, Colo./Giant Southwest Racing), who applied pressure in third for the duration of the 20 minute, plus three-lap event. Finsterwald managed to pull away after Wells suffered a rear flat before the bell lap, ensuring Finsterwald’s first professional title in 28:48.3. Davoust earned silver in 29:07.7 and Alex Grant (Salt Lake City, Utah/Roadbiker-Cannondale) claimed bronze in 29:21.3.
“I felt really good out here today,” said Finsterwald. “I’ve been training at home at altitude, so coming here kind of feels like home. It will mean a lot (to wear the Stars-and-Stripes jersey). It will be good wearing it for the next year.”
Woodruff proved to be the best of an early breakaway group, jumping to the lead around the midpoint of the contest, but was caught by Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt./Specialized Factory Racing) with two laps to go. Woodruff and Davison worked together on the bell lap before Woodruff was able to drop the Vermont native to win her eighth national championship and first since winning the 2009 collegiate cross-country title. Woodruff crossed in 29:25.1, besting Davison’s 29:29.0 effort, while defending short track champion Georgia Gould (Fort Collins, Colo./LUNA Pro Team) finished third in 29:55.3.
“It’s pretty special to come back here,” Woodruff said after the race. “I won the expert women’s short track jersey here 10 years ago, so it’s great to be back. I was kind of thinking that would be really cool to win it 10 years later.”
Friday also saw national championships earned in Category 1 19-49 and singlespeed men’s and Category 1 19-34 and singlespeed women’s cross-country divisions, and amateur dual slalom divisions. Pro men’s, women’s and junior men’s 17-18 downhill seeding was also determined for today’s finals.
Cross-country and downhill competition wraps up today with pro men’s and women’s events as well as all remaining amateur cross-country and downhill divisions.
For a complete schedule, results, course maps and photo galleries, please visit the event web site. If you can’t make it out for the event, follow all of the action on Twitter using the hashtag #MTBNats.
Courtesy of USA Cycling. Photos by Philip Beckman.
Kate Courtney (Kentfield, Calif./Specialized Factory Racing) and Cypress Gorry (Brevard, N.C./Whole Athlete-Specialized Cycling Team) wasted no time collecting the U23 cross-country national titles on Thursday in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., claiming the first two Stars-and-Stripes jerseys of Day 2 at the 2015 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships.
Courtney dominated the women’s U23 field, crossing in 1:21:02, more than five minutes ahead of the field. Shayna Powless (Roseville, Calif.) picked up silver in 1:26:08, followed by Emily Shields (Advance, N.C./Stan’s NoTubes p/b Proferrin) in 1:28:46 for bronze.
It was Courtney’s 10th national championship win.
“I always want to ride in as hard as I can. I never try to let up on the last lap,” Courtney said. “Definitely on the last lap I was very cautious. There’s a lot of slick corners, loose dirt out there, and I wanted to make sure a crash didn’t get in the way of that.
“It’s an incredibly important race for me, particularly because it means I get to rock the Stars-and-Stripes during the rest of the World Cups, which is always a huge honor and really exciting.”
In a much tighter U23 men’s race, Gorry and Sepp Kuss (Durango, Colo./LiVe Well p/b Bountiful Bicycle) broke away from the 37-man field early, riding together until midway through the fifth and final lap. Gorry attacked on one of the final climbs, managing to lose Kuss in the process. He pulled away to a 1:27:12 victory, 1:17 ahead of Kuss’ 1:28:29 finish. Stephan Davoust (Durango, Colo./Giant Southwest Racing) picked up bronze in 1:29:42.
Gorry, a four-time collegiate national champion, took his first U23 title with Thursday’s win.
“When I came onto the single track at the top, it kind of turns back and I looked back and I could see that Sepp hadn’t made it on to the single track yet,” said Gorry. “I knew (that if I) just kept it smooth from there, I’d have it.”
More cross-country champions were crowned on the day, as junior men’s and women’s 11-12, 13-14, 15-16 and 17-18 divisions competed into the early evening.
Downhill action commenced Thursday with the Category 2 and 3 men’s and women’s 15-49 divisions. There, 21 gold medals were claimed.
