Whiskey 50 Off-Road

On the Monday after Sea Otter I teamed up with Canadian friends Rebecca Beaumont, Raphael Auclair and Anne-Julie Tremblay in Phoenix, Arizona before heading up to the city of Prescott. Our accommodation was way up at 2,000 meters near the top of a mountain in a cabin. This area felt just like home in the Okanagan. 

Prescott is home to one of  the three-event Epic Rides series that spans across Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. Epic Rides has built a massive following and after attending this race I know exactly why this series is quickly becoming the most popular among North American mountain bikers. The city was fully on board and shut down their main street to have companies set up their expo booths, stages for evening concerts and large start/finish area in the city centre. The weekend featured a criterium on mountain bikes with slick tires late Friday evening for the Pro Women and Men. Saturday the amateur racers took part in multiple distances based on their preference from 15, 30, and 50 miles. Sunday is the Professional Women and Men races to cap the weekend. This series also offers the most prize money in North America with equal payment between men and women with $30 k distributed between each event and $100 k over the three events and overall. This is big for the pro athletes to continue being a “pro”. 

After spending a quiet week in the mountains exploring the local roads, lookouts and climbing forest service stations, it was time to put skinny tires on the mountain bike and race under the Friday night sun.

Our group of eight was fully settled into the cabin by this point with Greg Day, Mathieu Belanger-Barrette, Quinn Moberg and Felix Burke arriving on the Wednesday. Our cabin had a big deck that we spent time hanging out on and telling each days’ stories. 

The criterium on mountain bikes was a very unique event to have in the main square downtown and the spectators were amazing. This whole weekend brings me back to those early days with events that kept me in the mountain bike scene and showed me the community in mountain biking. The crowds were no different during this crit. Personally, it was a weird start being up at altitude for the first time in about 5 years. It took about half the race to get really “warmed up” lets call it, then I was able to be fighting up front and maybe some tentativeness in the last couple laps kept me from finishing near the podium. It was 11th in the end and there were many thoughts of safety going through my head after getting pushed wide in a turn on the first lap and having my foot go into another guys front wheel. Luckily neither of us went down but my shoe buckle ripped off. It was a very fun evening to say the least.

Saturday the cabin Haus mates went on a fun group ride on some local trails and enjoyed a relatively mellow day of recovering before Sunday’s 50 miler. Our little mountain cabin provided the absolute best location to mellow out, train hard and enjoy the social times with everyone. Not having much internet or cell service was a nice way to spend the week. 

Sunday morning was early with an 8:30 race start. We lucked out and had the best weather in years according to the organizer and racers. We set off with a furious pace that I thought might ease off eventually but it continued for the 3+ hours of the leading riders. This is a massive loop with a long, 1 hour climb in the middle up a fire road. Early efforts kept me up in the lead group but slowly I lost contact as the first long climb continued up in the high elevations. Eventually I was in the main second group and on the first descent when following a line of riders down this dry and dusty descent I hit a rather large sized rock that was knocked onto the trail by the rider in front of me and couldn’t see it until it was too late. A flat tire was the outcome. I quickly put in a tire plug (my new favour gadget that ever rider should own) but the plug was ripped out on the next step descent when there was some tire skidding. Luckily I had another plug ready in my back pocket but I cut some in half hoping to have more plugs for the future, but it turns out they’re too short and just get pushed right into the tire. I pulled out the pack of plugs and reloaded the tool to finally plug it for good. Put some c02 in there and off we went. Lots of spots were lost in this long standing break on the side of the trail.

Eventually we were rolling again and making good time but the tire slowly leaked air. With no c02 left I was smart enough to carry a hand pump and pumped it up. Continued on until it lost air again and this time I realized I didn’t close the valve stem the last two times I pumped it up and that’s why it was loosing air again!!! Damn me. Finally I got the bottom of the long climb and decided to just switch wheels to make sure nothing happened further down the road. It was then 59 minutes of absolute suffering under the sun up a long fire road climb. Things were going well and many riders who had previously caught me were all coming back to me and after a great descent it was time for one last climb up “cramp hill”. I had the pleasure of getting the worst cramps I’ve ever experienced even before entering cramp hill. Standing on the side of the trail and screaming in pain is the best description I can give. It was not my day for racing by any means, but I left it all out there and raced to the end with everything I had left. 35th isn’t anything near what I wanted, but we don’t always get what we want. I had fun and that’s why we do this.

Scott Kelly of Cannonade-3Rox is a legend in the bike world and one of the most helpful guys you’ll ever come across. This team has lent me a lot of help this year. Thank you Scott, Kyle, Gersham and riders who helping me out.

 

Thanks for everyone who helped this weekend. I had support from non-industry sponsors, my personal sponsors, friends, and other teams. 

THANK YOU Epic Rides for all the hard work and incredible event that you’ve created.

Whiskey 50 backcountry results

Fat Tire Crit results

Visiting the Pivot Cycles head office in Phoenix on Monday after the race. Thanks Mary for the tour!

 

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