Professional and amateur dual slalom qualifications were also held Thursday. Dual slalom competition begins at 2:30 p.m. today.
The competition reaches its midpoint today with competition in men’s and women’s professional short track cross-country, Category 1 men’s 19-35 and women’s 19-49 cross-country, men’s and women’s single speed cross-country and 12 dual slalom divisions.
For a complete schedule, results, course maps and photo galleries, please visit the event web site. If you can’t make it out for the event, follow all of the action on Twitter using the hashtag #MTBNats.
By Sue George. Photos courtesy of the Trans-Sylvania Epic Media Team.
In a race as long and challenging as the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic, the only constant is change. On the signature trail of the stage and of the race, Tussey Ridge, the men’s category was shaken up today by a mechanical and will be tightly contested tomorrow. Meanwhile in the women’s race, local knowledge of the rocky course proved decisive.
Tristan Uhl (Competitive Cyclist) and Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team) won the elite men’s and women’s categories in stage 6. Justin Lindine (Competitive Cyclist) took over the elite men’s general classification (GC) lead from his teammate Payson McElveen after McElveen had a major mechanical. Barclay successfully defended and extended her lead in the overall elite women’s classification.
Tristan Uhl (Competitive Cyclist) grabbed his first stage win today, taking some pressure off his teammates during the stage. He and Peter Glassford (Trek Canada) are now separated by only 12 seconds in third and fourth places in the GC.
“I’m super excited to take the win,” said Uhl. “Peter and I have been duking it out for third place in the general classification, and I kind of took advantage of him having a bad spot on one of the run up/ride ups, and pushed it hard on the second enduro segment to get a gap on everyone. I just decided to keep it rolling on the climb, and I expected to have the guys come back to me. But they didn’t, so I kept it rolling relatively smooth.”
The winning effort cost Uhl dearly. “That last road section never ends,” he said. “I lost my Garmin in the East Coast Rocks section, and I didn’t have a clue how much further I had to go. I knew we had to come back along the fence line, but I forgot how hard it was. The last climb almost killed me. I’m probably going to be hurting tomorrow. I think Peter and I are about tied for time, so it’ll make for a fun last stage.”
Glassford has been working alone toward the front of the race all week, and was rewarded for his efforts today. “I had a good stage today. Tristan beat me but I finished in second, which is my best NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic stage finish so far. I didn’t embarrass myself horribly while Justin [Lindine (Competitive Cyclist)] and Payson [McElveen (Competitive Cyclist)] followed me.”
Glassford used some Canadian style to get an edge on the technical Tussey Mountain ridge trail. “Payton got a flat because I threw a crazy corner on Tussey and they weren’t ready for the ‘Ontario wide-cut’. Then, I just drilled it when I got on the road, just buried myself.”
Despite the lonely struggle as he is here racing without teammates, Glassford has kept a good attitude, which should come in handy tomorrow as he makes a play for third place overall.
“The steep climbs get me,” said Glassford. “But it was good racing, it was fun. It’s tough going against three guys out there. It’s pull until I get attacked, and I keep drilling it. But that’s what I like to do!”
McElveen’s flat turned out to be disastrous. “We had Tristan get away, which was great,” he said. “Peter was pulling and Justin and I were sitting on. Then I punctured big time on Tussey Ridge, just a massive tear. We can’t take tires off the rim without basically a car tire lever.”
“Justin was kind enough to stop and help me, and we tried as hard as we could to break the bead but we couldn’t,” said McElveen. “I finally just started to ride the rim, and at the end of Tussey Ridge, the whole wheel exploded, which was predictable. Then I just started running. I have a very large blister on my right foot now. I ran for a long time, it felt like forever.”
McElveen switched out his wheel at the last aid station and chased as hard as he could. “I figured the race is probably over for me now, but you never know. And if I don’t try… well, I might as well try.” McElveen dropped to second place in GC with six minutes over third.
McElveen’s teammate and close competitor Lindine had a relatively uneventful day, always a good thing, and it landed him in the race leader’s jersey.
“It was going really well,” said Lindine. “I like a lot of the trails on this stage, and it’s broken up nicely. We had a super aggressive first 45 minutes and split it into the smaller group of the four of us. Tristan was able to get away on the first enduro section, which was perfect, and Peter got a bit gapped off, so Payson and I sat up. We were like, ‘Sorry, man, this is the job we have to do.’ Peter has spent the most time on the front of anyone in the race.”
When McElveen’s tire blew, Lindine went above and beyond to help his teammate. “We were riding across Tussey when Payson flatted,” he said. “I stopped, we tried to fix it, it wasn’t going well. It’s not ideal. No one wants to take the jersey that way. I know as well as anyone that this race can come down to mechanicals and luck. I don’t know what the clock is going to say, but we’ll see how it plays out.”
Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women), a State College local, was unable to use her usual strategy of hanging out with the guys today, but she got help from Selene Yeager (Rare Disease Cycling) as well as her teammate Mical Dyck (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women).
“Selene helped me big time in the start,” said Barclay. “I missed the train of lead guys and I was like, ‘What am I going to do? Hammer at three miles in?’ But Selene was so nice. Then Mical caught us so we all worked together on the road. She was tired on the climbs, but I was trying to help her stay in second place. And we were working with the singlespeeders as well!”
Barclay’s lead of 17 minutes seems solid, but she knows better than most that things can go sideways at any moment. “Everything is so dry! You could definitely slide out,” she said. “I had the slight advantage on the ridge because I ride it all the time. Sometimes I can’t clean it, but today I cleaned all the sections.” If you’ve never seen the Tussey Ridge Trail, cleaning it is an amazing feat.
Yeager seems to have raced herself into recovery and was feeling much better than earlier in the week, so she used her mojo to help Barclay along. “Vicki was in front all of the day except for 15 seconds when I pulled her,” she said. “But I knew she would go. I was using her trail knowledge and following her. I could see her for most of the day. I kind of wanted to get her at the end, but I slid out on a bunch of gravel trying to accelerate.”
“I knew I wasn’t going to get her, but this is the best I’ve felt on this day,” said Yeager. “I wasn’t going to make up 20 minutes on Vicki today, so I wanted to help her.”
Under 25 men and women
Payson McElveen nearly got his usual top Under 25 spot nabbed from him by Lewis Gaffney (Colt Training Systems), who came in just 27 seconds later. A new name rounded out the top three Under 25 men, Cameron Dodge, also of Colt Training Systems.
Libby White (Colt Training Systems) continued to build an impressive lead with another win today, with Samantha Runnels (Colt Training Systems) not far behind. Emily Shields (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team) came in a solid third.
See all our coverage from the 2015 Trans-Sylvania Epic here.
By Sue George. Photos courtesy of the Trans-Sylvania Epic Media Team.
Stage 5 started at R.B. Winter State Park, after a drive along a pastoral valley road complete with Amish buggies. In past editions of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic, this stage has served up arduous singletrack sections and heartbreaking climbs, but this year’s course was smoother and more forgiving, thanks to some route changes and lots of trail work.
Payson McElveen (Competitive Cyclist) and Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing) won the elite men’s and women’s categories while McElveen and Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team) successfully defended their respective leads in the overall elite classifications.
Payson McElveen (Competitive Cyclist) added slightly less than one minute of time to his lead over teammate Justin Lindine.
“It was a solid day,” said McElveen. “This stage always makes me nervous because it’s more raw than the others, so I first and foremost wanted to come into today and defend the lead and get a bit more time if I could.”
Experience at this race helped McElveen’s strategy. “I remembered how the race played out last year. There’s a steep singletrack bit after a steep dirt road, and I remembered that singletrack being selective last year, so I jumped in and hit it, and got a gap on Justin. I did the following enduro section as fast as I could while still being safe. The hard part was the hard drag of 10-12 minutes on dirt road. Last year, Jeremiah Bishop was the one causing pain and got about 10 seconds on me on that road, and I went deep in the pain cave to bridge back up.”
McElveen and Lindine are separated by just under four minutes in the general classification, and the two have 16 minutes on the third-place GC rider, Peter Glassford (Trek Canada). “Justin and I went one-two again, and that’s the best scenario,” said McElveen.
Glassford’s strategy today was part sprinting, part styling. “I just wanted to get my Trek Superfly to the road gap jump as fast as I could,” he said. “Since I am outnumbered in the lead group, I have been basically pulling pretty hard and trying to keep myself out of trouble until attacks start, then hoping that one or all of them drop off, and I end up in a decent spot. I was psyched to get some time on Tristan [Uhl] today and even more psyched to hit the road gap with a strong whip this year.”
Once again, Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women) separated herself from her fellow female racers early and rode with the elite men. Her strategy didn’t get her the win today, however.
“I went off pretty hard with the lead men and was hanging on their train,” said Barclay. “I led the race until the first piece of singletrack after the aid station, the East Coast Rocks section, and I came out of there and looked behind me and saw [my teammate] Mical [Dyck].”
Barclay got a gap on Dyck, but Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing) eventually bridged up. Barclay and Anthony rode together for a section until they started to climb.
“She attacked and I thought it was a really long climb [like last year] and I was hurting,” said Barclay. “But then we went left into singletrack! I could see her all the way until the last hike-a-bike section, she was right there, but she got back and put in a gap on me on the road.”
Barclay said she’s not worried about finishing second to Anthony on the day because she has a lot of time on the GC. “But the cyclocross queen we all know and love put some power down today!” said Barclay of her top rival.
Anthony showed that ‘cross techniques can translate to longer races as well. “I have now learned my lesson this week and rode my own race at the start, just tried to keep Mical in sight on that first climb but didn’t try to chase her down,” she said.
“I just rode my own pace and got Mical on the first enduro section, was riding with her for a while and was starting to feel good,” said Anthony. “Then, after the East Coast Rocks section, I started seeing Vicki, and caught her and we rode together for a while. On the road, I didn’t really mean to attack, I just stood up, realized I was getting a gap, and thought the top of the hill was coming up. I was like, ‘What am I doing?!’ But I rode as hard as I could to stay away.”
Under 25 men and women
Emily Shields (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women) had the fastest Under 25 women’s time today, good enough for sixth among the elite women. But Shields has a big chunk of time to make up if she wants to catch U25 GC leader Libby White (Colt Training Systems).
White was third on the day, behind Samantha Runnels (Colt Training Systems). “I’ve been OK, but my bike seems to not be able to be held together, but we’ve gotten through. I’m having so much fun doing this though. It’s my first mountain bike stage race ever.”
White and other young riders have been using this week as a fun training camp to get in tune for the rest of the season. “I’ve been doing a lot of long hours training, but it’s about drinking water, having fun, and not taking it too seriously. This is getting me ready for a fun summer of racing!”
While Payson McElveen continues to be counted with the elite men, some of the other Under 25 men are not far behind. Drew Dillman (Colt Training Systems) had a second-place overall time today, just four minutes off McElveen.
See all our coverage from the 2015 Trans-Sylvania Epic here.
By Sue George. Photos courtesy of the Trans-Sylvania Epic Media Team.
Stage 4 is considered the “road” stage of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic, but in the wilds of central Pennsylvania, that means surfaces ranging from gravel to chunky doubletrack bracketed by sections of twisty, rocky singletrack. Nevertheless, there was plenty of roadie-style peloton action complete with strong attacks from the start.
Dan Timmerman (Riverside Racing) and Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team) won the elite men’s and women’s categories while Payson McElveen (Competitive Cyclist) and Barclay successfully defended their respective leads in the overall elite classifications.
After nearly three hours of intense effort, the men’s race came down to a photo finish: Dan Timmerman (Riverside Racing) got his first stage win, with Competitive Cyclist teammates and general classification leaders Payson McElveen and Justin Lindine plus early attacker Peter Glassford (Trek Canada) rounding out the lead group.
Glassford set a fast pace early and was pleased with the result. “I’m rarely going to win in a sprint, so I started sprinting four miles out,” he said. “I was out front for a while and that let me ride the second enduro section alone, which was good.”
“Then, it was just the lead guys, which is a little nicer not having to fight for position, since everyone is a solid rider,” said Glassford. “I just tried to drive the pace every time I could on the climbs so everyone was a little more fatigued coming into the sprint, and I think it worked. Last year, I was blown on the last climb, but this year, I was right there with the guys.”
Stage winner Timmerman enjoyed the lack of rocks on much of today’s route. “It was a much better day for me, that’s for sure,” he said. “I pretty much perpetually have back problems. The technical stuff hurts it, so today was better for me.”
Timmerman made the finish extra exciting by nearly taking out the timing table. “I didn’t know what to expect for the finish—if we had a loop or we’d go straight in—but we went straight in, so I just went for it. I didn’t really think about it. I saw the banner and I went. I wanted to be close to the timing thing, to make sure my chip read.”
After four days of racing, McElveen and Lindine remain within three minutes of one another on GC.
Lindine engaged in a bit of psychological strategy against his teammate. “Justin said it couldn’t possibly rain today, and wouldn’t it suck if it was wet—then it rained,” said McElveen. “But those dirt roads were awesome, those roads were beautiful.”
Lindine admitted he liked the wet conditions, too. “The rain was awesome!”
Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team) had a great day, and was the only woman to bridge up to the train of elite men, gaining 5:30 on the next female finisher in the process.
“It is so great to feel strong every day,” said Barclay. “Today, I was conscious at the start of not getting out of the saddle and trying to drill it up the hill with the guys, just trying to stay in the saddle and stay with them, not blowing five matches on the first climb. I was with them, and Mical [Dyck (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team)] was there, and I could see her out of the saddle, but I thought I’d play it safe. And she blew up a little when I passed her, so then I put in a dig to try to catch that group of men.”
Although they are teammates, Barclay explained that she and Dyck are both gunning for the win. “Mical and I are first and second and both of us want to win, so it’s hard to have team tactics or team dynamics now—it’s every woman for herself,” she said. “But no one is that safe just now in the general classification.”
Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing) kept her head despite some difficulty and earned second on the day. “The week has been up and down, but today was good. I learned on the second day that I have to ride my own race and ride where my fitness is,” she said.
“I got popped off the back today but I kept with it—it’s a long stage,” said Anthony, who dropped back to fourth for a bit, but kept Selene Yeager (Rare Disease Cycling) in sight, and by the last climb, had gotten around her. “Then Mical was visible ahead, and I got past her on the last climb and rode like hell to stay ahead on the final bit. It was a good stage!”
Dyck hung in there for third place. “My day was hard! I felt good for about 20 minutes and then my legs were empty,” she said. “It was a lot of road, and nothing super steep, but they went on forever so you had to put constant power down. There was a lot of mental battle today. You’re moving fast, but it’s still a lot of distance to cover.”
When Yeager shows up for the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic, she is typically a threat to win, but this year she’s coming off a huge effort. Yeager joined the Gu Energy Labs team to ride the entire Tour of California stage race course—700 miles, 43,000 feet of climbing—the week before the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic.
“I’m going to be 100 percent honest. I woke up this morning, stepped outside and burst into tears. I’m so mentally tired,” said Yeager. “But I really like this stage, so I went out, rode around, and it was a beautiful morning. I just keep head-checking myself—this isn’t the end of the world, it’s just a bike race, and if I do good, great, and if I don’t, it’s OK. It’s taking more work to put myself in a good place in the morning, but once the race is on, I find that good place. I’m enjoying the race.” Yeager’s good attitude carried her into fourth place for today’s stage.
Under 25 men and women
Besides the ever-present Payson McElveen at the top of the young rider results, Lewis Gaffney and Drew Dillman (both of Colt Training Systems) were again second and third on the day. Gaffney had an especially good result, just seconds behind the top five elite men.
Colt Training Systems young riders are clearly dominant in the women’s race as well as the men’s field. Today, it was Samantha Runnels taking the top Under 25 women’s time, with teammate Libby White not far behind. Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s rider Emily Shields rounded out the top three. Yesterday’s winner Ellen Noble did not have a good day, but remains in fourth in the GC for Under 25 women.
See all our coverage from the 2015 Trans-Sylvania Epic here.
Courtesy of Epic Rides
Music and mountain bikes create lasting memories, which is why Epic Rides events bring both together in a weekend-long experience that’s much more than just a good day on the bike. In an effort to help expand the appeal of mountain biking to new enthusiasts with common musical interests, Epic Rides is broadening its live music offerings at both Off-Road Series events with a full weekend of free music.
Featured this year is the much-anticipated return of headliner Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers at the Whiskey Off-Road and rising star Shakey Graves headlining the Grand Junction Off Road
For years, Arizona’s own Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers have rocked Prescott’s Whiskey Row with hard-hitting rootsy tunes ripe with wailing guitars, foot stomping beats and finely seasoned hints of reggae and mariachi. Holding all that unique energy together is Clyne’s unmistakable voice, regarded by many Arizonans as the Springsteen of the Southwest. RCPM will take the stage on Saturday, April 25 at 6 p.m. on the south courthouse lawn in the heart of downtown Prescott.
The day of live music kicks off at Noon with supporting acts including Road One South Blues Band and Phoenix-based cover band Furious George. With a new Friday music slot for the Whiskey in 2015, The Crosseyed Possum will be belting out tunes as racers zip by Whiskey Row during the spectator-friendly Fat Tire Crit. The Crosseyed Possum isn’t just any band either, they’re proficient 12-year-old musicians who have a strong following in their hometown of Prescott.
The 3rd Annual Grand Junction Off-Road presented by U.S. Bank will proudly feature Austin, Texas, native Shakey Graves, a one-man electric folk band with national acclaim recently seen on the Late Show with David Letterman. Witnessing Shakey Graves simultaneously stomping a handmade suitcase kick drum and a tambourine while belting out lyrics and strumming his guitar to his recent hit, “Roll the Bones”, gets respect from even the most discerning musician.
Shakey Graves will take the stage on Saturday, May 30 at 6 p.m., capping off an entire weekend of free music courtesy of a partnership between Epic Rides and Grand Junction Downtown Development Authority’s 27th Annual Downtown Art + Music Festival. The Grand will be held amidst three full days of free music and art on three different stages, with four entire blocks of Main Street open as a beer garden.
“Bikes, beers and bands; it’s a combination that brings communities together in celebration of the arts and healthy living,” said Todd Sadow, President of Epic Rides. “Epic Rides Off-Road Series events are intended to be more than just about mountain biking. We want them to be about making unforgettable memories with friends and family while supporting an arts and recreation-based economy.”
Editor’s note: Last weekend Dirt Rag’s “sponsored” SoCal racer Lance Nicholls lined up for his first cross-country first race of the new year. While the rest of the vet pros (and open pros) were on geared bikes, Lance races only on a singlespeed. Here’s how his winning ride unfolded. Congratulations Lance and thanks for doing us here at Dirt Rag proud.
By Lance Nicholls. Photos by Chris Jones
It was the first round of the Southridge Winter Series in Fontana, California. Laps are approximately 5.5 miles with about 1,200 ft of climbing—Southridge is known for very rocky, technical singletrack and steep punchy climbs. It’s great early season racing to get back into competition mode.
I ride the Vet Pro class for the extra laps compared to the singlespeed class and to also just have more competition. There were eight guys on geared bikes and myself on an Ibis Tranny 29 singlespeed with a Gates belt drive. My game plan was to try and get out front early to put time on everybody since there is a long flat finish where “geared” riders can easily ride away from me while I’m spinning out. We started two minutes behind the open pros.
Since the start chute is fairly narrow I was on the second row. The horn sounded and we were off. I went way inside into the first turn, got to the front and tried to control the pace as well as my breathing. I was able to stay there for a mile or so through some rocky singletrack. Once we hit the initial climb one guy got around and I stayed on his wheel up that climb until we hit a long, steep asphalt ascent. I made my move around him as soon as we hit the pavement and went hard up the hill until it turned left onto singletrack. By then I had a good gap and continued to put my head down to increase it.
With the first lap down, I had about a 30-second gap and was catching younger riders in the Pro class ahead. I kept trying to control my breathing and heart rate so I could hit the climbs hard and keep opening the gap farther. By the end of the second lap I had caught two guys from the class ahead and had about a minute lead going into the final lap.
Maintaining my pace, I caught one more guy and then started to relax some knowing my lead was good enough to stick as long as I stayed upright and without any mechanical issues. I crossed the finish line with a time of 1 hour and 21 minutes, which was 1 minute and 12 seconds ahead of second place in the Vet Pro class. I also ended up third overall out of all the pros on the course. It was a good day for singlespeeding.Tweet Print
The Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team is heading into its fifth year and has announced its roster for 2015, including eight returning riders and two new signings.
“We will be participating in a variety of races across the country and the world, and we’ll be leading ladies’ riding clinics at many of the races which we attend.” said Sarah Kaufmann, one of the team’s managers.
New signings strengthen line-up
US Mountain Bike Marathon National Champion Rose Hughes Grant, above, is joining the Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team. The Kalispell, Montana resident and mother of a 20-month-old daughter was also sixth at the 2014 US Cross Country National Championships.
Under 23 development rider Emily Shields, above, of Advance, North Carolina, will also wear the colors of the Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team in 2015. Shields won the under-25 women’s category at the seven-day Trans-Sylvania Epic Mountain Bike Stage Race and finished fifth in the under-23 category at the US Cross Country National Championships.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Rose to the team and to have the opportunity to mentor Emily and see her develop into a top racer,” said Kaufmann.
Returning team members include Vicki Barclay, Nina Baum, Mical Dyck, Shannon Gibson, Sue Haywood, Kaufmann, Kathy Sherwin and Jennifer Smith.
Smith won the Firecracker 50 while Barclay is the reigning US Singlespeed National Champion. Haywood was the runner-up at the US Super D National Championships while Baum, riding with Sonya Looney, claimed victory in the Brazil Ride stage race. Smith and Baum placed second and third respectively at the Leadville 100.
Team members range in age from 21 to 48.
Under new management
While the Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team was founded by Shannon Gibson, it is under new management for 2015 by Femme First Racing, LLC, which is owned and managed by three members of the team: Baum, Smith and Kaufmann.
As in previous years, the Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team will compete primarily in elite mountain bike cross country, endurance and stage races, but its riders will also make appearances in select enduro mountain bike races. It will target races that promote and value women’s cycling.
The team will make its 2015 debut at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. It will also be represented at Sea Otter, Whiskey 50, Trans-Sylvania Epic, Grand Junction Off Road, BC Bike Race, US Cross Country and Marathon Nationals, Go Pro Games, Beti Bike Bash, North American World Cups, Leadville, Park City Point 2 Point and Tour of the White Mountains.
2015 Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team Roster
- Vicki Barclay – State College, Pennsylvania
- Nina Baum – Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Mical Dyck – Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
- Shannon Gibson – Durango, Colorado
- Rose Grant – Kalispell, Montana
- Sue Haywood – Davis, West Virginia
- Sarah Kaufmann – Salt Lake City, Utah
- Kathy Sherwin – Heber City, Utah
- Emily Shields – Advance, North Carolina
- Jennifer Smith – Gunnison, Colorado
The UCI released the 2015 schedule today and it includes six cross-country events, seven downhill events and zero cross-country eliminator events.
The season will kick off on April 11-12 with round one of downhill in the new venue of Lourdes (France). Although new to the World Cup calendar, Lourdes has already hosted the French Cup, and will present riders with a 2.5km long course that descends 600 meters in altitude.
The other first-time destination next year is Lenzerheide, Switzerland, which will organise a double event (downhill and XC) on July 4-5. This will be the first of three consecutive rounds (2015-2017) in the Swiss resort as it prepares to host the World Championships in 2018.Tweet Print
The POC Eastern States Cup is offering a full plate of Gravity Racing in its fifth season. With the growth of the series it has become apparent that East Coast mountain bike racers want more racing. The POC ESC is stepping up to supply the demand with two Downhill Series, an Enduro Series and a new SuperD Series. All totaled, the 2014 POC Eastern States Cup will offer 16 Downhill, six Enduro and eight SuperD mountain bike races.Tweet Print
SRAM, in partnership with Troy Lee Designs, announced today the formation of its own mountain-bike team for the 2014 season. SRAM has had a longstanding tradition of supporting racing, from grass-roots contests through the World Cup level, and now, the company will also fly its own colors in local, national and World Cup competition.
The all-American squad currently consists of downhillers Walker and Luca Shaw, and cross-country racer Russell Finsterwald.Tweet Print